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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Libraries’ guide to the 2020 census

The American Library Association (ALA) has teamed up with the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality to develop the Libraries’ guide to the 2020 census to prepare libraries for the decennial count of every person living in the United States.

The Guide contains practical information to assist library staff in addressing potential patron and community requests regarding the upcoming 2020 Census and Census Day on April 1, 2020. The Guide includes:

  • basic information about the Census process;
  • highlights of new components in the 2020 Census, such as the online response option;
  • frequently asked questions;
  • a timeline of key Census dates;
  • contact information and links to additional resources.

Analysis of COL FDLP task force final report #alaac14

(Please note, if you’d prefer to read a PDF of this post, there’s a “print” button at the bottom of the page)

James A. Jacobs and James R. Jacobs, Free Government Information (FGI)

On Monday, the ALA Committtee on Legislation’s (COL) FDLP task force released its final Final Report and Recommendations.

  • American Library Association. Committee on Legislation, Federal Depository Library Program Task Force. Final Report and Recommendations. Maggie Farrell, Chair. (June 23, 2014). http://connect.ala.org/node/225583

This is the result of a series of discussions, reports, a survey, and solicitations of comments over the last two years designed to examine the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and options for its future. The purpose of all this work was to examine diverse opinions and guide the policies of the American Library Association (ALA) regarding the FDLP.

Below, we provide some background, analysis of the final report, and some recommendations.


In 2012, the ALA’s Committee on Legislation formed its FDLP Task Force to “examine a set of questions and issues to guide the Committee on current aspects of the FDLP and options for the future.” The Task Force then held a number of discussions online and via conference calls from July 2012 through June 2013 with a goal of focusing on actions and directions that ALA might take to “advance the program.” The Task Force released a “Draft discussion document” that covered six issues, and twenty-two discussion questions; it included summaries of the discussions of these and offered twenty recommendations. Four days later, the Task Force released a report with twenty-one recommendations.

Although the discussions and recommendations did result in some degree of consensus on many individual points, there was still some controversy over the Task Force’s focus and vision as a whole and an apparent need for the Task Force to make more specific recommendations as to how COL (and ALA) should proceed. So, at ALA Annual 2013, the Task Force was asked to continue for an additional year to “outline a process for ALA to bring together diverse opinions and to guide COL in its future consideration of policies regarding the FDLP.”

In December 2013, the Task Force created an online survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FDLPTaskForce) that focused on a single, broad issue, “a national preservation plan for depository materials,” in order “to understand how ALA might develop consensus and advance broad association goals” and address a variety of issues including “geographical distribution, metadata, partnerships, training, and advocacy.” The Task force distributed the survey online to ALA members, invited ALA Divisions and Roundtables to formally respond to the survey, and conducted an open dialogue forum during ALA Midwinter 2014 in Philadelphia. In response to the survey, GODORT’s Committee on Legislation wrote 7 statements as the Round Table’s official submissions to the ALA Committee on Legislation’s FDLP Task Force survey (full disclosure, James R. Jacobs is currently a member of GODORT LegComm and participated in putting the GODORT statements together). The statements were voted on and agreed to by GODORT Steering at Midwinter 2014 conference. Statements included ones on born-digital government documents, digitization and preservation of historic / paper government documents, the FDLP as a historic and sustainable structure going forward and the role of federal libraries within the FDLP.

On June 23, 2014, the COL FDLP Task Force released its final report.

  • American Library Association. Committee on Legislation, Federal Depository Library Program Task Force. Final Report and Recommendations.  Maggie Farrell, Chair. (June 23, 2014). http://connect.ala.org/node/225583

The Final Report offers the same twenty-one recommendations from 2013 without any changes. It summarizes the Task Force’s year of work with  "recommendations" (page 2 of the Final Report) that suggest that ALA should facilitate the development of a national preservation plan and partnerships and strategies that advance the FDLP, and that ALA and GODORT should develop core competencies for the "use of FDLP resources." It also says that FDLP resources and services are important to many ALA units and suggests that ALA and its units should work together collaboratively on FDLP issues.


The FDLP Task Force’s Final Report and Recommendations has retained both the good and the bad ideas from its earlier report, but its real flaw is a lack of focus on users of government information and a lack of a vision of how to ensure long-term, free access to government information.

Good Ideas

Some of the good ideas in the report include: (numbers refer to recommendation numbers)

  • Recognition of the need for a comprehensive national preservation plan for government information (#1, #8).
  • Using the FDLP registry to coordinate digitization efforts and avoid duplication (#2).
  • Suggesting that GPO should coordinate and facilitate digitization projects (#4).
  • Recognizing the need for authentication of [digitial] government publications (#5).
  • Recognizing the need for "geographic distribution" of digital storage, preservation, and access (#10). 
  • Suggesting that ALA accreditation of library schools should include "appropriate training/information on government information" (#11).
  • Recognizing that providing free access to government information is essential (#3, #7).
  • Recognition of the value of digitizing paper collections (#1, #2, #4, #6).

