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GPO’s Public-Private Partnership good for libraries or citizens?

GPO is looking for private partnership in its publishing services. GPO states that “The goal is to propose, design, and execute a new model for a publications sales and distribution operation on revenue sharing basis.” more…

It seems like it is explicitly ‘print and tangible’ which means part of the question should be, why are they agressively promoting sales of these while cutting back on depository distribution??? It seems to verify our charges in the paper that trying to sell information conflicts with free distribution — even in the print world, now!

GPO is offering to provide for “the use of its repository of press optimized pdf files for POD production of publications.” They never offered them to depostories, did they?

Here are some questions that come to mind:

Does anyone know anything about gpo’s use of ONIX records? Is this a new thing? Is this parallel to or different from MARC? Don’t we pay for marc, but bookstores get onix free?

In this quote: “…to perform the duties of its Sales and/or Agency Distribution Programs and be the primary distributor for official, authentic government content on a revenue sharing basis.. ” Is the phrase “Agency Distribution Programs” significant to us? The same question re: “the primary distributor for official, authentic government content.”

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4 Comments

  1. that the e-mail to govdoc-l, the Managing Director, Information Dissemination [the position formerly known as Superintendent of Documents) Judy Russell noted “Although this does not directly affect the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP)…”

    this, much like the essential titles survey, continues to show how much the current administration has seemed to show a lack of understanding of the FDLP community and it’s important role [current and historical] in serving to provide access to government information.

    should be fun in ABQ to see what is presented to the “non-interested” FDLP community.

  2. I come from a background that includes managing a Federal Depository collection and I support the current efforts of GPO. They are trying to find a viable method of meeting their obligations under law (FDLP) while providing a valuable service to federal agencies. Partnering with a publisher to print and distribute a government report would only extend the access to the content. This is based on my assumption of course, that Federal Depository Libraries would receive copies for free but that would hardly be a deal breaker for most publishers.

    This solution isn’t for everything the government creates. It is for hot titles like the 9/11 report and government research that adds to the body of knowledge about particular disciplines. There might be significant reports on genomics, genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), home energy efficiency, tax preparation etc. that the American public doesn’t find today in the commercial markets.

    While you may not like the reality, a lot of the public turns to Barnes & Noble for their reading options. Shouldn’t government information be available there as well?

  3. “While you may not like the reality, a lot of the public turns to Barnes & Noble for their reading options. Shouldn’t government information be available there as well?”

    Absolutely! I’m only speaking for myself, but I think its great that the public turns to B&N for some of their reading options. The more reading the better. As a passionate advocate for getting government information out of the “documents ghetto/basement/etc”, I’d only be too happy to see govdocs reports in bookstores everywhere. I think my FGI colleagues agree, but I’ll let them speak for themselves.

    As with so much, it is the implementation of the private-sector sales program that is key. Will it be set up to help the widest possible distribution (and preservation of) of government publications to the taxpaying public; or will it be setup to maximize publisher profit?

    In the age of the Internet it is not clear that both can be carried out simultaneously. Yet Title 44 demands free distribution of government information to the depository system just as much as it set up the sales program. For example, you express the hope that the FDLP will be able to ride on the POD jobs. I hope so to, But printing free copies just for regionals could make the run unprofitable. Another way to maximize profit at the cost of access would be not electronicaly distribute a POD publication to broaden the market opportunities.

    Now, I’m not saying that this is GPO is planning. As Judy Russell and others have pointed out, this is merely an RFI, not an RFP. But we have to be aware of risks as well as benefits.

    One other thing that concerns me about the RFI is that it reveals the existence of a service that GPO has NEVER offered to do for depository libraries – give the vendor access to the PDF files that GPO uses for printing. If GPO has these files, and can grant access to private printers to easily download and process these publications, why can’t depository libraries have the same access? Not that I’m suggesting libraries enter the POD market. As an administrator of a state depository program forced to print a lot of agency Internet-Only publications, turning libraries into printshops is a sure money loser even if it is a decent mid-term preservation method.

  4. I agree with a lot of this comment but I find nothing in recent GPO planning to assume as you do “that Federal Depository Libraries would receive copies for free.” In fact, everything GPO is doing demonstrates that GPO intends to deposit less and less with FDLP libraries.

    As noted more fully here, I am not concerned about readers having the option to buy gov. publications, or even by the private sector’s creating value-added products. Both those are good things.

    I am concerned, however, by the direction that GPO is taking that seems to be leading to a situation where readers will have no option but to pay for government information.

    Citizens should have the option of getting free access to government information and not be forced to pay for it.

    I belive that we must insist that GPO be specific about how it will make government information available without charge, we must insist that GPO push digital content to libraries not just to the private sector, and we must insist that GPO guarantee libraries and the public more than “access” and “viewing” of documents without charge.

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