Government Information in the Digital Age: The Once and Future Federal Depository Library Program
by James A. Jacobs, James R. Jacobs and Shinjoung Yeo. Published in the May, 2005 issue of Journal of Academic Librarianship. We would greatly appreciate it if, after reading this article, you post a comment. We’d like to collect all comments for collective input to Depository Library Council.
Rapid technological change has caused some to question the need for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). We argue that the traditional roles of FDLP libraries in selecting, acquiring, organizing, preserving, and providing access to and services for government information are more important than ever in the digital age.
In the United States, there are deeply rooted values that a democracy requires an informed citizenry, that government must be accountable to its citizens, and that citizens therefore must have full, free, easy access to information about the activities of their government.1 These values have led to the creation of the Joint Committee on Printing (JCP), Government Printing Office (GPO), and the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP)2 to facilitate this process.
Over the last several years, developments in publishing and Internet technologies have affected the way government information is produced, disseminated, controlled, and preserved. These changes have affected the policies and procedures of the GPO and, in turn, have affected the depository library program. Despite the often-heard promises that these new technologies will bring more information to more people more quickly and easily, the actual effects have been decidedly mixed. The few highly visible, short-term successes of rapid dissemination of single titles directly to citizens (e.g., the large number of downloads of the 9/11 report3) mask the loss of a secure infrastructure for long-term preservation of and access to government information.4