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Monday April 18th – Future Tangibles Public Library Breakout

To provide your own take on the Public Libraries breakout session on “future tangible distribution”, please either comment below, or send your notes and/or multimedia to dnlcornwall@alaska.net. Please let FGI know whether we can use your name and affiliation.

The following notes were contributed by Sharon M. Partridge of the Jefferson County Public Library in Lakewood CO. Any hyperlinks were added by FGI Staff.

All interpretations of documents and comments made are my own and do not reflect on my institution. These were typed on the day noted and subsequent days may have changed things. All mistakes are mine and feel free to post corrections.

We had at least 20 public librarians and ranged in size from Las Cruses to Chicago. Our problems went from computers that don’t work to serving eight million people.

Q: What is unique about your library’s users and how do these characteristics create a requirement for the use of tangible documents? What information needs do tangible documents meet for your users that are not met through electronic information?

A: We serve children, native tribes, cover vast geographical areas and the digital divide lives in our areas. Economically disadvantaged patrons are less likely to use libraries and easy to scare away. We serve the total population and our needs range from single-page handouts to anything over 100 pages. We all have limits on the amount of time patrons can use the computers, from 30 minutes to 2 hours and none of those limits allow a patron to read a large document. They have even less time to read if they are unfamiliar with the computers or the government. Our patrons cover all languages and include a large variety of disabilities.

We worry about the permanence of electronic documents. Two of the libraries, Boston and Worcester Publics joined the depository system on the first day. We need flexibility in the choices about geography and economics. Ranchers don’t need the same economic sources as inner city patrons. We send our documents through ILL to patrons who don’t have telephone service.

Q: (There was a series of questions about the criteria for determining what titles should be tangible.)

A: This was so far out of the scope of our concerns that we decided to ignore it. The basic assumptions of the question are wrong. Some publics decided not to take part in the survey as a protest. Bernadine Abbott-Hoduski spoke at length about the history of the FDLP and the fact that the changes being proposed may be illegal under Title 44. She asked what was done with the savings to the program by removing choices. What happened to the thousands saved when only the Regionals got the bound Congressional Record and libraries were told they had to pay for the Serial Set? She said that if we are being forced into a position that isn’t in our patrons’ best interests, the least we can do is not comply with the force. She talked about the types of Congressional lobbying we need to do for an increase in the GPO budget, particularly when the Superintendent will not ask for any increase. She said it may be necessary for libraries to file lawsuits about both GPO and the agencies breaking the law in Title 44. The changes needed for GPO to remove the most of the tangible documents from the system have not been made by Congress.

Q: (Not from the official discussion points) What do we want to keep publics in the system?

A: Offer a print collection that will meet our needs, passwords for free access to subscription databases and training. Some libraries need help with the infrastructure to even make the electronic documents available. Fewer rules and burdens in being a depository and recognition that everyone can’t meet the minimal technical requirements but what they can offer is better than no access at all.

Q: (A series of questions about the survey).

A: Why is the survey tied to item numbers? Forget item numbers and look at types of documents. We want children’s titles but the only academics that do are ones with education programs. There isn’t any reason that we can’t pick by title. If we wait until a document is “published,” that’s what Print-on-Demand is for. We don’t have to stay with the old model for selecting documents. The single survey question that would have at least 90% support from all the depositories is “Do you want all the documents dealing with your state?” If maps could be chosen as a class of documents, why can’t departmental histories, technical documents and consumer health be types of choices? GPO is trying to get all the agencies to put an ISBN and a barcode on all the documents. We could order them the same way we order the rest of our collections. We need to remember that electronic information is just a tool. We need more than one tool for our patrons.

Q: Are there other steps that GPO and the community should take?

A: Continue to send us the broadly discussed documents like the 9/11 Commission report and documents that are controversial.

We asked what it is that GPO wants from us.

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