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GPO essential titles survey

Survey to Identify Essential Titles for Public Use in Paper or Other Tangible Format

The Government Printing Office (GPO) seems to be hearing librarians’ footsteps. In an effort to seem responsive to the FDLP community, GPO recently released a survey to “identify items that should be added to the “list of Essential Titles for Public Use in Paper Format.” GPO requests that the survey be completed by March 18 so that they may compile the data and bring the results to the Depository Library Council (DLC) meeting in April.

We’d love to hear your comments on the survey. Please post a comment here (they can be anonymous). We will bring these comments to DLC to share with the entire community.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


  1. In my opinion, the most important benefit of participating in the FDLP is tangible access to Hearings. Due to our college’s limited acquisitions budget, the hearings provide a much-needed resource for current information. The documents are used quite often by students for research papers and it would be a great loss if they were deemed unworthy of continued distribution and/or restricted to electronic format only.

  2. Personally I thought the list was a strange mixture of things. The titles didn’t seem to have any unity to them, nor did the topics. I would like to know how they picked their list of 100 – was it based on number of libraries that select that item number?

  3. Why Gpo did not make this survey simpler. Giving us direction by 1,2,3 order, after preamble. Such as:
    A. If you wish to add new titles not listed in the previously published essential titles, you may add up to (number of new titles) using the survey form below.
    B. If you wish to delete titles from the list, write in the title and item nuber with note “DELETE.”

  4. Seems to be a typical GPO move:

    Set a short time frame frame for response; and then you can set the agenda with a survey that no one knows “what” will be done with it.

  5. [Please note: This comment was originally posted on govdoc-l. Reposted here with author’s permission. oznog]

    I also have some thoughts on the survey, and will point out some difficulties here. But we all need to try to do it anyway, since last time we tried this exercise (in 2003) nothing happened, apparently because the response was too low.

    1) GPO says these are the “Top 100 Selections” but neglected to sort out those which are not actually being distributed any more. There is a good reason for this, and it would have been a lot of work to tighten it up, but it is a problem. GPO rightly leaves items in the List of Classes as active until they have official word from the publishing agency that the publication has ceased. So there are still lots of “active” items which actually aren’t active. One can figure that out by using DDM2 (again thanks for that great service) and searching shipping lists back to 1997. But the fact is those items are still in the LOC, and many of us still have them selected just in case. For the purposes of this survey, we have to assume that libraries which actually want to include some of those in their 10 selections will go to the trouble of determining whether they are still being published.

    2) More important, I suspect lots of very important series are not appearing in the Top 100 list because they are separated out into lots of items for local selection. For example, the Census of Agriculture would certainly be on many people’s top 10, but it is not one item number. It is 58. Together they would probably add up to more selections than some titles on the Top 100 list, but dispersing them makes it a problem. (An aside on that issue – in looking at the List of Classes which is linked directly from this survey, I notice that all reports from the Census of Agriculture are still listed as P and EL. P=Paper. Paper copies have been printed for the 2002 census, tho apparently not by GPO. So although the LOC still says paper, we apparently will not get it from GPO.) A memo from Judy Russell clarifies that if you want to suggest a title like this example, you need to just add in the Item number for your state, and they will look at all of those together. But it may be the reason some biggies aren’t in the Top 100.

    3) The Top 100 only includes titles still distributed by GPO in paper. There are many very important titles which are still printed but are not “distributed” by GPO in paper. Since GPO does not really have a good handle on those, there is no way they can provide us with a list. Searching the AdNotes Technical Supplement can be helpful, since the wording of the notes sometimes indicates the situation. Also, GPO still lists an E-Mail Alert in their New Titles by Topic which I regularly used – it is called FDLP Electronic Only Titles = Available for Sale (in other words, titles still sold by GPO but no longer distributed in tangible copy.) I used it to identify titles to order from GPO, but there have been no new titles on it for a year now. I’m not sure whether it is still active. Anyway, again we must assume that we will do the research ourselves, for the titles we think are important, and it usually isn’t too difficult.

    4) It may not be “fair” to give both tiny depositories and 100% collections the same number of titles to recommend, but that’s the way it is, folks, so let’s just do it. The result should be to add at least a few more documents to the Essential Titles which GPO will not take from us to save money, until the agencies themselves stop publishing print copies. Submit recommendations which serve your user needs, and we’ll see how it comes out. But don’t get caught in the trap of looking only at the list which GPO has provided. That is only a starting point.

