The Government Printing Office (GPO) has been busy today! Hot on the heals of their announcement about the resignation of Public Printer Bob Tapella, President Obama announced today his list of recess appointments including naming William J. Boarman as the next Public Printer of the GPO.
Press Release from GPO:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 29, 2010 No. 10-49
MEDIA CONTACT: GARY SOMERSET 202.512.1957, 202.355.3997 cell email@example.com
PUBLIC PRINTER BOB TAPELLA RESIGNS
WASHINGTON—Public Printer of the United States Bob Tapella announces his resignation as head of the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). Tapella has led the men and women of the 150-year-old agency the last three years. He was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2007 to become the 25th Public Printer of the United States. Deputy Public Printer Paul Erickson becomes the Acting Public Printer effective immediately.
Prior to becoming Public Printer, Tapella served as a senior executive at GPO for five years. He was part of the team that took GPO from a survival mode to the thriving operation it is today. Tapella helped turn GPO’s financial situation from years of significant losses into the positive net operating income the agency enjoys today. Fiscal year 2010 marked the seventh consecutive year of positive results. The agency also launched GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) during Tapella’s tenure, giving the American people a one-stop site to authentic, published government information.
“It has been a pleasure serving both President Obama and President Bush during the last eight years at GPO,” said Public Printer Bob Tapella. “I want to thank the hardworking men and women of GPO who have transformed an agency that opened in 1861 into a 21st century printing, digital media, secure credentialing and ISO 9001 premiere manufacturing organization. I believe the successful launch of FDsys positions GPO to meet the challenges of the Digital Age.”
The GPO is the federal government’s primary centralized resource for gathering, cataloging, producing, providing, authenticating, and preserving published U.S. government information in all its forms. GPO is responsible for the production and distribution of information products and services for all three branches of the federal government. In addition to publication sales, GPO makes government information available at no cost to the public through GPO’s Federal Digital System (www.fdsys.gov) and through partnerships with approximately 1,220 libraries nationwide participating in the Federal Depository Library Program. For more information, please visit www.gpo.gov. Follow GPO on Twitter http://twitter.com/USGPO and on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/gpoprinter.
In the past year or so that we have been tracking lost docs/document discovery reports, we've been made aware of 67 publications that appear to have been cataloged by the Government Printing Office in response to a lost docs report. We've created a spreadsheet of documents with the date reported and the date of the CGP catalog record. We have now made this spreadsheet public at https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AjA1ChZ8rDu5dGw0VllsRHpqSk1HcXctM1dMQVlBMWc&hl=en and will keep it up to date.
A few cautions in using data from this spreadsheet:
1) This is probably not the full list of items cataloged in response to lost docs reports. We check the cataloging status of documents the month after they are posted. This catches some, but not all items eventually cataloged. Ideally we'd have someone run the entire list of fugitive and pending documents through the CGP once a aweek, but we don't have staffing for that. If you'd like like to volunteer, send a note to dnlcornwall AT alaska DOT net.
2) We have no way of knowing for sure that a given item was cataloged in response to a specific report.
3) Although the spreadsheet offers an average and median number of days to catalog a document, those figures are only for the publications on the spreadsheet. Since we don't get notified of all the documents reported as fugitive to GPO nor all of our reports that eventually get cataloged, we can't come up with an actual solid figure for how long it takes GPO to acquire and catalog items. Our sample of 67 as of 12/4/2010 may or may not be representative.
But at least it's a place to start until GPO starts publishing their own fugitive document/document discovery statistics.
Note from Daniel: My apologies for missing a report last month. I was carried away by National Novel Writing Month. I'm back on the job with some pretty positive news for October and November postings to the Lost Docs Blog
Before we jump into statistics, we need to announce a new category called "pending." "Pending" means that that report forwarded to us includes a statement by GPO that they are in the process of either adding an item to the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) and/or adding it to the FDLP. The category of "pending" is being given to documents posted in November 2010 and later. Items with status of "pending" will be changed to "found" when we become aware of a publicly accessible record in the CGP.
The best news we have for you from two months of light posting (October - 15, November - 11) is that the number of "found" items is going up - 9 records from (presumably) lost docs reports in October and another 4 records created from (presumably) lost docs reports in November. See these records for yourself at lostdocs.freegovinfo.info/category/found/ and looking at the postings with October and November 2010 dates. We are appreciative of these new records and note that the time for public cataloging of reported materials appears to be decreasing.
