On Weds May 11, 2011, Public Printer Bill Boarman and others submitted written testimony to a hearing of the Committee on House Administration Subcommittee on Oversight (PDF). the hearing was titled “GPO – Issues and Challenges: How Will GPO Transition to the Future?” Here’s the GPO press release about the Public Printer’s comments (anyone else wish GPO put out their press releases in xhtml rather than pdf?! It’s hard to find them after the fact! but I digress). (Unembeddable) Video of the hearing is also available.
- William J. Boarman, Public Printer of the United States, Government Printing Office
- James Hamilton Group Director, InfoTrends
- Eric D. Belcher, President and Chief Executive Officer, InnerWorkings, Inc.
- Eric Petersen, Specialist in American National Government, Congressional Research Service
Full disclosure: I talked last week with Reynold Schweikhardt, Director of Technology Policy for the Committee on House Administration — Mr Schweickhardt was organizing the hearing — in preparation for the hearing and to discuss with him some of the issues surrounding GPO, the FDLP and access to govt information in the 21st century.
I shared with him a few pieces that my FGI colleagues and I had written over the last several years to help inform the hearing and future discussions about the GPO and govt information in general. Among them are:
- “GPO must not go” argues for reasons why GPO is important to the govt info ecosystem.
- Public Printer’s Letter to President Obama Regarding Open Government argues for a continued need in a distributed model to assure long term access and preservation.
- iConference presentation on the future of govt information
- Critical GPO systems and the FDLP cloud
- Several link rot articles
- Government Information in the Digital Age: The Once and Future Federal Depository Library Program. James A. Jacobs, James R. Jacobs and Shinjoung Yeo. Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 31, Issue 3, May 2005, Pages 198-208. lays out roles for GPO, fed agencies, libraries and others in assuring long term access to and preservation of govt information.
“Printing” seems to be a big issue these days — witness the recently introduced bills H.R. 1626: Prevent the Reckless, Irresponsible, Needless Typography (PRINT) Act of 2011 and S 674: Congressional Record Printing Savings Act of 2011 — and printing was discussed at the hearing. Yes, “printing” is (mostly) no longer necessary (and mostly no longer done) — though it remains a far better mode of access for many publications (Statistical Abstract is a case in point ) — but the role of “producing standard, preservable, authentic information output” still exists and remains critical to an informed citizenry. Drastically defunding GPO because of no need for printing would be throwing out the baby (standard preservable authentic information production) with the bathwater (printing press).
I stressed in our dialog that GPO’s role hasn’t changed, just the means. It’s far cheaper to fund one agency that partners with libraries and provides valuable services to other agencies than to defund that agency, lose the distribution/service/access/preservation that libraries do largely w/o federal dollars, and face the same information budget issues agency by agency — and the increasing expenditure requests at every agency. Every congressional district has a stake in maintaining funding for gpo/fdlp and should be supportive of the public service that libraries provide to their constituents.
It’s also important to note GPO’s critical role in cataloging government information regardless of format or FDLP status and the role PURLs play in reducing link rot. Even if printing vanished tomorrow, there is a real need for the active management of description of federal resources, and this is something that only a couple of agencies other than GPO do — OSTI is one that comes to mind.
In the end, I think a strong argument can be made that 1) GPO is a vital piece of the govt information ecosystem; and 2) GPO should be a focal point within govt for distributing govt information out to the public and to libraries; 3) the issues of digital preservation are too large for GPO to do alone and libraries, as they have done historically, can and should play an active role in access to and preservation of govt information. Libraries and librarians hopefully will continue to have a key role to play in govt information and transparency processes.
That is all.