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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.

Focusing on the essentials at DLC

In anticipation of this week’s Depository Library Council meeting, FGI suggests a focus on the biggest challenges facing long-term preservation and access.

The scope of the challenges we face is large and clear. The quantity of government information that is “born-digital” each year is literally orders of magnitude greater than the quantity of government publications accumulated over the entire 200+ year history of the FDLP. (Born-Digital U.S. Federal Government Information: Preservation and Access). Although the redundancy of copies of the historical FDLP paper collections ensures at least their passive preservation, repeated calls for discarding those collections endanger both the preservation of that content as well as access to it. Consequently, the inadequacy of bibliographic records for those collections now poses a significant threat to their long-term preservation and access. In this time of proliferation of government information, it is essential for the FDLP to have a clear understanding of exactly what information exists, what is being preserved, and who is accepting responsibility for long-term preservation of and free access to government information.

Congressional support of government information programs is at an all time low. Over the last decade, appropriations bills have steadily decreased budgetary support for the Government Publishing Office (GPO). This year, a House bill proposes 9% cut to GPO’s budget – a cut that would negatively affect the maintenance and development of FDsys. Additionally, Congress has proposed shuttering the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) and Congressional pressure resulted in taking NASA technical reports offline. Anti-government sentiment is so strong it is difficult for agencies to reliably maintain even essential basic services (including GPO’s own PURL server) and Congress has even shut down the entire government more than once and some in Congress continue to threaten future shutdowns. While GPO is doing a good job of preserving in Fdsys most born-digital official Congressional information, preservation of the digital information of the Judicial and Executive branches is haphazard, uncoordinated and fragile. GPO has (with the acquiescence of FDLP libraries) arrogated to itself the job of being solely responsible for preservation of born-digital government information. This has actually weakened the infrastructure of preservation by changing a system that relied on 1200 partners to a system that depends on a single government agency. In this context, a single budget cut would mean a loss of a huge quantity of digital government information – if not for the innovative, active cooperation of a hardy band of FDLP libraries that participate in the LOCKSS U.S. Documents project. (This project only serves as backup of the information in FDsys and does not, currently, provide any means of making that information accessible.) In this time of fragile support for government action, it is more essential than ever to reverse the twenty year old model of centralization and return to a model of shared responsibility with the participation of as many non-profit, service-oriented libraries as possible.

It is time for specifics and time for libraries that claim to value permanent free access to government information to step up and take new digital-library responsibilities. GPO’s proposed “National plan for access to US government information” and “Federal Information Preservation Network (FIPNet)”) have, so far, been vague outlines with few specifics. We at FGI propose that FDLP librarians and GPO use this week’s virtual Depository Library Council (DLC) meeting to 1) clarify the existing state of government information; and 2) specify an agenda for what is needed in order to have a successful national library plan for a sustainable system of government information collection, preservation and provision. We propose that DLC use this meeting to flesh out and expand the parameters of the discussion and more fully describe what needs to be done by the FDLP community. The following is our own take on these two ideas.

Clarifying the state of things

The current state of identification of government information is fragmented and incomplete. GPO uses the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) to meet its legal requirement to maintain an “electronic directory of Federal electronic information” (44USC4401). But the CGP is incomplete. It is complemented by the historic Monthly Catalog, the 1909 Checklist, and GPO’s “shelflist” project. GPO’s online digital collections (which include FDsys, the Federal Depository Library Program Web Archive, and the Federal Depository Library Program Electronic Collection (FDLP/EC) Archive provide additional, but still incomplete, pieces of the bibliographic puzzle. HathiTrust’s government documents registry project promises to better define the breadth and depth of the historic national bibliography, but it has a limited scope. These separate projects provide an incomplete and confusing picture and they fail to provide any unified tool for managing long-term preservation and access. There are at least two areas in particular that require clarification:

  1. GPO’s PURL policies and actions. GPO uses PURLs to provide permanent URLs to digital resources, but it is not clear how GPO policies ensure accurate linkage of metadata to digital objects. For example, we understand that some PURLs point to agency web sites and some point to digital objects in permanent.access.gpo.gov. GPO should provide answers to the following questions:
    • How does GPO deal with the metadata for information that changes (not just moves) on agency web sites?

