future of federal depository library program
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.
As reported here earlier, GPO rejected the Ithaka S+R report on the future of the Federal Depository Library Program (Modeling a Sustainable Future for the United States Federal Depository Library Program's Network of Libraries in the 21st Century: Final Report of Ithaka S+R to the Government Printing Office, by Ross Housewright & Roger C. Schonfeld, Ithaka S+R, May 16, 2011).
Here is coverage by Information Today of that rejection :
- GPO Disapproves of Report on the Future of Federal Depository Libraries, by Barbie E. Keiser, Information Today, (August 25, 2011).
Although this article mentions that GPO might ask Ithaka S+R to "fix" the report, I didn't find anything in the statement by Mary Alice Baish attached to the report that indicates that GPO will ask anything more from Ithaka S+R. Rather, Baish says GPO will use the report, and comments submitted during the writing of the report, and new comments that it hopes to get now to build practical and sustainable models for the FDLP.
On July 22, the House passed a bill that would remove funding for FDsys, reduce funding for GPO by 20%, and reduce funding for the Superintendent of Documents by 16% (Kelley). The House Report on the bill also directs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on "the privatization of the GPO" and the transfer of the Superintendent of Documents and the FDLP to the Library of Congress (page 25).
The bill includes many other changes that are relevant to the dissemination of government information (see House Bill Questions Future of GPO and the comments to that post, and the stories in Library Journal and OMB Watch), but the ones related to FDsys and the privatization of the GPO are the ones which, if ultimately approved, would have the greatest negative impact on long-term free public access to government information.
Passage of only some of these bad ideas would almost certainly result in a catastrophic loss of long-term access to and preservation of government information. These bad ideas are, however, only symptoms of a still bigger problem. There is, luckily, an obvious, logical path around all these threats.
Proposals not new
While these proposed cuts and changes are drastic, they are not new. Similar proposals were considered in 1982 and 2001 by NCLIS, in 1988 by the Office of Technology Assessment, and in 1993 and 1994 by bills in the House of Representatives.
In addition to these official recommendations, the information industry has long argued that the private sector, not government agencies, should disseminate government information. It has characterized almost any government information activity as unfair competition with the private sector. Industry commissioned reports and official statements in 2000 and 2004 (Wasch) suggested that governments should only distribute raw data and should refrain from making data easier to use if there is even a potential commercial market for such information.
These private sector ideas have re-emerged in the last few years as governments have made raw data more easily accessible and technological mashups of government data have become almost commonplace. Calls for government to limit its role to the delivery of raw data and for a reliance on the private sector to make the data useful have become popular. (Robinson)
Whether such proposals suggest turning over government information dissemination to the private sector or commercializing the distribution of information by agencies themselves, when such proposals have been examined from the perspective of the user and from the perspective of information access in a democracy, they have been found to be severely wanting.
An examination of the literature reveals three reasons that proposals to privatize and commercialize government information make bad policy. First, by commoditizing public information, they conflict with the needs by citizens in a democracy for free access to accurate information about the activities of government. Second, they ignore that producing and disseminating public information is an essential role of government, not something that can be left to the whims of the market. Third, it has never been demonstrated that the privatization of major federal information dissemination activities is cost-effective or beneficial for important governmental functions.
It is also worth remembering that GPO was originally created because relying on private printing did not work well. Private printers often delivered jobs late and the printers themselves found that they lost money on public printing contracts (MacGilvray). Today, GPO contracts with many private publishers while maintaining overall control of the entire throughput.
Even information-industry-friendly reports on similar proposals have recognized an important, even essential, role for the government in government information dissemination. The 1982 NCLIS report, while strongly promoting a major role for the private-sector, nevertheless said that government information should be openly available without any constraints on subsequent use. It also advocated depositing documents into FDLP libraries for free accessibility. The 2001 NCLIS report similarly supported private-sector involvement but also concluded that, "...the federal government must continue to have primary responsibility for the entire life cycle of government information, including the dissemination and permanent public availability to public information resources to the American public without restrictions on its use or reuse." (emphasis added)
Nevertheless, there are still those who promote policies that would rely on market forces to determine what public information would be available to the public and at what cost.
Strong opposition to that approach comes from non-profits, libraries, citizen advocacy groups, scientists, journalists, historians, and government agencies. These groups understand that "there is [a] need to ensure equitable, open access by the public in general to information which has been generated, collected, processed, and/or distributed with taxpayer funds." (NCLIS p.ix). And in 1988, OTA said, some government information dissemination activities are "inherently governmental" because they "facilitate an informed citizenry [and] assist the mission agencies in carrying out their statutory responsibilities." (p301)
Some attempts by the government to commercialize or commoditize its information have failed either economically or functionally. For example, although STAT-USA existed on a "revolving fund" without Congressional funding for many years, charging a cost recovery fee for access to economic and trade information from federal agencies, in the long run it found that its fee-for-service business model was no longer viable and it shut down its operations. (Krasowska)
If you have been around government information issues for less than fifteen years, you may not be aware that the first incarnation of GPO Access attempted a cost recovery model similar to NTIS or STAT-USA. It charged annual suscription fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars for access to the Congressional Record and Federal Register (GPO Access Status Report ). This model failed and was abandoned after less than two years (Relyea), partly as a result of libraries creating gateways that made this same information available without charge.
Even when fee-based services, such as PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records), seem to survive financially, their functional failure to provide free information is obvious and it is arguably true that they fail to adequately meet the needs of all.
