future of federal depository library program
A recent battle in the California Legislature over public records has a lesson for all of us who work with government information. A story in the Los Angeles Times sums up the issue exactly: "In the end it wasn’t really about public records or the people’s right to see them. It was about money."
There are several draft ALA resolutions having to do with government information kicking around ALA 2013 annual conference. While there's still a way to go before these resolutions are passed by ALA Council, I thought folks might be interested enough in these to grab their nearest ALA Councilor and tell them to vote for these resolutions in support of free government information, open government and transparency. They're important to both libraries AND the public!!
I've heard that the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) has 2 resolutions dealing with Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and the importance of whistleblowers to open government and the democratic process. But I haven't yet seen the text for these two.
[UPDATE 6/27: COL's final report is now available online. We've added a link to it below along with the draft report]
We here at FGI are all for greater access to government information and have long supported and worked toward a fully digital FDLP. When discussing the future of the FDLP, we believe it is important to create policy based on thorough fact-based analysis, to learn from FDLP history and not repeat mistakes which in the past led to benign neglect of documents collections -- many of which were borne out of trying to handle government documents collections on the cheap. For example, lack of adequate cataloging, one of our biggest current problems today, is a direct result of libraries not investing sufficiently in describing FDLP collections.
Jim and I had a great time last week talking with Thomas Hill about FGI, the FDLP, and the future of government information. Tom is a librarian at Vassar College and hosts the Library Café, a "weekly program of table talk with scholars, artists, publishers and librarians about books, ideas, and the formation and circulation of knowledge." Thanks Tom for the opportunity to talk about the future of the FDLP and government information and for allowing us to upload a copy of the audio file to the Internet Archive.
Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks has responded to the letter by the group CASSANDRA about the recent report Rebooting the Government Printing Office: Keeping America Informed in the Digital Age by the National Association of Public Administration (NAPA). .
The report recommends that GPO should consider "cost recovery" for access to FDsys (See NAPA releases report on GPO).
The Response from Vance-Cooks says that GPO has "no intention of charging public users a fee to access content available through FDsys. GPO remains committed to no-fee access to FDsys for the public as part of our mission of Keeping America Informed."
This is, of course, good news, but we have to temper our enthusiasm with the realization that GPO's ability to meet its intentions will inevitably be dictated by Congress and its budget.
The complete response is attached below:
[UPDATE 4/2/13: We've had some questions about the meaning of "ALL." Please read the comment thread for clarification. We don't mean "records" (which fall under FOIA) and we don't mean classified information. We mean public domain documents, publications, reports, data, statistics and the like. JRJ]
A convergence of several things -- the White House's new policy on Open Access to federally funded scientific information, the NAPA Report on the GPO, the CASSANDRA Letter to the Public Printer, and Sunshine Week among them -- has led us to create a petition on the White House's We the People petition site. If you believe in free permanent public access to authentic government information, we hope you'll sign the petition and forward on to all your friends and social networks to help us reach our goal of 100,000 signatures by April 11, 2013! Thanks in advance!!
WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:
Require free online permanent public access to ALL federal government information and publications.
1. Assure that GPO has the funds to continue to maintain and develop the Federal Digital System (FDsys).
2. Raise ALL Congressional, Executive & Judicial branch information, publications & data to the level of federally funded scientific information & publish ALL government information as "Open Access."
3. Mandate the free permanent public access to other Federal information currently maintained in fee-based databases - including the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), the National Technical Reports Library (NTRL), & USA Trade Online.
4. Establish an interagency, govt-wide strategy to manage the entire lifecycle of digital government information w/ FDLP Libraries - publication, access, usability, bulk download, long-term preservation, standards & metadata.
The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) completed an operational review of the Government Printing Office (GPO) mandated under the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act (Public Law 112-74). The NAPA report, “Rebooting the Government Printing Office: Keeping America Informed in the Digital Age,” acknowledged the obligation Congress has to establish an interagency government-wide strategy to manage the lifecycle of digital government information. The report also acknowledged the vital role GPO plays in providing free permanent public access to authentic government information in tangible formats through its Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and to authentic government information in electronic formats via GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDSys).
However, Recommendation 4 states: “GPO and Congress should explore alternative funding models for the Federal Digital System in order to ensure a stable and sufficient funding source.” Among the models recommended are “…reimbursement for services; fees for end users; dedicated appropriations; and/or an automatic charge to agencies, depending on size, to encourage agencies to take advantage of GPO’s existing infrastructure and cover the cost of the services being provided by GPO.”
Just as the Obama Administration supports the public’s right to “free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research,” the Administration must support the creation of “stable and sufficient funding” to ensure free permanent public access to authentic government information arising from the work of taxpayer-funded Executive, Congressional, and Judicial Branch agencies.
- NAPA report, “Rebooting the Government Printing Office: Keeping America Informed in the Digital Age.”
- CASSANDRA Letter to US Public Printer in response to the NAPA Report.
- Expanding Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research. John P. Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
- White House response to "We The People" petition "Increasing Public Access to the Results of Scientific Research"
- Government Accountability Office (GAO), Information Management: National Technical Information Service's Dissemination of Technical Reports Needs Congressional Attention. GAO-13-99, November 19, 2012. Context on the GAO report from FGI.
