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Thanks GPO! Hard Stats on Lost Docs/Document Discovery

I’ve been going through documents from the Spring 2010 Depository Library Council meeting from last month and was giddy at finding the following section in the Spring 2010 Library Services & Content Management Update (Statistical findings not bolded in original).


Locating all content that falls within scope of the FDLP that has not yet been incorporated into the FDLP is an important initiative. For about a year now, GPO staff have been examining how these documents are brought into the Program in order to track, measure, and improve our business processes.

In quantity, the monthly lost/fugitive submissions continue to rise. Last year, GPO was receiving an average of about 80 lost/fugitive document submissions per month. This year, so far the average is about 125 per month, an increase of more than 50 percent.

The number of submissions undercounts the titles, because some single submissions for documents can represent multiple publications—it is not unusual to receive an entire web page listing or a bibliography in one lost/fugitive request. GPO staff work to unitize the submissions, research them, and consider each title for possible addition to the CGP.

GPO staff are analyzing the current lost/fugitive document workflow, to better understand where a title may get stalled. To establish a baseline for how long it takes for a typical lost/fugitive document request to get through technical processing from beginning to end (with current methods) staff took a sample of records that were cataloged in the last three months. The entire technical process includes scope determination, research, brief preliminary record, classification, cataloging for the CGP, and creation of OCLC record.

Results from the study included:
• It can take as little as two days for the entire process, but there is a wide variation, depending upon the title, the agency, and other factors such as additional required research with the agency, requiring a new class, requiring management review, and identifying a title based on partial submissions, to name a few.
20% were completed within 20 working days.
40% were cataloged within 40 working days.
Within 60 working days, about half went through the process, most within 40 working days.
• The other half took much longer, up to 100 to 120 working days (see 1st bullet).

GPO anticipates that this processing time can be reduced with new procedures. Staff will continue to monitor and track the lost/fugitive documents through the workflow to verify whether the new procedures are helping to move titles through the technical processing steps more quickly.

For some time, GPO staff have been looking at making a number of technical processing improvements including utilizing tracking and management reporting tools. We are

• Mapping the workflow;
• Creating new forms to more precisely identify these titles and to elicit more information that will reduce research time; and
• Identifying key points in the process when FDLP librarians may want status reports.

The goal is to generate management reports for GPO to be able to identify where in the workflow lost/fugitive requests are at any time, and how many requests may be waiting for some specific action in the technical processing workflow.

As a future step, GPO is looking at ways to utilize the askGPO system to track and report on all lost/fugitive submissions and serve as one point of submission.

As we undertake improving the LostDocs processes, we also want to improve communications with FDLP librarians and with federal agencies that help us locate content not yet incorporated into the FDLP system.

The input form for submissions from librarians will be revised. Clear definitions for what is considered lost/fugitive documents will be provided. The process for handling submissions will also be clarified. Additionally, GPO will identify key points in the workflow when librarians would like to receive feedback in the form of emailed status reports. GPO will also develop improved methods of outreach and documentation of agency information for staff to use.

As part of this revitalization, GPO will be changing the name of the LostDocs Program to “Document Discovery Program.”

To me, this is terrific news for a number of reasons:

  • GPO has gone public about what has happened to a number of “document discovery” submissions.
  • They’ve admitted that the current workflow is a problem and that about half of reported documents are taking many months to catalog.
  • They”ve outlined steps that, if followed, will probably result in better document discovery.
  • They seem to have committed to better public reporting of what happens to documents submitted to them.

We at FGI will be watching with eager anticipation to see how these steps are carried out and will encourage our readers and submission heroes to go by new guidance issued by GPO when it becomes available. We also await the new Document Discovery reports with anticipation and may have a few suggestions about them in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we just want to say THANKS GPO for taking a hard look at this problem, admitting the problem to the community and starting the process to make things better.

We’d also like to encourage people submitting links to publications pages to GPO to instead try to submit one askGPO report per document. At least identify your top 3-5 for cataloging and then make note of where GPO can find the other publications. There are more of us documents librarians and document enthusiasts than there are GPO acquisitions staff. We should do some of the title level separation work. Perhaps dividing huge publication pages into manageable amounts could be a multilibrary or library school project.

Do you have any reactions to this news? What kind of statistics do you want to see? What points in GPO’s process should trigger and e-mail notice? Should titles submitted be posted publicly as soon as they’re received. Leave a comment or drop a line to lostdocs AT freegovinfo DOT info.

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