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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.

New GPO IG report includes troubling findings regarding fugitives and FDLP

“although the exact number of USDA publications could not be determined, the amount would be a small percentage because GPO focuses most of its efforts on congressional publications.”

We just came across this recent report of the GPO Inspector General (IG) called “Additional Information Needed for Ensuring Availability of Government Information Through the Federal Depository Library Program” (archived copy). Though this report was published the week before the recent Fall ’17 Depository Library Conference, it was not mentioned at all at conference, though there was information within the report which would have been incredibly useful for the Title 44 discussion held over the bulk of the first 2 days of conference.

There were some positives mentioned in the report. For example, I hadn’t known that GPO and the Library of Congress are currently working on a project to develop new strategies for increasing discovery and access to Government information across federal agencies. the project’s goals are to identify “top-level agency stakeholders in agency publishing,” make agencies aware of their Title 44 responsibilities and work on preservation policies for agency publications and especially born-digital materials.

Additionally, according to GPO, the approach it takes in finding agency publications is a “proactive” one. In general, the approach consists of: 1) providing a web presence and means for agencies to notify GPO of published documents; 2) directly contacting agency representatives, 3) reaching out to agency customers, and 4) web harvesting.

Key findings:

  1. “Some” Agencies Did Not Provide List of Publications to GPO, as Required (my quotes, the report did not specify a number.)
  2. GPO Policies and Procedures Need to be Detailed to Support Program Goals
  3. Strengthening Processes that Capture Government Publications

Although the GPO Inspector General “consider[s] management’s comments responsive to the three recommendations, which are considered resolved but will remain open until implementation of the proposed corrective actions,” we’re disturbed by some of the IG’s findings, especially in regard to the seeming nonchalance of GPO toward executive agency fugitive documents in general and the USDA in particular.

Though GPO has a supposedly “proactive” approach to capturing government publications, it seems that an inordinately large amount of executive publications are not made available to the FDLP, or otherwise collected, described or preserved (see the IG report’s analysis of USDA). Their Web harvesting program only has 6 Web archived USDA publications. And their outreach to agency customers is woefully inadequate as it seems from this report that very few agencies — or even the federal librarians working in those agencies! — are aware of their Title requirements, OMB Circular No. A-130, and other governing compliance requirements, have been contacted by GPO staff or even know that GPO exists. Case in point, on page 10 of the report, the Chief Collection Development Librarian for the U.S. National Agricultural Library had “identified and provided OIG with a list of 3,299 publications he believed should be included in the FDLP. The Librarian told us the information was not provided to GPO and that GPO had not contacted the Library for a list of issued publications.”

On a side — equally disturbing — note, we also found that a) none of the GPO IG’s investigation outcomes and only a very small percentage of the audits are available online; b) only the GPO IG’s semiannual reports to Congress are available on the new Oversight.gov site whose tagline is “all federal Inspector General reports in one place;” and c) even more worrying, NONE of them are cataloged in the CGP though they are hosted on GPO’s Website and presumably are within the scope of the FDLP. It seems like a no-brainer for ALL GPO IG REPORTS to be hosted on govinfo.gov in the GPO Collection.

We hope that GPO will be taking all necessary steps to implement the proposed corrective actions laid out by the IG. We will be sending this post and the IG report to Depository Library Council in the hopes that DLC can stress to GPO the ongoing importance of both digital and physical collection development activities to libraries and the public.

“Congress established the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) to provide free public access to Federal Government information. Creation, distribution, retention, and preservation of information has evolved from a simple tangible, paper-based process to now include digital processes managed primarily through various information technologies. Regardless of format, FDLP publications must conform to the definition of Government publications as defined in section 1902, title 44 of the United States Code (44 U.S.C. § 1901), GPO policy, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-130, that is, generally all published Federal information products, regardless of format or medium, that are of public interest or educational value or produced using Federal funds.

The transition to digital information raises a number of issues resulting in more diverse responsibilities for GPO. In that context, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a review to determine the steps GPO took for ensuring information developed at the expense of taxpayers was made available to the public through the FDLP. To address our objective, in general, we tested compliance with select sections of Title 44, reviewed program goals and achievements, and tested processes used to capture Government publications at a select agency—the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).”

GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks Departs Federal Service

GPO director Davita Vance-Cooks GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks is leaving GPO for the private sector. Congratulations to Ms Vance-Cooks. The first African-American and first woman to lead the agency, she did so ably for 6 years.

While this shouldn’t be a surprise — GPO directors (nee “public printers”) are political appointees named by Presidents after all — the timing of this announcement is perhaps problematic given that the community is in the midst of discussions and possible legislation to change Title 44 of the US code, impacting both FDLP libraries and the operations and funding of GPO itself.

With that context in mind, the position of GPO director is extremely important in helping to drive positive legislative change while mitigating the possible negatives that always come out in the legislative process. The current GPO policies that are supportive of FDLP could literally change overnight with a different director. This makes the Title 44 negotiations all the more critical as the code is the force of law which tells GPO what they can and can’t do. So it’s important to keep the momentum going and get good policy into Title 44; and not just Chapter 19, but ALL of the chapters which have implications for GPO budgets and ability to continue to maintain FDLP activities.

The naming of Jim Bradley — a good ally to the FDLP program! — as acting director will hopefully ease the transition. And, since he’s been active in the title 44 debate, GPO and the FDLP hopefully won’t miss a beat.

The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) Director Davita Vance-Cooks has announced her departure from Federal service to accept a job in the private sector. By law, GPO Deputy Director Jim Bradley assumes the duties of Acting GPO Director until a replacement is appointed.

Vance-Cooks was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2013 to be the 27th Public Printer of the United States. Prior to confirmation, she served as Acting Public Printer for 19 months. A seasoned business executive with more than 35 years of private sector and Federal management experience, she was the first woman and the first African-American to lead the agency.

via GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks Departs Federal Service.

Digital Deposit And The Biennial Survey: context and actions

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. [1]

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.)

(more…)

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.

GPO releases digital Congressional Record for 1911-1921

GPO is diligently working on releasing digital versions of the historic Congressional Record. The Congressional Record is now available on govinfo from 1911 – 2008. Historic!

The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) partners with the Library of Congress to release the digital version of the bound Congressional Record from 1911-1921 on GPO’s govinfo. This release covers the debates and proceedings of the 62nd through the 66th Congresses.

This era of Congress covers historical topics such as:

  • The final year of the administration of President Taft, the election and reelection of President Wilson, and the election of President Harding
  • Ratification of the 16th (income tax), 17th (popular election of Senators), 18th (Prohibition), and 19th (voting rights for women) Amendments to the Constitution
  • Admission of New Mexico and Arizona as states
  • Jeanette Rankin elected as first woman to the House of Representatives
  • Establishment of the Federal Reserve
  • Enactment of P.L. 62-5, capping the number of Members of the House of Representatives at 435
  • Senate enactment of the cloture rule to limit debate
  • Sinking of the Lusitania
  • World War I

via GPO Issues Digital Release of Historical Congressional Record for 1911-1921.

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