Bad Ideas

Some of the bad ideas in the report include:

  • Using the destruction of print collections as the only reason for developing a preservation plan (#1, #8).
  • Presenting a confusing, convoluted, unclear idea that commercial sources can be relied on as trusted sources of government information and can be included in the FDLP guidelines for discarding government information as long as neither libraries nor users pay for these commercial products (#7).
  • Diminishing the value and changing the role of FDLP libraries by passively accepting that, in the digital age, FDLP libraries may not (and, presumably, should not) be relied on to store or preserve digital content and a concomitant recommendation for new guidelines to define (presumably non-FDLP) “partners” to provide digital storage and preservation and access (#10).
  • A call for “flexibility” and a recommendation to advocate changes to Title 44 of the US Code (#21) (the part of the US Code which codifies “Public Printing and Documents” and defines the FDLP) without any definition of what this “flexibility” is or how it might be identified or how changes to Title 44 could either ensure that unspecified flexibility or avoid damaging the FDLP or user access to government information. (The main use we have seen of the term “flexibility” in the FDLP community has been as a code word used by libraries that want to renege on their Title 44 commitment to preserve paper collections by having the "flexibility" to discard them.)


In addition to these bad ideas, the report also is notable for what it omits and how it glosses over many essential issues with vague language. Even some of the "good" recommendations listed above suffer from vague wording which obfuscates the value of the proposal. 

It is hard to understand how these recommendations can guide COL or ALA on current aspects of the FDLP and options for the future when it leaves out all mention of:

  • Born-digital Content. (James A. Jacobs’ recent report for the Center for Research Libraries, "Born-Digital U.S. Federal Government Information: Preservation and Access", demonstrates that there are more born-digital government information items produced in a single year than all the non-digital government information items accumulated in the FDLP over 200 years. The Task Force report fails to mention born-digital content at all. It limits its recommendations that deal with digital content to digitizations [#1, #2, #3, #4, #6] and one single, vague mention of digital storage [#10].)
  • The weaknesses of the current model of preservation and access. (Since roughly 1993, most FDLP libraries have relied on GPO and government agencies to provide access, service, and preservation for digital government information. The recent loss of access to government information during the government shutdown and the two-weeks-long GPO PURL server crash of 2009 should convince everyone that the government cannot guarantee long-term preservation of government information on its own. The Report’s commitment to "free access" rings hollow in this context when we realize that agencies — including GPO — are explicitly allowed to charge for access. The Report fails to address how libraries can preserve or ensure access to anything when they leave the selection of what will be preserved up to individual agencies and relinquish their own ability to do so.)
  • The need for new skills. (The Report does not just omit this, it explicitly rejects it. Recommendation #17 actually abjures the need for "additional requirements"  for FDLP libraries at a time when ALA and COL could be taking a stand on the need for new, digital skills. Examples of such skills include: building Trusted Digital Repositories, providing robust online services for complex full-text collections, developing digital infrastructures and data repositories that are flexible enough to cope with a rapidly evolving technological environment for increasingly sophisticated users, and developing new techniques for acquiring and preserving dynamic content in multimedia formats — to name just a few.)
  • Services. (While recognizing that some unspecified “FDLP services” — presumably reference — are important, the report provides no recommendations on how to provide those services in an era when, according to the Task Force, Library administrators are finding it “necessary to cut staff and merge services.” The implication of the Report is that "services" will be replaced by "access" to digital content and by reduced access to print materials.)
  • Collections. (The only recommendations that address collections speak of the "destruction of [print] collections" [#1] and how the digital collections of commercial vendors "cannot replace free public access to FDLP materials" [#3]. Although the report does emphasize the need for a comprehensive preservation plan, it only does so within the context of destruction of documents and the reduction of geographic distribution of printed FDLP documents [#1, #8]. One of the strengths of the FDLP has always been its diverse collections that meet the needs of different user communities. The digital environment demands an even greater need for focused collections to enable and facilitate better discovery and customized usability of digital objects; at the same time, it provides the opportunity for libraries to expand their user communities beyond the geographically-local. Similarly, shared digital collections will require much more work on discovery, access, delivery, preservation, online services, and usability than has so far been done. The report is silent on these matters.)
  • Users. (Most importantly, the Report pretty much ignores the needs of users. The only mentions it makes of the needs of users are the importance of free information, and their need for "instruction." The Report focuses on ALA and COL and, to a lesser extent, on a vague, abstract vision of the FDLP. How can the Task Force make recommendations without knowing what the needs of users are? How can it justify any recommendations without describing how they will affect users of government information? Because of the lack of a user-centered approach, the recommendations seem to be a list of various unconnected, predetermined tactics that are not linked to outcomes or user needs. The Report fails to even mention how they expect these tactics to affect users.)

Though the committee includes former and current government information librarians who we know and respect — including Maggie Farrell who just lost a tight race for ALA President — we were left with a feeling that the report lacked focus and an overall view of the future of the FDLP.  It was perhaps inevitable that a committee report of this kind that gathered diverse opinions from many sources would end up reading like an unordered list of ideas and recommendations without context. That is probably more the fault of the charge of Task Force than a fault of the Task Force itself. But it limits the usefulness of even the best intentioned of its recommendations.

