Threats and opportunities re Title 44. FGI audio & DLF, Harvard, MIT libraries’ letters in support of FGI recommendations
The Digital Library Federation’s Records Transparency and Accountability Group hosted FGI’er Jim Jacobs on August 18, 2017 to present about the threats to Title 44. They just posted the audio of Jim’s session on the DLF blog. Jim outlines the issues clearly and concisely, and makes an outstanding case for positive substantive changes to Title 44 based on the following 4 principles:
- The law should ensure the privacy of users of government info.
- The law should address the long-term preservation challenges posed by born-digital government information.
- The law should protect free access and free use.
- The law should modernize the scope of government information covered by chapter 19 for the digital age.
I was also pleased to read that the DLF was about to send a letter in support of Title 44 based on Stanford UL Michael Keller’s letter. Along with Stanford, several other large academic libraries have now weighed in: The University librarians at the 11 University of California campuses, Harvard University and MIT Libraries are now on record in support of title 44 changes based on these same principles!
I hope these letters show how much the library community supports the FDLP and helps our library associations make the case for the need for better access to and preservation of govt information via a positive update of Title 44. We still need many more library directors to write letters in support to the Committee on house Administration and the Joint Committee on Printing.
BTW, our petition “Protect the public right to government information: help preserve and expand Title 44” is at 695 signatures and still climbing! Help us get to 1000 signatures!!
Oh come on?! The Trump administration really thinks it can balance the budget by cutting a measly $3 million from the US Geological Survey (USGS) library?! This budget cut would barely cause a blip to the federal budget, but would be truly devastating to the library and it’s extremely rare collections — I didn’t know this, but “much of the USGS Library’s content is unique or available from fewer than 10 libraries around the world, the agency reported in a 2014 blog post about digitization of its library holdings.”
Read the June 16, 2017 letter from twenty-three science organizations to several members of Congress urging continued library funding in 2018 and contact your representatives today! This cannot stand!
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Library, home to one of the largest Earth and natural science collections in the world, faces a 52% funding decrease in the fiscal year (FY) 2018 federal budget proposed by President Donald Trump.
The potential funding loss of $3 million would close at least three of the library’s four branches, eliminate three quarters of the supporting staff, and end public and researcher access to USGS Library collections, according to the FY 2018 USGS budget justification.
This rollback of librarian services and other impacts would damage geoscience research and education, said Earth scientists, educators, and scientific society leaders interviewed by Eos. The harm would also ripple through libraries and other institutions that rely on the USGS Library for materials and guidance not available elsewhere, said librarians and others from outside USGS.
“Defunding the USGS Library has the potential to be devastating,” said Aaron Johnson, executive director of the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) in Thornton, Colo., referring to the possible effect on research projects of AIPG members.
“If these resources are rendered inaccessible, the nation will lose an invaluable scientific asset and the opportunity for continued commercial return from the information housed in the Library,” wrote 23 science organizations in a 16 June letter to several members of Congress urging continued library funding in 2018 at the level of $5.8 million that USGS currently receives. If that doesn’t occur, the nation “would also lose the federal investment that has already been made in the Library’s collections,” they warned. (The publisher of Eos, the American Geophysical Union, is a signatory of the letter).
Here’s another story about data rescue and the preservation of government information, this time from PC Magazine UK. Though the last data refuge event was in Denton, TX in May and the 2016 End of Term crawl has finished its collection work and will soon have its 200TB of data publicly accessible, there still remains much interest — and not a little bit of worry — about the collection and preservation of govt information and data. And with stories continuing to come out — eg this one from the Guardian entitled “Another US agency deletes references to climate change on government website” — about the US government agencies scrubbing or significantly altering their Websites, this issue will not be going away any time soon.
“Somewhere around 20 percent of government info is web-accessible,” said Jim (sic.) Jacobs, the Federal Government Information Librarian at Stanford University Library. “That’s a fairly large chunk of stuff that’s not available. Though agencies have their own wikis and content management systems, the only time you find out about some of it is if someone FOIAs it.”
To be sure, a great deal of information was indeed captured and now resides on non-government servers. Between Data Refuge events and projects such as the 2016 End-of-Term Crawl, over 200TB of government websites and data were archived. But rescue organizers began to realize that piecemeal efforts to make complete copies of terabytes of government agency science data could not realistically be sustained over the long term—it would be like bailing out the Titanic with a thimble.
So although Data Rescue Denton ended up being one of the final organized events of its kind, the collective effort has spurred a wider community to work in concert toward making more government data discoverable, understandable, and usable, Jacobs wrote in a blog post.
As many of our readers know, there has recently been a lot of activity surrounding efforts to modify title 44 of the US Code. YOU can make your voice heard by signing the petition “Protect the public right to govt information: help preserve and expand Title 44”.
Signatures will go directly to staffers on the House Committee on Administration and Joint Committee on Printing, as well as to GPO and ALA Washington Office. Please share widely on your social media.
We need lots of support in order to assure that any changes to Title 44 support and expand preservation of and access to government information. For more background on what’s at stake, please see our post Strengthening the Discussions about Title 44.
The public’s right to information by and about its government is critical to the workings of a democracy. Title 44 of the US Code, which codifies the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) into law, is the *only* legal guarantee that the US government will provide its information for free to the General Public, the citizens of the USA. It also directly affects thousands of non-Federal Depository Library Program libraries by defining free public access to the essential information and records of our democracy.
A push to revise Title 44 is in the works led by the Government Publishing Office and the Committee on House Administration. Government Publishing Office Director Davita Vance-Cooks has asked the Depository Library Council (DLC) to gather recommendations from the depository community for changes to Chapter 19 of Title 44 of the U.S. Code.
We the undersigned write today to assure that any changes to the law strengthen the FDLP and free public access to and preservation of government information regardless of physical or digital format.
Since last week, when we posted Stanford Library Director Michael Keller’s letter to the Committee on House Administration (CHA) and the Joint Committee on Printing (JCP), there has been more activity around the efforts to modify Title 44 of the US Code. We understand that the ALA and its Committee on Legislation (COL), the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT), other ALA divisions and round tables, and The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) are all actively investigating the issues.
When we look at the last ten years of discussions of the FDLP, we can anticipate what some of the proposals will be. We anticipate proposals with high-sounding promises about access and preservation with details that propose changes to Title 44 that will weaken and diminish the role of libraries, promote the fragile model of centralizing control of government information with GPO, entrench GPO’s long-term efforts to replace FDLP with short-term "partners," and make it easier to discard and destroy the FDLP Historic Collections. We also anticipate proposals to promote digitizing the Historic Collections — which can already be done without changes to the law. We imagine that there will be proposals that will not enhance access or preservation or strengthen the role of libraries, but will be pitched as "saving" or "expanding" the FDLP.
This will be confusing! We hope that discussions will focus on changes that will actually strengthen long-term free public access.
With this in mind, we have written four new posts on FGI that explain in clear language the reasons behind and the effects of the six recommendations we have made in our earlier post “This is not a drill. The future of Title 44 and the depository library program hang in the balance.” Our specific proposals are based on 4 principles. We invite you to hold other proposals to the same standards.
Read and discuss!
Strengthening Title 44:
James and Jim