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Ithaka process examining FDLP

Ross Housewright has a post on the fdlpmodeling blog that explains in a bit more detail how Ithaka S+R will proceed in its contract with GPO to “develop sustainable models for the FDLP in the 21st century.”

There is good information in the post, and I urge you to read it closely.

The GPO RFQ requires Ithaka S+R, to develop a value proposition for the “21st century Federal Depository Library Program.”

“Value proposition” isn’t defined in the RFQ, so we are left to wonder exactly what GPO expects. Value Proposition is a term from business and management and has a variety of inconsistent meanings. As a practical matter, value propositions may be very vague or quite precise.

In response to Ross’s post on the project structure and process, I posted the following comment to the fdlpmodeling web site:

Thanks for this outline of your work plan. Your description of how you are interpreting GPO’s requirement to produce a “Value Proposition” raises some more questions. You say that you will analyze “how the roles and incentives associated with the overall recommended direction, as well as the individual model or models, match with library needs” and how your recommendations would help in the “articulation of the benefits associated with participation.”

To me, these definitions sound like you will limit the “value proposition” to benefits to libraries and, more specifically, to libraries that “participate” in FDLP (by which, I presume you mean FDLP libraries).

Do you intend to leave out of your value proposition benefits to information users and the communities (not necessarily geographically-based in the digital age) that FDLP libraries serve?

I would hope that in identifying the “value” of any recommendations you make, you would take the time to identify value accrued (or lost) to current and future users of government information including citizens in general as well as economists, historians, journalists, political scientists, physicians, geographers, lawyers, students, and others (just to name a few who we know rely on government information).

I would hope that you would look at the value to GPO and other government agencies of having a network of congressionally-mandated (but non-government) libraries participating in the preservation of government information. I would also hope that you would consider the value to non-FDLP libraries of having, as part of the larger library community, a community of libraries that specialize in government information.

In an earlier comment (, I asked if you will be using a traditional commercial/marketing approach to developing a value proposition and how you anticipate specifying or quantifying a value and costs. Have you made decisions about this? To repeat my earlier questions: Will you include costs assumed by FDLP libraries and government information users or only costs assumed by GPO? How will you quantify the value and benefits of permanent, free public access to all government information (including non-current information such as old censuses and old annual reports)? Will you also consider what risks your recommendations create for the loss of free access to government information and the costs associated with any such losses?

Finally, I believe that Ithaka S+R’s Roger Schonfeld was a contributor to the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access. Will your current work use a similar understanding when your develop a value proposition?

Here is the BRTF definition (page 24 of

“2.1.1 Value and Benefits”

“When speaking about value, economists like to ask “Who benefits?” or “Who cares?” because well-articulated demand starts with a clear and compelling value proposition about the benefits to be gained by having, in our case, access to information at some point in the future. The value of information is not to be confused with its monetary or financial value per se, although it can often be denominated in currency. The value of digital assets is best understood as what digital materials are good for, and that is usually understood as the ways that the materials are used — to advance knowledge, entertain or bring pleasure, help solve problems, or inform public policy.”

“Each user community will identify its own set of values and benefits in the digital materials they demand. For example, in scholarly discourse there is a clear community consensus about the value of e-journals over time.”

Thanks for your time in considering these issues.

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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