    5) I want to thank GPO for providing the Top 100 list as a Excel file, so you can re-sort by SuDoc if you want to. Very handy. I assume from the introduction that the original order is by the number of libraries selecting (e.g. popularity…).

    6) The results of the 2003 survey have never been made available. I know I recommended there the Survey of Current Business, Current Population Reports, and the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents. But I don’t know how many other libraries also suggested those. I know that was a flawed survey, but seeing it might remind people of titles to take a look at. Could GPO or Council make that available, with appropriate disclaimers?

  6. I am sure my thoughts on this list are not unique. So many of the titles in the list were so old that the actual list from which we had to choose was not that representative. Consultation with Council might have helped drop some of those off and have other ones added.

    Don’t get me started on the whole process. Amount of time (people on vacation, have other deadlines, etc.) and it got to us late. Just looking at the lists from the various UC’s shows the diversity of what
    is needed and used. Then think about the rest of the country. Each
    campus can have different subject emphasis. I could not help all major subjects that use Gov. Info. on this campus. We also have public users to consider. And just think about what was NOT considered that was important. Series (USGS, NASA, EIS’s from various agencies, maps, …)Thank heaven the Congressional publications like the hearings and the prints are included on the existing list.

    Those of you who see the AALL discussions missed a couple of good letters. NJ law librarians sent a very well thought out letter to their Congressmen on the meaning of the whole depository system and what it does for their constitutents. Mary Alice Baisch also had some good comments.

    Were agencies involved in any part of this process? It is their publications distributed to the public.

    Does GPO plan to make more money printing things on demand?

    How are we as a group going to respond to some of these changes?

    Do we want to be together on some of our thoughts and comments?

    I know you have something to say about electronic feeds/delivery to help with long-term retention.

  7. The FDLP Item Numbers were created to “help” depositories be able to better profile for their institutions and to better fulfill the needs of the users in their Congressional District.

    This particular GPO survey structure attempted to be based on “top 100” item numbers by library type has a number of problems:

    1. Item numbers that are broken out [e.g., Soil Surveys, Census of Agriculture] — if you want “all” you had no real ability to vote [unless you tweaked (Soil Surveys 102-B A57.38/#) or saw the “memo from Judy Russell clarifies that if you want to suggest a title like this example, you need to just add in the Item number for your state, and they will look at all of those together.” — and BELIEVED this will happen when GPO reviews survey results.

    2. False break down of item numbers [e.g., 0345 U.S. Army in World War II, United States Army in Vietnam, World War I (1917-19) Publications] — does this mean these titles will “in the future” be broken out into separate item numbers so that if I want Vietnam but don’t care about WWII I can deselect that title?

    3. Item numbers that were “top 100” for Academic General did not match the “top 100” for Academic Law. Therefore, “essential titles” for a large academic library would surely would not match for a smaller library. In the case of a large academic library, this is important problem. For example, the FCC Record became a “write in” as opposed to one of my ten click offs — which would have been nice so that I could have saved my three write in spaces for materials such as the Soil Surveys.

    4. In the Academic General Item number listing, using the Documents Data Miner, I discovered that 45 items had NOT been distributed in a tangible format to FDLPs since 1/1997. In some cases, the item number is “dead” — i.e., no more published [e.g., Supplement to Employment and Earnings, President’s Paper Index Series, Naval Documents of the American Revolution]. In the Academic Law Item number listings, 28 item numbers not distributed. I admit not doing an analyze of the other library types……

    There was a comment shared on govdoc-l on Fri, 18 Mar 2005 regarding this problem with the “dead item numbers”:

    The SuDoc Judy Russell responded to Tulsa City County’s regional, that she was “not sure about the unpublished stuff. As you know, we have been working to clean up the lists, but it is slow going. Obviously if it is gone, selecting it (or recommending it) will be a waste of time. If the individual is putting a stake in the ground for something that may not be gone, but has not been published for a while, that would be a different matter. I am not sure that their information is any better
    than ours in that regard.”

    Seems the item numbers are being used against us. Gee, could this be because there is NO LONGER a LIBRARY Program Service/staff to deal with FDLP issues? could that possible be a mistake in terms of management for what I would hope would still be an important part of the GPO “customer” base?!?!?

    The survey was obviously flawed in structure, in creation, time frame — and I will be curious to see who/how “GPO will analyze the data and share that information with the depository library community. The results and GPO’s analysis will also be discussed at the Depository Library Council meeting in Albuquerque, NM , in April 2005”.

    My confidence/trust in “the system” is lost.

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