In its current state, the Report reminds us of a grocery list without a menu. Sure, it’s always a good idea to pick up eggs and milk and butter (the good ideas) — but are we getting the right ingredients in the correct proportion? Are we baking a cake or making an omelet? And do we really need that two-gallon can of anchovies (the bad ideas)? Many of the individual ingredients are good, but how will we assemble them into something tasty and nutritious? How will COL and ALA translate these into actions that will have the desired results for users if we don’t specify the results we want to achieve? How will we determine whether or not we have succeeded? One thing we do know is that our users will know — particularly if we serve them an anchovy cake.

As noted above, the report seems like an almost random collection of tactics that libraries had already chosen before the Task Force started its work: the destruction of historic collections, reduction of FDLP geographic distribution, vague paeans to education in the “value of federal information,” competencies in “instructing library users in the reliability and authoritativeness of government information,” and the need for knowledge of unspecified "government information tools." But the Report fails to connect any of these tactics to goals or outcomes.

We at FGI followed the Task Force closely and wrote some detailed criticisms of the early versions of the recommendations and of discussion items and the way the Task Force framed the discussion. (See the “Postscript” below for references to those writings.)

Apart from those criticisms, we must add now a final over-arching criticism that we see as a fatal flaw: We think that the report lacks context, vision, and direction. The Report fails to describe how, even if every recommendation were carried out fully and successfully, users would have access to the services and collections they need.


We believe that COL should ask the Task Force to provide additional context for its recommendations. Specifically, it could start with its own “recommendation” (actually more of an assertion — currently listed as recommendation #20) that “The FDLP core values remain fundamental in a digital environment and continue to be relevant.” If the Task Force truly believes this and has found agreement to this assertion among its diverse respondents, it provides a good starting point because it begins with the existing strengths of the FDLP and offers an opportunity to build on those strengths. Those strengths of the FDLP are:

  • It provides the government and the library community with a legal foundation and tradition of free, long-term preservation and access.
  • It provides over 1,200 libraries and their staffs that have committed to free, long-term preservation and access.
  • It provides the FDsys infrastructure that is actually doing a very good job of preserving and providing access to Congressional information, and has made some headway into doing the same for Judicial and Executive branch information.
  • It builds on existing, innovative FDLP technological partnerships such as GPO’s alliance with LOCKSS-USDOCS, which is an excellent preservation model that demonstrates the value of digital-deposit and distributed responsibility for digital preservation. (This shows that if GPO wants to do digital deposit, it can — without changing Title 44. It also demonstrates that libraries can participate and do so without a large investment in staff or funds. If FDLP libraries want to move into the digital age and not hope that someone else will fulfill their role of providing collections and services, this shows they can.)

The Task Force could then use its existing research (and supplement it with more, if necessary) to describe and define current user needs, and to define a National Government Information Infrastructure that will meet the future needs of users. Doing this would almost certainly lead to the Task Force recommending a "comprehensive preservation, access, and service plan" to replace existing recommendations that only address preservation. (As many have pointed out, in the digital age, “preservation” and “access” are immutably linked. And, as every librarian and every commercial information provider knows, collections without services have no value to users.)

The Task Force could then re-order, and re-combine its existing recommendations into this new framework, adding text that would link recommendations to outcomes and effects on users. Finally, it could add new recommendations or adapt existing ones in order to address those important issues it left out (see "Omissions" above).

The revised report would have several demonstrable strengths that the current report lacks. It would recognize that paper is currently being preserved and digital is not and that there are existing proposals to discard paper without explicit plans for meeting even existing low-levels of service or long-term public access. Most importantly, the revised report must begin with the important ingredients needed to assure the future of the FDLP and access to government information:

  1. User focus; permanent free access to govt information. (One big way to inject users into the system is to adapt current bibliographic tools to allow for user input to help set priorities in digitization and preservation and expand description to aid in future access.)
  2. Geographically distributed preservation of government information in all formats, including a large-scale, managed cataloging effort, a need for flexibility of digital copies to adapt to future uses and devices, and an admission that historic paper collections will continue to be needed by users around the country regardless of digitizations.
  3. Training and education program for incoming and current government information librarians that includes the skills necessary for a 21st century hybrid library. 
  4. Preservation, Access and Service Plan that includes an inventory of what libraries currently have (number of copies, format, quality, utility, preservation-status, discoverability, re-usability, metadata), physical access standards, and a vocabulary for describing user-centered life-cycle creation, storage, preservation, discovery, use, and reuse.

Once we know what we’re cooking (a better, more sustainable system for libraries to help support public government information access and (re)use over the long-term), and once we have a list of the right ingredients we need for that (the Task Force’s new recommendations), libraries and librarians in concert will be able to follow through knowing what we expect to accomplish and knowing that we are taking steps to get there.


