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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.

Congressional Research Service (CRS) releases report on Congressionally Mandated Reports

Wow, the FirstBranchForecast was on fire this week (as it is most weeks!), announcing a new bill to protect Inspectors General, talking about the just-released FOIA Advisory Committee’s draft report available for public comment (submit yours via email to foia-advisory-committee@nara.gov through June 2), and also highlighting a new CRS report Congressionally Mandated Reports: Overview and Considerations for Congress that contextualizes the issues surrounding H.R.736 – Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act. This bill, if passed, would require the Government Publishing Office (GPO) to establish and maintain a publicly available online portal containing copies of all congressionally mandated reports — 3500-4000 of them, many of them listed in House Document 116-4 Reports to be made to Congress (this is a document published annually by the Clerk of the House!). This would be a boon to the FDLP as it would fill many of the fugitive gaps in the national collection.

Thanks as always FirstBranchForecast!

Congressionally Mandated Reports was the topic of a new CRS report “on the potential benefits and challenges of reporting requirements,” which also “analyzes a number of statutory reporting requirements enacted during the 115th Congress.” The report also mentions legislation that would improve congressional access to mandated reports, the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, which has passed the House and is pending in the Senate, saying (as part of a longer analysis): “Establishing a centralized, public repository for congressionally mandated reports may address a number of concerns related to the reporting process.”

via Forecast for May 26, 2020 – First Branch Forecast.

government staffing & turnover

Senior Fellow Tenpas at the Brookings Institution conducted a study on the administration’s senior government turnover, “Tracking turnover in the Trump administration.”

The Office of Personnel Management issues reports.

“Sizing Up the Executive Branch.” (FY 2017) GPO cataloged FY 2012, SuDoc Number: PM 1.2:W 89/6/ 0295 (online).

“Senior Executive Service Report.” (FY 2017) SuDoc Number: PM 1.79, Item Number: 0295-D-20 (online), CGP system Number: 001081966. OPM issued reports for 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017.

co-published on govdoc-l and freegovinfo.info.

New year’s resolutions for 2020: setting a new agenda for a new FDLP

Happy 2020! Now that we’re starting a new decade(!) — and GPO has set up a working group to study and consider digital deposit and Depository Library Council (DLC) will soon announce its PURL working group! — it is time for FGI to make its new year’s resolutions and envision a new agenda for a new Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). This new digital FDLP will focus on the digital needs of users by building digital services based on digital collections. It will lead the way for libraries of all kinds, showing the value of digital libraries in the twenty-first century.

Challenges

We recognize that (more…)

New Report on Disseminating and Preserving Digital Government Information

The Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress conducted a survey for GPO and its report is now available.

Although FRD only interviewed 12 agencies, the report is packed with interesting tables and facts and references. It should be required reading for government information professionals.

Dissemination

The findings with regard to disseminating public information will not surprise you, but they do document what we know:

  • Government "publishing" no longer provides a linear path from a central agency communications office to GPO to FDLP libraries.

  • Despite statutory mandates and Federal information policies, fugitive documents are a huge problem, with FDLP missing 50 to 85 per cent of them.

  • Agencies indicated they have limited knowledge of the Title 44’s applicability to providing digital information to GPO and FDLP.

That leads to one finding that is a doozy:

  • GPO’s reporting mechanism for digital content, the Document Discovery submission form, relies on voluntary manual entry — a method that is not easily scalable and lacks accountability.

Preservation

With regards to preservation:

  • Several agencies reported submitting static copies of the agency website to NARA. But the report notes that this does not meet the requirements established by Title 44 of the U.S. Code to make their publications accessible to the public and the FDLP on a permanent basis.

  • Most of the agencies maintain an online archive of older website content but each agency uses its own approach to this. "Some retain older content on the main website, some designate a separate archival page for older content from across the agency, and some maintain multiple archives for different types of content. Each agency also applies its own standard for how far back in time the archives go. Some retain decades-old content, while others retain content from only the past few years."

  • GPO has used the subscription-based web harvesting tool Archive-It since 2011 to capture, catalog, and provide access to the Federal digital landscape, including websites, blogs, and social media feeds. The FDLP Web Archive holds approximately 145 agency collections, encompassing 1,600 websites.

  • Compare this to the report’s enumeration of the extent of government web presence:

    • 1,316 top-level.gov domains.
    • 2,297 two-level .gov
    • 627,478 three-level .gov domains.
    • 203 two-level .mil domains
    • 181,244 three-level .mil domains.
    • 6,000 websites containing 32 million webpages and a total of 12 terabytes of data.
    • 265,000 datasets

Recommended Actions:

The report recommends that GPO continue — and “where possible” — expand its direct outreach to agencies. Some other recommendations:

  • GPO should consider developing an automated or semi-automated notification system for Federal agency product releases to replace its manual Document Discovery submission form.

  • OMB should release "a detailed memorandum on the FDLP provisions in Title 44." It also notes that "The OSTP memorandum on federally funded research might be considered an appropriate model for such a directive."

FDLP Libraries

Although the report was not designed to recommend actions by FDLP libraries, it does provide some information that could help FDLP direct its activities.

  • Concentrate on Designated Communities. The report reminds us also that "agencies serve the information needs of specialized audiences" as well as the general public and "tailor many of their products to customers in specific fields or sectors of the U.S. economy, including financial and industry analysts; lawyers; medical professionals; scientists; publishers, academic educators and researchers; and natural resources managers." As FDLP libraries develop their own digital collections, they could focus on specific communities based on subject, discipline, and how they use information. Libraries could build collections of such information from many agencies making the information easier for the communities to discover, identify, and use the information they need. Concentration on Designated Communities also helps libraries identify OAIS-compliant preservation plans.

  • Work with agencies. Librarians who have good contacts with agencies should promote GPO and FDLP to those agencies to help GPO’s outreach program.

  • Lobby for Legislation and Policies. Librarians should lobby for the best possible version of a revised Title 44 and for changes to OMB A-130 that will require agencies to provide digital information to GPO and FDLP.

(For more on these actions, see our recent post: Preserving What’s Gone — The Healthcare Guidelines Case.)

 

Tracking the unlawful or accidental removal of government records

In the age of digital information, it is easier than it ever has been for government agencies to alter or delete official records at the flick of a switch. The U.S. Code (Title 44) and Code of Federal Regulations (Title 36) require agencies to “prevent the unlawful or accidental removal, defacing, alteration, or destruction of records.” But the official government guidelines for Managing Web Records are 13 years old and are subject to interpretation by political appointees in individual agencies.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) investigates allegations of violations of this law and will assist agencies in retrieving records. Its Performance Accountability Report has, for for many years, provided an end-of-year snapshot of cases investigated.

This year, NARA has created a web dashboard, which it will update monthly, listing the “Unauthorized Disposition of Federal Records.” More information about this is available from the Sunlight Foundation:

The dashboard lists the agencies and records involved, the status of the investigation, and provides links to documentation about the events.

Recently listed events include the “Suspicious-activity reports (SARs)” (which were widely reported as being absent from the database maintained by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN)), and the use of private (non-.gov) email accounts by officials of Homeland Security. There are currently 24 open cases and 46 cases closed cases.

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