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Home » post » 200610221300 FDLP/DLC : Plenary Session: Public Printer : James Staub’s notes

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200610221300 FDLP/DLC : Plenary Session: Public Printer : James Staub’s notes

00:00:00 BS calls the conference to order
00:00:36 Council introduces themselves: ST, MS, DD, WW, EF, PH, MP, DS, AM, TB, GS. GPO: RD, JR, BJ
00:04:00 BJ, who will be stepping down, is introduced and delivers his address
00:05:22 My 8th opportunity to address this group. Who hasn’t heard me speak before? [About 1/6th or so of the audience raised their hands.] Reminisces about earlier meetings.
00:06:46 Today we will have a special treat – Carol Tullo from London. BJ first met her at a dinner hosted by Archivist Alan Weinstein. I had previously gone to European nations to check out their documents programs. Carol heads Her Majesty’s Stationary Office (HMSO) – which is the UK analogy to the US’s GPO. They are merging structurally with the UK’s national archives 🙂
00:10:09 CT addresses the audience about her office and where they’re going
CT: I want to provide a brief flavor of how we’re all sharing the same vision. Despite our structural differences, the information functions appear similar – we even use the same language in meetings. Both organizations focus on safeguarding government information.
HMSO was set up to promulgate official information and publishing. CT’s demesne is information and legislation. We have a coherent approach across the whole country, derived from the queen as head of state. Government publications are protected and covered by “crown copyright”. We liberalize the use of this information for accessibility, sharing, and use.
Over 10 years ago, the government decided printing assets should be delivered to the private sector, which left my office concerned with policy and management. 00:14:10 Unlocking the use and the value of public sector information.
There is not the distinction at the user level between central and local government.
There is a wealth of information important to the citizen. There should be a simplified method to access and reuse this information.
00:15:20 PSI Public sector information – a new concept in the UK
00:16:04 Public Access Schemes, including a subsidy to libraries
00:16:33 1995 – first official UK publications went online
In the UK, the majority of access is online
00:17:06 Just producing material online is not enough – there need to be search tools, harvesters, linking – requires structural changes to explore and determine the best ways to deliver this information to citizens and taxpayers.
00:17:56 We have carried out extensive public investigations – surveys, consultation with users and delivery institutions. What are your preferences for appropriate packages?
00:18:33 2001 UK made available at no charge any official information on a government web site. This was a huge change. CT mentions the concept of reusing (“remixing” in FGI terms) government information. We have a responsibility to deliver official information to as wide an audience as we can find.
00:19:29 Official information – people should always have access to it. Shouldn’t simply change. This provides a significant challenge considering the volume of information. CT’s office’s website has gone from 15K to 25M users per month in 9 years.
00:20:55 The person who matters – the one trying to use this information.
00:21:35 Merger of HMSO and national archives happens at the end of this month.
00:22:02 “Free our data” movement… UK has a need and wish for authenticity of information to be recognized, hence the Crown Copyright. There are so many opportunities for users to be misled, we must do this.
00:24:25 BJ: We’re not the only country struggling to figure out how we’re moving into the 21st century.
00:24:44 BJ: combining local and federal information – our federal government is very reluctant to engage local issues because of their constitutional separation. BJ attended state printer association – they want to know how we can work in concert. I recommend bringing a group together to talk about this in Washington with appropriate Congress members, GPO, DLC. Even though we don’t have a legal structure, we can form an alliance that will strengthen delivering citizen services. This concept deserves to be explored even though I don’t see a clear path for it.
00:26:40 BJ: four years ago, I didn’t know how little I knew. I’ve learned a lot from you and from Congress. There were big questions in front of us – collectively and at the GPO. Could GPO be saved? We were broke. Questions about how we would make payroll. Should GPO be saved? The executive branch was saying “obsolete” – and encouraged agencies to bypass GPO for their publishing. What’s the purpose of GPO? Is “Printing” – our middle name – getting in the way? Where did we come from – what are our roots – has our purpose really gone away?
Our 19th century purpose applies to the 21st century.
Could we get consensus among all parties? Congress? Libraries? Printing/publishing industries? Our employees and their unions?
00:30:37 Could we redeploy GPO assets – from 19th century heavy metal culture to a 21st century digital one – especially the principal people assets?
00:31:17 Where would the money come from to obtain the vision? Congress had no intention for bundling money to send our way.
00:32:20 Four years later, we are in a different position. We are not out of the woods, but we have come a long way together.
