future of federal depository library program
Amidst the turmoil of GPO Public Printer Bill Boarman being forced to step down after not receiving a vote on his confirmation, there's this news that GPO's 2012 appropriations have been drastically cut.
While Boarman's approval did not go through Congress, GPO's fiscal 2012 funding did, in a spending bill approved by the House and Senate, known as an omnibus because it consolidates a majority of individual spending bills. The bill secured Senate passage Dec. 17 in a 67-32 vote a day after the House approved it 296-121. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.
The bill funds GPO at $90.7 million in fiscal 2012. The budget authority is almost $45 million less than GPO's fiscal 2011 funding level of $135 million, and close to $48 million less than the White House's fiscal 2012 budget request of $148.5 million. GPO will also get $500,000 to its revolving fund for information technology development, according to a report (.pdf) accompanying the bill.
House Appropriations Committee's majority spokesperson Jennifer Hing said language in an earlier House version of the bill requiring the Government Accountability Office to conduct a feasibility study on GPO operations stands.
In July, the House legislative branch appropriations bill, H.R. 2551 (.pdf), highlighted the need to modernize GPO programs. In the report (.pdf) accompanying the bill, lawmakers said they had "some concern about the future of the GPO as a viable printing operation for the federal government." It also suggested GPO might be privatized, since it already contracts out more than 90 percent of its printing requisitions.
Committee members said a GAO report should examine whether the General Services Administration could take over printing duties for the executive branch and the remainder of the GPO could be privatized. Such a plan would involve transfer of the Superintendent of Documents program to the Library of Congress.
The Future of the FDLP: From Conversation to Confrontation, By Jim Jacobs and Melody Kelly Library Journal "Backtalk" (Dec 13, 2011).
Recent discussions about the state of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and the responsibilities of regional depository libraries have morphed from a conversation into a politicized confrontation. Sadly, this threatens to negatively affect not just depository libraries but all libraries and users who rely on a robust FDLP for long-term free access to government information....
The full text of a letter dated November 2, 2011 from Joyce L. Ogburn, ACRL President to William Boarman, Public Printer of the United States and Mary Alice Baish, Superintendent of Documents is now posted on the ACRL Insider blog.
Before sharing the full text of the letter, Ogburn writes:
We recognize that there are members who fall on both sides of the issues as recently stated by other associations and consortia. Over the past few weeks we have been considering how to proceed – reviewing the current situation, what ACRL has done in the past, and giving careful thought to approach we should take.
We decided that ACRL needs to lend its voice to the conversation and that we have precedent to guide us. Our past actions and letters urged GPO to look to the future and work with libraries to develop collaborative models for managing federal documents. We believe the best approach is to continue in the same vein, an approach that is quite reasonable and measured, as ACRL is known to be.
Here are Two Paragraphs From the Letter Sent to Boarman and Baish:
ACRL believes that the future of libraries will be based in innovative uses of technology and intensive collaboration across geographic boundaries. The multi-state models for managing federal documents that libraries have developed address the pressing issues of the economic climate, the imperative for wider collaboration, and the improvement of access to these critical resources. We view these as necessary and viable partnerships that will sustain library collections and services and will create enduring programs of access and preservation.
We understand that many people in the library community are concerned about the long-term quality of government information services, and ACRL is convinced that the quality of services associated with collaborative efforts will be stronger than stand alone efforts. ACRL urges the GPO to work closely and openly with depository libraries to explore and establish new models. It is essential that we leverage the possibilities inherent in 21st century practices to serve our citizens now and well into the future.
Direct to Complete Blog Post (incl. Letter)
An online petition in support of GPO has been created by Suzanne Sears and Starr Hoffman at the University of North Texas. Of most interest is the question at the end of the letter: "If you are a selective in the FDLP, are you interested in working with other selectives in your state to share regional services in the absence of a regional?"
Along these same lines, for your reading pleasure, here's the running tally of documents surrounding the ASERL Plan for Managing FDLP Collections in the Southeast and the proposed MOU between University of Minnesota Libraries and Library of Michigan/Michigan Department of Education. Please let us know in the comments if there are other documents that should be listed.
