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It is time for the biennial survey of FDLP libraries and, therefore, a good time to review “digital deposit.”
Digital deposit is a very simple concept: It simply means that GPO should treat digital and non-digital government information the same way. In so doing, GPO would allow FDLP libraries to select digital government information and GPO would deposit that digital information with the library. Libraries could then build their own digital collections and provide their own digital services for those collections. This is completely different from GPO’s definition of “online depositories” that point to, but do not have, digital files. In the digital deposit scenario, libraries would continue to be depositories regardless of format. 
Over the last twelve years, GPO has asked questions on the the biennial surveys that reveal meaningful FDLP library interest in digital deposit. GPO did not ask the same question on every survey and this makes it difficult to compare results over time. In spite of this, the responses from the FDLP community were remarkably consistent.
For example, when asked (in various ways) if libraries were interested in receiving files via digital deposit, hundreds of FDLP libraries consistently said they were interested: 394 in 2005, 453 in 2007, 416 in 2009, and 300 in 2015. (See the Appendix, below, for the details of all the numbers quoted in this post.)
Now that GPO is
testing the implementation of implementing the Regional Discard Policy, it is time to finally get answers to the important questions that GPO has not addressed over the last two years.
Although we have asked many questions about this policy, our concerns boil down to one simple question: Will FDLP — and more importantly, the public! — lose information when Regionals discard their historic collections? To answer that question, we just need to know if GPO’s implementation of the Policy will ensure that the paper preservation copies of discarded volumes and their digital surrogates are complete and accurate.
We now know that the implementation will not prevent loss of information.
In October 2015, GPO announced that it would begin testing processes and procedures of the new Regional Discard Policy with six regional depositories in January of 2016. GPO provided little description of how the policy would be implemented beyond the policy itself, leaving many important questions unanswered.
GPO has now provided links to three draft implementation documents, a recording of an information webinar, and some other “informational resources.” This provides the FDLP community with the first indications of how GPO is interpreting its new Policy and how it intends to implement it.
There are still many unanswered questions, but we now have the first solid indications of how GPO intends to balance preservation of (and access to) the FDLP Historical Collections while discarding them.
We analyzed GPO’s earlier implementation statements in a previous post. We also asked specific questions about implementation in an open letter to GPO, and, in a separate post, we review the few answers to those questions that we can infer from this new batch of documents.
In this post we focus on the big picture and the most important things FDLP librarians need to understand about GPO’s implementation of the Policy.
I was lucky enough to attend last month’s “Digital Preservation of Federal Information Summit”, 2 days chock full of discussion, brainstorming, scoping, strategizing etc. The group has now released its Reflections Report (PDF). The meeting goal was to “engage national leaders in a structured, facilitated dialogue on at-risk digital government records and information…and explore the development of a national agenda to address the preservation and access of priority content in this area.” And that it did. With this document, in conjunction with our recently published Strategic Planning part I and part II, I’m hopeful that there is a critical mass of librarians and archivists to actually put words to concerted actions. We’re planning next steps now, so let your administrators know that we’ll need all hands on deck.
On April 3-4, 2016, stakeholders from a variety of public and private organizations, including archivists, librarians, technologists, program officers, executive directors, and others gathered in San Antonio for the Digital Preservation of Federal Information Summit.The Summit focused on the important topic of preservation and access to at-risk digital government information.
The aim of the meeting was to 1) engage in a structured and facilitated dialogue with national leaders on these topics, and 2) to begin the development of a national agenda to address the preservation of access for the most pressing categories of at-risk digital government information. The focus was sustaining digital, not print, collections of government information. The summit offered facilitated sessions structured to produce several outcomes, including determining priorities for digital government records and information preservation action, and practical next steps to address these priorities.
