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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.

Federal Data Strategy: PEGI Project response

The Preservation of Electronic Government Information (PEGI) Project (of which I’m a board member) just submitted comments to the Department of Commerce concerning “Leveraging Data as a Strategic Asset Phase 1 Comments” [Docket Number USBC-2018-0011 (Federal Register)]. This is just the first round of requests for comments, with other comment periods coming up in October, 2018, January, 2019, and April, 2019.

Read the RFC from PEGI or download a copy of the letter here.


In establishing governance practices for strategically managing Federal data, an advisory board should be established to make recommendations for data management and stewardship, with substantial representation from academic and non-profit communities.[1] These communities act on behalf of the broad public interest in Federal data investments, and can advise on how Federal data stewards can responsibly leverage emerging best practices for data lifecycle management. For example, the Open Government Data Principles (https://public.resource.org/8_principles.html) developed by public advocates in 2007 articulate a public-first approach to government data to ensure that the investment in these resources is fully realized.

In general, data management practices should incorporate a lifecycle evaluation process that articulates immediate, short-term, and long-term actions, incorporating strategies that address data discoverability, accessibility, usability, and preservation. We note that the FAIR Principles (https://www.go-fair.org/fair-principles/) are in widespread adoption as guidance for responsible data lifecycle management, and propose that Federal data governance strategies seek to address these principles.

Integration with Federal information policy is essential for aligning Federal data practices with public information dissemination practices. To that end, Office of Management & Budget policies, including Circular A-130, should be amended to address public information lifecycle management, including data management, for all information dissemination products.[2] 

via Federal Data Strategy: PEGI Project Response — PEGI Project.

McCaskill amendment to H.R. 195 set to gut Congressional printing. Act now!

The Federal Register is the official journal of the federal government of the United States that contains government agency rules, proposed rules, and public notices. There’s a particularly damaging bill, H.R. 195: Federal Register Printing Savings Act of 2017, winding its way through Congress, having already passed the House, reported out of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and is pending action and vote on the Senate floor. If passed, the bill — “To amend title 44, United States Code, to restrict the distribution of free printed copies of the Federal Register to Members of Congress and other officers and employees of the United States, and for other purposes” — would restrict the printing of copies of the Federal Register only to Members of Congress and Government officials.

What’s even worse, FGI sources say that Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is set to propose an amendment to HR 195 that would eliminate the printing not only of the Federal Register, but of copies of congressional hearings, committee reports, and bills, resolutions, and amendments in both the Senate and the House.

If enacted, the amendment would prohibit the printing of these legislative documents for the use of both the Senate and the House. The dollar value of hearings, reports, and bills represents approximately 33%, or $26.3 million, of GPO’s total Congressional Publishing Appropriation of $78.5 million for FY 2018. As a result, the amendment would increase the cost of other congressional printing that remains with GPO, since GPO’s mandatory overhead costs — such as its Office of the Inspector General, police security, and other costs, which will still have to be recovered — will have to be spread over a smaller revenue base.

FDLP libraries needing access to print copies of hearings, reports, and bills for their patrons, including those in Missouri, won’t get them automatically anymore. Instead, the FDLP will have to requisition their printing, and the program will have to absorb all printing costs, which will result in a reduction of other services unless the appropriation for the Public Information Programs of the Superintendent of Documents is increased.

CONTACT SENATOR MCCASKILL NOW AND TELL HER TO KILL HER AMENDMENT AND VOTE NO! ON HR 195. And if you’re not from Missouri, please contact your Senators, ESPECIALLY those on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs!!

There was some very positive discussion about Title 44, Chapter 19 at last week’s DLC meeting. And nearly 1000 people have signed our petition in support of Title 44 and the FDLP (have you?!). But the FDLP community needs to be vigilant that positive FDLP updates to title 44 Chapter 19 do not provide cover for damaging movements of privatization and commercialization of govt information provision and GPO funding in other parts of title 44. Budgetary and operational impacts on GPO other than on chapter 19 — like HR 195! — can directly affect the FDLP program, libraries and public access just the same.