    • Are there clear policies that govern the creation of PURLs and how they are checked for accuracy over time?

    • Is there metadata that clarifies the relationship between agency copies and GPO copies?

    • Is there a reason that GPO forbids the Internet Archive to harvest documents using PURLs?

    • Are there polices that deal with versioning of digital documents?

    • Has GPO compared the functionality of PURLs and the functionality of DOIs and the possibility of pointing to multiple copies of the same item?

    (For reference, here are examples of existing PURLs):

    Note: All 3 of the above PURLs had the same error message in the Internet Archive’s wayback machine: “Page cannot be crawled or displayed due to robots.txt.”

    The final landing pages for the above GPO PURLs in wayback machine and got mixed results:


  2. Questions about GPO Web Harvesting.

What we need

In order to define the national bibliography, bring it under the control of GPO and FDLP libraries and accurately and successfully manage FDLP collections (paper, born-digital, and digitized) for the long-term, the FDLP (and the public!) need accurate, complete, up-to-date, unified metadata for all FDLP ‘publications.’ This includes:


  • everything in FDsys
  • everything with a PURL.
  • everything in permanent.access.gpo.gov
  • everything in GPO’s Archive-It collection
  • Every Executive agency’s Website (ideally including the proposed development of ../publications and ../data directories on every agency site)
  • Every digital surrogate qualifying for the Digital Surrogate Seal of Approval to assure quality and completeness of digitizations.


  • Metadata should accurately link to specific digital objects
  • Metadata should have specific information about versions and editions and the relationship of GPO copies to agency copies of web-harvested information.
  • Metadata should include an indication about who is providing preservation services.

What libraries can do to help

  • Expand the HT registry through a process of collaborative cataloging and metadata creation. Even cataloging one document per month aids in the ongoing effort to thoroughly describe the national bibliography;
  • Develop and participate in a new, digital [[Farmington Plan]] in which libraries divvy up, adopt, and track digital documents from executive agencies;
  • Participate in fugitive hunting (see “Want to be a fugitive hunter?”);
  • Develop tools for collaborative and targeted Web harvesting and community crowd-sourcing of Web crawl Quality Assurance (QA) (i.e., tuning Web harvests and checking to make sure they collect the targeted material);
  • Manage historic collections with a more geographically holistic view toward collection access and preservation;
  • Develop and participate in community-based projects for contacting executive agency CIOs/CTOs to advocate for ingest of agency publications and data into FDsys.

And the list could go on. Some of these tasks are large and expensive, but some of them can be done on a regular basis in as little as 1 hour/month. The FDLP needs all hands on deck. One thing is for sure: if FDLP libraries and librarians do not step up to the admittedly large task of continuing to build digital FDLP collections, we could potentially see the end of the historic record.

We look forward to the coming conversations.

Jim Jacobs and James R. Jacobs

See also

Acting Public Printer names new cohort to Depository Library Council

Congratulations to Greta Bever, Roberta Brooker, Elizabeth Cowell, Kate Irwin-Smiler, and Hallie Pritchett for being named as this year’s cohort to the Depository Library Council to the Public Printer! Looking forward to seeing you all on the dais at the fall 2013 DLC conference.

The five new DLC members for the June 1, 2013 – May 31, 2016 term are:

Greta Bever is the Assistant Commissioner for Central Library Services at the Chicago Public Library, which has been a Federal depository library since 1876. In that capacity, she oversees the Government Publications department. From 2003 to 2008, Ms. Bever served as a member of the Illinois State Historical Records Advisory Board/Illinois State Archive Advisory Board that makes recommendations to the State Archivist and provides advice and assistance to the Illinois State Archives. She has been a member of the Cook County Local Records Board from 2003 to the present.

Roberta Brooker is the State Librarian at the Indiana State Library, a regional Federal depository library that began collecting Federal laws and other Federal materials when it was established in 1824. She brings to Council a government documents background as well as experience as a coordinator for the Indiana State Data Center. Ms. Brooker has an extensive background in training, including teaching government information courses at the Indiana University, School of Library and Information Science. She is a member of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) and the Indiana Library Foundation.