From October, six items remain listed as "fugitive documents", with one item being for an electronic copy that does have a record for the physical item.
From November, no item reported remains classed as a "fugitive document." Seven items are classed as "pending", acknowledged as in scope by GPO but without a publicly accessible record in the CGP. You can view these items lostdocs.freegovinfo.info/category/pending/ and looking at the postings with October 2010 dates.
Please remember that our listing of "fugitive documents" reports is only as complete as you make it, since GPO does not yet publish any statistics we're aware of on fugitive documents/document discovery.
If you like the concept of a public listing of fugitive documents reported to GPO, there are a number of easy ways to help us:
- If you report a fugitive document to GPO, send your e-mailed receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome any item reported to GPO in the past month. It is best if you can send us the receipt the same day you get it from GPO. Some e-mail programs will support auto-forwarding. If so, please consider autoforwarding items where the subject contains "lostdocs submission."
- Visit the blog at lostdocs.freegovinfo.info and comment on the listed items. Comments can include -- Did your library receive the item? Did you find it in the CGP? Do you think the item is out of scope for the CGP? Did you report the item as well and so on.
- Post the blog link to your website or share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media.
- Subscribe to the blog feed at lostdocs.freegovinfo.info/feed/
or better yet incorporate the feed into your website or blog.
On the both/and front, this is good news indeed. GPO will soon begin sharing its metadata from the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) with the EBSCO discovery service. This will break down to govt documents silo, combine non-documents metadata with that from the federal govt, extend the findability of US govt publications to students and researchers, AND point them to depository libraries for access -- all the things we've been advocating here at FGI! I hope GPO is talking with other database vendors to do the same.
Metadata from the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) will soon be searchable through EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) from EBSCO Publishing. EDS Customers will be able to search for federal records from the Government Printing Office's Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.
The U.S Government Printing Office provides publishing & dissemination services for the official and authentic government publications to Congress, federal agencies, federal depository libraries, & the American public. GPO resources that will be available through EDS include federal publications from the following catalogues:
- Congressional Serial Set Catalog
- Congressional Publications
- GPO Access Publications
- Internet Publications
Transcripts from the Fall 2010 Federal Depository Library Council Meeting are now available.
Also available from the proceedings page are:
- Kick off speech from Bob Tapella, Public Printer of the United States
- Kick off speech from Ric Davis, Director, Library Services and Content Management
- Final Schedule of Events
- Final Agenda
- Educational presentations and handouts
- Slides used during council wrap-up session
For Dr. Rabina’s Government Information Sources term paper that Johanna mentioned in her last post, I’ll be researching the Navy’s establishment on Vieques, an island part of Puerto Rico, for naval training and munitions testing, from 1941 until 2003. The purpose of the assignment is to use government information to thoroughly research a topic, so when I saw in the DLC Fall Meeting Conference Proceedings that Marianne Ryan from Northwestern University and Catherine Jervey Johnson from LexisNexis Academic presented “1960 at Fifty: An Historic Year in Hindsight - Using Government Information to Discover the Past”, it caught my eye. Through some whimsical and some serious comparisons, the slideshow demonstrates how some issues are ongoing throughout the lifecycle of government, and how drastically some change. (Of course, a lot of the resources in the slide show were understandably taken from LexisNexis collections, which makes it easy to view and use historical government documents!)
Since we’ll be doing all our research in materials freely available to the public, and since I know a lot of online material currently available from FDsys will only take me back so far in time, I thought I’d start with the Catalog of Government Publications, and use my term paper as a chance to critically review MetaLib, their new federated search tool. My training thus far at SILS has taught me to always click the “Advanced Search” screen, and I quickly found one small complaint. The interface gave me options to choose a “quick set”, resources bundled by subject area, but how great would it be to select two areas in the “quick sets”? For my search, I knew there would be material on Vieques in both Environment and Defense & Military, at least, but I had to search one at a time. But by starting with Defense & Military, I found a CRS Report from 2001, with background and information on the Vieques training operation (and CRS reports, we have learned, are like gold.) I also found a hearing from the Committee on Armed Services from 1980, which I bookmarked as interesting. So far, so good.