There are Catch-22s implicit in proposals to privatize or commercialize government information. First, the information-industry suggests that it should have exclusive rights to information products that are profitable and leave to governments those that are not profitable. This sets up governments for failure when they try to support their activities with income from demonstrably non-profitable information products.
Second, governments set themselves up for failure when they charge for access to public information. If they simultaneously attempt to honor their role of providing information to the public without charge while charging for that same information (as in the early years of GPO Access), they compete against themselves. But if they attempt to protect their ability to charge for their information "products," they find themselves in the awkward position of attempting to control and restrict access to public information that is in the public domain. (Gellman)
Ultimately, attempts to commercialize government information therefore conflict fundamentally with the essential and inherent duty of government to make public information freely available and usable.
The current threat
Unfortunately, just because a proposal is bad policy, self-contradictory, or doomed to failure does not keep it from being implemented. The current budgetary and political situations in Washington DC create an environment where one or more of these bad ideas is more likely to pass than ever before.
Regardless of how important this issue is, it is unlikely that it will get much media attention. It is also not at all clear that proposals to keep government information free and well-preserved will garner much support politically. When essential government services such as food safety, police, defense, nutritional programs for low-income women and children, nurses, clean drinking water, and much more all face drastic cuts, will there even be room in the budget debates to consider government information? When Congress can seriously consider proposals to cut spending on programs that affect the health and safety of the country, we can hardly assume that it will necessarily provide adequate funding for information access. President Obama's own government transparency programs have been drastically cut and Obama himself is on record as thinking the printing of the Federal Register is wasteful.
The Big Problems
As serious as the current situation is, it can at least help us see the bigger issues that surround long-term preservation and access of government information and suggest solutions. The big problem is that we lack an adequate preservation and access "ecosystem" for government information. This puts all government information at the mercy of relatively small changes in government budgets. It is somewhat ironic that, if we had addressed the underlying issues earlier and had a rich ecosystem, we would be less vulnerable to the drastic proposals on the table today.
There are lots of issues and challenges that face those who wish to preserve long-term free access to government information. We can boil down a lot of those issues to two big ones:
1. Quantity. Just the quantity of information being produced digitally provides one huge challenge. Any attempt to preserve so much information must be able to scale to sizes that, until recently, were almost unimaginable. As Nicholas Taylor at the Library of Congress wrote recently, the amount of "data stored by the Library of Congress" has become a popular, if unusual, unit of measurement for capacity of storage, network traffic speed, size of digital collections, and so forth. The "End of Term" crawl of the web pages of the George W. Bush presidential administration by the Library of Congress, the California Digital Library, the University of North Texas, the Internet Archive, and the Government Printing Office produced almost 16 terabytes of data. (See more size comparisons here.) And digital preservation and access requires duplication and replication and backups that multiply the scale of projects quickly. LOCKSS-USDOCS, for example, says that the approximately 1 terabyte of data it is currently preserving is only a fraction of the 18 terabytes of content in FDSy when all the workflow iterations, copies, and backups are taken into account.
What this means is that providing preservation and access to all government information is a very large, non-trivial task. It is not clear that any one institution or organization will ever have the capacity or resources to do everything on its own.
2. Selection. But, you may well ask, how much of all digital government information is worth preserving? It is almost certainly true that much of the born digital content being produced by the government is of only transient interest or value. It is without question true that the rules have changed in ways that make it more difficult to know what is worth saving. In the past, we knew and could fairly easily define and identify "government publications" and could identify who created and published them. "Publications" were, for the most part, packaged as "books" and "journals" and "pamphlets" and so forth. These qualities made it relatively easy to know what we wanted to preserve and how to preserve it.
But in the digital environment, we find ourselves facing a whole new set of circumstances. It is not always clear who has created digital information, whether or not it is "government" information, or whether or not we have sufficient rights to collect or preserve or provide access to any given piece of information (Peterson). A single web page may display information from many different sources. A dot-gov web page may contain information from a commercial source and government agencies may post original content on dot-com web sites. The very processes that put a wealth of government information a click or two away also make it harder for us to preserve that same information and ensure its usability far into the future.
Apart from some obvious, preeminent series (e.g., Federal Register, Congressional Record, Hearings, Reports, the censuses, and other Essential Titles), lies everything else. Who will decide what of that "everything else" is worth saving? Who will decide if we save the digital equivalent of looseleaf binders, pamphlets, posters, one-off maps, slip laws, drafts, versions, editions, memos, press releases, and so forth? We must consider multi-media formats. We have to decide whether or not the "look and feel" of website presentations of information is important to preserve and, when there are several different presentations of the same information, which we should preserve.
Selection in the world of bad budgets ultimately means de-selection and weeding. Digital objects don't get preserved by accident. They require constant attention and preservation work. When a repository says, "We can no longer afford to preserve this and this and this," it is often relegating those things to oblivion.
Despite these big difference between the digital world and the analog world, the big, foundational issues we face are not that different. Specifically, there are two foundational issues: First, different people have different needs. What is important to you may not be important to me and vice versa. Second, the question of selection of what to preserve is a question of who will have the decision making power and who will have the control over their own decisions (Jacobs).
Some conclusions. There are some inescapable conclusions we can draw from the combination of the issue of quantity and need for selection. First, there is a need for more than one organization to be responsible for preservation and long-term access just to deal with quantity and scale. We cannot rely on any single institution or organization to preserve everything that is of value to everyone; that is just too big a job. The Library of Congress has come to the same conclusion, which is why it has created the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA).