00:32:48 We were successful in creating a strategic vision for the future. There had not been a clear vision – and I’m amazed that now, collectively, we’re [mostly] all on the same page. DLC as your representative has played one of the most important roles in doing this. We made our way back to 1813 – read what our founding fathers talked about in protecting the republic – their vision of an informed citizenry as the greatest protection of our government. The federal government had a responsibility to tell the citizens what it was up to. There was a day when the only way to do this was through the printed document. In 1861 Congress said we want to centralize this effort. In 1895 Congress was so concerned that they ordered that any appropriated funding for printing come through GPO, allowing for the cataloging and control of government documents. And then the FDLP, an incredible service that the libraries offered the people.
00:36:44 We came to understand that the library system protected the people FROM the federal government. Every citizen ought to have a gun to protect ourselves from the federal government – a metaphor for what’s really going on here. Idi Amin started with a vision of how to help people, and ended up being one of the great villains of history.
00:38:18 Government is people – policy folks and bureaucrats. [Mentions the National Archives reclassification problem.]
00:39:21 We got the strategic vision, and then got finances under control. Most of the money we were spending was in people. We reduced the workforce by 30% in cooperation with Congress and our Unions. 65% were age-eligible to retire. That more than anything else led from red ink to black ink.
00:40:28 We also closed down stores and printing presses throughout the country.
00:40:48 We introduced metrics. We gave managers the information they needed to predict and measure results. If you give people the information they need to make intelligent decisions, they generally do.
00:41:43 We are generating a profit. We are using the funds that we are generating to reinvest in GPO and our people. We have added new 300 people to the organization. They have interesting backgrounds – physicists, chemists, mathematicians, computer scientists, a range of 21st century skills – the people we need to be successful in a digital world. 2200 traditional GPO people with the right attitude, the hunger to change, and we added 300 to work alongside them. I’m amazed at how well they’ve come together to work side by side. We have the beginnings of a true 21st century workforce.
00:44:26 There are 23 unions at GPO. I had never worked in a union environment. Unequivocally – some of the best leadership at GPO is in the unions – they didn’t obstruct us, they encouraged us to move faster. GPO is a 150-year-old organization that has been through many technological changes – each of which made us stronger. The unions embrace technology for this reason.
00:45:55 We flattened the organization. 39 people originally reported to me, which guaranteed that nothing would get done. I moved to push decision-making down to the lowest level possible. That’s easy to say, but it took us a while to get these new decision-makers the good information they needed to work. Example of capital investments…
00:48:35 Because GPO was losing money – we had stopped spending money on training before I walked in the door. In general, we should spend 3-5% of payroll on training. We were spending 27K when we should have been at least 3 million. We didn’t know what was going on [in the industry]. We had no partnerships with industry or universities. We created the Office of Innovation and New Technology. Chaired by GPO Scott Stovall and we looked for an outsider to co-chair. Sixth months later, Mike Wash joined in that position.
00:51:00 Mike brought a career of innovation in technology from the private sector – US Inventor of the Year in 1996. One of the few people who ever designed a large scale digital system that worked.
00:52:17 FDSys will roll out next year – most sophisticated system in the world for managing government information.
00:53:12 Because of efficiencies that we gained by developing metrics and proper management, we didn’t need as much in appropriations.
00:54:00 This will be the last time I address you as the Public Printer.
00:54:28 Things you will need to think about, and places GPO will need your help:
00:54:42 1. FDLP has been a one-way street in terms of moving information from the government to you. We discovered that many FDLP libraries have a treasure trove of government information created for local purposes. There’s more information out there than we have. How do we get the information that you have back into the FDLP system? We need to build a more two-way system of information.
00:55:56 2. I’m coming to the point where I see the realities of the political situation. “Congress” is apprehensive about GPO’s retrospective digitization plan. We need to work with Google or another private company and help them – or at least address this question – would it be enough to get started?
00:57:17 3. Centralization vs. diffusion – I thought this was the dumbest question I had ever heard from a business standpoint. However, I came to understand that this is a real question. Printing is going away. GPO can make sure we don’t lose information, but it will be under the control of the federal government. Is that good enough?
00:58:52 4. At some point in the future, all government information will be produced and distributed digitally. I don’t know when, but we need to start planning for what the heck that means. What’s this going to look like? I don’t think GPO should decide when to stop printing – I think you should. We should come to a consensus about what titles – until we come to trust the digital formats – do we need to continue in printed format. There are opportunities to do this in different ways than you’ve done them before.
01:02:00 5. Financial viability of GPO. I am blessed to receive wonderful letters from the library associations to take with me to Congress for appropriations requests. If you really support the GPO, support redeveloping the GPO facility and building new facilities elsewhere. Educate your representatives and their staffs. This is the single most important thing you can do to ensure the future of the FDLP.
01:04:45 BJ: thanks BS for chairing the DLC, and the DLC for their work. [applause] [Etc.]

