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The so-called FDLP Modernization Act of 2018 (H.R.5305) corrects many of the flaws of the 1993 law. It catches the law up to what it should have been in 1993 and conforms to current GPO practice. Specifically, it requires GPO to provide free access to digital content; it requires GPO to have a program of digital preservation; it changes the scope of GPO and FDLP with new definitions of “Information Dissemination Products” (IDPs) — a term used by OMB since 1996; and it requires GPO to abide by existing privacy laws (going back to 1974 and 2002).
These are welcome improvements, but they fall short of “modernizing” the law to the conditions of 2018 and beyond. A few small changes can go a long way to truly modernizing the law. These changes will create a collaborative, digital FDLP; guarantee long-term, no-fee access to government information insulated from federal political and economic pressures; and enhance services to users.
[UPDATE 3/21/2018: The CHA’s business meeting has been postponed to Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 11:00 am eastern. JRJ]
On March 15th, a bill to “modernize” the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) was finally introduced. There is good news and bad news.
The good news is that the bill does provide much-needed improvement of the current law in the areas of privacy, preservation, and free access to government information. It also has very strong language that attempts to address the problem of fugitive documents (those documents that are within scope of the FDLP but do not make it into the program. For more on this issue, see “‘Issued for Gratuitous Distribution’ The History of Fugitive Documents and the FDLP”). It even allows digital deposit into Federal Depository Libraries (FDLs).
The bad news is, first, that the improvements noted above do not go far enough. They have loopholes that could easily make those good features little more than halfway solutions or empty promises. Second, (and this is a fatal flaw in the digital age) the bill not only fails to create a digital FDLP, it actually writes that failure into law.
Small changes to the text of the bill can correct most of these problems. But to get those changes into the bill, librarians will have to let Congress (and their lobbyists in the ALA Washington Office, ARL and AALL!) know that they want them. These improvements are essential because this law will affect both the free access to and the preservation of government information for the coming decades.
Library Journal published our opinion piece in its “Peer to Peer Review” section today:
Save Government Information! by James A. Jacobs and James R. Jacobs. Library Journal Peer to Peer Review (March 15, 2018).
In it, we make the case that the impending Title 44 bill does not go far enough to building a truly collaborative, 21st century FDLP.
We got our hands on a copy of the 2/22 draft “GPO Reform Act of 2018.” So now we can read GPO’s comments on the draft alongside the actual draft. Please help us dig through and let us know where the potential roadblocks and poison pills are at. Our general working assumption is that chapter 5, the FDLP chapter, includes *some* good new pieces but largely sets in legislation how the FDLP has worked for the last 20 years. And chapters 1 and 3, the GPO “reform” chapters, contain a bunch of pieces that will restrict and/or decrease GPO’s budgets and operations to the point that it will negatively effect GPO’s ability to do any of the good items in chapter 5. Of course, we’re willing to be wrong on that assumption (but don’t think we are). The only question remaining to our minds is whether the main lobbying participants — ALA Washington Office, ARL, and AALL — are willing to support the bill (which will go a long way toward getting it over the finish line) *despite* gutting GPO. Let us know your thoughts.
GPO just released its comments on the latest draft Title 44 “reform” bill dated February 22, 2018 (here’s a PDF copy saved to FGI’s servers for posterity).
GPO just released its comments on the latest draft Title 44 “reform” bill dated February 22, 2018 (here’s a PDF copy saved to FGI’s servers for posterity). The latest draft of the bill has not been made publicly available beyond GPO and a few lobbyists, so I have not seen this version. But it’s clear from GPO’s comments and analysis that the bill still contains a number of poison pills that will weaken if not completely gut GPO and make it impossible for GPO to support any positive FDLP changes for libraries and public access to govt information in general. If anyone has a copy of the 2/22 draft that they are able to share, I’d like to see how it compares to the earlier draft.
GPO sent “Comments on Draft Legislation to Amend Title 44, U.S.C. (February 22, 2018 version)” to the Committee on House Administration on February 27, 2018. This document relays all comments, observations, and concerns with the draft revision to Title 44 as it relates to the Federal Depository Library Program, other Superintendent of Documents programs, and to GPO as an organization.