Second, there is a need for different organizations to be involved in preservation in order to adequately reflect the information needs of different user communities. No single institution that intends to serve "everyone" can afford (literally afford, in terms of money and other resources) to pay sufficient attention to the needs of every small, specialized constituency. Without such attention, information will fall through the cracks and be lost.
Third, each such institution must have the ability to select information for preservation and obtain sufficient control over that information such that it can perform the needed digital preservation activities that will ensure long-term preservation of and access to that information.
Digital Preservation Road Maps
Luckily, we have road maps for digital preservation that help us address the issues and challenges outlined above. The road maps are the Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS) combined with the checklist for certifying digital repositories, the Audit And Certification Of Trustworthy Digital Repositories (TDR).
TDR is built upon OAIS. Together they provide the context for long-term preservation and access to any digital collection. They do not describe how to build a repository nor do they define technologies that must be used. Rather, OAIS describes the required functions of a digital repository and TDR provides a checklist of "metrics" for evaluating if a given repository is meeting its own goals and objectives for achieving those functions. OAIS and TDR are just as applicable to small repositories and institutions as large ones.
TDR recognizes that preservation is not just about technology. It is also about continuity over time of the archive itself. TDR describes two essential requirements in this area that are particularly relevant here: the need for long-term financial sustainability and the need for succession planning.
1. Sustainability. TDR says that, to ensure viability, a repository must have business planning processes that ensure its financial sustainability over time.
Viewing sustainability for government agencies is tricky. On the one hand, an agency can claim that it has the full faith and credit of the government, legal mandates, and (in some cases) the historical precedent of its long-term mission. On the other hand, agencies come and go, budgets are cut and reallocated, and missions change.
In fact, as noted above, the current proposals are only the most recent examples of these very issues facing GPO. GPO has always had high hopes and made big promises, but its hopes and promises are limited by what Congress sets as its mission from year to year and how Congress funds it -- or denies it funding. In a single budget cycle, "permanent preservation" can change to "temporary storage" and "free" can change to "fee-based." A single bad-budget year can force GPO to make selection decisions that result in weeding of information that some communities will still consider vital.
While a lot of what affects sustainability is outside the control of the repository, there are many things than each repository can control and many actions it can take to control those. It can also take actions that will provide the best possible context for dealing with events outside its control. TDR enumerates these. But TDR says that a repository must also prepare for the possibility that unforeseen or unavoidable events might make sustainability impossible. For such occasions, a repository needs a succession plan.
2. Succession Planning. Any organization faces the possibility of funding cuts and shortages and unforeseen problems that can result in anything from scaling back to going out of existence entirely. IBM recently made this point clear about private sector companies when it said, "Nearly all the companies our grandparents admired have disappeared. Of the top 25 industrial corporations in the United States in 1900, only two remained on that list at the start of the 1960s. And of the top 25 companies on the Fortune 500 in 1961, only six remain there today." TDR recognizes this and says that any trusted repository must have a formal succession plan, contingency plans, or escrow arrangements in case the repository ceases to operate or the governing or funding institution substantially changes its scope. These are exactly the threats GPO faces today. I cannot think of a better demonstration of the need for succession planning.
But what does it mean to have a succession plan? It means having a plan that will ensure the long-term preservation of the content for which a repository is responsible even if the repository ceases to exist. In general terms, it means that an organization has a plan for what specific actions it will take if it learns it has to change missions or if it will cease to exist. In extreme circumstances, it means that it has a plan in place to hand over its content to one or more trusted repositories.
We already have some existing projects for government information that may serve as models for for viable, long-term, collaborative solutions to succession. These include the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) partnership between the U.S. Department of State, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Government Printing Office; the LOCKSS-USDOCS partnership between Stanford, Carl Malamud's public.resource.org, GPO's FDsys, and more than three dozen libaries; and the CyberCemetery partnership between The University of North Texas Libraries and GPO.
In order for a repository to say that its content will survive the downsizing or elimination of the repository, it needs to be able to show that its content already is in another repository or that it could hand over its content to another repository. For a hand-over to take place, there would have to be another repository technically capable of accepting such a hand-over.
This, along with the above conclusions based on quantity and selection, leads us to some solutions both for our current situation as well as for the underlying issues surrounding long-term preservation and access.
There is a common theme to the conclusions above. First, to ensure preservation of all that needs to be preserved, we need multiple repositories serving the needs of multiple communities of interest. OAIS calls these "Designated Communities" and both OAIS and TDR make them an essential (non-optional) element of trusted repositories.
Second, in order for repositories to have realistic succession plans, we need an information preservation ecosystem consisting of many repositories capable of cooperating with each other's succession planning.
In a nutshell: The more repositories we have, the more secure all repositories will be, collectively. The more repositories we have, the better we can ensure that content relevant to all user communities will be selected and preserved by at least one of those repositories.
Visions of the future
What might this look like in practice? There is no single prescription for success, but we can imagine effective, practical, successful scenarios. Success would be achieved if we had a mix of a variety of different kinds of libraries and archives and repositories, each working for the best interests of its own designated user community, but, collectively, providing a national, loosely-coupled "system" of preservation and access. (Does this sound like the traditional FDLP? Yes! The FDLP provides us with a working model of experience in just such a system.)
In such a system, individual libraries (small and large) and consortia of libraries (small and large) could contribute to the long-term free public access to government information -- simply by meeting the needs of their own user communities.
The Digital Public Library of America might provide a technical and organizational framework within which many libraries might act and contribute.
