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Reaction to Digital Distribution to Depository Libraries: Exploring the issues

On October 17, 2006, the FDLP-L listserv announced the availability of a briefing paper to be used for discussion at the Fall 2006 Depository Library Council meeting. The paper is called “Digital Distribution to Federal Depository Libraries.” (PDF).

According to the FDLP posting, this document will be used in a discussion at DLC next Wednesday, October 25, 2006. We at FGI strongly encourage you to read the two page document before then. We would also like to commend Council and GPO for having this discussion and asking what seem to be good questions for a system of digital deposit.

The bulk of briefing paper is a listing of general assumptions and questions for discussion in seven different areas. As you might imagine, we have have some thoughts both about the assumptions and the discussion questions. Below you will find links to FGI commentary on the different sections of the briefing paper.

We’re hoping to start a discussion here, so if you have comments of your own, or wish to challenge our assumptions, facts, biases, etc, please either use the comments form or send an e-mail to admin AT freegovinfo dot info. When discussion appears to have drawn to a close, we will send our commentary plus your comments to GPO.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Lacking the time to really digest this brief paper, some initial comments:

    1) What is really meant here by “digital distribution;” at some points it sounds as if GPO is talking about each library having to download its own choice of publications from SOMETHING–from what?? At other points it sounds as if they are talking about just linking to what is freely available online. This needs clarification. My techie brought this up.

    2) We are increasingly strapped staff-wise and cannot see us being able to support downloading. The whole concept seems to be GPO’s continued attempt to put the onus of cost on libraries.

    3) In some respects,it would appear that we are returning to the “free-for-all” that existed before depositories became a strong force in making known what is available where.

    4) It’s too bad that this paper is not being discussed before Wednesday, since some of us need to return from FDLC late Tuesday afternoon.

  2. dcornwall says:


    I appreciate you stopping by and discussing this paper. And I’m glad that you’ll be able to take in some of the Council meeting. I’d encourage you to find people who will be there Wednesday and have them pass along your concerns. Also, we do plan to submit all comments here to GPO once it seems like most people have had a chance to weigh in. This will likely be a week or two after Council, but it will depend on comments.

    Not only do I agree with you that the one-hour discussion should be earlier in Council, I would have liked to see a longer lead time before the official announcement of this briefing topic and the actual discussion. But the discussion is being done, and that’s what is most important.

    I think you’ve raised some interesting points. What I think GPO is proposing here is actual distribution of electronic documents rather either downloading or linking. Why I believe this is the paragraph that says (emphasis mine):

    At present, some depository libraries download digital files from GPO Access or use GPO assigned PURLS to identify and obtain files for local storage and public access. GPO expects to continue to offer this capability for libraries (and others) to download digital files for local use, but we are also seeking information that will help us develop more specific FDsys requirements for affirmative distribution of published digital content.

    If GPO were talking about more linking, like they did at Spring 2006 DLC, then there would no need to distinguish between downloading, linking and “affirmative distribution.” If someone has heard different, let us know.

    If GPO’s idea of “affirmative distribution” were just allowing us to manually download publications from GPO Access/FDSys, then I’d agree with you that building local digital collections would be far more labor-intensive than depositories could handle. Mine couldn’t. But there are ways of automatically gathering content based on certain criteria. Today there are over 40 universities across the country collecting Alaska State Documents via the LOCKSS system. How much time do staff spend downloading? Zero. The LOCKSS cache does it all automatically, gathering the documents along with basic bibligraphic information through the electronic shipping lists. I don’t know how many institutions are cataloging the AK documents gathered through LOCKSS, but all they’d need to do is to attach their OCLC symbol to our record. The work of a few minutes per record, I’m told.

    But if even a system like that is too much, and it might be for some libraries, I just don’t picture a system where ALL libraries are forced to receive electronic documents. The mixed media future will be with us for many years to come. What we’re asking for is the infrastructure to efficiently build locally housed electronic government publications, not a community wide mandate.

    “And besides all that, what we need is a decentralized, distributed system of depositing electronic files to local libraries willing to host them.” — Daniel Cornwall, tipping his hat to Cato the Elder for the original quote.

  3. A very easy way for the GPO to implement a distributed depository system would be for them to put LOCKSS manifest pages online at FDsys. They could leave the plugin writing and all other responsibilities to the community.

  4. dcornwall says:

    As a person who has written LOCKSS plug-ins for Alaska State Documents, I want to say that they are pretty easy. LOCKSS even has a writing tool where you fill out some information about where the content lives and it produces the plugins for you.

    Depending on how the pages were setup, we might be only talking about a few plugins. Or we could be talking many, but with potentially hundreds of plugin writers in the community, it could be doable if GPO did as Vicky suggests.

    My view is that plugin writing, while easy, is the hardest part of LOCKSS. Once a single person has written a plugin and distributed through the LOCKSS system, everyone else can collect the content with a single mouse click.

    GPO doesn’t have to go with LOCKSS, but it is one technology that has successfully distributed and preserved digital content since 1999. A good track record in the digital age.
    “And besides all that, what we need is a decentralized, distributed system of depositing electronic files to local libraries willing to host them.” — Daniel Cornwall, tipping his hat to Cato the Elder for the original quote.

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