Here are links to earlier writings on the Task Force’s work in which we at FGI provide more details than we have given here and additional arguments for a different approach.

ALA off target in giving Madison Award to Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies

I’m in 2 minds about this year’s James Madison Award given annually by the American Library Association to “honor individuals or groups who have championed, protected and promoted public access to government information and the public’s right to know at the national level.” Last year’s award was given to computer programer and internet activist [[Aaron Swartz]], “an outspoken advocate for public participation in government and unrestricted access to peer-reviewed scholarly articles.” It was announced yesterday that the Obama administration’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies had received the award.

While I can appreciate that the Obama administration would set up this group to look into US security and surveillance programs, I believe it premature to give this group the Madison award before any of their suggested reforms have been put in place or analyzed for their efficacy at protecting the public’s privacy and 4th amendment rights. Additionally, I find it highly questionable to honor the Obama administration after it has been repeatedly shown to be hypocritical in terms of surveillance, privacy, and government transparency in general [update 2:45PM: case in point, this recent AP news article “Obama Administration Cites ‘National Security’ More Than Ever To Censor, Deny Records”].

Instead, this year’s award ought to have gone to whistleblower Edward Snowden who’s leaks of NSA documents brought to light the NSA’s systematic and unconstitutional surveillance programs and forced the Obama administration to set up the Review Group in the first place — lipstick on a pig?! — if for nothing else to have some positive PR. ALA was already on record in support of needs for reforms of US intelligence community with its Resolution on the Need for Reforms for the Intelligence Community to Support Privacy, Open Government, Government Transparency, and Accountability (Council Document 20.4) — which ironically replaced the Resolution in Support of Whistleblower Edward Snowden a day after that resolution passed and was then rescinded by ALA Council! — so they should have taken this opportunity to do the right thing and honor Mr Snowden with the Madison award.

Today, the American Library Association awarded President Barack Obama’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies the 2014 James Madison Award during the 16th Annual Freedom of Information Day in Washington, D.C. The Presidential Review Group received the award for calling for dozens of urgent and practical reforms to the National Security Agency’s unlawful surveillance programs.

Calling on the government to enhance public trust, the President’s Review Group produced a thoughtful report (PDF) with a blueprint showing how the government can reaffirm its commitment to privacy and civil liberties—all without compromising national security. In the report, the Review Group emphasized the need for transparency and effective oversight, and made recommendations intended to protect U.S. national security and advance foreign policy. Additionally, the Review Group asked the U.S. government to demonstrate the validity of claims that secrecy is necessary.

Members of the Review Group include Richard Clarke, former national security official under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; Michael Morell, former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Geoffrey Stone, law professor at the University of Chicago Law School; Cass Sunstein, professor at Harvard University and Peter Swire, professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

via NSA oversight group receives American Library Association award.

COL’s FDLP Task Force Survey and FGI’s responses

[updated 4pm 1/7/14. I clarified a couple of statements. JRJ]

Last summer, the ALA Committee on Legislation (COL), Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) Task Force released its FDLP report and recommendations. In response, FGI wrote a white paper “Wait! Don’t Digitize and Discard! A White Paper on ALA COL Discussion Issue #1a”. While agreeing with much of the report’s recommendations (avoid duplicative efforts, digital deposit etc), we took issue with some points and tried to unpack and give context to the problems and assumptions put forth by the task force.

COL asked the FDLP task force to continue for an additional year and their first order of business is an FDLP survey to gather input and feedback to “outline a process for ALA to bring together diverse opinions and to guide the Committee in its future consideration of policies in relationship to the FDLP.” While the survey was sent out to ALA divisions and round tables for official feedback, I think it important that ALL librarians with an interest in government information submit answers to the FDLP survey. Please submit your survey responses by February 14, 2014.

Also, please consider attending the COL meeting at ALA Midwinter on Saturday, January 25 from 10:30-11:30am in the Convention Center, room 107B.

Lastly, in the interest of public discussion, I thought our readers would be interested in seeing the 20 survey questions beforehand and our survey responses. Below are all the questions (starting with #3 as questions 1-2 are demographic) in bold as well as our submitted answers.

A comprehensive preservation plan includes digital documents supplemented with preserved tangible collections with a yet-to-be-determined number of full print collections, in controlled environments and in geographically dispersed locations. — NAPA report “Rebooting the Government Printing Office: Keeping America Informed in the Digital Age”

Identification of Materials – in order to implement a preservation plan, it will be critical to outline a process for identification and processing on the national level. This collaboration will require the broad participation of libraries, commercial and not for profit organizations, agencies, and associations.

3. Do all tangible materials within the FDLP need to be preserved?


I worry that this question is ambiguous and will result in a variety of answers which could too easily lead to misleading interpretations. To try to get around the ambiguity, let me say that I believe that there is no FDLP information that should be discarded or abandoned.

The community might well want to identify specific copies or editions or versions or formats of any given specific information content that need no longer be preserved because the information content is being approrpriately preserved. But, to do that, we need an accurate accounting of what information content exists, how many copies we have, the physical state of such materials, etc.