I can imagine lots of examples of how individual libraries or groups of libraries might take actions that would benefit their own user communities as well as the information ecosystem as a whole. I am sure that you can add to this list from your own experiences with your own user communities.
- A few big repositories like HathiTrust, the Internet Archive, and LOCKSS-USDOCS containing large volumes of easily identifiable and obtainable major series of government digital information.
- Consortia of law libraries (like the Chesapeake Project Legal Information Archive) combining forces to preserve the basic, essential, official legal record of the nation (from all 3 branches).
- Regional, state, and local law libraries preserving local jurisdictional legal information and linking their collections through rich metadata and APIs to each other and national collections.
- Libraries with a regional focus collecting information relevant to the region from multiple agencies and jurisdictions. (e.g. water rights, immigration, trade, agriculture)
- Libraries that focus on specific kinds of users with common kinds of information needs (e.g., undergraduates, K-12, practicing physicians, farmers) collecting government information from many sources to build strong, dynamic working collections.
- Libraries that want to emphasize a particular kind of information or research (e.g., spatial/GIS data, astronomical data, statistical and raw numeric data from censuses, weather data, textual corpa), combining government information with information from other sources and with computational tools to provide rich research environments for researchers.
- Research libraries with institutional repositories of their research output combining government information to supplement, document, and enhance those collections.
The above are just examples, not prescriptions or predictions. The concept I want to illustrate above is that, when lots of libraries and archives and repositories select and acquire digital government information and create rich digital collections for their own communities, the result will be, collectively, better preservation and more focused access than any single institution could create on its own. This rich environment would be much more secure than our current environment in which each library hopes that some other library or government agency will take care of preservation and access to materials that are essential to its own user community.
So what do we do next?
- We need to oppose recommendations before Congress that would gut GPO or force GPO to weed or disable FDsys or commercialize government information. The current bill will not be the last; we need to be able to make a convincing, persuasive case that government has an essential, inherent role in the life cycle of government information.
- We need to work with existing large digital repositories (e.g. HathiTrust, Internet Archive, LOCKSS-USDOCS, etc.) to see if they can host government information and make it freely accessible now -- particularly in the event of a scaled back or discontinued FDsys.
- We need to work with Depository Library Council, GODORT, ALA, GPO, our own local FDLP libraries and Regional Depositories to plan for an FDLP of the future that includes life-cycle management of digital government information. This will inevitably include, but not be limited to, digital deposit of Title 44 materials into FDLP libraries.
- We need to instruct ourselves in the requirements of Trusted Digital Repositories by learning about OAIS and TDR. Where there are learning opportunities we need to take them and where there need to be new opportunities we need to make them. Those of us with influence on the curricula of library schools need to make this a requirement.
- Building on our own individual knowledge we can then work at a local level within our own libraries and library consortia and library organizations to build our own digital infrastructures and digital collections that meet the requirements of OAIS and TDR. We need to make sure that the planning process is not overwhelmed by technical considerations to the exclusion of long-term sustainability and succession planning. Sustainability and succession planning need to be integrated into the planning process from the beginning, not addressed later as an afterthought. This will help us have better conversations with our colleagues and will lead to more cooperative projects and better cooperative planning.
- We need to work with national and regional organizations and professional associations to plan for a future information preservation ecosystem and infrastructure. Librarians need to work with different kinds of libraries; librarians and archivists and technologists need to work together. The ecosystem doesn't have to be a huge bureaucratic institution -- indeed, it probably should not be -- but it will benefit from collaborations and planning that stretch across traditional boundaries.
Ask or Act?
The future of long-term preservation of and free access to government information is in the hands of Congress today. That leaves us with the feeling that all we can do is ask Congress to do the right thing. But we can do more than ask; we can act. Indeed, we must act. We have the power to take that control out of the hands of Congress and put it into our own hands by building our own digital collections. For many libraries, that will mean a change in strategy: instead of relying on someone else to ensure long-term access to the information your Designated Community requires, you will rely on your own actions. This comes with costs, of course, but it also has big benefits. You will be providing the essential services that your community needs. And that means that you will have a built-in, inherent role that no one else has, which will make your library more sustainable for the long run.
- Ambacher, Bruce I., Government Archives and the Digital Repository Audit Checklist, Journal of Digital Information, 8 (2007).
- Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems, Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS) CCSDS 650.0-B-1 BLUE BOOK January 2002’ (CCSDS Secretariat, 2002), CCDS.
- Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems, Audit And Certification Of Trustworthy Digital Repositories, "Red Book," Issue 1 (Washington D.C.: Council of the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems, October 2009).
- Federal Executive Agencies Terminated, Transferred, or Changed in Name Subsequent to March 4, 1933, United States Government Manual 2009-2010 (Appendix B).
- Gellman, Robert M. Twin Evils: Government Copyright And Copyright-Like Controls Over Government Information, Syracuse Law Review 45:999 (1995).
- Government Printing Office Electronic Information Access Enhancement Act of 1993 [Public Law 103-40].
- House Report 112-148, to accompany H.R. 2551, Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, 2012, Committee on Appropriations (July 15, 2011)
- H.R.2551, Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2012, Referred to Senate committee 7/22/2011.
- Jacobs, James A. FDLP: Services and Collections [preprint] by Against the Grain, 21(2) April/May 2009.
- Kelley, Michael. Bill Passed by House Would Provide No Money for GPO's Federal Digital System, Sharply Cuts Other Information Resources, Library Journal (Jul 27, 2011).