Changes to Title 44 would enhance accountability and kill printed Federal Register

The federal technology news site FCW.com reports that The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will vote on bills, which have been introduced in previous Congresses, that try to keep electronic government records from being altered or disappearing outright. One of the bills will also cease the printed version of the Federal Register.

H.R.1376 (The Electronic Message Preservation Act) would amend U.S. Code Title 44 to require that electronic messages that are deemed “Records” be preserved and made digitally accessible.

H.R.745, The Federal Records Modernization Act of 2017, requires that employees who tamper with, remove or destroy federal records be suspended or fired. It would also require agencies to publish online a description of records that have been — or may have been — lost, altered or destroyed. It will also stop the publication of a printed version of the Federal Register.

Law Library of Congress acquires Federal Register from Hein. Yay access, but questions remain

Here’s the good news: The Law Library of Congress has acquired the digital Federal Register (1936 – 1993) from Hein, which until now had only given licensed access to the collection to libraries which had subscribed. The collection is available from the LoC website.

But this raises a few troubling questions:

  1. While the collection seems to be in the Public Domain, the Library of Congress, in its agreement with Hein, states that access “precludes bulk downloading and commercial reuse” and “is provided for personal, educational, and research use.” I’m not a lawyer, but I was unaware that Public Domain material could have license restrictions placed on its use. This small print limits both public access and digital preservation efforts.
  2. Related to #1, I don’t mind the block on the commercial reuse, but bulk access would be very cool for the researchers I know who are interested in corpus and textual analysis. LC should have a process in place to facilitate that kind of access. Bulk access should also be allowed for Web harvesting and preservation efforts of the Internet Archive and others.
  3. The historical content is not yet available via FDsys (which has 1994 – present) or federalregister.gov (also 1994 – present), and I’m not sure if LC’s historical content will be integrated with the current content as it should be since the content 1994 – present is controlled by NARA and GPO. This also limits access as users will need to know that they need to search at least 2 sites to get access to the complete run of FRs.
  4. Related to #3, what will happen to the Government Publishing Office’s project in partnership with the National Archives currently underway to digitize the Federal Register itself and make it available via FDsys/govinfo.gov/federalregister.gov? If GPO and NARA decide that LC’s access is good enough, will they pull the plug on their project? This would be a very bad thing because the GPO/NARA project *will* give access to the historic run (1936 – 1993) in conjunction with the material already available on FDsys and federalregister.gov. And that content will no doubt be in the public domain, will be available for bulk download and will make its way into LOCKSS-USDOCS for distributed preservation by FDLP libraries.

In conclusion, pretty good access to the historic Federal Register is pretty good, but the American public deserve amazing access AND digital preservation assurances for the long term.

The Law Library acquired this collection from William S. Hein & Co., Inc. to make all volumes of the Federal Register available in open access to researchers.  The collection starts with the first Federal Register in 1936 and contains all volumes through 1993. For more recent volumes, see federalregister.gov and FDSys (volumes 1994-2015). The Law Library website for the collection is //www.loc.gov/collections/federal-register/.

via Federal Register Volumes Now Available Online | In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress.

GPO To Digitize The Federal Register 1936-1994

Press Release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 14, 2015 No. 15-20


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) partners with the National Archives’ Office of the Federal Register (OFR) to make every issue of the Federal Register digitally available to the public. A total of 14,587 individual issues, which go back to 1936, will be digitized. GPO employees will hand pack and catalogue every issue. The project is expected to be completed in 2016. Currently, digital versions dating to 1994 to the present are available on GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys)


The first issue of the Federal Register came off GPO presses and was published on March 16, 1936. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the first document, an executive order, to be published. The Federal Register is the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents. It is updated daily by 6 a.m. and is published Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

“The digitization of every issue of the Federal Register is another example of GPO and OFR adapting to meet the changing needs of how the public gets Government information,” said GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks. “I am proud of GPO’s 80 year relationship with OFR and how these two Government agencies continue to work together in making current and historic Government information available in multiple platforms.”

“I’m excited to “open the doors” to our library of Federal Register volumes,” said Oliver Potts, Director of the Federal Register. “Digitizing these books and making them available online fills a critical gap in the official digital record.”