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Sears’ response to ARL statement points out inaccuracies #fdlp

We’ve been following with much interest and concern the ongoing and unfolding saga going on between the GPO, Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and Association of Southeast Research Libraries (ASERL) (under the heading “future of the federal depository library program”). This post to Govdoc-l from Suzanne Sears (AUL for public services at University of North Texas and former chair of Depository Library Council) on October 20, 2011 is in response to the ARL Statement on Recent USGPO Decisions Concerning the FDLP dated
October 2011 (released October 12, 2011) and attempts to add context and correct some inaccuracies in the ARL statement.

From: Sears, Suzanne
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2011 2:00 AM
To: Discussion of Government Document Issues
Subject: RE: ARL Statement on Recent USGPO Decisions Concerning the FDLP

I have been reading over and over the statement released by ARL that Larry so kindly posted for everyone on GOVDOCL and feel strongly that there are inaccuracies in some of the statements that need to be addressed. The following is solely my opinion and not meant in any way to offend anybody, just my concern that some things are not quite right and need to be cleared up.

Point 1 refers to long standing precedent for the approval of multi-state regionals. In the meeting this week, Bernadine Abbott Hoduski spoke on this issue. Prior to 2008, there was no legal opinion on the multi-state regionals. In September 2007, then Acting Public Printer William Turri sent a letter to the JCP seeking approval of the Kansas-Nebraska proposal http://www.fdlp.gov/home/repository/doc_download/49-letter-from-acting-public-printer-william-turri-to-the-honorable-robert-brady. The response letter from the Honorable Robert Brady to Public Printer Robert Tapella in February 2008 http://www.fdlp.gov/home/repository/doc_download/50-letter-from-the-honorable-robert-brady, states that the JCP sought legal guidance on this issue from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). It further states “CRS concluded that neither the language nor legislative history of 44 U.S.C. 1914 supports GPO’s interpretation of the statute. After careful review, the Joint Committee finds the CRS analysis persuasive; if the Public Printer may not authorize shared regional depository libraries under 44 U.S.C.1914, the JCP cannot approve such action.” Now that a legal opinion exists, GPO cannot simply ignore it.

In point 2, there is a quote from Title 44 regarding the authority of Senators to designate regional libraries. Part of that quote is “within the areas served by them.” I am no lawyer, but I do know that Senators serve states, so the areas served by them would be the state that elected them. To me this means that Senators are not authorized to choose a library from outside their state to serve as a regional for their state. This is my opinion.

In point 3, the discussion of regionals and retrospective collections are brought up. The opening third paragraph makes it sound as though the requirement regarding comprehensive collections was decided within the last nine months. This is inaccurate. I served on the Depository Library Council from October 2008-July 2011. In a presentation given by Cindy Etkin at the Fall 2009 DLC meeting, she stated the following “regionals are required to retain what’s distributed to them and there is not an obligation to go back and collect materials prior to when they became a regional? As I’ve shown, it’s been in the guidelines and brought forward; and even as it is today, the regional itself does not have to hold the materials.” She also discussed how the Depository Library Council developed guidelines around 1973 that recommended regionals collect retrospectively. After the meeting, the DLC asked Ric Davis to investigate this issue was it required or just a guideline. We were told during a phone conference call that the Legal Counsel’s opinion was that it was a requirement. This was in 2009, not 2011.

I have to admit that point 4 totally confuses me. I do not understand where the legal opinion that multi-state regionals are not supported in the language of Title 44 precludes collaboration across state lines. GPO encourages collaboration among depositories. The Digitization Projects Registry is just one of the many tools GPO has developed to help foster collaboration between depositories, both selectives and regionals. Although the FDLP community may not be used by everyone, it is an attempt by GPO to bring depositories together to collaborate on topics.

Point 5 refers to “new unfunded mandates and requirements, especially without consultation.” I am extremely confused with this point. I have had discussions with several individuals at the DLC meeting this week and the only thing I can figure out that point 5 is referring to is the new document that GPO released in June 2011 “Legal Requirements and Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program.” This document was released by GPO after consultation with the Depository Library Council. The DLC had been requesting GPO clarify the legal requirements since the Spring 2009 DLC meeting in Tampa. We had heard from the community that the FDL Handbook was too cumbersome to go through to pull out the regulations and that a more compact publication containing only the legal requirements was needed to discuss with our directors and deans. GPO created this document with feedback from the DLC and published it in June 2011. To be clear, these are long standing legal requirements and regulations that have been compiled into a new publication.

My issue with point 7 can be considered more an opinion rather than fact, based on my three years on DLC and my 27 years working with depository collections. I feel that GPO spends considerable time and effort on ways to engage and facilitate partnerships with the community for expanding the digital content. They are restricted in what they can do because of budget and law. They operate within strict legal parameters. For instance, the community has requested that GPO offer grants for digitization. GPO has no legal authority to do so, therefore they can not help in this way. The Digitization Projects Registry is improving due to constant consultation between the community and GPO. It is a tool for libraries to use to collaborate on digital efforts and to avoid duplication of effort.

I do understand the issues facing depositories, both selectives and regionals, regarding their individual institutions needs and the demands on budgets, staffing, and space of a depository collection. Like everyone in the depository community, I am desperate to find a successful solution to these problems to ensure the viability of the program. I am hopeful that the day long discussion Thursday will result in some positive solutions within the framework of Title 44. I want to echo my colleague Dan Cornwall’s statement in his blog “Back from the Brink” http://freegovinfo.info/blog/17, developing a model for the future of the FDLP is going to require cooperation from libraries in the program and GPO. Now is the time we need to pull together and find a common ground for a workable solution. We need to work together to clear up misinformation, rumors, and innuendos that are causing several members of our community to feel personally attacked. As a community, we have disagreed many times over the years on what is the best solution to many problems, but we have never brought it to the point that it is now. I am extremely concerned that the contentious situation we find ourselves in is going to create an atmosphere among Legislators that the program is not worth spending tax payer dollars on and considerably effect the appropriations for vital services like FDSys and the FDLP.


Suzanne Sears
Assistant Dean for Public Services
University of North Texas Libraries
1155 Union Circle #305190
Denton, Texas 76203-5017

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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