Elizabeth Cowell is the Associate University Librarian for Public Services at the University of California, Santa Cruz where she provides strategic leadership for public service activities locally and UC systemwide. She has extensive government documents experience in several academic libraries and was an active participant in the LOCKSS Alliance. Ms. Cowell also served as one of two regional librarians at the Wisconsin Historical Society. She has contributed numerous presentations and publications to the field and actively participates in professional associations.

Kate Irwin-Smiler is a reference librarian at the Wake Forest University School of Law’s Professional Center Library in Winston-Salem, N.C., where she also serves as coordinator of the depository library collection. She brings to Council expertise on legal information and legal training. Ms. Irwin-Smiler is a member of the American???? ?Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and serves on the association’s Federal Depository Library Program Task Force. She is also a member of AALL’s Academic Law Libraries, Government Document and Social Responsibility Special Interest Sections.

Hallie Pritchett is head of the Map and Government Information Library at the University of Georgia, the state’s regional Federal depository library. Ms. Pritchett participates in numerous library associations, including the American Library Association (ALA) and the Georgia Library Association (GLA). She is permanent executive secretary of GLA’s Government Information Interest Group (GIIG), immediate past chair of ALA’s Map and Geospatial Information Round Table (MAGIRT), and current chair of the Regional Government Information Librarians (REGIL).

DLC 2012 proceedings now online and free O’Reilly webinar on metadata sharing

For those that missed the fall 2012 Depository Library Conference — and for those who want to go back and check their notes — you’ll be happy to know that the DLC conference proceedings are now online! There were many informative and interesting sessions of course. But one in particular I’d like to highlight was Chris Brown’s presentation, “Fiche Online: A Vision for Digitizing All Documents Fiche” (PDF). I’m excited to see that Chris Brown is moving ahead with this project as I’ve been thinking of a project similar to this for a long time — and have been requesting purchase of a scanner able to do batch scanning for a few years in order to work on this (one of these days, that proposal will get funded!). But what really piqued my interest was when Chris mentioned that he’d like to change the mindset on digitization projects. He called for not only digitization, but the public sharing of metadata (he called it a “record distribution model”). In this model, digitizing libraries would make their records available via harvest/FTP or some other method and other libraries would then be able to ingest those records into their own discovery environments. I wholeheartedly agree!!

Chris’ presentation and mind-shift proposal are connected to the following FREE O’Reilly webinar in which Pilar Wyman, the President of the American Society for Indexing (ASI), will discuss the very idea that Chris has proposed. Hope you can “attend”!

Adding Value with Metadata: Open up the Index
Friday, November 9, 2012
10AM PT, San Francisco
6pm – London | 1pm – New York | Sat, Nov 10th at 5am – Sydney | Sat, Nov 10th at 3am – Tokyo | Sat, Nov 10th at 2am – Beijing | 11:30pm – Mumbai

Presented by: Pilar Wyman

Duration: Approximately 60 minutes.

Cost: Free

In this webcast presentation we’ll explore new paths for reusing content metadata for discovery and recommendations. Indexes are one of the most detailed metadata sets available for your content, and can be used to search, recommend, explore, and create buyers for your publications.

We’ll talk about:

  • baseline metadata
  • semantic markup
  • whether you need controlled vocabularies across multiple publications
  • displaying mashups of multiple indexes
  • incorporating social input

About Pilar Wyman

Pilar Wyman is the President of the American Society for Indexing (ASI), the voice of excellence in indexing. A veteran freelance indexer with her own successful business, she is also an active member of the ASI Digital Trends Task Force, which was formed in 2011 to address the continuing and rapidly increasing evolution of book publishing from traditional print to eBook formats. The DTTF was a key player in the recent International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) inclusion of indexes in the EPUB standard, and continues to work with the IDPF Indexes Working Group. Within her own indexing and via the DTTF, Pilar and ASI are currently engaged with publishers, hardware manufacturers, and software developers to design and create smart indexes for the digital age.