A Reflections Report prepared by summit facilitators and edited by attendees is now available for feedback and input from other interested parties. Access the report here: http://blogs.library.unt.edu/untdocsblog/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2016/05/2016_Digital_Preservation_Summit_ReflectionsReport.pdf
It is that time of year when we tend to look back at what has happened over the last 12 months and look forward to what we anticipate in the coming year. The urge to look back and see what has happened comes, usually, not so much from nostalgia as from a desire to evaluate recent activities: Have we accomplished something, or stood still, or regressed? And the urge to look forward is an opportunity to understand the challenges that are coming at us and imagine the opportunities to do better in the coming year.
It is a little late for a traditional end-of-year/beginning-of-year post, so, rather than looking at specific things that GPO, FDLP, and FDLP libraries have accomplished in the recent past or might accomplish in the near future, we’d like to twist the ritual a bit and take a slightly different tack. Today we will quickly examine how FDLP too often simply compares today to yesterday — and why this is a bad thing.
As FGI readers will know, OMB has asked the public for comments and suggestions to revise its Circular A-130 “Managing Information as a Strategic Resource.” Interestingly, they have chosen to manage the commenting process on http://github.com, the collaborative software versioning and management site.
We at FGI have submitted a comment (or “issue” in GitHub parlance) at: https://github.com/ombegov/a130/issues/65. We could really use readers’ help in raising awareness of library issues at OMB and in their A-130 policy to executive agencies. Please go to GitHub and leave a comment or additional suggestion on that issue. The more comments an issue gets, the more likely that OMB will take the suggestion seriously. You can also add your own suggestions/issues [see instructions at https://a130.cio.gov].
We the FGI editors thank you for your assistance!
OMB’s Circular A-130 “Managing Information as a Strategic Resource” — along with the 1980 Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) 94 Stat. 2812, which “establishes a broad mandate for agencies to perform their information resources management activities in an efficient, effective, and economical manner” – do not directly address and therefore have had unintended negative consequences for long-term access to and preservation of Federal government information.
These policies, along with agency practices of using the web for distribution without attending to consistent standards or to preservation, have resulted in the creation of many incompatible, inconsistent, often badly indexed and difficult to use agency web sites and a propagation of “deep Web” .gov databases. This not only makes it more difficult for individuals to find and use the government information they need, it also makes it difficult for institutions to identify, acquire, describe, and preserve agency “publication information” (defined in draft A-130 line 1066) for the long-term. Such institutions include the Government Publishing Office (GPO), libraries in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), the Internet Archive, and institutions (like Sunlight Foundation, the Government Accountability Project and Open The Government) that promote open-government and government transparency.
Draft A-130 mentions “threats” on page 1, but does not mention the threat of loss of information because of insufficient preservation actions. We recommend therefore that A-130 be updated to require that all government agencies facilitate preservation of and long-term free public access to their publications. This would put the same requirement onto information produced at government expense by government agencies that the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other government funding agencies put onto the data produced by government funded research.
Every government agency should be required to have an “Information Management Plan” for the public information it acquires, assembles, creates, and disseminates. The Information Management Plan should specify how the agency’s public information will be preserved for long-term, free public access and use including its deposit in a reputable, trusted, government or non-government digital repository (including, but not limited to GPO’s FDsys). All executive agencies should deposit their publications in FDsys.gov and their data in data.gov.
As one aspect of implementation of the Information Management Plan, we recommend that every government agency be required to make its own website compatible with a few basic, consistent requirements to make it easier for the public to discover, acquire and use its information. Each agency’s site – including subdomains – should be required to:
1) Follow Web standards and design their sites with site maps. All agency sites should be Archive ready (http://archiveready.com);
2) Use a standardized directory structure that identifies major types of information (e.g., ../publications ../data ../video ../blog ../podcast ../pressreleases ../rss etc);
3) Have permanent urls in the form of DOIs or some other standard for all agency publications and other information products.
Updating A-130 for the 21st century to take full advantage of the Internet will bring executive agencies in line with the White House’s Open Government Initiative, will facilitate public access, will require the preservation of agency publications, and will facilitate economic efficiency by encouraging centralized digital preservation while allowing for the use and expansion of non-government digital repositories.
James A. Jacobs and James R. Jacobs
Free Government Information