This post, all earlier postings in this series, and my “not a lawyer” disclaimer can be found at http://freegovinfo.info/title44 or through our library under Nonlawyer’s Journey through Title 44.
In my last Title 44 installment, I covered 44 USC 1909. Today I cover 44 USC 1911, Free use of Government publications in depositories. Why not Section 1910? Because 1910 deals with the replacement of depository libraries and so does not seem to be a central part of the Depository Library Program.
44 USC 1911 states:
TITLE 44–PUBLIC PRINTING AND DOCUMENTS
CHAPTER 19–DEPOSITORY LIBRARY PROGRAM
Sec. 1911. Free use of Government publications in depositories; disposal of unwanted publications
Depository libraries shall make Government publications available for the free use of the general public, and may dispose of them after retention for five years under section 1912 of this title, if the depository library is served by a regional depository library. Depository libraries not served by a regional depository library, or that are regional depository libraries themselves, shall retain Government publications permanently in either printed form or in microfacsimile form, except superseded publications or those issued later in bound form which may be discarded as authorized by the Superintendent of Documents.
(Pub. L. 90-620, Oct. 22, 1968, 82 Stat. 1286.)
Historical and Revision Notes
Based on 44 U.S. Code, 1964 ed., Sec. 92 (part) (Jan. 12, 1895, ch. 23, Sec. 74, 28 Stat. 620; June 20, 1936, ch. 630, title VII, Sec. 11, 49 Stat. 1552; Aug. 9, 1962, Pub. L. 87-579, Sec. 8, 76 Stat. 355).The first sentence of section 92, is classified to section 1119; the remainder comprises this section of the revision.
Section Referred to in Other Sections
This section is referred to in section 1915 of this title.
Section 1911 is another section that places responsibilities on libraries. In this case, libraries are required to allow free use of government publications and to retain all but superseded publications for at least five years. Certain depositories called regionals must keep all but superseded publications permanently. Regional libraries are covered in detail by 44 USC 1912, so I’ll save a full discussion of the vital regional libraries until then.
Traditionally, “free use” of government publications has meant the free browsing and borrowing of materials held by depository libraries. There is no requirement in either Title 44 or in Depository Library Program regulations for free photocopying. Photocopying follows the general guidelines of whatever a library allows for its general collection. If you can make ten free photocopies of a library book or magazine, then those same guidelines apply for government documents. If you charge $0.50/page for all library materials, then the Government Printing Office has no problem with you charging $0.50/page for photocopies of government documents.
I believe that the principle of free use might be endangered in a mostly electronic program because it forces more users into printing pages off the Internet. While they can technically read material from a screen, most people prefer reading more than a page or two from paper. Patrons can be charged the same rate for printing from government documents as they can for other web pages. Additionally, many libraries place limits on Internet time, which is acceptable depository practice. Many libraries offer a 30 minute time limit, which would make it hard to read more than the executive summary of many reports.
By contrast, in the tangible world, someone could either borrow the report and read it at their leisure, or at least take as much time as they needed in the depository’s reading area.
Leaving free use, let us consider the five year disposal period. The feds can require libraries to keep depository materials for five years because the items remain federal property even though the depository library has custody. Over the years, there have been efforts to change this retention period, but since it is written into statute, it has proved difficult to change.
With the arrival of a mostly electronic program, disposal of documents may take on new meanings, whether the future is one of linking to federal servers or one of building local digital collections. Anyone want to guess how that might change?
Next time we will look at the section of the law that governs Regional Depository Libraries and sing their praises.