- Krasowska, Francine. A Message from STAT-USA’s Director (August 2010)
- MacGilvray, Daniel R. A Short History of GPO, Administrative Notes (1986).
- McGilvray, Jessica. ALA opposes cuts to Government Printing Office in Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, by District Dispatch, American Library Association, Washington Office (July 21, 2011).
- OMB Watch. House Questions Future of Government Printing Office, (July 27, 2011)
- Peterson, Karrie and Jacobs, James A. Government Information in the Digital Era: Free Culture or Controlled Substance?, paper presented at the symposium, "Free Culture and the Digital Library" at Emory University in Atlanta Georgia, October 2005.
- Relyea, Harold C. Public Printing Reform: Issues and Actions, Congressional Research Services report 98-687 (June 17, 2003),
- Robinson, David G., Yu, Harlan, Zeller, William P. and Felten, Edward W., Government Data and the Invisible Hand (2009). Yale Journal of Law & Technology, Vol. 11, p. 160, 2009.
- Sheketoff, Emily. Letter [MS Word document; available as a PDF document here] to Harold Rogers and Norman D. Dicks, Committee on Appropriations U.S. House of Representatives, from Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director ALA Washington Office (July 21, 2011). [includes attached "Resolution On Government Printing Office Fy 2012 Appropriations" Adopted by the Council of the American Library Association, June 28, 2011.
- STAT-USA. STAT-USA Office to Cease Operations September 30, 2010
- Stiglitz, Joseph E., Orszag, Peter R., and Orszag, Jonathan M. The Role of Government in a Digital Age, Commissioned by the Computer & Communications Industry Association. October 2000.
- Terry, Jenni. House passes Legislative Branch Appropriations Act with 20 percent cut to Government Printing Office, District Dispatch, American Library Association, Washington Office (July 25, 2011).
- U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Informing the Nation: Federal Information Dissemination in an Electronic Age, OTA-C IT-396 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, October 1988). [Y 3.T 22/2:In 3/9:]
- U.S. General Accounting Office. Information Management: Electronic Dissemination of Government Publications, GAO Report 01-428 (March 30, 2001)
- U.S. Government Printing Office. Essential Titles for Public Use in Paper or Other Tangible Format. (Written on Monday, 24 November 2008 Last Updated on Monday, 20 June 2011)
- U.S. Government Printing Office. GPO Access: Status Report. (June 30, 1994).
- U.S. Government Printing Office. Printing Procurement Regulations (revised 2/11)
- U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. A comprehensive assessment of public information dissemination: final report, United States. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, Washington, DC : The Commission, (2001) [Y 3.L 61:2 D 63].
- U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. Public Sector/Private Sector Interaction in Providing Information Services. Report to the NCLIS from the Public Sector/Private Sector Task Force. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC (1982). [Y 3.L 61:2 P 96/2].
- U.S. Office of Management and Budet. OMB Circular A-130, Transmittal Memorandum #4, Management of Federal Information Resources (11/28/2000)
- Wasch, Ken. Letter (May 13, 2004) "SIIA Comments Regarding New Economic Model for The GPO Sales Program," Letter to Bruce James, Public Printer, U.S. Government Printing Office from From Ken Wasch, President Software and Industry Information Association.
House Questions Future of Government Printing Office, OMB Watch (July 27, 2011)
The House Legislative Branch appropriations bill for FY 2012, H.R. 2551, passed on July 22. The bill cuts $27.3 million from the FY 2011 funding level for the agency -- a 20.2 percent annual decrease, $40.4 million less than the agency's request. These cuts, which are considerably deeper than other legislative branch agencies face, would constrain GPO's ability to publish, digitize, and disseminate important public records. For example, GPO requested $5 million specifically to continue the development of FDsys, but the entire line item was cut from the bill.
...Certain provisions of H.R. 2551 suggest that some members of Congress seriously question whether GPO is needed at all.
Public Printer at House Oversight Comm: "GPO – Issues and Challenges: How Will GPO Transition to the Future?"Submitted by jrjacobs on Fri, 2011-05-13 21:17.
On Weds May 11, 2011, Public Printer Bill Boarman and others submitted written testimony to a hearing of the Committee on House Administration Subcommittee on Oversight (PDF). the hearing was titled "GPO – Issues and Challenges: How Will GPO Transition to the Future?" Here's the GPO press release about the Public Printer's comments (anyone else wish GPO put out their press releases in xhtml rather than pdf?! It's hard to find them after the fact! but I digress). (Unembeddable) Video of the hearing is also available.
- William J. Boarman, Public Printer of the United States, Government Printing Office
- James Hamilton Group Director, InfoTrends
- Eric D. Belcher, President and Chief Executive Officer, InnerWorkings, Inc.
- Eric Petersen, Specialist in American National Government, Congressional Research Service
Full disclosure: I talked last week with Reynold Schweikhardt, Director of Technology Policy for the Committee on House Administration -- Mr Schweickhardt was organizing the hearing -- in preparation for the hearing and to discuss with him some of the issues surrounding GPO, the FDLP and access to govt information in the 21st century.
I shared with him a few pieces that my FGI colleagues and I had written over the last several years to help inform the hearing and future discussions about the GPO and govt information in general. Among them are:
- "GPO must not go" argues for reasons why GPO is important to the govt info ecosystem.
- Public Printer's Letter to President Obama Regarding Open Government argues for a continued need in a distributed model to assure long term access and preservation.
