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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.

GPO’s Essential Titles List feedback needed by Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Recently, the Government Printing Office (GPO) sent out to various library listservs a proposed revision of the Essential Titles List. We at FGI urge you to read through the documents and spreadsheets and comment to the GPO by Tuesday, August 1, 2006. Unfortunately, at this time, comments are only being accepted from depository libraries, but I’m sure Judy Russell, the Superintendent of Documents, would also jrussell@gpo.gov“>appreciate hearing comments from the general public as well — AND of course you’re welcome to leave comments here and we will forward them on!

For those unfamiliar with this, digital/online is the primary means of “dissemination” of govt publications to depository libraries these days. However, the Essential Titles for Public Use in Paper Format “remain available for selection in paper format, so long as they are published in paper by the originating agency. These titles contain critical information about the activities of the U.S. Government or are important reference publications for libraries and the public.” Essential titles include such items as the “Budget of the United States Government,” “Code of Federal Regulations,” “County City Data Book,” and “Supreme Court Decisions.”

Before giving your comments, please look over the following documents::

And also before commenting, please think about my comments below after a first quick perusal of the documents (and by all means, let me know if I’m off-base!).

1) The first thing that jumped out at me is that, even though the first survey of FDLP libraries was generally agreed to be *hugely* flawed with less than a 50% response rate, and the Depository Library Council had recommended conducting another survey, GPO “believes that no significant information will be gained by doing another survey.”

2) The proposed 85% threshold for selection as an essential title is a rediculously high threshold and would mean that even titles selected by 1000 FDLP libraries would not qualify for “essential titlehood.” I can see after a quick scan of the Proposed Essential Titles spreadsheet at least 50 titles that are more usable in paper (which would fit the definition as laid out in SOD 301, Dissemination/Distribution Policy for the Federal Depository Library Program.” (PDF))

3) Phase 1 of the plan will be working from the aggregated list of libraries rather than by library type meaning titles that are vital to one type (for example law libraries which are a relatively small number of FDLP libraries) may not make it on the list.

4) This central plan based on most common denominators destroys item selection based on local community needs — which is a hallmark of the FDLP!

5) This plan also impacts the building of tangible collections needed for authentication and preservation/permanent public access — neither of which is ensured with digital govt information.

That’s enough for now. Please give us your comments/reactions to GPO’s proposal, but if you’ve got to choose between commenting here and commenting to GPO, comment to GPO. They need to hear from the library community AND the wider govt information user community (which includes students, researchers, teachers, retirees…). If you want usable, easy-to-find AND easy-to-use govt information that is preserved for generations to come, this is your chance to make your needs known.