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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.

Montana Library Association passes Resolution to fund US govt publications preservation

Bernadine Abbott Hoduski, the grande dame of government documents — she’s got a GODORT award named after her for gosh sakes! — sent me this announcement. The Montana library Association, at its annual membership meeting in March, 2017, passed a packet of resolutions including their Resolution on Funding the Preservation of Federal Government Publications (text below). The resolution calls on the US Congress to “fully fund preservation of Federal government publications housed in federal depository libraries.”

The resolution has been sent to Montana’s US Senator Jon Tester, who happens to sit on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Please consider taking this text and passing the resolution at other state library associations, especially if your state’s senator sits on the Appropriations Committee. I’ve sent the text of this resolution to CA Senator Diane Feinstein.

Thanks bernadine for all your hard work on this and through the many years!

Resolution on Funding the Preservation of Federal Government Publications

Whereas, Democracy depends upon the public’s access to information from and about the United States federal government; and

Whereas, to preserve the historic record of our country, the United States Congress established a distributed system of Federal depository libraries to safeguard government information from dangers ranging from bit-rot to fire; and

Whereas, the United States Federal depository libraries provide public access to federal government publications and information without charge; and

Whereas, Federal depository libraries spend millions of dollars collecting, housing, cataloging, and providing public access to federal government information, and

Whereas, Federal depository libraries lack enough money to preserve millions of federal government publications in paper, microform, and digital formats; and

Whereas, the U. S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) established FIPNet (Federal Information Preservation Network) as part of the “National Plan for Access to U. S. Government Information” – a strategy for a collaborative network of information professionals working in various partner roles to ensure access to the national collection of government information for future generations. FIPNet contributes to the preservation of both tangible and digital government information, and elevates the public awareness and prestige of local initiatives, specific collections of government information, and the institutions and agencies that have stewardship over them; and

Whereas, GPO is not authorized to provide funding directly to depository libraries that agree to preserve federal government publications; and

Whereas, the United States Congress can authorize GPO to provide funding to depository libraries; and Whereas, GPO needs additional funding and staff to provide on-site support for libraries in the building of an inventory and catalog of all their federal government publications in order to plan for preservation;

Therefore, be it resolved that:

The Montana Library Association urges the U. S. Congress to fully fund preservation of Federal government publications housed in federal depository libraries; and

The Montana Library Association urges the U. S. Congress to authorize the U. S. Government Publishing Office to provide funds directly to libraries for the preservation of the federal government publications (paper, microform, and digital) housed in their libraries; and

The Montana Library Association urges Congress to provide funding to the Superintendent of Documents (GPO) so agency librarians can travel to depository libraries to advise librarians in preservation activities, including inventorying, cataloging, and planning for preservation of government publications.

Adopted by the Montana Library Association Membership March 31, 2017

Contact your representatives to save NTIS

Federal technical reports are a critical piece of the nation’s scientific literature. But technical reports are in danger. We’ve been tracking on S.2206 the “Let me google that for you” Act which seeks to shut down the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) (here’s the Bill text sponsored by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn with 5 cosponsors Claire McCaskill [D-MO], Deb Fischer [R-NE], Jeff Flake [R-AZ], John Walsh [D-MT], and Ron Johnson [R-WI]). As we’ve noted, this bill “fundamentally misunderstands the Internet and misrepresents the case by stating that finding Federal technical reports “elsewhere” is google and usa.gov, *internet search engines*!

At the last American Library Association (ALA) conference held 2 weeks ago, the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) passed a resolution in support of the NTIS — public disclosure: I’m a member of the Legislation Committee which drafted the resolution. The text of the resolution is below. While the resolution passed GODORT, it has been sent back to ALA’s Committee on Legislation (COL) to work on some wording before being sent to ALA Council.

However, we’re sharing the text of the resolution now in the hopes that our readers — especially those in OK, MO, NE, AZ, MT and WI — will contact their representatives to tell them to SAVE THE NTIS!


Whereas some three million scientific and technical reports are held by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), thereby promoting research, innovation, and business;

Whereas since 1940, NTIS has been co-operating with federal agencies to collect, preserve, catalog, and provide their reports in paper, microform, and digital formats;

Whereas many federal agencies choose not to maintain collections of their own reports and to depend upon NTIS to provide these reports;

Whereas many federal agencies do not have statutory responsibility or the resources to provide permanent access to these reports and depend upon NTIS to provide them to other government agencies and the public;

Whereas the process of federal agencies entrusting their reports to NTIS ensures permanent access to the public, eliminates duplication of effort, and saves tax dollars;

Whereas since many of the federal agencies that published these reports no longer exist, many of their reports are only available through NTIS;

Whereas over two million of these reports are held only in paper or microform by NTIS and are not available in digital form from any source;