- iConference presentation on the future of govt information
- Critical GPO systems and the FDLP cloud
- Several link rot articles
- Government Information in the Digital Age: The Once and Future Federal Depository Library Program. James A. Jacobs, James R. Jacobs and Shinjoung Yeo. Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 31, Issue 3, May 2005, Pages 198-208. lays out roles for GPO, fed agencies, libraries and others in assuring long term access to and preservation of govt information.
"Printing" seems to be a big issue these days -- witness the recently introduced bills H.R. 1626: Prevent the Reckless, Irresponsible, Needless Typography (PRINT) Act of 2011 and S 674: Congressional Record Printing Savings Act of 2011 -- and printing was discussed at the hearing. Yes, "printing" is (mostly) no longer necessary (and mostly no longer done) -- though it remains a far better mode of access for many publications (Statistical Abstract is a case in point ) -- but the role of "producing standard, preservable, authentic information output" still exists and remains critical to an informed citizenry. Drastically defunding GPO because of no need for printing would be throwing out the baby (standard preservable authentic information production) with the bathwater (printing press).
I stressed in our dialog that GPO's role hasn't changed, just the means. It's far cheaper to fund one agency that partners with libraries and provides valuable services to other agencies than to defund that agency, lose the distribution/service/access/preservation that libraries do largely w/o federal dollars, and face the same information budget issues agency by agency -- and the increasing expenditure requests at every agency. Every congressional district has a stake in maintaining funding for gpo/fdlp and should be supportive of the public service that libraries provide to their constituents.
It's also important to note GPO's critical role in cataloging government information regardless of format or FDLP status and the role PURLs play in reducing link rot. Even if printing vanished tomorrow, there is a real need for the active management of description of federal resources, and this is something that only a couple of agencies other than GPO do -- OSTI is one that comes to mind.
In the end, I think a strong argument can be made that 1) GPO is a vital piece of the govt information ecosystem; and 2) GPO should be a focal point within govt for distributing govt information out to the public and to libraries; 3) the issues of digital preservation are too large for GPO to do alone and libraries, as they have done historically, can and should play an active role in access to and preservation of govt information. Libraries and librarians hopefully will continue to have a key role to play in govt information and transparency processes.
That is all.
We've just sent our comments/analysis of the Ithaka S+R "Modeling a Sustainable Future for the Federal Depository Library Program in the 21st Century: Value Proposition" to the project staff and would like to share our comments with the community. Ithaka S+R are still accepting comments so get over to the fdlpmodeling.net site for access to all of their draft documents and leave comments. And by all means, feel free to leave comments, suggestions and ideas for us here as well. We'll share those comments with the Ithaka S+R staff.
Ithaka S+R Value proposition: the missing pieces. A Response to the Ithaka S+R "Modeling a Sustainable Future for the Federal Depository Library Program in the 21st Century: Value Proposition"
- Focus on Libraries, not users
- The missing piece: Digital Collections
- A different kind of Value Proposition
The draft "Value Proposition" report from the Ithaka S+R "Modeling a Sustainable Future for the Federal Depository Library Program in the 21st Century" project focuses explicitly and exclusively on the value of the Program to participating libraries, not on its values to users. It assumes that if the Program is of value to participating libraries, it will have value to the public.
[T]his value proposition focuses on considering the costs and benefits of participation in the FDLP from the perspective of a participating (or potentially participating) library under this new Direction and various new Models. While we recognize and celebrate the value that the Program offers to the American public and various specific communities, that value is only discussed here insofar as it contributes to the value proposition of a library. Ultimately, structures that offer positive value propositions encouraging libraries to take on a wide range of roles and responsibilities in support of the overall mission of the Program will directly support the interests of the American public in long-term, no-fee access to government information and support for its effective use. On the other hand, a Program that does not consider the value propositions perceived by the libraries that are expected to serve in critical roles runs the risk of the failure of both the Program and its ability to support the needs of the American public. (p. 3)
Thus, rather than building a Program that has value to users, it proposes trying to build a Program that has value to libraries in hopes that they will participate and that their participation will somehow have a trickle down benefit to users. In fact, any value proposition MUST take users into account because library administrators heavily weight gate counts, circulation statistics, and other user measurements as bases for library policies and budgetary decisions.
We believe that this logic has three fatal flaws:
First, the draft report's focus on the value to libraries results in a skewed and even misleading understanding of the history and future of the FDLP. In the report's description of the value of the FDLP, it repeatedly uses the phrase "many libraries." This phrase implies that there is either a consensus among libraries, or demonstrable trends in one particular direction, or a consistent motivation for changes to the Program. But neither this report nor the earlier FDLP Modeling draft reports document any such consensuses or trends or motivations. If anything, the reports document the diversity of motivations in the FDLP community. In fact, this use of the phrase "many libraries" masks the existence of other views of the value of FDLP. The report tells the story of the historical value of the FDLP from only one perspective -- that of participating libraries and, more specifically, from the perspective of library management (i.e., "What does my library get out of participating in FDLP?"). This narrative of the value of FDLP to libraries is plausible as far as it goes, but it is seriously incomplete. There are other narratives that are as important if not more so.
A different narrative, from the point of view of users, for example, would tell a completely different story. It would tell how libraries have helped users find and use government information and have ensured the preservation of that information. It would tell the story of how users are happy today with the access they have to government information on the web directly from agencies. It would also provide a librarian's view of the future of free public access for users and compare the benefits and risks of different models. Such a narrative would illuminate what the different models would actually mean to users, rather than to library managers. Among other things, it would demonstrate the need for building many user-focused services supported by and integrated with specific, user-focused collections. It would result in models that benefit users. Participating libraries would benefit because they would be providing useful services to users.