With 66 records in MoCAT for just this area, Defense & Military, my search results were also sortable by topic, date, and author. I found myself wishing there was a way to search by type of resource, and when I backed up a little, I noticed an “Expert” search setting. Expert allowed me select which resources within each “quick set” but also to switch to Agencies, where I could select and deselect which resources might be most relevant to a targeted search, which I think is pretty useful. For each resource, I could click the info icon for more details about the collection. Even more intriguingly, I had the option to add an individual collection to the clipboard, and then create my own research set, which I could name. Then (somewhat unintuitively) I could return to Advanced Search, and use my own research set as a basis for my search.
All these initial fumblings in MetaLib did feel like they were going to pay off - I was slowly building a familiarity with the resources I needed, and MoCAT, which had previously seemed like a catalog siloed by department or agency, was starting to feel more like a database. If nothing else, I have some titles that I know I can walk into my local Depository Library and someone can help me locate them on a shelf.
Even with MetaLib making MoCAT easier for me to navigate, and even with FDsys taking full rein online over GPO Access, researching a topic across many government agencies and years is bound to mean wading through a lot of unhelpful material before finding what I need, and what will help me speak authoritatively about the Navy presence in Vieques over a span of sixty years. I can only construct an incomplete picture from in front of my computer; FDsys and MoCAT are only the beginning. Which means I’ll be coming to a Federal Depository Library soon, research question in hand, hoping for some perspective and some guidance. And maybe if I’m lucky, a CRS report or two.
- Krissa Corbett Cavouras, Pratt SILS
[UPDATED: Seavey's article is attached below since it's not yet available online. It's only fair that readers should have the opportunity to read Seavey's words as well as our analysis. We do so to further academic discussion and debate.]
In his article in American Libraries,"GPO must go," Charles Seavey accurately highlights an important problem -- how to enable 100,000 non-Federal Depository Libraries to better use government information to inform and empower their patrons. We agree with his point that widespread access to government information is a worthwhile goal for all libraries. However, his proposed solution -- the abolition of the Government Printing Office (GPO) and the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) -- is many times worse than the problem it proposes to cure.
We believe that Seavey conflates "printing" with "publishing" and "access" with "preservation" and in so doing diminishes the importance of GPO and the FDLP in the life-cycle of government information. But the biggest problem with Mr. Seavey's proposal is that, while accurately emphasizing the issue of access today, it completely ignores at least four key advantages that we would lose without the FDLP: 1) a more reliable preservation model that assures long term, free access; 2) a system that is tamper-resistant and tamper-evident; 3) a system that creates, uses and reuses metadata in a cost-effective fashion; and 4) multiple collections that combine Title-44 materials with non-Title 44 materials in collections that are user-focused and that provide user-centric services. The FDLP has been providing these advantages for printed publications for almost 200 years and, thanks to technological advances and initiatives like the LOCKSS-USDOCS project, it is increasingly capable of providing these advantages for digital information as well.
In the world proposed by Mr. Seavey, all government information would be made accessible by a new "Government Information Access Agency" (GIAA). End users and libraries assisting patrons would access the information directly from government-controlled web servers. This would be fine as long as we could rely on the wisdom, funding, and non-political benevolence of the federal government. But we already know we can't.
1. Relying on a single organization (the federal government) to preserve all government-produced information is risky at best. It puts the information at risk of loss due to changing budgets, changing missions, and government interpretation of what information should be available to the public.
By distributing digital files to Congressionally-mandated FDLP libraries, we will have multiple funding streams, multiple user-communities, multiple technologies, and multiple preservation-locations. Together, these eliminate the single-point-of-failure risk endemic to a single preservation system maintained by the federal government (This is not hypothetical; we all remember the nearly 1 month outage of the GPO purl server last summer right? http://freegovinfo.info/node/2704 ).
2. The federal government has a long history of attempting to recall or delete information that puts the government in an unflattering light or out of -- often misplaced -- fears about national security. With custody of government information in the hands of government alone, digital information can be deleted or altered at will without any public input. For example, see Steven Aftergood's 2005 Slate Article, "The Age of Missing Information" and OMB Watch's "Information removed from agency websites."
