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Pt. 9: Nonlawyer’s journey through Title 44: Appropriations restriction

This post, all earlier postings in this series, and my “not a lawyer” disclaimer can be found at or through our library under Nonlawyer’s Journey through Title 44.

When I first considered today’s subject, 44 USC 1913:



Sec. 1913. Appropriations for supplying depository libraries; restriction

Appropriations available for the Office of Superintendent of Documents may not be used to supply depository libraries documents, books, or other printed matter not requested by them, and their requests shall be subject to approval 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. 85a (June 27, 1956, ch. 453, Sec. 101, 70 Stat. 369).

my first reaction was “Huh?” and my second reaction was “What?” I was puzzled because a plain reading of this statute seemed to imply that Federal Depository Libraries should never get anything they do not select, except for regionals who by definition, must get everything that the Government Printing Office (GPO) produces. Since GPO does send some items to all libraries, like the 9/11 commission report, I decided this couldn’t be the right interpretation of the law. But what to make of it?

Fortunately I was able to turn to a REAL expert on Title 44, Bernadine Abbott Hoduski, who worked on GPO’s oversight committee the Joint Committee on Printing for many years, and wrote the book on advocating for government information.

This is what Ms. Hoduski had to say about sec. 1913, which makes sense to me:

The section on GPO not sending publications that libraries have not requested is based on the 1962 depository law. Before that all libraries had to receive everything, there was no selection process. Once it was determined that only regionals would receive everything, GPO had to design a distribution system based upon consent. JCP has a certain amount of discretion and can authorize GPO to send out publications that are high visibility and needed asap in order to be useful. GPO does that on a limited basis.

I did not realize that the current system of regional depositories only came into existence in 1962 and that prior to that EVERY library had to keep EVERYTHING. Even with my love of geographic duplication, I don’t think we needed more than a 1000 libraries keeping all publications. Yet another reason to love regionals.

Finally, after I consulted Bernadine Abbott Hoduski, I remembered that in the current item selection system used by GPO, all libraries must select item 0556-C which GPO uses to distribute certain high-profile items.

So, after all my confusion, libraries never get items not in their selection profile. Whether the selection profile meets their needs is not a Title 44 question.

I wasn’t sure whether I should share my uncertainty and confusion with you regarding this section of depository law. But in the end I thought it would be useful for you, the FGI reader, to know that some things about government information are difficult to understand even to those of us who devote their non-work hours to it. It’s also good to realize that all of us, no matter our knowledge level, have people to turn to. Make the most of that.

Next week we conclude our consideration of the chapter of Title 44 dealing with the Depository Library Program with another short section of depository law that appears to be more straightforward “Sec. 1914. Implementation of depository library program by Public Printer.”

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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