Whereas NTIS has the statutory authority to provide information management services to other federal agencies, including such programs as the Social Security Administration Death Master File used by insurance and annuity companies and the Drug Enforcement Agency Controlled Substances Registrants Data Base, which enables members of the medical community to prescribe and handle controlled substances, and the Federal Science Repository Service which supports the preservation and long-term access of participating agencies content;

Whereas the “Let Me Google That For You Act” ( S. 2206 and H. R. 4382) would abolish NTIS, and the “Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act” (H. R. 4186), as amended in the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, would repeal the law that authorizes NTIS;

Whereas these bills make no provision for the preservation of the reports and their cataloging data;

Whereas these bills do not provide libraries such as the Library of Congress, the national libraries, and libraries in the Federal Depository Library Program an opportunity to help “determine if any functions of NTIS are critical to the economy of the United States”;

Whereas the American Library Association has long supported the provision of all federal government reports and publications, at no charge, to the public through libraries and other services;

now, therefore be it

Resolved, that the American Library Association (ALA)

1. urges the United States Congress to appropriate funds to ensure that the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) continues to act as a central repository for scientific and technical reports;

2. urges United States Congress to fund the provision of these reports to the federal agencies and the public at no charge;

3. urges the United States Congress to consult with librarians at the Library of Congress, the national libraries, corporate libraries, and the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) in determining “if any functions of NTIS are critical to the economy of the United States”;

4. urges the United States Congress to put NTIS under the umbrella of the Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP) directive, “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research” (February 22, 2013); and

5. urges the United States Congress to fund a digital preservation plan for scientific and technical reports, which would be developed by NTIS, CENDI (formerly Commerce, Energy, NASA, Defense Information Managers Group), the Government Printing Office, the National Archives, federal publishing agencies, and the library community.

ALA draft resolutions dealing with govt documents. Tell your ALA Councilor to support #ALA2013

There are several draft ALA resolutions having to do with government information kicking around ALA 2013 annual conference. While there’s still a way to go before these resolutions are passed by ALA Council, I thought folks might be interested enough in these to grab their nearest ALA Councilor and tell them to vote for these resolutions in support of free government information, open government and transparency. They’re important to both libraries AND the public!!

I’ve heard that the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) has 2 resolutions dealing with Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and the importance of whistleblowers to open government and the democratic process. But I haven’t yet seen the text for these two.

We at FGI have been working on one with “GODORT mother” Bernadine Abbott Hoduski, Al Kagan (SRRT) and a couple of others titled “Resolution on Digitization of U.S. Government Documents.” It comes out of our discussion and white paper “Wait! Don’t Digitize and Discard!” spurred by COL FDLP task force report’s discussion question #1a which said “Should libraries be allowed to de-accession and destroy these collections for the greater good of broader on-line access?”

Draft Resolution on Digitization of U.S. Government Documents

WHEREAS the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) was designed to provide public access to government information through a cooperative network of depository libraries; and

WHEREAS designated FDLP libraries have successfully preserved and provided access to government information for more than two hundred years; and

WHEREAS the historic paper FDLP collections contain valuable, irreplaceable information and remain critical for concrete representation and analysis of the policies, procedures, and workings of the Federal government and the United States as a whole; and

WHEREAS digitization technologies provide opportunities to enhance access to and utilization of printed collections, and complement rather than replace paper copies of government documents; and

WHEREAS FDLP libraries and the Government Printing Office (GPO) remain committed to providing preservation of, access to, and services for valuable government information in all formats; and

WHEREAS the reliability, functional utility, and preservability of digitized documents varies tremendously depending on the processes used in the digitization;

Therefore be it resolved that the American Library Association (ALA):

1. supports and encourages the preservation of Federal Depository Libraries’ (FDL) paper collections;
2. opposes policies that would result in the destruction of FDL paper collections;
3. supports technologies that guarantee long-term, robust, verifiable, complete, accurate, authentic, preservable, and usable digital formats;
4. work with the Government Printing Office (GPO) and the FDL community on developing procedures to authenticate and ingest digital content into FDsys digitizations that come from FDL libraries and federal agencies; and
5. supports the creation of an inventory of digitized government publications with records that include information on quality, completeness, accuracy, features, availability, limitations, costs, utility, and trusted preservation, and provide links to records in OCLC and GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications so that libraries can download batch MARC metadata.

