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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.

The Day the Server Died

The library’s server was out of commission for two days last week. Luckily, we were closed one day, fall quarter hasn’t started, and we have a back up for the circulation system. Plus we could search (sort of) our collection on WorldCat.

Dead servers are one of the reasons why distributed digital deposit is a key element in providing access to information. But, we don’t have much technology money (thus the old server). Collecting our own copies of electronic content is an aspiration, yet given our fiscal reality, it’s not going to be practical for a while. After three years of budget cuts, the University of Washington has lost half of its state funding. We are all feeling the effects.

So I’ve been printing out documents, as a very small way of contributing to the greater good and serving our patrons. At least that’s what I think I’m doing. It’s not something I hear a lot about, but I can’t imagine that other librarians don’t do this. Maybe we’re too embarrassed to admit we print electronic documents?

Our policy is to very selectively print documents for the collection. The selection decisions need to be consistent with our collection development policy, but also take into account the ease of printing and binding (not too long, not too short, PDF preferred). We also consider the ease of use by the public. The perfect example is Washington State judicial benchbooks, which are guides used by trial judges, but often used by patrons without lawyers. For many years, because we are a public law library, we received the benchbooks, and other publications from the Administrative Office of the Courts, in paper, for free. Now the benchbooks are on CD ROM and we have to pay (not much, and I’m not complaining about this given the state budget).

We recently acquired the Manual for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction on CD ROM, and chose to have it printed, even though we had to spend scarce staff time to put all the documents in one PDF file so it could be send to the copy center. The Courts of Limited Jurisdiction handle a wide variety of traffic violations and misdemeanors, including reckless driving, driving under the influence, and driving with a suspended license. These courts also issue domestic violence protection orders and no-contact orders.

It is a much smoother reference transaction (for both patron and public service staff) if the staff has a book to put in the hands of a patron with an issue in traffic, family, or juvenile court. Although we have many public workstations, these patrons are often challenged, and challenging. “It’s on the computer” can be a barrier to access.

In a perfect world, we’d have the Manual for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction in print, on the original CD ROM, and downloaded to our local server, which will never die. But for now, two out of three will have to do.

Three Cheers for GPO: Tangible Copies of US Budget

I was very happy to hear that the Government Printing Office will be producing paper copies of the annual US Budget despite a White House announcement to go electronic only. Here is the GPO message sent out to FDLP-L today:

From: Announcements from the Federal Depository Library Program [GPO-FDLP-L@LISTSERV.ACCESS.GPO.GOV“>GPO-FDLP-L@LISTSERV.ACCESS.GPO.GOV] On Behalf Of FDLP Listserv
Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2008 12:03 PM
To: GPO-FDLP-L@LISTSERV.ACCESS.GPO.GOV“>GPO-FDLP-L@LISTSERV.ACCESS.GPO.GOV
Subject: Tangible Copies of the Budget of the United States Government

On January 9, 2008, Office of Management and Budget Director Jim Nussle announced that the Budget of the United States Government would be released in a web-only format for Fiscal Year 2009 on February 4th, 2008. Mr. Nussle cited the cost savings of such a move as the reason for the discontinuance of paper copies of the Budget.

GPO wishes to assure the members of the Federal Depository Library Program that we are committed to keeping the various Budget publications in printed format. To this end, OMB has agreed to provide GPO with files of the Budget documents that will be put to press for the purpose of dissemination to the public through the FDLP and Publication & Information Sales Program. We intend to ship these tangible copies of the Budget in conjunction with the February 4th internet release.

The class numbers, titles, and item numbers involved in this announcement by OMB are:

PREX 2.8: Budget of the United States Government; 0853
PREX 2.8/1: Budget of the United States Government; 0853-C
PREX 2.8/5: Analytical Perspectives; 0855-B
PREX 2.8/7: Budget Revisions; 0853
PREX 2.8/8: Historical Tables, Budget of the United States
Government; 0853

If you have questions, please use the GPO online help service at:
<http://www.gpoaccess.gov/help>.


Why is this good news? For several reasons:
 
Preservation - At this point in time, tangible formats are the only absolutely proven way to ensure something will be readable 100 years from now. LOCKSS and other technologies may eventually change this, but certainly in digital preservation still belongs to the future. And folks in 2109 will want to know how our government spent its money in 2009.
Access - While electronic versions of documents like this are terrific for searching for a specific piece of information, they can be cumbersome to use. And for the 80,000,000+ Americans without internet access, a tangible format is the only access they'll have to the President's spending plans.
Privacy - With the United States called a pervasive surveillance society by Privacy International and other groups, the best way to avoid gov't and commercial scrutiny of your scrutiny of the US budget is by using the paper version. I still plan to use both print and electronic, but it's nice to have the choice in my hands.
 

I haven’t asked GPO their reasons for continuing to print the US Budget in light of its migration to the Internet, but I am very glad they will be preserving this year’s documents for future generations. Three Cheers!

 

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