Home » Posts tagged 'fugitive documents'
Tag Archives: fugitive documents
- Four easy steps to reporting “unreported” publications
- Strategies for finding “unreported” documents (more tips and tricks!)
- Historically “Unreported” materials of particular interest
- History of the problem
- Appendix: how to fill out the askGPO form
“Unreported” publications (which were, until recently, called “fugitive” publications) are those that are within scope of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) but for various reasons have slipped through the cracks and not been collected and cataloged by the Government Publishing Office (GPO), distributed to FDLP libraries, or included in the “National Collection” (See a partial list of historically “unreported” publications below).
We here at FGI consider “unreported” publications as the paramount problem facing the FDLP today. FDLP librarians, with their critical information skills and expertise about the structure and publishing activities of the federal government, are a vital piece of the solution to this vexing problem. The National Collection is at the core of what FDLP libraries have done for the last 200+ years, so “unreported” publications erode that very foundation. During the spring 2021 virtual Depository Library Conference, I challenged every FDLP librarian to search for, find, and report to GPO five “unreported” documents every month. I’d like to reiterate that challenge here on FGI. If every one of the 1100+ FDLP librarians were to find and report 5 documents each month, through this iterative process we’d soon put a dent in this existential “unreported” documents problem.
To that end, we’d like to share some simple steps for how to find and report “unreported” documents to GPO:
- find an interesting federal document or information product like a report, data set, video, or slide deck (see the “strategies” section below for tips and tricks for finding documents);
- Search the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) to see if GPO has cataloged it;
- If it’s NOT in the CGP, go to askGPO and fill in the “unreported document” form. See appendix for how to fill out the askGPO form;
- Rinse and repeat!
- Read the news with an eye toward those news items and sources which cover federal policies; (See for example, https://federalnewsnetwork.com, https://www.govexec.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com, etc.)
- Set up Google search and news alerts for publications from your favorite agency(ies), especially the Inspector Generals’ offices of those agencies (Inspector General reports are an especially critical and long-standing type of “unreported” document! Only a portion are even posted publicly on Oversight.gov);
- Find and report documents you use to answer reference/research consultations;
- Bookmark and visit the publications- and/or press release page of your favorite agency(ies);
- Follow on social media your favorite agency(ies), heads of agencies, your state’s Congressional delegation, known people within the executive branch, and Federal watchdog groups. New publications are often announced on government social media accounts.
- Agency Inspector General reports;
- Executive branch agency publications. See the LostDocs project for examples of documents that have been reported to GPO;
- Communication/Letters from members of Congress to executive branch agencies;
- Communication/Letters from federal officials to a Presidential administration;
- Public datasets;
- Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports* (*CRS reports were, until 2018, considered “privileged communication” between Congress and the Library of Congress and were therefore never released via the FDLP. Here’s the back story).
Since 1813 when the FDLP started, there have always been “unreported” documents which slipped through the cracks and were lost to the sands of time (until very recently, these were termed “fugitive” documents) [Footnote 1]. This problem has grown exponentially as executive agencies’ publishing operations have exploded, now that they can easily and freely distribute content online, and very few if any of them follow Title 44 regulations and send their documents to GPO as they are required to by law. Only a minuscule fraction of born-digital executive branch information is cataloged in the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) or makes it into the “National Collection.” This means that every year, thousands — if not hundreds of thousands! — of Federal documents, datasets, maps, and other born-digital materials [Footnote 2] — are never preserved and are lost to the fog of history as websites are updated and historical content removed [Footnote 3].
Depository librarians reporting found publications are a critical part of a holistic solution to the “unreported” documents problem. By identifying federal information resources that are important to their local constituents, librarians are making sure that these documents will be cataloged, captured, and made accessible to a wider audience. Reporting documents also adds to a National Collection pipeline for long-term access and helps to make sure that what is collected and preserved reflects the needs and interests of the wide-ranging communities and the public which libraries serve.
Many hands make light work. Won’t you join in the effort? Please contact us if you have questions or comments at freegovinfo AT gmail DOT com.
1. See “‘Issued for Gratuitous Distribution:’ The History of Fugitive Documents and the FDLP.” James R. Jacobs. Article in special issue of Against the Grain: “Ensuring Access to Government Information”, 29(6) December 2017/January 2018.
2. My back of the napkin estimate is that well over 1/2 of the “National Collection” is unreported! The executive branch is far and away the largest portion of the National Collection, and is almost completely “unreported.” See slide 5 of my 2018 Canadian Govinfo presentation for some context. Jim Jacobs’ chart cites the 2008 End of Term crawl for context on how many born-digital government publications are on the Web. The 2016 End of Term crawl nearly doubled the 2008 crawl and went from 160 million URLs to 310 million URLs harvested. I expect the 2020 End of Term crawl happening at the time of this post’s publication to far surpass 310 million!
3. FGI has written about “link rot,” “content drift,” and other issues which make it difficult to collect and preserve born-digital information.
The AskGPO form can be used for single documents or for reporting multiple documents, for example, those listed on an agency’s publications index page. See below for the steps to filling out the askGPO form. If a site is extremely large and/or complex (eg., the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) reports site) send the URL and description of the site to the GPO Web archiving team at FDLPwebarchiving AT gpo DOT gov.
- Log in to ask.gpo.gov (This will automatically fill in your contact information and depository library number in the form if you have used the system before);
- Click on “Federal Depository Library Program”;
- Select category “Fugitive Publications” (which will soon be changed to “unreported publications”);
- Choose single publication or multiple publications (there’s an excel template if you prefer to collect multiple documents and submit them all at once!);
- Enter title, publishing agency, publication URL, format (other fields are not required). Use your best guess if you are not sure;
- Upload PDF file as attachment (not required but helpful for GPO staff to have the document “in hand” when cataloging);
- Add any additional context that you think may aid GPO staff;
- Do the reCAPTCHA “I’m not a robot” test;
- Submit the document(s)!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.”
Senior Fellow Tenpas at the Brookings Institution conducted a study on the administration’s senior government turnover, “Tracking turnover in the Trump administration.”
“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.
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.
We recognize that (more…)
The Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress conducted a survey for GPO and its report is now available.
- Disseminating and Preserving Digital Public Information Products Created by the U.S. Federal Government: A Case Study Report. Library of Congress. Federal Research Division. (Prepared under an Interagency Agreement with the Library Services and Content Management Directorate, U.S. Government Publishing Office). Washington, DC: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, August 2018.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
Compare this to the report’s enumeration of the extent of government web presence:
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."
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.)