Distribution of digital information to FDLP libraries would provide the same guarantee of tamper-resistence that paper has in cases such as the attempted withholding of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, vol. XVI, and in proving evidence of tampering such as that provided by the recent censorship of the Afghanistan war memoir Operation Dark Heart. (See the end of this post for other articles of interest on this topic.)
3. Seavey overlooks the importance of metadata in digital publishing, preservation, and access.
Adequate metadata that describes the provenance, authenticity, fixity, and usability of digital objects is essential. If anything, we need more standards -- and open standards -- to be enforced by government "publishers." Content creators rarely want to bother with this, nor are they equipped to do so. The role of a digital Government *Publishing* Office is essential. GPO is well-positioned to fulfill this role by establishing, enforcing, and using digital publishing standards for born digital content.
Metadata also plays an essential role in organizing information in collections and making it findable and discoverable. Just having an unknown subset of government information in volatile, commerical, full-text indexes in enormous search engines or relying on the often-primitive search engines of agencies is not adequate and should not be acceptable to government information professionals. See for example, the CTD/OMB-Watch study, Hiding in Plain Sight. Or try this yourself: Search Google for BP Oil Spill http://www.google.com/search?q=BP%20Oil%20Spill&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8 and notice that the first page of results doesn't list .gov sources at all, just news sources and the BP website. - Compare those results to the 17 reports and Congressional reports available via the same search in catalog.gpo.gov. Using Google to find government documents/information deletes the whole intellectual process of information organization from the government information lifecycle equation.
4. By eliminating the FDLP, Seavey would also destroy the strength of multiple collections that serve distinct user-communities, which, in the digital world, need no longer be geographically based. With a digital FDLP, libraries will be able to do what the government cannot do: build collections that include both government and non-government digital information combined in well-organized, easy-to-use collections that focus on topics, subjects, and disciplines rather than provenance. By distributing digital government information to FDLP libraries, GPO will facilitate many user-centric collections and services that it (or a GIAA) could never hope to provide or maintain.
While we at FGI greatly sympathize with the idea of spreading awareness of, knowledge of, and skill in government information use to the nation's libraries, we are deeply skeptical this can be done without a core network of libraries with deep government information knowledge, experience, and expertise.
Seavey may be right when he says that, traditionally, FDLP libraries have not much engaged non-depositories in dialog and training, but in the digital world, this is changing as more FDLs are reaching out to their communities. The explosion of Web 2.0 tools and greater bandwidth are creating opportunities to transfer knowledge and expertise through the GPO OPAL webinar program http://www.opal-online.org/archivegpo.htm, online conferences like the Six State Virtual Conference, the 21st Century Government Information course materials on WebJunction, and groups open to all libraries on ALA Connect and Facebook. The list goes on. If there was no FDLP, the expertise that is driving this outreach might evaporate and these materials would not have a government information focused community to create them and make them available. The documents community has started teaching and engaging users and libraries from all walks of life. The digital world is already empowering just the change Seavey suggests we need. We should encourage this, not thwart it.
The many issues surrounding access to and preservation of government information will not go away simply by playing semantics or changing the name of a government agency. The many people working within and serving the ideals of the FDLP maintain a critical role in the government information ecosystem. The FDLP shouldn't be tossed aside, it should be assisted and well-funded in its catalytic work of diffusing awareness and expertise in the use and stewardship of government information regardless of format.
Seavey, Charles. GPO Must Go. American Libraries, October 2010, p. 33
Aftergood, Steven. "The Age of Missing Information," Slate, March 17, 2005. Accessed at http://www.slate.com/id/2114963/ on October 11, 2010.
Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), OMB Watch. Hiding in Plain Sight: Why Important Government Information Cannot Be Found Through Commercial Search Engines (Dec. 11, 2007) http://www.ombwatch.org/files/info/searchability.pdf
Heanue, Anne. and the Washington Office of the American Library Association (ALA). Less Access to Less Information by and about the U.S. Government. (1981 - 1998). Accessed at http://freegovinfo.info/library/lessaccess on October 12, 2010.
Library Success Stories, IFC ALA Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, November 2004. Accessed at https://members.ala.org/nif/v53n6/success_stories.html on October 11, 2010
Nevelow Mart, Susan. "Let the People Know the Facts: Can Government Information Removed from the Internet Be Reclaimed?" llrx.com. June 6, 2006. Accessed at http://www.llrx.com/features/reclaimed.htm on October 12, 2010.
