As I proceed through selected parts of Title 44, I want to keep reminding our audience that I am not a lawyer and that I welcome comments from all, especially those with more experience in interpreting Title 44 than I do.
Continuing our examination of the legislation behind the Federal Depository Library Program, we come to sec 1904, which is prompts the Government Printing Office (GPO) to issue its List of Classes and provide us with annual item selection updates (emphasis mine):
TITLE 44–PUBLIC PRINTING AND DOCUMENTS
CHAPTER 19–DEPOSITORY LIBRARY PROGRAM
Sec. 1904. Classified list of Government publications for selection by depositories
The Superintendent of Documents shall currently issue a classified list of Government publications in suitable form, containing annotations of contents and listed by item identification numbers to facilitate the selection of only those publications needed by depository libraries. The selected publications shall be distributed to depository libraries in accordance with regulations of the Superintendent of Documents, as long as they fulfill the conditions provided by law.
(Pub. L. 90-620, Oct. 22, 1968, 82 Stat. 1284.)
Historical and Revision Notes
Based on 44 U.S. Code, 1964, ed. Sec. 83 (R.S. Sec. 502; Jan. 12, 1895, ch. 23, Secs. 53, 61, 28 Stat. 608, 610; Aug. 9, 1962, Pub. L. 87-579, Sec. 3, 76 Stat. 353).
In my admittedly layman’s view of the law, I think this is one of this sections that depository librarians and concern citizens can use to insist on a plan for digital deposit of electronic government publications to local library servers. Notice that the law does not specify a format, but does specify that selected publications shall be distributed to depository libraries. As it is written, it does not say it is ok for publications simply to be available to libraries and other parties.
Obviously, the framers of this law did not know about the Internet. But if Congress wanted any other mechanism than distribution of publications in whatever format, they could have amended this portion of the law.
Next time we will examine 44 USC 1905, Distribution to depositories; designation of additional libraries; justification; authorization for certain designations. and see another example of where distribution, not mere access, is mandated. Until then, be well!
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