I would suggest that format (“tangible” or other) is not a useful criterion for selecting materials for preservation or discard. I would also suggest that information that exists only in paper copy should be preserved and, further, that every such work (edition?) should be preserved.

4. Realizing that not everything can be preserved immediately, what should be the process for determining the priority plan?

Is this question about “digitization” for preservation? Paper collections are being preserved now under long-time FDLP rules and procedures. If we’re talking about actual preservation, born digital should have priority.

I think this question may be confusing and conflating “digitization” with “preservation” and “historic” with “born-digital.”

Digitization of historic/paper publications, while providing better access, does not necessarily contribute to their preservation and digitization for preservation does not necessarily guarantee better (or any) access. For example, many publications that are scanned — e.g., those going through the google books project — are disbinded and destroyed without any guarantee that the digitization process has necessarily accurately or completely preserved the original content. Further, “digitization” encompasses a wide range of activities and digitizations may or may not meet quality standards for long-term preservation and use.

Also, many born-digital federal documents are arguably *more* in need of preservation action than paper documents — since paper documents are ostensibly already being preserved via the FDLP. The reason for this is that there is a single steward (such as a government agency) that has sole responsibility for preservation and access of those files and the files are therefore at risk of intentional or unintentional, poltical or bureaucratic or financial decisions that will lose or alter or discard that information.

I believe that any preservation plan and prioritization policy needs to have in place a process and framework for preserving an adequate number of physical paper copies as well as a process and framework for collecting, describing and preserving digitized paper and born-digital publications.

As for prioritizing what to digitize (in a NON-destructive manner!), I would give higher priority to those publications that have NOT been widely distributed or have not received any or adequate cataloging.

I would suggest that we should develop a number of criteria for determining priorities, not just a single criterion. For example, we might want to identify different categories of paper materials for digitization: some (plain text in a uniform format on good paper with clear print) are easier (and cheaper) to digitize more accurately, some (statistial publications, odd format publications, color and illustrated publications, older publications with thin paper/bleed-through print/etc., publications with non-uniform layout and fonts, etc.) are harder (and more expensive) to digitize accurately and completely. Setting priorities for diitization could take such a categorization into account along with other factors (condition of the paper copy, completeness and acuracy of existing metadata, known number of complete copies in paper and known number of complete paper copies needed for preservation-of-the-content (as opposed to simple access to the content), known number of paper copies needed for access, decisions about intent of digitizations (access, preservation, image-only or image+text, or image+text+reformatting (e.g. xml, tei, epub…?)…

Please read the following for more on these issues:

5. Who should be involved in preserving FDLP materials? GPO, FDLP libraries, commercial, and/or not for profit organizations?

GPO and FDLP libraries — with assistance from non-profits like the Internet Archive (which actually has official status as a library!) — should be the primary actors in any plan for preserving public domain government publications. Any digitization plan MUST include an agreement that digitizations will be freely and publicly available without subscription or fee and in DRM-free formats.

While commercial outfits may have experience in this area and may be consulted, I would strongly recommend against including commercial entities in any long-term preservation plan. Not only are commercial entities disinclined to do anything that does not support their bottom line, it goes against the spirit of the FDLP for public domain materials to be taken out of the public domain and only made available in subscription databases and/or commercial products. There is already ample evidence of private companies contracting with federal agencies to digitize content that is then privatized and taken out of the public domain to the detriment of the public who owns that information. See:

Preservation Methods – the processes for digitization and preservation are varied and some digitization is not necessarily preservation. There are a variety of projects that may contribute to a national preservation plan. The Task Force report affirms that there should be multiple locations and geographical distribution.

6. Is digitization a preservation standard or does it serve as a discovery/access resource or both?

“Digitization” is not a standard but a generic term that encompasses many different processes and procedures and can result in many different results of varying quality and suitability for different purposes. Even poor quality digitizations can be preserved, but that does not qualify them as “digital preservation” of the original information. “Digitization” is also only one step (the first step: creation) of a number of steps that would need to be taken (ingest, storage, data management, preservation and preservation planning, discovery/access/delivery, and service) in order to either provide access to or preservation of the digital objects created by any given digitization process. “Digitization” is, therefore not a useful concept on its own to address preservation or discovery or access.

To better address this question one needs to specify how an item will be digitized and for what purposes it will be digitized and develop an evaluation of the process to be used to determine if the output of the digitization meets the requirements.

Typically, today, most digitization projects (particularly large-scale projects) aim to provide access (not preservation) to page-images of the original books. Those scans — e.g., google books — offer pretty good (but not great) discovery (try and find a specific volume of any digitized serial in GBP and you’ll see what I mean about “pretty good” discovery), but many of the scans are of poor quality, with inaccurate or no OCR, blurred images and missing pages etc.