- CRS Memorandum Nov. 6, 2007 (scroll down to Congressional Research Service Memo)
- ASERL Reply to GPO Oct. 21, 2011
- ASERL/GPO letters
- ARL Letter (There are other letters of support linked off of this page. The ASERL and CIC responses are both there)
- ASERL Support of ARL Letter Oct. 17, 2011
- CIC Support of ARL Letter
- GWLA Support of ARL letter
- Regional Letter signed by 31 of 47 regionals
- Suzanne Sears' posting to GOVDOC-L in response to the ARL letter dated October 2011
- Back from the brink! Recent discussions and the future of the #FDLP. Free Government Information, 10/6/11
- Library Journal articles:
- 31 Regional Coordinators Protest FDLP Decisions. Library Journal, October 24th, 2011
- Government Printing Office Slams Brakes on Overhaul of Southeast's Federal Depository Library Collections. Library Journal, Oct 21, 2011
Members of the Joint Committee on Printing
William Boarman, US Public Printer
Mary Alice Baish, Superintendent of Documents
We, the undersigned, wish to state our strong support of the Government Printing Office (GPO) in its Congressionally-mandated authority of administrating the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), which operates under the specific legal parameters of Title 44 U.S.C. Chapter 19. All government agencies must operate within legal parameters and limited funds assigned to them, and GPO is no different.
While we acknowledge that there are long-standing problems with the FDLP and the Title 44 legislation, we believe that the current administration of GPO is making a concerted effort to rectify these issues while adhering to the current legal parameters. On Thursday, October 20, 2011, the current Superintendent of Documents, Mary Alice Baish, announced a plan to gather information from all libraries currently participating in the FDLP to begin the process of Title 44 reform. Previous attempts at revising the legislation for the FDLP has revealed three factors critical to successful reform: clear vision of what needs to be changed, consensus among the community, and members of Congress who support the legislative changes. The announced plan would be the first step in getting a clear vision of the major issues that need to be addressed according to a consensus of the community.
We understand that the situation that regional libraries find themselves in appears to be dire. Libraries across the nation are suffering from a lack of adequate space, funding, and staff. The responsibilities that Title 44 places on regional libraries are not insignificant. However, they are necessary to ensure a strong FDLP. These responsibilities are crucial to maintain no-fee permanent public access to government information and to ensure geographic distribution of comprehensive collections. Geographic distribution is essential particularly for the guarantee access of individuals with limited connectivity or who live in rural areas.
We fundamentally disagree with the statement that there is no flexibility within the existing FDLP. Any regional library that finds itself unable to fulfill its assigned duties of receipt, retention, and oversight of selective libraries has the option to drop its regional status and become a selective library or drop from the program entirely. The FDLP is designed so that selective libraries may maintain depository status and receive federal documents while being tasked with fewer demands on their space, staff, and fiscal resources. Selective libraries are an integral part of this program and are the face of government information for a wide portion of the U.S. population, particularly in rural areas. Libraries can continue to serve their patrons with the same level of high-quality service and collections whether they are selective or regional. Innovative solutions involving selectives have been successful in sharing regional services within a state, like in Oregon, where four institutions work together to share collections and services to provide regional services for the state.
We are concerned with the number of libraries dropping status, but there has historically been fluctuation within the program. The FDLP has survived these fluctuations for over 150 years. In the 2009 Biennial Survey, only 6 regional libraries indicated they were considering dropping their regional status. If the current economic climate necessitates these regional libraries and others dropping their status, then it will be a lamentable loss to the program and to the nation. However, if the remaining libraries in the program are fully committed to the program then the mission of no-fee permanent public access will still be maintained.
Recent letters and public statements may give the incorrect impression that the entirety of the government documents community is represented by those statements. We believe it necessary to draft this statement of support for GPO and the existing FDLP because our opinions are not supported by the letter signed by 31 of 47 regional libraries or the letters written by major academic library consortia. There are over 1,200 libraries in the FDLP. Some of those libraries are not as well funded, organized, or vocal as the larger academic libraries. This petition is an opportunity for FDLs not represented by those statements to demonstrate our support for GPO in its efforts to continue to lead the Federal Depository Library Program forward into the future.
