Interview with the Chair of ALA’s GODORT (Government Documents Roundtable)

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

February 06, 2024

Working with government documents can be an important part of a special librarian’s role. ALA supports government documents with a roundtable.

Below is my interview with Benjamin Aldred, the current chair of the Government Documents Roundtable (GODORT) of the American Library Association.

1. Please introduce yourself to our readers.

My name is Benjamin Aldred, I’m a Reference Librarian and Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois Chicago and I’m the chair of GODORT.

2. Briefly describe the Government Documents Round Table. What is its purpose?

The Government Documents Round Table is a section of the American Library Association that is devoted to exploring the specific issues related to publications by government entities. The group consists of members of ALA who sign up and participate in our various activities including Monthly online chats, discussions on ALA Connect, committees and interest groups, as well as online webinars.

3. What are the goals of the Government Documents Round Table?

The official goals of GODORT are (a) to provide a forum for the discussion of problems and concerns and for the exchange of ideas by librarians working with government documents; (b) to provide a nexus for initiating and supporting programs to increase the availability, use and bibliographic control of documents; (c) to increase communication between documents librarians and the larger community of information professionals; and (d) to contribute to the education and training of documents librarians.

Beyond those official goals, GODORT is very concerned with the state of government information in a world that faces increasing censorship and disinformation. GODORT is a community that tries to cultivate people who work on the hardest tasks in the information sciences, dealing with the most powerful publishers in the world.

4. What is your role as the chair of the Government Documents Round Table?

As chair, I am a facilitator, working to help members of the round table achieve their goals. Our committees are very active, and our projects meaningful, seeking to help people engage with the government in an active fashion. As chair, I help make sure those projects have support and elevate the voices of the membership.

5. What do you hope to accomplish this year as chair?

My main goal this year is to help update our procedures for the modern age. We have a whole generation of librarians entering the field right now as older generations retire and I want to make sure GODORT is a welcoming place with opportunities for them to contribute to the greater mission. Further, I have been working to help develop talent within the organization, encouraging new leaders to help broaden the perspectives of the GODORT.

6. If someone would like to join the Government Documents Round Table, how would they do that?

Any ALA member can be part of GODORT, it’s a simple addition to your membership. While many of our members are full time government information librarians, anyone who encounters government information—historians looking at census details, political scientists exploring government press releases, software engineers making use of government APIs—any of these people could find a home in GODORT.

7. Is there anything else you would like to share?

GODORT has remained one of the most active parts of ALA with a strong focus on good governance and active participation. In addition, our journal Documents to the People has recently gone open access. Check us out!

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Dr. Lauren Hays is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent presenter and interviewer on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Please read Lauren’s other posts relevant to special librarians. Take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets.

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