As we look to digitization as a process, we should evaluate what we want from that process and develop projects that match those goals. We should develop more projects that aim higher than simple access to digital images that are no better than (and, in some cases, not as good as) the original books. We should develop projects that would envision the possibilities of digital information, not just pictures of static information. This would include digitization that would enable reformatting the content for current and future devices and uses. All digital objects are born-digital objects. Perhaps most importantly, treating digitization of paper as no more than a surrogate for the original paper with no more functionality than the original is short-sighted at best and destructive at worst.

As noted earlier, there are various and varied levels of digitization. Even publications which are digitized to the highest current *digitization* standards should not necessarily be relied on as a copy of last resort. Without adequate attention to the unique qualities of individual documents, the digitizaiton may not fit the needs of all users and some users will continue to need access to paper publications. For example, the images of large size and color documents and documents with maps, tabular data and inserts may be less-usable than their paper originals.

7. Should there be different standards for copies – more rigorous for congressional materials and less for pamphlets for example?

NO. decisions about use of standards should not be made based on format of the original. Such a choice would imply that all pamphlets are less important to everyone forever than any congressional bound volumes, for example. this would be making an unwarranted judgement on the quality of content based on format and an unfounded judgement on the value of the content to unspecified users of the future.

Digitizations of paper should be undertaken to address needs of user communities of the future as well as the present. Short-term cost savings should not drive library decisions if it impedes long-term access, preservation, or usability of the information content. It is reasonable to assume that any publication that is worth scanning should be scanned at the highest quality standards that will lessen the likelihood of its needing to be re-scanned as digitization technologies continue to get better and user needs evolve.

8. What is the role of Regional FDLP libraries in preservation centers?

Regional FDLP libraries should be seen as the first best option in any preservation plan. Geographic distribution of both paper and digitized/born-digital publications will continue to be a necessary part of any plan going forward and regionals are best equipped to offer those services since they’re already set up and working. ALL regional libraries should be required to participate in or designate one library in their region to participate in LOCKSS-USDOCS as part of their depository responsibilities. This would fall under the current FDLP shared housing agreement concept.

Trusted Partners – the FDLP has a partnership program and the Task Force report notes that partnerships could be a critical component of a national preservation plan.

9. What are the qualifications of a trusted partner?

A trusted partner, at least in terms of digital preservation, is one that is built on OAIS principles, has a succession plan in place, and is not driven primarily by the profit motive. Consortia and other library-centric organizations should be seen as trusted partners as long as preservation AND free public access are inherent parts of their missions.

10. Can commercial and not for profit entities be considered a trusted partner?

Commercial entities will probably disqualify themselves as trusted partners if adqueate definitions of responsibility are in place; trusted partners should provide long-term, free public access and have a succession plan in place to describe what happens if they ever choose to break the partnership. So, in general, commerical entities will probably NOT be relied on as trusted partners as their missions are, by law, motivated first by profit rather than by public access, public service or information preservation. Non-profit entities can be trusted partners as long as preservation and public/free access are inherent parts of their missions.

11. What current initiatives exist that can contribute to partnerships? (LOCKSS and other initiatives).

FDLP libraries themselves, LOCKSS-USDOCS, Internet Archive, ASERL’s COE libraries, library consortia…

Registry and Identification – the FDLP has initiated a registry for digitization (http://registry.fdlp.gov) and this might be the basis for a preservation plan. The Task Force notes that cataloging tangible and online materials is still a critical component for any national efforts in discovering and accessing FDLP and other government information.

12. How should individual cataloging efforts be coordinated?

via GPO and the catalog of government publications (CGP).

13. How should commercial entities be incorporated with library efforts?

Commercial entities provide a useful and welcome *complement* to free public access entities — but they should never be seen as a substitute or replacement for free public preservation, access, and service.

Commercial entities should be encouraged to donate metadata toward the national registry and/or digitization projects. They should also be encouraged to deposit their content in collaborative archival services like LOCKSS-USDOCS for safekeeping.

Any national catalog (OCLC, CGP) which has links to publications in subscription services (e.g., Proquest Congressional database) should also include links to freely available digital copies.

14. What additional cataloging/identification projects exist that might contribute to a national effort?

Hathitrust registry of US federal government publications, ASERL collections of excellence, Internet Archive digitization efforts (be aware that IA has a complete set of historic Congressional publications (serial set, Congressional record, hearings etc) garnered from the N&O list a few years ago. They are just waiting for funding to digitize).

Broadening Expertise – in a distributed, electronic world of information, FDLP libraries are able to assist non-FDLP libraries and FDLP resources are more integrated with commercial information resources. The Task Force considers this an opportunity and challenge that will impact librarians and library workers regardless of type of library.

15. What are the professional development needs for librarians and library workers who may utilize FDLP information?

This growing idea that “all librarians are now documents librarians” really bothers me. It makes for a good bumper sticker, but are “all librarians engineering librarians”? Government information is a very specific area within LIS — which happens to touch on many subjects and disciplines — with specific and iteratively-built skill sets and knowledge base. Having a government information librarian on staff is critical to a library’s success in serving it’s community. Just as we shouldn’t expect all librarians to have in-depth knowledge of every subject and discipline, and shouldn’t expect every librarian to be a cataloger, and we shouldn’t expect all librarians to have in-depth knowledge of the workings of government and its information resources. At the same time, I have heard that a disturbingly large number of LIS programs are deprecating if not completely doing away with their government information curricula.

