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Hundreds of libraries waiting for digital deposit

The Government Printing Office (GPO) presented an update of their recent work to a Mid-Winter meeting of the American Library Association last week in San Antonio.

As part of that update, Superintendent of Documents Judy Russell made partial results of the biennial survey of federal depository libraries public.

Ms. Russell shared the results of two questions related to digital deposit of federal electronic publications, based on 987 responses to the biennial survey. There are approximately 1250 libraries in the program, so at least 261 libraries have not yet been heard from. By law, all depository libraries must complete this survey, so I expect full results later this spring.

On to the questions themselves and their results. Question 65 was related to current depository efforts at local collection of federal electronic publications. Currently there is no distribution mechanism, so depositories have to actively gather and store materials.

65: My library systematically downloads, stores online publications identified from GPO Access or through GPO-created PURLS, and makes them accessible to the general public from local servers. This past year my library downloaded the following number of digital publication files (this does not include shipping lists, Web pages, or datasets):
0 = 823 libraries
1-25 = 90
26-100 = 25
101-500 = 26
501-1000 = 7
1001-5000 = 11
More than 5000 = 4

Even in the absence of a distribution system for federal electronic publications from GPO, 163 libraries are storing local copies of federal pubs. Based on a depository community of 1,250 libraries, this represents 13% of all depository libraries. One in ten libraries are already doing more than what GPO is asking of them.

The other “digital deposit” question asked libraries how many digital documents they might be willing to store and serve locally, if GPO provided them. No distribution mechanism was proposed.

66. My library is willing to receive Federal digital publication files on deposit from GPO, store them, and make the accessible to the general public from local servers. My library is willing to receive the following number of digital publication files per year (this does not include shipping lists, Web pages, or databases):
0 = 652 libraries
1-25 = 176
26-100 = 56
101-500 = 41
501-1000 = 26
1001-5000 = 14
More than 5000 = 21

This question tells me that 334 libraries are willing to at least make a trial of storing and serving electronic materials locally. These libraries represent more than a quarter of the depository community. Surely this should be a call to establish a formal deposit system for electronic publications for depositories to try.

Even without a formal digital deposit proposal, over a hundred libraries are willing to store and serve more than 100 documents per year. Even if these hundred libraries are the only ones to step forward, that’s a far higher level of backup and redundancy than the current system has. I believe that’s worth GPO committing to a system of local, distributed system of electronic deposit such as the one described in Government Information in the Digital Age: The Once and Future Federal Depository Library Program, today.

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1 Comment

  1. These are indeed positive results. I wonder if the results of #65 are only those libraries with an official policy of download or if it includes those librarians who download documents to their own hard-drives, or those that download and then print documents out — most likely on the QT and not as an official policy of their institution. The long and short of it is that with so many libraries willing to explore the possibility of digital deposit (I guess our unscientific poll was pretty close to the mark!), GPO should be working to make sure they are able to do just that. We’ve always said that the fdsys is not a bad idea, just that it shouldn’t be the ONLY game in town.

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