OMB Watch. "Information removed from agency websites." http://www.ombwatch.org/node/182#agency
Ruffilo, Nick. "Metadata, Not E-Books, Can Save Publishing. O'Reilly Radar July 29, 2010 Accessed at http://radar.oreilly.com/2010/07/metadata-not-e-books-can-save.html on October 13, 2010.
The Defining Moment
As noted here recently, the depository community is into yet another round of trying to redefine the Federal Depository Library Program. (See: GPO contracts Ithaka S+R to develop sustainable FDLP models.)
This new project will question and evaluate the role that FDLP libraries will play in the lifecycle of government information. The definition of this role will determine whether or not FDLP libraries will deserve or get support from their constituencies. If they serve a useful function, they will get support; if they do not, they will not.
This is a defining moment. Libraries will not flourish or even survive because librarians like them, or because older people have fond memories of them, or even because we have a vague belief that they "should" survive. They will survive only if they fulfill a role in society that no one else fulfills as well -- or at all -- and if society recognizes and values that role.
Make no mistake about it: what is at stake is the survival of FDLP libraries. By defining the role of FDLP libraries, this project will determine whether or not there will be Federal Depository Libraries at all.
Defining the role of libraries
Typically, the roles of libraries are defined either in general terms of who the library serves or by enumerating specific tasks. You could call these the "who you serve" approach and the "what you do" approach. Each has advantages because each one can help focus our thinking and give us criteria against which we can evaluate our actions.
Since 1993, GPO has effectively defined a limited -- and shrinking -- role for FDLP libraries. The FDLP has always been a cooperative venture in which different partners (GPO, regional depositories, selective depositories) played different roles. But, since 1993, when The Government Printing Office Electronic Information Access Enhancement Act (Public Law 103-40) was passed, GPO has arrogated to itself the role of permanent preservation of government information and essentially prevented FDLP libraries from undertaking that role by refusing to deposit digital materials with depository libraries.
But that is changing. Recent developments (for example, GPO collaborating with LOCKSS in the LOCKSS-USDOCS project) have demonstrated that GPO is open to sharing responsibility, is no longer committed to preventing libraries from participating in digital preservation, is open to "digital deposit," and is, in general, open to new roles for FDLP libraries. These "new" roles could look a lot more like the traditional roles of FDLP libraries. Yes, we need to change the FDLP for the digital age, but these should not be changes in our traditional roles (what we do: build collections and provide services for and stewardship of those collections) but changes in procedures (how we do these things using digital tools instead of paper tools). It is in those traditional roles that libraries have a unique value in society. The Ithaka/GPO project will define the role of FDLP libraries either in a way that will expand this new openness, allowing libraries to have the flexibility to participate actively, or in a limited and passive way in the mode of the 1993-2009 model.
1. Who do you serve?
In defining the general role of libraries (who a library serves), there is a popular tendency to focus on the parent institution. This is an easy role to justify and explain and it even lends itself to some degree of quantification and accountability. The recent report from the Association of College and Research Libraries, The value of academic libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report (by Megan Oakleaf, 2010) is a prime example of this view.
An alternative view is that libraries fulfill a larger role in society as a whole and thus serve more than their parent institution. The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians (by John Blyberg, Kathryn Greenhill, and Cindi Trainor, 2009) is one recent example of this broader view of the role of libraries in society. Barbara Fister, a librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College, has written eloquently about this. New initiatives such as the NSF's rules for sharing of data and creating explicit plans for managing data for the long-term are driving libraries to anticipate a larger role for libraries in fulfilling the societal need for long-term stewardship and curation of information of all kinds across the life-cycle of information. We can anticipate this as a coming major shift in focus and priorities from the local to the global role of libraries.
While these two different views need not exclude each other, in practice they sometimes do. It would be wiser to view these two ideas as complementary rather than incompatible. I would argue, in fact, that any definition of the role of libraries that excludes one or the other of these views will almost certainly be incomplete and fatally flawed.
The role of FDLP as a whole vs. the role of individual FDLP libraries
I would expect that most people in the depository community would assume that the role of FDLP must, by its very nature and purpose, reflect a society-as-a-whole mission and go beyond the missions of individual participants in the program. It will be hard for Ithaka S+R to suggest a model that avoids the big, societal role of the FDLP. But the details of how to fulfill that societal role is the issue. What specific tasks will Ithaka S+R define for depository libraries, on the one hand, and GPO and other (unspecified) "partners" (RFQ, page 5), on the other hand? These definitions will either open up the options for libraries or explicitly limit them.