1. Your Signature and Location
Your Signature and Location Name
2. If you are a selective library in the FDLP, are you interested in becoming a regional?
If you are a selective library in the FDLP, are you interested in becoming a regional? YesNo
3. If you are a selective in the FDLP, are you interested in working with other selectives in your state to share regional services in the absence of a regional?
If you are a selective in the FDLP, are you interested in working with other selectives in your state to share regional services in the absence of a regional? YesNo
We've been following with much interest and concern the ongoing and unfolding saga going on between the GPO, Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and Association of Southeast Research Libraries (ASERL) (under the heading "future of the federal depository library program"). This post to Govdoc-l from Suzanne Sears (AUL for public services at University of North Texas and former chair of Depository Library Council) on October 20, 2011 is in response to the ARL Statement on Recent USGPO Decisions Concerning the FDLP dated
October 2011 (released October 12, 2011) and attempts to add context and correct some inaccuracies in the ARL statement.
From: Sears, Suzanne
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2011 2:00 AM
To: Discussion of Government Document Issues
Subject: RE: ARL Statement on Recent USGPO Decisions Concerning the FDLP
I have been reading over and over the statement released by ARL that Larry so kindly posted for everyone on GOVDOCL and feel strongly that there are inaccuracies in some of the statements that need to be addressed. The following is solely my opinion and not meant in any way to offend anybody, just my concern that some things are not quite right and need to be cleared up.
Point 1 refers to long standing precedent for the approval of multi-state regionals. In the meeting this week, Bernadine Abbott Hoduski spoke on this issue. Prior to 2008, there was no legal opinion on the multi-state regionals. In September 2007, then Acting Public Printer William Turri sent a letter to the JCP seeking approval of the Kansas-Nebraska proposal http://www.fdlp.gov/home/repository/doc_download/49-letter-from-acting-p.... The response letter from the Honorable Robert Brady to Public Printer Robert Tapella in February 2008 http://www.fdlp.gov/home/repository/doc_download/50-letter-from-the-hono..., states that the JCP sought legal guidance on this issue from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). It further states "CRS concluded that neither the language nor legislative history of 44 U.S.C. 1914 supports GPO’s interpretation of the statute. After careful review, the Joint Committee finds the CRS analysis persuasive; if the Public Printer may not authorize shared regional depository libraries under 44 U.S.C.1914, the JCP cannot approve such action." Now that a legal opinion exists, GPO cannot simply ignore it.
In point 2, there is a quote from Title 44 regarding the authority of Senators to designate regional libraries. Part of that quote is "within the areas served by them." I am no lawyer, but I do know that Senators serve states, so the areas served by them would be the state that elected them. To me this means that Senators are not authorized to choose a library from outside their state to serve as a regional for their state. This is my opinion.
In point 3, the discussion of regionals and retrospective collections are brought up. The opening third paragraph makes it sound as though the requirement regarding comprehensive collections was decided within the last nine months. This is inaccurate. I served on the Depository Library Council from October 2008-July 2011. In a presentation given by Cindy Etkin at the Fall 2009 DLC meeting, she stated the following "regionals are required to retain what’s distributed to them and there is not an obligation to go back and collect materials prior to when they became a regional? As I’ve shown, it’s been in the guidelines and brought forward; and even as it is today, the regional itself does not have to hold the materials." She also discussed how the Depository Library Council developed guidelines around 1973 that recommended regionals collect retrospectively. After the meeting, the DLC asked Ric Davis to investigate this issue was it required or just a guideline. We were told during a phone conference call that the Legal Counsel's opinion was that it was a requirement. This was in 2009, not 2011.
I have to admit that point 4 totally confuses me. I do not understand where the legal opinion that multi-state regionals are not supported in the language of Title 44 precludes collaboration across state lines. GPO encourages collaboration among depositories. The Digitization Projects Registry is just one of the many tools GPO has developed to help foster collaboration between depositories, both selectives and regionals. Although the FDLP community may not be used by everyone, it is an attempt by GPO to bring depositories together to collaborate on topics.