- GPO's Federal Digital System (FDsys): http://fdsys.gov
- PACER: http://www.pacer.gov
- National Technical Reports Library (NTRL): http://ntrl.ntis.gov
- USAtrade: https://www.usatradeonline.gov
- Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). http://fdlp.gov
Last month the National Association of Public Administration (NAPA) released a report entitled "Rebooting the Government Printing Office: Keeping America Informed in the Digital Age" -- FGI responded with an analysis of the report and were particularly disturbed by recommendation #4 which said that GPO should consider "cost recovery" for access to FDsys.
A group of long-time government information librarians writing under the moniker of CASSANDRA (Concerned Government Information Professionals), have co-written a letter to Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks offering their strong support for NAPA's conclusion that "free access to government information is both an important tenet of a democracy and a critical responsibility" while calling into question the same recommendation #4.
With CASSANDRA's permission (FYI, both Jim Jacobs and James Jacobs are signatories to this letter), we've posted the letter here for public knowledge and so that others may also write letters to the Public Printer and cite this letter in support of free permanent public access to authentic government information now and in the long-term.
The National Academy Of Public Administration has released its report on the Government Printing Office.
- Rebooting The Government Printing Office: Keeping America Informed in the Digital Age, A Report by a Panel of the National Academy Of Public Administration for the U.S. Congress, Congressional Research Service, and the Government Printing Office. National Academy Of Public Administration, Washington, DC (January 2013).
Congress mandated that the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) conduct a broad operational review of GPO. The Academy formed a five-member Panel of Fellows to conduct a ten-month study of the agency’s current role, its operations, and its future direction.
The report contains 27 finding and 15 recommendations. Depository libraries will be particularly interested in three findings:
- III-3: Preservation of the Legacy (Tangible) Government Collection
- III-4: Preservation of the Digital Government Collection
- III-5: Government Information Dissemination and Access
The report repeats many of the tropes about the digital government information that have become familiar over the years. Some of these bear repeating and others are more questionable.
Perhaps the most troubling suggestion in the report is GPO should consider "cost recovery" for access to FDsys:
Now may be the time for GPO to revisit charging the public for access to FDsys content. The Academy convened a forum of experts on printing and publishing where this topic was discussed extensively. Participants noted that technologies for online payments have progressed to the point that they cost very little to administer. Also, the public is becoming accustomed to paying fees for government services that used to be free (such as admittance to National Parks). Rather than charge a publication price, GPO could explore charging a small user fee to recoup the cost of providing access to government information on FDsys, or allowing users to view documents for free, and charging for document downloads. Forum participants also discussed the possibility of GPO exploring opportunities for repackaging files and content in different ways and making them available for sale to the public.
This model (as the report notes) was tried before with GPO Access and failed. We would argue that it failed not because the "technologies of online payments" were inadequate at the time, but because attempting to charge fees for information that was also available without fees was a fundamentally flawed approach. (We have written about this issue many times. See for example: Government Information in the Digital Age: The Once and Future Federal Depository Library Program and Privatization of GPO, Defunding of FDsys, and the Future of the FDLP.)
There is much more in the report and it deserves careful scrutiny.
Today I was re-reading an article from a few years ago and was struck by how prescient it was in providing a formula for the success of libraries. Here are some of its main points:
- Find a niche with growth potential (serve a community).
- Organize information to make it useful
- The internet is a distribution channel -- not a product (add value!)
- Turn words into math (sophisticated mathematical formulas can find patterns in content and make it more discoverable)
- Separate the signal from the noise (Type the word "jaguar" into Google's search engine and you'll get 64 million results. Fix this!)
- Computers can't do everything (humans indexers and editors make the difference that algorithms cannot)
- Print's not dead, it just needs online help
There you go!
Oh, I left out two things: One of the main rules was "Treat content like patented material" and the article was not about libraries but about Westlaw which has a successful "business model" of doing what libraries don't do anymore because "it is all on the web" and "someone else is doing that" etc.: selecting, acquiring, organizing, and preserving information and providing discovery of, access to, and service for that information. And they built their business model on using Free information. Most libraries do not have to make money which means they could do this for less cost and deliver the results to more people for free. But libraries would have to make the case that this is a better, more equitable, more democratic model than relying on the private sector. And they'd have to have leaders with the vision to build a 21st century library. Westlaw and others did it in the 20th Century. Google could never have built Google books without all the work libraries provided by building collections. What libraries have this vision today for future generations?
Read all about it:
- Westlaw rises to legal publishing fame by selling free information, By Erin Carlyle, City Pages, (April 29, 2009).
The 2012 Depository Library Council meeting and conference is upon us. It's sure to be 4 days packed with educational sessions and discussions about the FDLP Forecast Study and the future of the FDLP. Here's the conference schedule.
As in past years, there will be live blogging of the conference for those not able to make it to Washington DC. This year I'm asking as many people as possible to use the twitter hashtag #DLCf12 or #DLC12f (some other conference is using the #dlc12 tag unfortunately). You'll be able to follow along below or directly on the twitter site.
I'm also told that there will be virtual attendance for the four daily sessions on the FDLP Forecast Study (pre-registration is required):
- Monday, October 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm Eastern: Methodology, Study Phases, and State Forecast
- Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm Eastern: State Forecast and State Focused Action Plans
- Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm Eastern: Library Forecasts
- Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 2:00 pm Eastern: Summary Discussion and Future Roles
Tweets about "#dlcf12 OR #dlc12 OR #fdlc12 OR #fdlp"