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FDsys Program Review

In addition to the recent GPO Inspector General’s report on FDsys (see The State of FDsys and the Future of the FDLP), there is another new report on FDsys.

  • FDsys Program Review. Bob Tapella, Ric Davis, Mike Wash,Scott Stovall, Selene Dalecky, John Shuler, Suzanne Sears, Mike White. Government Printing Office (April 7, 2010)

    Summary: On Wednesday, April 7, 2010, Bob Tapella, Public Printer, United States Government Printing Office (GPO), convened a public meeting to review the status of GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) program. The objective of the meeting was to receive a program status update and to discuss program successes, issues, and opportunities with key stakeholders including GPO’s Library Services and Content Management (LSCM) business unit, the Office of the Federal Register (OFR), and representatives from the Federal Depository Library Council. The meeting was also attended by observers from GPO, the House Administration Committee, and the House Committee on Appropriations.

This report gives a much more sanguine view of the state of FDsys than the Inspector General report gives. It does, indeed, step through “program successes, issues, and opportunities.” As I noted in my coverage of the IG report, there are successes and there is lots to hope for when all the system requirements are met. This report notes that “The estimated cost to complete Release 1 was reduced from $62 million to $42 million, saving $20 million” while the IG report focuses on the fact that the original cost estimate for the first phase of FDsys implementation was $16 million and the fact that GPO has redefined “Release 1” (which originally was slated to include “basic, additional, and final features”) to include only “basic” features and now calls “additional and final features” “Release 2.”

Nevertheless, it does a good job of pointing out what GPO has accomplished, which is significant.

The new report also identifies one critical risk to FDsys:

[T]here is risk associated with a delayed completion of the core system. Mitigation steps include maintaining sufficient investment to complete the core system and preventing loss of key resources resulting in more cost and time.

It also includes this statement of purpose:

The purpose of FDsys is not to serve as a portal, but instead to provide access to official and authentic content from all three branches of the U.S. government on our site, and through links to official agency and partnering web sites. Our main system functions encompass publishing information, enabling searching for information, preserving the information, and providing version control.

This is a sound, and probably sustainable, purpose. The report notes with satisfaction that the provision of XML formatted information has powered other, more user friendly, websites such as FedThread.org, GovPulse.us, and Regulations.gov. This vision of FDsys is, perhaps, close to view of those who say that the government should reimagine its role as an information provider to providing raw data and leave the fancy websites to others. (See The Federal Government Must Reimagine Its Role As An Information Provider.)

It is, however, probably not as close to the view that FDLP librarians have of easy access to government information. In light of the problems described in the IG report, it makes me wonder if there is a slight “re-imagining” of FDsys going on to make its vision fit closer with what GPO can do rather than what FDLP would like it to do. Time will tell.

Update. When asked about this issue at DLC meeting yesterday (Monday, April 26, 2010), the Supt. of Docs. responded (as reported by Shari Laster): “It’s an advanced search system, a content management system, and a digital repository. Is GPO Access/etc. a portal? No. This is an official content repository.”

The report also intriguingly notes that “FDsys content is available in all major search engines.” I did a couple of quick Google searches of full text hearings that are in FDsys and got no hits. I would be interested to hear if GPO has more details about what is “available” in all major search engines and what is not. (If you have different results, please share them!)

Oh, yes. One other little thing. Ric Davis, Director of Library Services and Content Management and Acting Superintendent of Documents lists several “opportunities” afforded by FDsys. One is “Digital Dissemination”!

While having a repository of content available at GPO is critical, there are opportunities to facilitate the availability of digital collections in libraries. Some in the FDLP community have expressed strong interest in having Access and/or Preservation level files digitally deposited in FDLP libraries. This will further the model established for tangible collections of content by having dispersed collections of electronic content, and through partnerships better ensure access and preservation of content.
(FDsys Program Review, page 7)

Thanks Ric!!

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