Point 5 refers to "new unfunded mandates and requirements, especially without consultation." I am extremely confused with this point. I have had discussions with several individuals at the DLC meeting this week and the only thing I can figure out that point 5 is referring to is the new document that GPO released in June 2011 "Legal Requirements and Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program." This document was released by GPO after consultation with the Depository Library Council. The DLC had been requesting GPO clarify the legal requirements since the Spring 2009 DLC meeting in Tampa. We had heard from the community that the FDL Handbook was too cumbersome to go through to pull out the regulations and that a more compact publication containing only the legal requirements was needed to discuss with our directors and deans. GPO created this document with feedback from the DLC and published it in June 2011. To be clear, these are long standing legal requirements and regulations that have been compiled into a new publication.
My issue with point 7 can be considered more an opinion rather than fact, based on my three years on DLC and my 27 years working with depository collections. I feel that GPO spends considerable time and effort on ways to engage and facilitate partnerships with the community for expanding the digital content. They are restricted in what they can do because of budget and law. They operate within strict legal parameters. For instance, the community has requested that GPO offer grants for digitization. GPO has no legal authority to do so, therefore they can not help in this way. The Digitization Projects Registry is improving due to constant consultation between the community and GPO. It is a tool for libraries to use to collaborate on digital efforts and to avoid duplication of effort.
I do understand the issues facing depositories, both selectives and regionals, regarding their individual institutions needs and the demands on budgets, staffing, and space of a depository collection. Like everyone in the depository community, I am desperate to find a successful solution to these problems to ensure the viability of the program. I am hopeful that the day long discussion Thursday will result in some positive solutions within the framework of Title 44. I want to echo my colleague Dan Cornwall's statement in his blog "Back from the Brink" http://freegovinfo.info/blog/17, developing a model for the future of the FDLP is going to require cooperation from libraries in the program and GPO. Now is the time we need to pull together and find a common ground for a workable solution. We need to work together to clear up misinformation, rumors, and innuendos that are causing several members of our community to feel personally attacked. As a community, we have disagreed many times over the years on what is the best solution to many problems, but we have never brought it to the point that it is now. I am extremely concerned that the contentious situation we find ourselves in is going to create an atmosphere among Legislators that the program is not worth spending tax payer dollars on and considerably effect the appropriations for vital services like FDSys and the FDLP.
Assistant Dean for Public Services
University of North Texas Libraries
1155 Union Circle #305190
Denton, Texas 76203-5017
There have been questions lately about shared regional depositories. Below is a table from the GPO Time for Change? document. Yellow indicates shared regionals within one state, and orange indicates one regional serving multiple states or areas. The same table is available as a PDF in the link below.
- Regional Depository Libraries in the 21st Century: A Time for Change?, A REPORT TO THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON PRINTING, U.S. Government Printing Office (June 2008). "Existing Regional Depository Library Models," Table 1, pages 5-6
The letter, made available by ARL, is dated October 19, 2011 and begins:
We write as coordinators of regional depository libraries to express our deep concern over GPO's recent responses to two initiatives within the FDLP system. Given these responses, and the rejection of the 2011 Ithaka S+R report (Modeling a Sustainable Future of the Federal Depository Library Program in the 21st Century), we do not believe that GPO recognizes the gravity of the current situation in many regional federal depository libraries, and does not appear to be making efforts to understand this situation or to creatively partner with regional libraries or groups of depository libraries to help ameliorate the situation.
Here are two more letters re: FDLP made available by ARL today.
From an ARL Announcement:
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) released a statement calling upon the US Government Printing Office (GPO) to reverse its recent, troubling decisions concerning the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). ARL asked that GPO approve the University of Minnesota Libraries as the regional for the State of Michigan once it is designated by the relevant Senators, as well as approve and support the ASERL “Guidelines for Managing FDLP Collections in the Southeast Region.” Such actions are consistent with GPO past precedent and, importantly, comply with provisions in Title 44. These types of collaborations and cooperative efforts are essential to the success of the FDLP both now and in the future.