Despite broad statements of the role of the FDLP as a whole, such as "create an informed citizenry and an improved quality of life" (RFQ, page 4), I think we may see considerable pressure to use a narrow definition of the role of the individual depository libraries. One reason for this is the recent history of GPO and the FDLP in which GPO took over complete control of long-term preservation and access to all digital information in the program and relegated libraries to a role of only providing customer service. Some will see this split of roles as a de facto standard that should be continued. I would argue that, while that split may have seemed appropriate 17 years ago, much has changed and libraries are now more tech-savvy and better equipped to take on digital challenges. Those who argue for the 1993 status quo are the true luddites. It is a time for change.
The pressure to limit the role of libraries will come, I think, from librarians who view the role of their own library as limited to fulfilling the mission of their own institution -- those who would like someone else to take on the big, societal mission. It will come from those who support the Oakleaf ACRL report and its institution-focus and emphasis on "return-on-investment, commodity production, [and] impact." It will come from library directors who, for legitimate but parochial reasons, want to weed depository materials from their collections and do not wish to invest in digital depository collections. It may come from Ithaka S+R itself whose Manager of Research, Roger Schonfeld, has already praised the ACRL report because it "clearly frames the purpose and value of the academic library in the context of the parent organization." And, it may even come from some at GPO, since it matches the model GPO developed in 1993.
But there are those who will be advocating a broader, more active role for FDLP libraries. Those of us who believe that a network of Congressionally-mandated libraries can provide a better, more secure, more robust, more flexible, more responsive system than GPO or GPO and a few commercial "partners" could provide by themselves. One way to do this is to focus on the specific tasks that those libraries might undertake.
2. What do you do? The specific tasks.
There are a number of options for the tasks and roles of libraries. Many of these have been been well articulated and tried with varying degrees of success. For example:
- Libraries as "service centers." You might call this the "libraries without collections" or the "librarians without libraries" model. This is the model designed by GPO in 1993. It is the model that ITHAKA, the parent organization of Ithaka S+R, has used as its own business model for Portico and JSTOR. This model is favored by the Association of Research Libraries, by many library administrators who apparently believe that it would be better if someone else took the responsibility of preserving government information and ensuring its long-term accessibility and usability, and by many depository librarians who do not have the support of their institutions to build and manage digital collections.
- Libraries as "business centers." This model is an extension or complement to the above model because it, too, envisions libraries without collections. It sees the library as the agent that manages leases and licensing agreements with publishers and other producers (including government agencies). This model is advocated by ITHAKA, by commercial data providers who make a profit by limiting access to information to those who pay for it, by government agencies that have accepted that they must be self-supporting and thus sell their information, and by the information industry, which would like the role of libraries to be enforcers of rights-management. In addition, most libraries have already accepted this model for many classes of digital information by leasing access to databases or electronic journals instead of demanding their own digital copies.
- Libraries that provide both collections and services. This is the traditional library model in the paper world and it is increasingly the new model in the digital world. Examples of libraries doing this include libraries and projects of all shapes and sizes: The California Digital Library, the Hathi Trust, the Scholars Portal of the Ontario Council of University Libraries, the Legal Information Archive of the Chesapeake Project, the North Carolina Digital Repository, the Stanford University Freedom of Information and CRS and FRUS collections at Archive-It, the University of North Texas digital government collections, the LOCKSS-USDOCS Network, the Historical Publications of the United States Commission on Civil Rights at the Thurgood Marshall Law Library at the University of Maryland, the many U.S. Government Publication Digitization Projects, and many more. This is also the model that private sector government information service providers use when they obtain copies of digital information so that they can provide services for that information rather than trying to provide services for collections that they do not hold. This model also fits the OAIS preservation model which requires that an archive "obtain sufficient control" of information in order ensure long-term preservation.
