March 16 marks not only James Madison’s birthday but the celebration of Freedom of Information Day as well. Madison, the nation’s fourth President and a major architect of the U.S. Constitution, believed strongly in citizen access to government information. He once wrote “A popular government without popular information, or the means to acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy . . . .” (Letter to W.T. Barry, 1822, The Writings of James Madison.) Freedom of Information Day honors the importance of the public’s right to know and of freedom of the press, speech, and information.
The day will be marked in Washington, D.C. by a conference hosted by the First Amendment Center and co-sponsored by, among others, the American Library Association. Access advocates, government officials, judges, lawyers, librarians, journalists and educators will come together to discuss issues related to transparency in government.
Locally, Freedom of Information Day will be observed by the NYPL’s Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL) with a presentation by Heather Joseph, Executive Director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). SPARC is an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to create a more open system of scholarly communication. A discussion will follow. The program runs from 10:30 AM to 12 PM in Conference Room 18 on the lower level of the library, which is located at 188 Madison Ave in Manhattan.