Our mission

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.

Tax bill’s automatic spending cuts would decimate GPO along w many critical programs

I was struck by the data visualization in today’s NY Times UpShot column which showed just how much impact the “tax cut” bill would have on government services across the federal government for at least the next 10 years! “If Congress passes its tax bill and then takes no other action, the funding for dozens of federal spending programs could be cut — in many cases to nothing — beginning next year.”

Of course the biggest bubble/cut would occur to Medicare, with a sequesterable amount of $25.5 billion for 2018. As I scrolled down to the table listing the 228 agencies and programs which would be cut in 2018, the 4th one down is GPO’s Business Operations Revolving Fund, which could be cut $2 million in 2018, with cuts for 10 years. $2 million doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but GPO only requested $8,540,000 for the revolving fund for FY18. That’s a 25% cut! The revolving fund pays for improvements to GPO’s FDsys (and its successor system, govinfo) as well as other essential IT projects and things like enhancing the cybersecurity of GPO’s IT systems and other necessary physical infrastructure projects.

GPO is already working with a shrinking number of employees and a bare bones budget which has been flat or cut over the last 10 years. GPO programs — including the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP)! — can NOT be sustained if this “tax cut” bill is passed.

With passage of this “tax cut” bill, GPO’s demise is no longer hypothetical. What will FDLP libraries do in that case? Does GPO have a formal succession plan or escrow arrangements (key components of a Trusted Digital Repository audit!)? And what will FDLP libraries do to maintain critical access to and preservation of government information going forward?

We need EVERY librarian to contact their representatives early and often and let them know what devastating effects this “tax cut” bill will have — on libraries yes, but on so many critical programs from Medicare to flood insurance, farm security, meals on wheels, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, and so many other programs across the Federal government.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit increase from the tax bill would be large enough — $1.5 trillion over 10 years — that spending for the unprotected programs would be reduced to zero next year and nearly zero over the next nine years.

Each bubble above represents the size of an automatic budget cut that could take place next year.

The Statutory Pay-as-You-Go Act of 2010, or Paygo, is an Obama-era update of a rule first enacted under President George H.W. Bush. It requires that legislation that adds to the federal deficit be paid for with spending cuts, increases in revenue or other offsets.

via The Tax Bill’s Automatic Spending Cuts – The New York Times.

Volunteer to describe state gov info!

The Archive of the California Government Domain, CA.gov, is a collaborative project run by government information librarians at the University of California and Stanford University, coordinated by the California Digital Library (CDL) with support from the California State Library & California State Archives.

The project is hosting a metadata sprint December 6-13 to improve description for the collection. If you have a couple hours to contribute, please consider signing up! You don’t need to know anything about metadata, web archives, or California to help out.

What:

An asynchronous crowdsourced project to enhance the Archive of California government documents.

Help us enrich descriptive metadata for the CA.gov collection in the Internet Archive to make the archive easier to use. Each sprinter works on metadata for a small subset of archived websites. We will provide tutorials, reference materials, and lots of support.

Who:

Any library or archives staff (including paraprofessionals, iSchool students) with an interest in improving findability and usability of archived state of California government websites. No cataloging experience necessary!

More details and sign-up are on the CA.gov Web Archive Metadata Sprint website.

Many Federal Websites Again Fail to Meet Basic Standards for Speed and Security

About 91 percent of federal websites failed at least one of the government and industry standards for design and development in the latest test by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). The metrics analyzed included an assessment of speed, accessibility and security.

ITIF used publicly available tools to assess page-load speed, mobile friendliness, security, and accessibility of 469 of the most popular federal websites. Websites generally scored high on security, but only 64 percent passed both security tests. Only 60 percent of the reviewed websites were accessible for users with disabilities.

Among the highest scoring websites were:

site score
Science.gov 86.3
FBI.gov 85.2
Whitehouse.Gov 83.8

Among the lowest scoring websites:

site score
uscourts.gov 52.8
lbl.gov 52.1
lanl.gov 41.6
federalreserve.gov 36.5

GPO.gov scored 70.2 and LOC.gov scored 69.5. One oddity of the report is that it tested and ranked govtrack.us and even lists it once incorrectly as "govtrack.gov." Govtrack.us is a privately run, non-government website that uses government data to publish the status of federal legislation, information about Congressional Representatives and Senators and their voting records. It scored in the top 10 of all measured websites with a score of 84.5.

ITIF suggests:

Federal government websites still require significant improvement. Federal agencies should prioritize building and maintaining fast, convenient, secure and accessible websites.

The new tests and report follow up on tests done last year and a report on those tests issued last March (Many Federal Websites Fail to Meet Basic Standards for Speed and Security).

See also:

Tune in Weds 9:30 am PST to KCSB FM Santa Barbara to hear FGI talk about all things Title 44!

UPDATE 11/28/2017: The audio of our interview is now safely preserved and available at the Internet Archive!


Our pals Gary Colmenar and Elizabeth Robinson cohost the radio show “No Alibis” on KCSB Santa Barbara wednesdays from 9am – 11am. No Alibis is a “Critical look at news, both domestic and international, from the dystopian to the utopian.” And this Wednesday November 22 at around 9:30am Pacific, you’ll have your chance to hear Shari Laster and I wax utopian about all things Title 44. Stream it live over the internet! If you can’t tune in at 9:30am (and really, what else do you have to do at that time?!) we’ll be posted the audio for your listening pleasure shortly after the show is done.

And of course, as any govinfo wonk worth her salt, we gave Gary and Elizabeth some background readings so they’ll be able to keep their heads above the weeds.

Background readings:

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).”

Archives