Defining our own future
Over the past two decades GPO has redefined the role that FDLP libraries play in the lifecycle of government information by reducing that role to one of providing service for collections held by GPO and others. FDLP Libraries have largely accepted this de facto redefinition of their role. Why? Because they have been caught in a perfect storm of inadequate budgets and staffing and training, demands from library administrators to reduce the size and footprint of paper collections, users who were quick to accept online access without demanding -- or even being cognizant of -- long-term preservation, and a GPO that promised it would single-handedly take on the pesky problem of managing and preserving a single digital collection for everyone while simultaneously providing "access."
That model is failing and GPO is now open to a new model that involves depository libraries as active participants again. We have an opportunity with the Ithaka/GPO project to take the lead in defining the future of our own libraries. In the last two decades, depository libraries have followed the lead of GPO and accepted a diminished role of providing services without collections. We have followed the lead of technologists and digital-pundits who like to call the Google Books project a "library" while simultaneously diminishing the importance of actual libraries that are accountable to their communities. In a chicken-and-egg situation, our diminished activities have made depository activities easy targets for budget cuts that further diminished our ability to provide adequate digital services. As the private sector steps into this gap, our services begin to pale in comparison. We have not adequately differentiated ourselves from the private sector and government digital services, preferring to piggy back on what they do, enforce their rights-restrictions and their privacy-encroaching policies. But that strategy has endangered the principles of the FDLP and reduced our ability to do what the private sector will not and the government cannot do alone. Now we have an opportunity to change all that.
Where GPO must have a one-size-fits all collection and service model, FDLP libraries can each focus on their own communities of interest. Where private sector companies limit access to those who pay and GPO is specifically authorized in the 1993 law to "charge reasonable fees," FDLP libraries are dedicated to providing information without charging. While the private sector, by definition, provides only those services that generate a profit, FDLP libraries are funded to provide services for their communities by leveraging the resources of the community for the benefit of all. A GPO-centered model of preservation is fragile because it has only a single budgetary authority and a single, monolithic "community." In contrast, a preservation model based on FDLP libraries has as many as 1000 budgets, 1000 communities, 1000 locations, 1000 systems, and 1000 reasons to survive and flourish. It is 1000 times more secure.
FDLP libraries can build new digital collections that combine Title-44-materials with non-Title-44 materials. GPO cannot do that. We can support our own communities-of-interest that need no longer be geographically based. GPO has to serve everyone and does not have the resources to focus on every potential community of interest. We can build services and functionalities for our collections that focus on our communities of interest. GPO must provide generic services and generic APIs. We can guarantee that we will preserve the information in our collections for as long as those materials are of interest to our communities. GPO cannot guarantee that Congress will continue to fund preservation for everything forever. In fact, the RFQ does not contain the words "preservation" or "long-term." We can assure our communities that we will preserve their privacy and provide information that is usable and without fees. GPO cannot make those guarantees. We can, collectively, do a better, more secure job of preserving government information for the long-term and assuring that it will be available and usable without fees than any single institution or agency can. Together, we can build a twenty-first century FDLP that will do for digital materials what the FDLP has always done: ensure long-term, free, public access to government information.
It should be clear to us that returning to a model in which FDLP libraries take an active role in building and preserving collections and providing services will provide clear benefits to users of government information. But the benefits go beyond providing access and services. A strong FDLP also benefits the participating libraries, and other non-participating libraries. GPO and the Depository Library Council are working to create a comprehensive list of benefits for libraries participating in the FDLP and benefits afforded to the public by having access to these libraries.
While the Ithaka/GPO project provides an opportunity to turn the FDLP around and make it viable and useful in the twenty-first century, it is not at all certain that this will happen. As noted above, there are those who will argue for the status quo that limits the role of FDLP libraries to an unsustainable, unjustifiable service-without-collections model.
Ithaka S+R has already written a report with a model for the FDLP (Documents for a Digital Democracy: A Model for the Federal Depository Library Program in the 21st Century). In that report, it recommended that "GPO should develop formal partnerships with a small number of dedicated preservation entities -- such as organizations like HathiTrust or Portico or individual libraries -- to preserve a copy of its materials" (page 44, emphasis added). As noted above, Ithaka S+R is affiliated with Portico through their parent organization, ITHAKA. (For another take on a related Ithaka S+R study, see: Nyquist, Corinne(2010) 'An Academic Librarian's Response to the “ITHAKA Faculty Survey 2009: Key Strategic Insights for Libraries, Publishers, and Societies”', Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Electronic Reserve, 20: 4, 275 -- 280.) Although Roger Schonfeld has assured us that this time Ithaka S+R recommendations "will not focus on specific brands, services, or products, including those provided by any part of our organization," it appears that we will have to convince him and Ithaka S+R that FDLP libraries, not just a "small number of dedicated preservation entities" like Portico, must play a significant role in the preservation of FDLP library materials.
