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New Report on Disseminating and Preserving Digital Government Information

The Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress conducted a survey for GPO and its report is now available.

Although FRD only interviewed 12 agencies, the report is packed with interesting tables and facts and references. It should be required reading for government information professionals.

Dissemination

The findings with regard to disseminating public information will not surprise you, but they do document what we know:

  • Government "publishing" no longer provides a linear path from a central agency communications office to GPO to FDLP libraries.

  • Despite statutory mandates and Federal information policies, fugitive documents are a huge problem, with FDLP missing 50 to 85 per cent of them.

  • Agencies indicated they have limited knowledge of the Title 44’s applicability to providing digital information to GPO and FDLP.

That leads to one finding that is a doozy:

  • GPO’s reporting mechanism for digital content, the Document Discovery submission form, relies on voluntary manual entry — a method that is not easily scalable and lacks accountability.

Preservation

With regards to preservation:

  • Several agencies reported submitting static copies of the agency website to NARA. But the report notes that this does not meet the requirements established by Title 44 of the U.S. Code to make their publications accessible to the public and the FDLP on a permanent basis.

  • Most of the agencies maintain an online archive of older website content but each agency uses its own approach to this. "Some retain older content on the main website, some designate a separate archival page for older content from across the agency, and some maintain multiple archives for different types of content. Each agency also applies its own standard for how far back in time the archives go. Some retain decades-old content, while others retain content from only the past few years."

  • GPO has used the subscription-based web harvesting tool Archive-It since 2011 to capture, catalog, and provide access to the Federal digital landscape, including websites, blogs, and social media feeds. The FDLP Web Archive holds approximately 145 agency collections, encompassing 1,600 websites.

  • Compare this to the report’s enumeration of the extent of government web presence:

    • 1,316 top-level.gov domains.
    • 2,297 two-level .gov
    • 627,478 three-level .gov domains.
    • 203 two-level .mil domains
    • 181,244 three-level .mil domains.
    • 6,000 websites containing 32 million webpages and a total of 12 terabytes of data.
    • 265,000 datasets

Recommended Actions:

The report recommends that GPO continue — and “where possible” — expand its direct outreach to agencies. Some other recommendations:

  • GPO should consider developing an automated or semi-automated notification system for Federal agency product releases to replace its manual Document Discovery submission form.

  • OMB should release "a detailed memorandum on the FDLP provisions in Title 44." It also notes that "The OSTP memorandum on federally funded research might be considered an appropriate model for such a directive."

FDLP Libraries

Although the report was not designed to recommend actions by FDLP libraries, it does provide some information that could help FDLP direct its activities.

  • Concentrate on Designated Communities. The report reminds us also that "agencies serve the information needs of specialized audiences" as well as the general public and "tailor many of their products to customers in specific fields or sectors of the U.S. economy, including financial and industry analysts; lawyers; medical professionals; scientists; publishers, academic educators and researchers; and natural resources managers." As FDLP libraries develop their own digital collections, they could focus on specific communities based on subject, discipline, and how they use information. Libraries could build collections of such information from many agencies making the information easier for the communities to discover, identify, and use the information they need. Concentration on Designated Communities also helps libraries identify OAIS-compliant preservation plans.

  • Work with agencies. Librarians who have good contacts with agencies should promote GPO and FDLP to those agencies to help GPO’s outreach program.

  • Lobby for Legislation and Policies. Librarians should lobby for the best possible version of a revised Title 44 and for changes to OMB A-130 that will require agencies to provide digital information to GPO and FDLP.

(For more on these actions, see our recent post: Preserving What’s Gone — The Healthcare Guidelines Case.)

 

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


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