ARL and its members have long-standing participation in and support for the FDLP, a partnership between the Federal Government and libraries throughout the United States that ensures the public has no-fee access to US government information. ARL members invest significant staff, financial resources, and space allocations to the Program with the belief that equitable access to information about our Government and its programs is central to our democracy. Recently, changes in policy and practice by GPO and its failure to embrace needed changes to the Program present serious challenges to the Program’s sustainability and viability. These changes will seriously impact the ability of the public to effectively access government information both now and in the future.
Decisions by the leadership of GPO over the last nine months call for costly changes in practice by federal depository libraries that are not supported by provisions in Title 44, the governing statute of the Program. In addition, GPO leadership has reinterpreted provisions in Title 44 and dismissed long-standing precedent concerning the designation of regional federal depository libraries to the Program. Finally, GPO has not acknowledged current library practice across all types of libraries and has not positioned the Program and its resources to reflect how users engage in digital discovery and access to information.
Read the Complete Statement (2 pages; PDF)
See Also: Background and Primary Documents:
Recent Developments on FDLP as of August 2011 (via ARL)
We are concerned that in some recent informal comments on twitter and some more formal discussions of the MN/MI regional proposal and ASERL project, the tone has taken on a decidedly confrontational, even hostile tone with implications that GPO is being obstructionist. We are concerned that a few libraries may be in a rush to set the agenda for the FDLP in a way that best suits their interests. We are writing in hopes of calming the discussion so that, at the upcoming Depository Library meeting, we can have constructive discussions and avoid rushing into important decisions and the setting of agendas. The stakes are too high to oversimplify the issues facing GPO, the FDLP, the Regional Depositories, and the Selective Depositories with one-word epithets, emotionally loaded characterizations, and name-calling. It is essential that the conversations at DLC not be dominated by a few well-organized, vocal Regionals.
1. At the DLC meeting this month, when the future of the FDLP is discussed and the specific proposals by MN/MI and ASERL are sure to be raised, it is very important that we differentiate the issues that Regional Depositories face (with their special legal requirements, comprehensive collections, and support of selective depositories) from the issues that selectives face. The issues overlap but it would be unwise to let the agendas of the Regionals (or, worse, just some of the Regionals) set the agenda for all of the FDLP.
Regionals face unique problems, and solving their problems will not necessarily "save" the FDLP any more than a failure to solve their problems will "kill" the FDLP. Even the defunding and privatization of GPO will not "kill" the FDLP: it will just make it that much more difficult to build and maintain FDLP collections and services.
It is particularly important that we examine the context of the proposals currently on the table. As Ithaka S+R has assiduously described in its recent reports, many library directors and administrations are actively seeking ways to weed their paper-and-ink collections, and some want to decrease their commitment to the FDLP because they no longer believe that there is an institutional value to depository status. Regardless of the efficacy of such policies, FDLP librarians should recognize that those policies, even if justifiable for an institution, have little if anything to do with a commitment to long-term, free, public access to government information. At best, designing policies based first on local needs will only yield value for the FDLP as a by-product; at worst, it will diminish the FDLP's value to users. Ithaka S+R's report already made the case for just such an approach and GPO has (wisely, we believe) rejected it.
GPO and the FDLP collectively need to maintain the long-term preservation of and access to government information as a first priority and need to keep the needs of information users, not individual institutions, as our collective highest priority when modeling the future of the FDLP. Policies based on such an approach will yield value to users as a direct result of their implementation, not as a by-product.
In our deliberations on the future of the FDLP, we need to clearly state our justifications for new policies and procedures and separate those that are demonstrably good for the FDLP and government information users from those that are tied to local needs -- such as budgetary constraints and the desire to weed paper-and-ink collections. Obviously, each library has to take its own needs into account, but, just as obviously, we should avoid making system-wide decisions based on the needs of a few libraries.
2. Developing a model for the future of the FDLP is going to require give-and-take and cooperation. Name calling and hostility will not serve the needs of anyone or result in positive solutions.
Libraries must work with GPO -- and vice versa. Libraries need to accept that GPO operates under legal constraints. When GPO asks legitimate legal questions, it is not attacking or resisting change; it is fulfilling its legal obligations. Characterizing GPO's responses as "protecting the status quo" are neither helpful in this difficult transition time, nor accurate.
