Home » post » Herrick describes DLC Digital Distribution Session

Our mission

Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Herrick describes DLC Digital Distribution Session

Thanks to Washington State Regional librarian Herrick Heitmann for providing this summary of the recent Depository Library Council discussion on digital distribution to depository libraries.

Oct. 25, 2006

The discussion was facilitated by Ted Priebe, Director of Library Planning and Development at GPO. A handout (see attached) gave a brief background of the issue, listed general assumptions underlying the topic, and posed questions for the Depository Library Council and the audience to consider.

The Council and audience response to the first question (access) was “yes” to all three parts. The value of local digital copies was usually discussed in terms of preservation through “significant redundancy” (Judy Russell’s phrase). (Along with depository libraries, the National Archives and non-government organizations are seen as preservation partners.) Although it was said that FDSys is designed to deliver content in the requestor’s preferred format, the first choice in formats seems be electronic.

The second question was about sufficient local infrastructure for hosting electronic documents and supporting public access to them. People want guidelines to show to their Information Technology folk. The FDSys group is working on “system size” demands for local hosting/storing files. The guidelines might have to vary depending on how much digital content a depository will be hosting—the example given was crashing your local system while trying to deliver a large file with streaming video. It was also felt that guidelines should include naming conventions and file formats.

The third question had to do with the responsibility Regionals would have to accept digital documents. The question whether Regionals should have to accept and locally maintain all digital publications from GPO was greeted with laughter and eye rolling. That’s the sort of unfunded—or, at best, underfunded—mandate that could drive libraries out of Regional status. Also, while LOCKSS is seen as a good thing, the need for over 50 mirror sites to the GPO servers was questioned.

The fourth question was about the distribution of metadata. Depositories want it. The part of the question about what types of metadata depositories want showed me how little I know about the different flavors of metadata. It’s time for Metadata 101.

The fifth question was about selectivity or, more precisely, format options. When should a selective/regional select only the digital version. For selectives, whenever they want. For Regionals, it’s a trickier question, especially until the long talked about dark and light archives are up and running. After all, the LOCKSS model can be applied to tangible documents too.

The sixth question was on version issues and synchronization, especially what to do about superceded versions. The feedback was that libraries need to provide appropriate versions and sometimes a superceded version is the appropriate one, but the user needs to know it is outdated. Earlier the matter of the FDSys having an automatic update feature was brought up. This was seen as a policy question, not a how-to question. “Significant version control” is being built into FDSys.

The final question dealt with ownership. Are digital documents still property of the U.S. Government? Well, yes. They’re much harder to control than tangible documents and usually in the public domain, but they’re still government property. What about recall of digital documents? Procedures for recalling documents are in place at the GPO level, and Judy Russell has told agencies that once something is issued digitally, it’s virtually impossible to expunge it from cyberspace. On the other hand, you have to consider the interagency relationship between GPO and the agency that issued the document. People were uncomfortable with GPO being able to send out automated “delete” commands.

The 5 year retention rule was also brought up. Judy Russell explained that rule has its roots in the cost of printing and shipping tangible documents. GPO didn’t want to pay for items that somebody could toss the day after they received it. There is also a service aspect to retaining items—the commitment to making government information readily available.

If you have summaries, notes or impressions of any activities of the Fall 2006 Depository Library Council, we’d love to post them! Please send your DLC items to admin at freegovinfo dot info and we’ll post them.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.