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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.

FDLP biennial survey due tomorrow. Here’s my comments. What are yours?

If you’re like me, you’ve waited until the last minute to submit your 2015 FDLP Biennial Survey. Since this is the season of sharing, I thought I’d post the comments I submitted with my library’s survey. I’d love to hear what others commented. What issues and ideas were most on your minds? If you’re able to share, please do so in the comments. Or you can email me (freegovinfo AT gmail DOT com) if you’d prefer that I post anonymously.

The FDLP is adrift at precisely the wrong moment, in an era that should be an all-hands-on-deck situation in terms of FDLP collections. Collections remain, after all, the basis from which meaningful library services are built. But GPO’s and FDLP libraries’ focus seems elsewhere. Rather than redoubling efforts to collaborate with libraries to build digital collections and ensure that paper collections are adequately preserved and accessible, GPO has instead spent the last 2 years focusing on the needs of a few large libraries instead of the needs of users. GPO has seemed determined to let Regionals discard collections without regard for how that will affect present and future public users of govt information. The FDLP community is left to wonder what the new Discard policy really means for them and for their users, how it will be implemented, and what it means for the future of the FDLP.

GPO has been willing to stretch the intent of T44 in order to allow paper discard from Regional libraries, but unwilling do so to faciliate and promote digital deposit. GPO has been unwilling to create and lead a collaborative, digital FDLP that could supplement the limited enforceability of T44 and expand the reach of the FDLP.

Many FDLP libraries are willing and able to accept digital deposit, but, instead of collaborating with FDLP libraries under T44, GPO has preferred to arrogate all preservation and access to itself. Digital deposit has been on the FDLP biennial survey since at least 2005, yet GPO has failed to respond to the willingness by FDLP libraries to build a collaborative, digital FDLP, preferring, apparently to set up new, secretive “parnerships” separate and apart from the FDLP.

GPO has not done enough to assure that ALL govt information within FDLP scope is collected, cataloged, distributed and preserved. GPO has done far too little about the rapidly growing fugitive issue, with only a small pilot web archiving project and no calls for or efforts at community collaboration. GPO’s training, while honorable in intent, has been overly simplistic and has focused on issues of only peripheral importance while ignoring the big issues (e.g. digital collection development) and not training depository librarians in the skills needed to to adequately deal with them.

GPO needs to refocus its efforts on born-digital fugitive documents, lead real and meaningful collaborative efforts for preservation and access, and use this network of 1200 libraries to tackle the important issues of the day. We’re ready for this to happen.

Hundreds of libraries waiting for digital deposit

The Government Printing Office (GPO) presented an update of their recent work to a Mid-Winter meeting of the American Library Association last week in San Antonio.

As part of that update, Superintendent of Documents Judy Russell made partial results of the biennial survey of federal depository libraries public.

Ms. Russell shared the results of two questions related to digital deposit of federal electronic publications, based on 987 responses to the biennial survey. There are approximately 1250 libraries in the program, so at least 261 libraries have not yet been heard from. By law, all depository libraries must complete this survey, so I expect full results later this spring.

On to the questions themselves and their results. Question 65 was related to current depository efforts at local collection of federal electronic publications. Currently there is no distribution mechanism, so depositories have to actively gather and store materials.

65: My library systematically downloads, stores online publications identified from GPO Access or through GPO-created PURLS, and makes them accessible to the general public from local servers. This past year my library downloaded the following number of digital publication files (this does not include shipping lists, Web pages, or datasets):
0 = 823 libraries
1-25 = 90
26-100 = 25
101-500 = 26
501-1000 = 7
1001-5000 = 11
More than 5000 = 4

Even in the absence of a distribution system for federal electronic publications from GPO, 163 libraries are storing local copies of federal pubs. Based on a depository community of 1,250 libraries, this represents 13% of all depository libraries. One in ten libraries are already doing more than what GPO is asking of them.

The other “digital deposit” question asked libraries how many digital documents they might be willing to store and serve locally, if GPO provided them. No distribution mechanism was proposed.

66. My library is willing to receive Federal digital publication files on deposit from GPO, store them, and make the accessible to the general public from local servers. My library is willing to receive the following number of digital publication files per year (this does not include shipping lists, Web pages, or databases):
0 = 652 libraries
1-25 = 176
26-100 = 56
101-500 = 41
501-1000 = 26
1001-5000 = 14
More than 5000 = 21

This question tells me that 334 libraries are willing to at least make a trial of storing and serving electronic materials locally. These libraries represent more than a quarter of the depository community. Surely this should be a call to establish a formal deposit system for electronic publications for depositories to try.

Even without a formal digital deposit proposal, over a hundred libraries are willing to store and serve more than 100 documents per year. Even if these hundred libraries are the only ones to step forward, that’s a far higher level of backup and redundancy than the current system has. I believe that’s worth GPO committing to a system of local, distributed system of electronic deposit such as the one described in Government Information in the Digital Age: The Once and Future Federal Depository Library Program, today.

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