01:07:15 QUESTIONS FROM COUNCIL
01:07:17 MS: You said we should reassess relationships with Google/Yahoo in digital projects – how has thinking on this evolved over the past years?
BJ: It boils down to political reality. Easiest part of my job was the business and technology parts. Doing it in a political environment is complex. What can I practically get done vs. what would be the best business decision. I could spend my entire tenure on renaming the GPO. Instead, we changed the logo. From a business/technical standpoint, retrospective digitization is within our capacity. Congress however has slowed us to a demonstration project. For whatever reason they are reluctant to go forward. To get this done, we have to throw our hat in with private vendors. WE ARE NOT GOING TO GIVE AWAY ANY EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS TO ANYTHING. On the down side, when we partner with vendors, we cut down our chances of being able to do it really right in the future.
01:12:35 PH: How the private sector handles retrospective collections – if you have just the current information and move forward – it’s like ripping pages out of the dictionary – you have to go back to the paper anyway, and this generates inefficiencies. We created partnerships to provide historic information.
01:14:35 [slight confusion as a question comes in from the audience]
01:14:45 GS: I welcome this conversation – the one thing I’d like added is to include our nonprofit partners, e.g., the Federal Reserve, universities, etc.
01:15:43 BS: if your successor asks for three contacts to talk to outside GPO, who would they be?
BJ: I will turn over quite a bit of information – I will share the names of helpful people, but I don’t want to limit my successor.

01:16:55 QUESTIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE
01:16:56 Cathy Hale, PA State Library: BJ is wrong in his description of the one-way street on government information. The library community has been very clear about communicating what we want.
BJ: Cathy, you weren’t listening to me. What I’m saying is there is a partnership – in which the federal government has gotten more than they invested – but I’m talking about the publications themselves. Local libraries have collections we don’t. GPO has not addressed that yet.
Cathy Hale: I know we have treasure troves, fugitive documents, etc. GPO has not had the vehicle to accept these. Get on the stick and start accepting our offers.
BJ: I’ve been surprised by the amount of information out there. Most is local or regional in character. It would be helpful to researchers and citizens. 10 years ago, the Federal Register had 35K paid subscribers. Now we have 1M daily downloaders.
01:20:38 Cass Hartnett, U Washington, Seattle: what did you discuss with the Supreme Court Chief Justice?
BJ: GPO’s PR person just collapsed 🙂 I met with the Chief Justice. I found him to be even more charming in person than he appears to be in the media. We brought up changes in the way citizens are using information – and that the federal courts should look at this. He mentioned there was a management change going on at the Administrative offices of the US courts, and that’s the way we should do it. The Courts are quite conservative. GPO has established relationships with certain circuits. We manage the SCOTUS web site. We are pursuing providing access to court information to the level we do legislation. There are private organizations whose livelihood depends on the courts, but there should be a way for GPO to improve access without threatening them.
01:24:30 Michelle McKnelly, U Wisconsin, River Falls: Your legacy will be the FDSys. When will we get a better name for it?
BJ: We were talking about running a contest… but it looked like a nightmare. All of us have a favorite name – MW favors “The Wash System.” We need a better name, and it should evolve.
Michelle McKnelly: we need a better name to help us educate Congress 🙂
01:27:59 Thomas Lindsey – U Texas, Arlington : What’s the holdup for the new building?
BJ: A senator told me that GPO couldn’t move out of town, because they need the congressional record and federal register every morning – and not get stuck in traffic. We have done site investigation – 23 sites are available in the metro region, more than half of these in DC – we’ve got the opportunities for space, and in a way that won’t cost taxpayers a dime.

01:31:00 [standing ovation]

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