With that in mind, the documents community should first survey LIS programs to see what’s being taught, what are the requirements, what are the % of students taking government information courses, and whether or not LIS programs are *using* government information in their classes (no copyright!) for digitization, digital and physical preservation, indexing/discovery, text-mining, etc?

The documents community — as well as ALA as the accrediting organization! — then needs to create a model curriculum and require that ALL MSLIS programs have courses on government information to provide all librarians with basic familiarity about the FDLP program itself, FDSys and the FDLP core collection as well as basic knowledge of government information resources and collections at all levels of government at a minimum.

Within the documents community, there needs to be continuing education opportunities — that are open to ALL librarians — but for librarians to expand their govt information expertise and broaden their technological skill sets so that they’ll have at least a basic understanding of digitization, digital collection development, and other technologies to help them do their work in serving their communities. There needs to be more of “accidental government information librarian” webinars, but also in-person workshops similar to ICPSR’s 5-day workshops on data services.

Library administrations also need to be more supportive of the need for govt information librarians to travel to conferences (GODORT, DLC, etc) as that is where we learn from our colleagues and move the entire field forward.

16. How can expertise be spread to all librarians beyond FDLP designated librarians?

Every FDLP library ought to:

–reach out and make contact with other FDLP- and non-FDLP libraries in their area.
–Arrange viewings of GPO trainings for libraries in their city. There have been some very good ones.
–Consider site visits or virtual office hours for library staff at their institutions and around their cities.

Depositories ought to blog their reference questions. GIO chat service (http://govtinfo.org) should do that as well. This “seeds the cloud” and allows librarians and the public to more easily find government information resources.

Documents librarians should put in proposals to their state conferences.

Local GODORT chapters ought to consider emulating North Carolina’s Accidental Docs Librarian webinar series.

Government information librarians should have ongoing workshops within their own libraries.

17. How can core competencies related to government information be developed for all librarians?

See 15 and 16.

I believe GODORT is already working on core competencies within the GODORT Education Committee. The 21st Century Government Information initiative on WebJunction might be another place to look for core competencies.

The American Library Association has a vested interest in the development of skills, services, and advancement of the FDLP program. ALA’s role is to assist and support librarians and library workers who work with government information. ALA’s expertise contributes to national discussions and government policies and ALA can provide assistance in bringing together a variety of partners to advance a common goal.

18. How can ALA assist in the development of an FDLP preservation plan?

Adopt the Digital Surrogate Seal of Approval (DSSOA) and encourage individual libraries to do the same for their digitization projects. ALA can facilitate a national discussion and inventory of government documents. ALA can also advocate for a “government information librarian in every library” as a way to further the goals of a preservation plan as well as ongoing collection development and public service to library communities of all shapes and sizes.

19. How can ALA work with other association and entities to advance an FDLP preservation plan?

Lobby Congress for appropriate levels of funding and against long-term privatization of digital access. No cost should be for taxpayers, NOT agencies. Reach out to other organizations on the need for an FDLP preservation plan. Argue strongly for the continuing need for both local collections AND government information librarians in every library. Also advocate inclusion of historic government publications in consortial shared storage projects like the Western Regional Storage Trust (WEST).

20. What future actions should ALA pursue to advance an FDLP national preservation plan?

See #19. Sponsor (or help produce sponsorable projects) to investigate the digitization challenges of a heterogeneous collection such as FDLP’s and investigate the preservation, access, and usability requirements for the long term for such collections.

Accept that digitization is probably not the best approach for PRESERVING tangible documents. Consider microfilming or geographically dispersed high density storage facilities of last resort. ALA should prioritize preservation measures for born digital materials which seem to be decaying quickly through link rot.

ALA draft resolutions dealing with govt documents. Tell your ALA Councilor to support #ALA2013

There are several draft ALA resolutions having to do with government information kicking around ALA 2013 annual conference. While there’s still a way to go before these resolutions are passed by ALA Council, I thought folks might be interested enough in these to grab their nearest ALA Councilor and tell them to vote for these resolutions in support of free government information, open government and transparency. They’re important to both libraries AND the public!!

I’ve heard that the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) has 2 resolutions dealing with Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and the importance of whistleblowers to open government and the democratic process. But I haven’t yet seen the text for these two.

We at FGI have been working on one with “GODORT mother” Bernadine Abbott Hoduski, Al Kagan (SRRT) and a couple of others titled “Resolution on Digitization of U.S. Government Documents.” It comes out of our discussion and white paper “Wait! Don’t Digitize and Discard!” spurred by COL FDLP task force report’s discussion question #1a which said “Should libraries be allowed to de-accession and destroy these collections for the greater good of broader on-line access?”

