Thanks to Grace York of the University of Michigan Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for letting us reprint this insightful GOVDOC-L posting in full for our (hopefully) growing nondepository audience:
People usually give me a blank look when I talk about making format (electronic, fiche, paper) appropriate to an individual document so here’s an example.
Confirmation Hearings on Federal Appointments, Part 3 (Senate Judiciary Committee, Y 4.J 89/2:S.hrg. 108-135, pt.3)
This is part of the John G. Roberts confirmation hearing for the D.C. Circuit Court in 2003. It is 1236 pages long and about 41 MB. The Roberts testimony is scattered throughout, not just on a select group of pages. LEXIS Congressional only gives partial coverage of the text.
So, if I were a normal person, I would be nervous about downloading a document that size and I would much prefer to browse the paper to find where his testimony begins and ends, especially after doing a search for ROBERTS within the text using Acrobat. That’s what I mean by usability.
There are many reasons for not always making usability the number 1 consideration in converting a document to internet only. Who knew this would be an important hearing? Deciding format on an individual basis could also be labor intensive.
Then there’s the question of normal. Normal people won’t be interested in the hearing, won’t know they could have searched it on GPO Access, and won’t know about depository libraries. Probably the only thing they’ll find is Patrick Leahy’s introductory remarks for the hearing (first page of Google and Firstgov hit list) and feel very relieved.
So there are a ton of ways to look at the situation but I wanted to give a timely example of past murmurings.
Not only is this an example of how something electronic could be awkward to use, but it’s also a case where an official government document could help people decide where they fall on an issue important to many Americans.
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