Second, it is not clear that the individual Roles will actually provide any benefit or value to participating libraries. In fact, the report does not even examine the costs and benefits of the Roles, but focuses instead on the Models, which are comprised of Program-oriented broad areas of activity ("Building Blocks") that are implemented through library-oriented Roles. In addition, the descriptions of the Roles in the Models draft report do not adequately define what "participation" in the FDLP Program will mean. It blurs the lines between FDLP libraries and non-FDLP libraries, and between FDLP libraries and libraries that have specialized, non-Title-44 responsibilities. In short, the Values Proposition does not clearly articulate how FDLP participation will provide any benefit over non-participation, or if any of the roles will provide any real value to any libraries. (For more on Building Blocks, Roles and Models, see our previous comments on the draft models report).
Third, this approach does not address the biggest issue facing FDLP libraries today: the disintermediation effect of the Web. As documented by the Ithaka S+R Environmental Scan and as repeated in the Values report, users do not see the need for -- and are not using -- libraries as intermediaries to government information. Users are largely happy to search the open Web or go directly to government web sites to get government information. In this context, if participating libraries do not provide demonstrable benefits to their users, no amount of libraries reducing costs and adopting most of the report's Roles (reducing their responsibilities, or drawing down their collections, or unbundling their commitments) will persuade users that libraries are a necessary or useful part of their information seeking and using process.
The Models should, indeed, consider the "value propositions perceived by the libraries," but they should do much more. By focusing on the possible value to libraries of ill-defined "participation" in a Program that does not define its value to users, the Value Proposition fails to demonstrate that it will be either sustainable or effective.
Although the Ithaka S+R reports go further than any previous analyses of the FDLP in finding value in digital collections and in proposing ways to ensure their long-term preservation, the reports still overlook the value of digital collections to participating libraries, to their users, and to the Program. And, the reports assume -- wrongly in our estimation -- that collections and services can be usefully separated.
The Values Proposition report undervalues the importance of digital collections by implicitly adopting several assumptions that GPO promulgated for many years and that most libraries have, until recently, accepted or at least tolerated. These assumptions are: that "tangible" collections are the only collections that provide value to libraries; that digital collections do not provide value to individual libraries; that services and collections can be separated; and that "access" is as good as "ownership." As more and more libraries are building digital collections or contemplating doing so, and, as GPO has recognized that FDLP libraries can be essential partners in digital preservation, these assumptions embedded in the Values Proposition are increasingly anachronistic and simply false.
The "unbundling" of collections and services that the draft reports recommend emphasizes the separation of these activities. We believe the final Modeling report would be stronger if it emphasized the need for combining these activities. Such combinations could be done collaboratively by libraries working together or by individual libraries, but they cannot be done successfully if service providers do not have direct control over a collection and how it is built, organized, and presented.
The reports do modify these assumptions in one important aspect. They explicitly understand the need for long-term preservation and the importance of (a few) libraries in this role. The draft Values Proposition report does not, however, see any value of smaller libraries (or many libraries) having digital collections and perpetuates the idea of a few libraries handling the bulk of the work. This changes the FDLP from a distributed, participatory system to a centralized, hierarchical system. (For more on this issue, see our comment on the FDLPModeling site) This assumption can be seen most clearly when the report describes the "historical" benefits of participation in the Program:
The declining perceived value realized from tangible government materials combined with the increasing perceived costs of the responsibilities of maintaining these collections poses a complex dilemma for many participating libraries. (p. 5)
[I]t is increasingly clear that the exclusivity once enjoyed by depository libraries as the sole venue for accessing government information has largely disappeared. The increasing ability of the average American to access [digital] government information without the intermediary of the depository library has left some depositories questioning the value that they realize by building and maintaining tangible collections of government information. Although the provision of free tangible copies of government information is intended to be one of the core benefits of participation in the Program, many libraries no longer view this as a particularly compelling incentive to participate. (p. 6) [emphasis added]
In the above passages, the report blurs the distinctions between digital and "tangible" information and between access and ownership. This results in the implication that, if "tangible" collections are no longer of value to libraries, then digital collections must not be of value either. This is another fatal flaw of the report.
We believe that, if digital government information were deposited with FDLP libraries, those libraries would gain from building digital collections many of the same kinds of value that they secured when they built paper collections. And, not only libraries would benefit. There are at least four kinds of value that would result from digital deposit.
First, users would gain. Users would benefit if libraries of all sizes addressed the needs of their specific user communities by building digital collections that included authentic, deposited, digital government information along with other digital information. By building such collections, libraries could provide for their user communities (regardless of geographic proximity) rich, unique collections of information from many sources, combined in a common user-interface, augmented by tools for discovery and use, customized for those collections and users. Users would find it easier to locate and use information that best matched their needs, regardless of its original producer or distributor. Rather than having to search for "all" information using generic search engines, or search for information by producer using agency-specific search engines, users could use rich content-specific tools designed and optimized for specific, preselected, quality collections. Additionally, with more libraries building more digital collections, libraries would leverage the inherent nature of the open Web in order to make digital government information more findable. This "seeding the cloud" approach would help users find government information in the same way that links to and from Wikipedia articles and YouTube videos result in higher Google search ranking and thus better findability of information.