Public Printer names 2012 members of Depository Library Council #FDLP

Hot off the presses! Congratulations to Steve Beleu, Chris Brown, Marie Concannon, Rosemary LaSala, and Larry Romans who’ve just been named to Depository Library Council!. It’s hard work, but, speaking as an outgoing Councilor (and outgoing Chair!), it’s an extremely rewarding experience. Good luck new Councilors!!

Acting Public Printer Names New Members to Depository Library Council

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 6, 2012 No. 12-15
MEDIA CONTACT: GARY SOMERSET 202.512.1957, 202.355.3997 cell gsomerset@gpo.gov


WASHINGTON-Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks is pleased to announce the appointment of five new members to the Depository Library Council (DLC).

The Council, composed of 15 members each of whom serve three year terms, advises the Public Printer on policy matters relating to the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). The FDLP, which traces its roots to 1813, provides access across America to the published information of all three Branches of the United States Government through partnerships with more than 1,200 libraries ranging from public libraries to research universities.

“I am very pleased to appoint these five librarians to the Depository Library Council. They are all proven leaders in the depository community and their experience and expertise will be invaluable as the Council advises me on the issues facing the Federal Depository Library Program,” says Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks.

The five new DLC members for the June 1, 2012 – May 31, 2015 term are:

Steve Beleu is one of Oklahoma’s two Regional Librarians for U.S. Government Information, as well as the Director of the Oklahoma State Data Center Coordinating Agency. Since 2003, Beleu has conducted over 243 workshops on several topics for the library community in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri. These efforts helped his library earn the Depository Library of the Year award in 2009. Beleu is currently working with Oklahoma’s four Tribal Colleges to introduce Federal Government Web sites to their faculty and staff.

Christopher Brown is the Reference/Government Documents Librarian at University of Denver’s Penrose Library. Brown has published and presented extensively about matters related to online Government information. His contributions to the FDLP include new ideas involving tracking online usage, adding URLs to older documents, and providing more granular statistics for PURL clickthroughs from local online public access catalogs and Web sites.

Marie Concannon is the Government Documents Regional Coordinator at University of Missouri (Columbia)’s Elmer Ellis Library. Concannon is a strong advocate for promoting the FDLP and for preserving historic documents, both digital and tangible. Concannon is active in several national and local library organizations, including the American Library Association (ALA), the Missouri Library Association (MLA), the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), and the Government Documents Roundtable (GODORT).

Rosemary LaSala is the Reference/ Government Collections Librarian at St. John’s University Rittenberg Law Library in Jamaica, New York. She is the current president of the Government Information Roundtable (GIRT), and a past chair of The Government Documents Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). LaSala was the recipient of the 2008 Mildred Lowe Award given by the New York Library Association Government Information Roundtable in recognition of her outstanding contributions to Government Documents Librarianship.

Larry Romans is Head of Government Information and Media Services at Vanderbilt University’s Central Library in Nashville, Tennessee. He has been a leader in the depository community for many years, contributing numerous presentations and publications to the field, and actively participating in many professional associations. Romans has been a member of ALA’s governing Council since 1992, served on the ALA Executive Board from 2007-2010, and served as chair of ALA/GODORT. He won the 1995 ProQuest Documents to the People Award and the 2008 James Bennett Childs Award for lifetime and significant contribution to the field of documents librarianship.

Live blogging Depository Library Conference Spring 2011 #dlc11s

We’ll be live blogging once again at the Spring 2011 Depository Library Conference from San Antonio, TX. With a new Public Printer and Superintendent of Documents, the discussions are sure to be interesting. The 3 plenary sessions will be especially interesting and include discussions on PACER, future needs and goals of the FDLP and a weds morning session on permanent public access to digital material with a panel from HathiTrust, Internet Archive, GPO staff and Chris Brown.

The twitter hashtag #dlc11s and #dlc11 will show up in the live blog so we hope many of the attendees will tweet their thoughts and comments. Twapper Keeper now has a subscription model, so the only archive of tweets will be the live blog.

If anyone would like to volunteer to be a DLC reporter and use CoverItLive to track the conference, please contact me ASAP at freegovinfo AT gmail DOT com.