The second draft resolution of interest is currently working its way through the Committee on Legislation’s Government Information Subcommittee (COL GIS) and deals with the issue of govt agencies suddenly taking down Web sites or databases (e.g., NASA technical reports server or National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII))


WHEREAS Federal information produced at taxpayer expense should remain permanently accessible to the public free of charge; and

WHEREAS “In the past half-century, information creation, distribution, retention, and preservation has expanded from a tangible, paper-based process to include digital processes managed largely through computerized information technologies.” (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42457.pdf p. ii); and

WHEREAS some Federal agencies have created independent web sites and/or have worked in partnership with each other and with external entities to build integrated web sites to share information with the public; and

WHEREAS web archiving is a fundamental part of managing digital government information, there exists an ISO standard for web archive formats (ISO28500:2009, WARC), the preferred format for web sites harvested by the Library of Congress, and

WHEREAS some Federal agency web sites, such as the Census Bureau’s American FactFinder, provide data and publications only for a specific period of time and make older information unavailable, often without providing an explanation for withdrawing that information or ensuring archival access to it; and

WHEREAS when, due to funding or other reasons, a Federal agency can no longer maintain a web site either in whole or as a partner, this web site is dismantled and the information made inaccessible because no procedures or policies are in place to assure that the data will be transferred to another publically accessible repository, along with appropriate metadata, software applications, or other means for manipulating, analyzing or evaluating the data retrieved; and

WHEREAS, organizations, such as the Internet Archive, the California Digital Library and the University of North Texas, are unable to comprehensively archive information found on government agency web sites, but are archiving information only selectively at their own expense and/or with limited connection to the Federal government; and

WHEREAS agencies such as the Government Printing Office (GPO), the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Library of Congress (LC), are already authorized by law to provide information services to other agencies and should be included in a plan for the disposal or transfer of information in web sites; and

WHEREAS the National Academy of Public Administration recommended that “Congress should establish a collaborative interagency process, and designate a lead agency or interagency organization, to develop and implement a government-wide strategy for managing the lifecycle of digital government information;”

Therefore be it resolved that the American Library Association (ALA):

1) requests Congress designate the Government Printing Office or interagency organization the lead agency to develop a United States federal government-wide strategy for managing the lifecycle of digital government publications, documents, information, and web sites;

2) requests Congress authorize the Government Printing Office or interagency organization develop and administer standards and procedures for the United States federal government which include rules for dismantling sites and archiving web content, including the preservation of all pertinent data protocols, documentation, and software programs for evaluating and manipulating the content for permanent public access;

3) requests that the Government Printing Office or interagency organization be required to consult with the United States federal publishing agencies, the National Libraries, and professional library and archiving groups in the development of these standards and procedures;

4) requests that the Government Printing Office or interagency organization that handles the archiving of web content be given sufficient funding to perform its duties on an ongoing basis and additional funding as necessary to fully assist agencies when they are forced to decommission a web site.

Passed in principle by COL-GIS Saturday, June 29, 2013
Passed in principle by GODORT Legislation Saturday, June 29, 2013



The first recommendation made in the report is:

“Recommendation 1. To enable the federal government to carry out its role of providing information to its citizens, Congress should establish a collaborative interagency process, and designate a lead agency or interagency organization, to develop and implement a government-wide strategy for managing the lifecycle of digital government information.”

A pertinent quote from page 21:

“Data needs to be managed, maintained, and stored. Cloud storage may provide an opportunity for originating agencies to standardize formats, and simply transfer control of the information to another agency (like NARA, LC, or GPO) at appropriate times in the information’s lifecycle.”



Click to access archiveit_life_cycle_model.pdf


Great news! New Bill calls for CRS reports to be publicly available

This is great news indeed! The Sunlight Foundation reported today that the “Public Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Resolution of 2012” (aka H. Res 727) has just been introduced by Representatives Quigley (D-IL) and Lance (R-NJ) — many thanks to both of them.

The resolution would ensure that reports by Congress’s $100 million-a-year think tank will become available to the public on a website maintained by the House Clerk. Numerous good government groups and advocates for more congressional transparency — including FGI! — have endorsed the measure. Please contact your Representative and ask them to vote HELL YEAH! on H. Res 727.

The reports, prepared by the Congressional Research Service, are frequently cited by the courts and the media and requested by members of the public, but CRS does not release them to the public. Instead, they come to widespread attention after they are released in dribs and drabs by Congressional offices and painstakingly collected by researchers. Some are collected and sold for $20 a copy, while others are made available by non-profit organizations for public consumption. By the time they become publicly available, the reports can become outdated, especially when an issue is moving quickly in Congress.

Reliable access to CRS Reports would ensure that everyone has timely and comprehensive access to the collective wisdom of hundreds of analysts and experts on political issues when they’re at their most salient. This is already common practice in other support arms of the Congress, like the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office.

In the past CRS reports have been more widely available, but relatively recent CRS-imposed policies are increasing limiting access even as the Internet has made the documents easier to share. In fact, the original limitation on public access was imposed in the 1950s on CRS’s predecessor agency and arose from a concern about the costs of printing and mailing the reports — not their confidentiality. In the Internet age, this limitation no longer makes sense, especially as these reports are already available on CRS’s internal website in electronic form.