Second, libraries would benefit. Participating FDLP libraries would have a digital resource that other libraries would not have: authentic, officially-deposited collections that would comprehensively match depositing criteria. By building digital collections of public domain information, the libraries would have a valuable resource for data mining, text indexing, and other computational research. By combining Title-44 materials with non-Title-44 materials, libraries could build unique collections that no other library or agency (including GPO) would have -- collections designed for their relevance to specific user communities. By developing unique tools for discovery, access, and use, FDLP libraries could provide resources and expertise that would contribute to and enrich the digital-library community at-large and gain reputational benefits within that community.
Third, the Program would benefit. By encouraging and enabling FDLP libraries to maintain collections of Title-44 digital materials, GPO could more securely guarantee both preservation of and access to those materials. By building online tools that would enable users to easily acquire government information from any of a number of digital libraries seamlessly and transparently, GPO could better ensure long-term, free access even if GPO itself becomes unable to do so. By facilitating the building of a network of digital repositories, GPO could better ensure the long-term preservation of authentic, unaltered copies of Title-44 material. By facilitating the building of collection-specific and user-community-specific tools, GPO could enhance access to Title-44 materials far beyond what it could provide on its own.
Fourth, the Library Community would benefit. Every library, not just FDLP libraries, will benefit from having a strong community of digital libraries providing enhanced access and services for government information and rich, unique collections. Government agencies would also fit in this broad category of beneficiaries to the extent that they are like libraries in providing content and services to users.
Even though the report articulates the need for some libraries to participate in long-term preservation, by ignoring the value of digital collections to libraries and users, it reduces the opportunities for a more sustainable, effective Program of service and collections.
We propose instead a different kind of value proposition. We strongly recommend that Ithaka S+R expand its values proposition to examine the benefits to users and the Program, as well as participating libraries. In addition, we suggest that the final report should examine value the way some economists do: by examining the aggregate benefit across all stakeholders. The final report should examine how the Program could maximize this overall social benefit. The final report should ask if changes to the Program increase -- or decrease -- the likelihood that information will be preserved and accessible for the long-term and if changes will increase -- or decrease -- the social benefit that the public gets by actually using, sharing, and reusing government information. Such an approach would change the focus from one side of the equation (library managers, preservationists, GPO, "partners," private sector companies), to both sides of the equation (including users). It should describe policies and Models that would demonstrably maximize benefits to all.
The Value Proposition should identify value accrued -- or lost -- to current and future users of government information including citizens in general as well as specific user communities (e.g., economists, historians, journalists, scientists, physicians, geographers, lawyers, students).
The Value Proposition should look also at the value to GPO and other government agencies of having a network of many congressionally-mandated (but non-government) libraries participating in the preservation of and providing access to and services for government information. It should consider the value of an FDLP library community to non-FDLP libraries. The existence of such a community would enrich all libraries by providing shared expertise gained through the iterative process of building collections and providing public and technical services for government information.
Rather than looking for incentives that might keep libraries nominally in the program while actually drastically reducing their commitment and participation in the Program, the Values Proposition report should describe the benefits of Program changes to users. By providing actual benefits directly to users, libraries will enhance their own relevance and sustainability. By facilitating this, GPO can attract and retain libraries that will gain benefit from sustaining or increasing their commitments rather than from lowering or dropping them.
The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access (Ithaka S+R's Roger Schonfeld was a contributor to the Task Force) addressed the idea of "Value Propositions" in the digital environment. It said:
"When speaking about value, economists like to ask 'Who benefits?' or 'Who cares?' because well-articulated demand starts with a clear and compelling value proposition about the benefits to be gained by having, in our case, access to information at some point in the future. The value of information is not to be confused with its monetary or financial value per se, although it can often be denominated in currency. The value of digital assets is best understood as what digital materials are good for, and that is usually understood as the ways that the materials are used -- to advance knowledge, entertain or bring pleasure, help solve problems, or inform public policy.
"Each user community will identify its own set of values and benefits in the digital materials they demand. For example, in scholarly discourse there is a clear community consensus about the value of e-journals over time." (p. 24)
We believe that designing a Values Proposition that directly and explicitly addresses the identifiable needs of and benefits to a wide variety of user communities will be more effective than the current proposition. We believe that such an approach will benefit libraries by benefiting users and will benefit the Program by benefiting libraries.
We have sent Ithaka S+R our comments for the draft directions and draft models documents (as well as comments on the other draft documents), but feel that a more in-depth analysis and response is warranted.
While there is much to like about this draft -- as other commenters have rightfully pointed out -- it has some serious gaps that could have potentially dire consequences for the future of the FDLP.
The main strength of the report is that it explicitly recognizes the need for digital preservation beyond the confines of GPO. The report says:
"Although GPO has taken on an important leadership role in preserving and maintaining the integrity of digital government information, GPO alone cannot effectively accomplish these goals; distributed responsibility for preserving and maintaining the integrity of government information is a long-standing value of the Program that must be maintained in the digital environment to provide users with confidence that the materials they use in digital form will remain available and unchanged over the long term."
Attached for your reading "pleasure" are our collaborative comments on the Ithaka S+R draft findings report released on 1/14/11. Once again, we've done a collective stream of consciousness, inserting comments, suggestions, citations etc within the draft text of the Findings report. Please forward to those individuals, groups and listservs for which the FDLP modeling project has import. And by all means, please contact the Ithaka S+R project team at FDLPemail@example.com as soon as possible with your own comments, ideas, suggestions etc. We'd appreciate if any comments sent to Ithaka S+R be posted here in the comments section so that the FDLP community can be informed.