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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

FDLP biennial survey due tomorrow. Here’s my comments. What are yours?

If you’re like me, you’ve waited until the last minute to submit your 2015 FDLP Biennial Survey. Since this is the season of sharing, I thought I’d post the comments I submitted with my library’s survey. I’d love to hear what others commented. What issues and ideas were most on your minds? If you’re able to share, please do so in the comments. Or you can email me (freegovinfo AT gmail DOT com) if you’d prefer that I post anonymously.

The FDLP is adrift at precisely the wrong moment, in an era that should be an all-hands-on-deck situation in terms of FDLP collections. Collections remain, after all, the basis from which meaningful library services are built. But GPO’s and FDLP libraries’ focus seems elsewhere. Rather than redoubling efforts to collaborate with libraries to build digital collections and ensure that paper collections are adequately preserved and accessible, GPO has instead spent the last 2 years focusing on the needs of a few large libraries instead of the needs of users. GPO has seemed determined to let Regionals discard collections without regard for how that will affect present and future public users of govt information. The FDLP community is left to wonder what the new Discard policy really means for them and for their users, how it will be implemented, and what it means for the future of the FDLP.

GPO has been willing to stretch the intent of T44 in order to allow paper discard from Regional libraries, but unwilling do so to faciliate and promote digital deposit. GPO has been unwilling to create and lead a collaborative, digital FDLP that could supplement the limited enforceability of T44 and expand the reach of the FDLP.

Many FDLP libraries are willing and able to accept digital deposit, but, instead of collaborating with FDLP libraries under T44, GPO has preferred to arrogate all preservation and access to itself. Digital deposit has been on the FDLP biennial survey since at least 2005, yet GPO has failed to respond to the willingness by FDLP libraries to build a collaborative, digital FDLP, preferring, apparently to set up new, secretive “parnerships” separate and apart from the FDLP.

GPO has not done enough to assure that ALL govt information within FDLP scope is collected, cataloged, distributed and preserved. GPO has done far too little about the rapidly growing fugitive issue, with only a small pilot web archiving project and no calls for or efforts at community collaboration. GPO’s training, while honorable in intent, has been overly simplistic and has focused on issues of only peripheral importance while ignoring the big issues (e.g. digital collection development) and not training depository librarians in the skills needed to to adequately deal with them.

GPO needs to refocus its efforts on born-digital fugitive documents, lead real and meaningful collaborative efforts for preservation and access, and use this network of 1200 libraries to tackle the important issues of the day. We’re ready for this to happen.

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  1. Here’s part of my response:

    “I would like to offer additional comments regarding question 11, where I specified “Lost Docs” as a service provided by GPO. I view this as a service because it allows libraries to request the creation of metadata for a Federal government publication, and offers libraries the assurance that a Lost Doc added to the national bibliography will be captured by GPO for future availability, like any other born-digital document. Therefore, the service allows depository libraries to continue to rely on GPO to improve the national collection.

    “Viewed as a service, “Lost Docs” is not in itself satisfactory. There is no timeline for cataloging materials submitted by GPO, and no mechanism for feedback from GPO regarding submissions. Several librarians have attempted to track Lost Docs submissions, and have generally reported back that the process is not timely or efficient. It’s faster to provide the digital document to a library already committed to locally capturing and cataloging these materials, which may improve access but does not contribute to the national bibliography.

    “Providing a mechanism for individual librarians and libraries to contribute materials to the national bibliography is an important service. After all, we are the ones who are most familiar with the content and materials used in our communities, and can prioritize content for capture and collection from that perspective. Therefore, I would like to ask GPO to recommit to the Lost Docs service in order to collaborate with members of the community who are genuinely interested in making sure this content is captured and delivered. If the flow of items submitted to Lost Docs presents an obstacle (while at the same time indicating demand for the service!), seeking formal partnerships would distribute this workload and allow libraries the opportunity to contribute directly to the national bibliography.”

    • Thanks Shari for sharing! What a great and pointed comment. Lost docs has been a pet project of mine for a long while so it’s good to raise the awareness.

  2. This was my LIbrary Director’s suggestion for a comment on Question 23. I entered it after my own, correcting only his punctuation:

    I would suggest an online visual newsletter soliciting for and describing FDLP sites’ ideas and suggestions for public workshops and programming. This resource generator could then be accessed by other sites for their respective communities.
    Emphasis should be given to “present these workshops outside and beyond a local FDLP site to other FDLP sites. This “collaborative” approach could also help develop an online virtual community workshop generator benefiting new workshops and public programming about:
    1. Awareness of government information.
    2. Usage skills of (researchers) and should include basic skill levels aimed for the “common man,” – people from “main street America,” of Government information applications and resources.
    3. Skill assessment strategies to determine the effectiveness of (these) workshop instruction.
    4. Strategies in presentations describing how and why Government information impacts Americans and communities.

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