That said, we also urge GPO to be as flexible as it legally can be and also as creative as it can be in order to come up with innovative solutions that strengthen information preservation, public access and the ongoing management of regionals and selectives. We believe GPO should push its policies and procedures to the limit of the law, not look for the most conservative possible interpretation of the law. We remember all too vividly how the introduction of microforms into the FDLP took almost 7 years, but it was done with leadership from GPO.
Just as GPO must work within a legal framework, so individual libraries must work within their own constraints. We urge FDLP libraries to be as flexible as possible and come up with plans that reflect the needs of a broad community of users and that will guarantee long-term preservation and access of government information in all formats. The digital-shift provides libraries new opportunities to do more than they ever have before. While it may seem easy to come up with procedures that reduce collections, minimize numbers of copies, increase costs to users and Selective Depositories, and reduce services to users, such "solutions" are, we believe, short-sighted and inadequate to the task at hand. It will be harder but, we would argue, much better to develop innovative solutions that will expand what libraries do to meet needs of users. Libraries are not as constrained as GPO is by Title 44: we can do more than GPO/FDsys can do by building collections that are beyond the scope of Title 44. Digital makes this possible and provides new opportunities; it should not be used as an excuse to trim services and collections.
We at FGI yield to no one in our desire for a fully functional digital FDLP. We have been advocating that for seven years and are just as anxious -- if not more so -- as anyone to move forward to the next phase of the FDLP. Over the years, we have criticized GPO and its policies -- and will continue to do so when we believe such criticism is warranted. But our intention has always been to challenge GPO to do more and to do better, and to work with FDLP libraries, not work against them or arrogate responsibilities from them. Just as we want GPO to work with FDLP libraries, we want FDLP libraries to work with, not in opposition to, GPO. We at FGI believe that the future of the FDLP will be most secure if GPO and FDLP libraries work together to a common end.
We urge all participants in these conversations to deal with each other collegially and cordially and seek common solutions that will benefit all -- not just a few libraries. We urge all parties to refrain from over-simpification of complex issues. We urge thoughtfulness and cooperation toward what should be our common goals of high-quality long-term preservation of and access to government information, driven first and foremost by the needs of users.
- ASERL documents:
- Letters regarding the MI/MN shared regional plan:
- GPO letter to Nancy Robertson 15 September 2011 (PDF)
- response to GPO from Ms Robertson (PDF)
- Response to GPO from Ms Wendy Lougee, University Librarian at University of MN
- "Recent Developments on FDLP" from the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) including links to several letters to/from GPO and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Between University of Minnesota Libraries and Library of Michigan/Michigan Department of Education
- Privatization of GPO, Defunding of FDsys, and the Future of the FDLP
- FGI response to Ithaka draft values proposition for the FDLP
- "The GPO Microform Program its history and status" by LeRoy C. Schwarzkopf, DttP (June 1978) v6, n4, p163-166.
Last month the House released its legislative appropriations ("Privatization of GPO, Defunding of FDsys, and the Future of the FDLP"). As we noted then, "the future of long-term preservation of and free access to government information is in the hands of Congress today." And it doesn't look any better today with the release of the Senate's legislative appropriations markup, S.Rept. 112-080 (see p.42 - 44).
The Senate added $500,000 to the House's revolving fund appropriations of ZERO (GPO had requested $6million!) -- but looks to be thinking that FDsys funding will come from there (GPO requested $6million for FDsys!) -- added around $6.8 million to congressional binding and printing and kept $35 million for salary and expenses for the Superintendent of Documents -- the same amount as the House. There's none of that restructuring language in the House appropriations (requesting GAO to research the efficacy of GPO privatization and splitting functions between LC and GSA). The Senate is recommending a 12.4 percent reduction in overall funding for the GPO from the fiscal year 2011 enacted level, which is only slightly less ugly than the 20% reduction recommended by the House.
Please call, write and email your Senators TODAY and express your support for FULL GPO funding, *especially* if you happen to live in a state whose Senator sits on the Appropriations Committee.