Draft Resolution on Digitization of U.S. Government Documents

WHEREAS the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) was designed to provide public access to government information through a cooperative network of depository libraries; and

WHEREAS designated FDLP libraries have successfully preserved and provided access to government information for more than two hundred years; and

WHEREAS the historic paper FDLP collections contain valuable, irreplaceable information and remain critical for concrete representation and analysis of the policies, procedures, and workings of the Federal government and the United States as a whole; and

WHEREAS digitization technologies provide opportunities to enhance access to and utilization of printed collections, and complement rather than replace paper copies of government documents; and

WHEREAS FDLP libraries and the Government Printing Office (GPO) remain committed to providing preservation of, access to, and services for valuable government information in all formats; and

WHEREAS the reliability, functional utility, and preservability of digitized documents varies tremendously depending on the processes used in the digitization;

Therefore be it resolved that the American Library Association (ALA):

1. supports and encourages the preservation of Federal Depository Libraries’ (FDL) paper collections;
2. opposes policies that would result in the destruction of FDL paper collections;
3. supports technologies that guarantee long-term, robust, verifiable, complete, accurate, authentic, preservable, and usable digital formats;
4. work with the Government Printing Office (GPO) and the FDL community on developing procedures to authenticate and ingest digital content into FDsys digitizations that come from FDL libraries and federal agencies; and
5. supports the creation of an inventory of digitized government publications with records that include information on quality, completeness, accuracy, features, availability, limitations, costs, utility, and trusted preservation, and provide links to records in OCLC and GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications so that libraries can download batch MARC metadata.

The second draft resolution of interest is currently working its way through the Committee on Legislation’s Government Information Subcommittee (COL GIS) and deals with the issue of govt agencies suddenly taking down Web sites or databases (e.g., NASA technical reports server or National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII))


WHEREAS Federal information produced at taxpayer expense should remain permanently accessible to the public free of charge; and

WHEREAS “In the past half-century, information creation, distribution, retention, and preservation has expanded from a tangible, paper-based process to include digital processes managed largely through computerized information technologies.” (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42457.pdf p. ii); and

WHEREAS some Federal agencies have created independent web sites and/or have worked in partnership with each other and with external entities to build integrated web sites to share information with the public; and

WHEREAS web archiving is a fundamental part of managing digital government information, there exists an ISO standard for web archive formats (ISO28500:2009, WARC), the preferred format for web sites harvested by the Library of Congress, and

WHEREAS some Federal agency web sites, such as the Census Bureau’s American FactFinder, provide data and publications only for a specific period of time and make older information unavailable, often without providing an explanation for withdrawing that information or ensuring archival access to it; and

WHEREAS when, due to funding or other reasons, a Federal agency can no longer maintain a web site either in whole or as a partner, this web site is dismantled and the information made inaccessible because no procedures or policies are in place to assure that the data will be transferred to another publically accessible repository, along with appropriate metadata, software applications, or other means for manipulating, analyzing or evaluating the data retrieved; and

WHEREAS, organizations, such as the Internet Archive, the California Digital Library and the University of North Texas, are unable to comprehensively archive information found on government agency web sites, but are archiving information only selectively at their own expense and/or with limited connection to the Federal government; and

WHEREAS agencies such as the Government Printing Office (GPO), the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Library of Congress (LC), are already authorized by law to provide information services to other agencies and should be included in a plan for the disposal or transfer of information in web sites; and

WHEREAS the National Academy of Public Administration recommended that “Congress should establish a collaborative interagency process, and designate a lead agency or interagency organization, to develop and implement a government-wide strategy for managing the lifecycle of digital government information;”

Therefore be it resolved that the American Library Association (ALA):

1) requests Congress designate the Government Printing Office or interagency organization the lead agency to develop a United States federal government-wide strategy for managing the lifecycle of digital government publications, documents, information, and web sites;

2) requests Congress authorize the Government Printing Office or interagency organization develop and administer standards and procedures for the United States federal government which include rules for dismantling sites and archiving web content, including the preservation of all pertinent data protocols, documentation, and software programs for evaluating and manipulating the content for permanent public access;

3) requests that the Government Printing Office or interagency organization be required to consult with the United States federal publishing agencies, the National Libraries, and professional library and archiving groups in the development of these standards and procedures;

4) requests that the Government Printing Office or interagency organization that handles the archiving of web content be given sufficient funding to perform its duties on an ongoing basis and additional funding as necessary to fully assist agencies when they are forced to decommission a web site.

Passed in principle by COL-GIS Saturday, June 29, 2013
Passed in principle by GODORT Legislation Saturday, June 29, 2013



The first recommendation made in the report is:

“Recommendation 1. To enable the federal government to carry out its role of providing information to its citizens, Congress should establish a collaborative interagency process, and designate a lead agency or interagency organization, to develop and implement a government-wide strategy for managing the lifecycle of digital government information.”

A pertinent quote from page 21:

“Data needs to be managed, maintained, and stored. Cloud storage may provide an opportunity for originating agencies to standardize formats, and simply transfer control of the information to another agency (like NARA, LC, or GPO) at appropriate times in the information’s lifecycle.”



Click to access archiveit_life_cycle_model.pdf