Ithaka S+R has pledged that their work will include broad, vigorous community engagement and that their work will will rely on community input and advice to guide their research and define their recommendations. It is time for us to speak up. Here are some things you can do today:
- Participate in the discussion on the project web site.
- Participate in FDLP's work to create a comprehensive list of benefits for libraries participating in the FDLP.
- Work with your colleagues to create a list of benefits to your own library of being an FDLP library. Share this with your library management.
- Identify your own library's user-communities. Do you have subject collections that are used by people beyond your local geographic community? Would those collections be enhanced if they included government-produced information? Make the case to your communities and your library management.
- Do you already have digital collections? Do you have digital collection tools that you could apply to government information? Or would you like to develop digital collections and services with copyright-free, DRM-free digital materials? Develop a plan that will enhance your library's digital future by utilizing free government information content.
- Add your comments and ideas here to this post on FGI.
UPDATED 9/27. GPO staff kindly sent me the link to the original GPO RFQ, which I added below. JRJ
Many of our readers will have already seen this announcement yesterday that Ithaka S+R (the "strategy and research" arm of the Ithaka group which also includes JSTOR academic journal database and Portico digital archive service) has been contracted by the Government Printing Office (GPO) for a project to "develop sustainable models for the FDLP in the 21st century" (see FedBizOpps award notice and GPO Request for Quotation (RFQ) here). Those interested may track the project on their Web site fdlpmodeling.net. While we have had spirited discussions with Ithaka regarding the future of the FDLP in the past, we look forward to tracking this project, participating in the discussions, and analyzing the outcomes.
Because so many of us WILL participate in this project, I'd like to take this opportunity to point out a recent article by Barbara Fister in her Library Babel Fish column entitled "Assessing the (Enduring) Value of Libraries" (Inside Higher Ed, September 17, 2010). In the article, Fister points out that "library values - such as the preservation of knowledge and the protection of intellectual freedom - are bigger than any one library or any single community's local needs."
"If we focus so exclusively on how we contribute to the bottom line of a single institution, we may lose sight of the fact that libraries are cultural institutions that have something to contribute to society beyond our campuses and beyond this fiscal year. Somehow "return on investment" sounds like the kind of managerial thinking that shortchanges the future. And that worries me."
I hope that Ithaka and my government documents and library colleagues will have Fister's words in the front of their minds as they discuss and plan for the future of the FDLP. And I hope Ithaka will share their draft survey instrument, list of participants, and draft report(s) as they work through this FDLP modeling project.
On behalf of the Government Printing Office, Ithaka S+R is launching a project that will develop sustainable models for the Federal Depository Library Program in the 21st century. The Program plays a critical role in making federal government information available to the American public, preserving it, and providing services to help the public and specialized user communities to make effective use of government information. We’re currently reaching out to libraries of all types – public, government, academic, and law libraries, and both participants and non-participants in the Program – to alert you of the launch of this project. We hope that the FreeGovInfo community will choose to engage with us regularly during the project’s six-month duration, to ensure that your experience and perspective is incorporated to the greatest extent possible.
Engaging the community – including non-participating libraries that may rely on depository libraries in providing government information services to their constituents as well as members of the Program – is a priority for this project. We will rely on the input of the library community in our efforts to model a FDLP that meets the needs of depository libraries as well as of the broader library community and those they serve. Towards this end, we’ve just launched a website – fdlpmodeling.net – to serve as a venue for community engagement, providing updates on the status of the project, offering a variety of mechanisms for community input, and sharing drafts and interim deliverables for comment. We’d encourage you to visit the site, learn about the project, and share your thoughts with us at this early stage. While you’re there, please subscribe to our RSS feed or sign up for email updates so you can be alerted of new posts. And of course, please share this information with any colleagues or others who might be interested.
We hope to hear from you over the course of this project, either via fdlpmodeling.net or directly by email.
Roger Schonfeld & Ross Housewright