GODORT Federal Documents Task Force (Government Documents Round Table) Committee
2015_02_27 DRAFT of Orientation Document for Congress
One of the responsibilities of Members of the United States Congress is to keep the citizenry informed of the actions of the federal government. This is necessary for
- voters to understand and support needed policies
- researchers to build on federally funded research (without excellent access to past results they would waste resources "re-inventing the wheel")
- policy makers to craft policies that move us forward: avoiding pitfalls and incorporating successes from policies implemented in the past
- historians and commentators to understand the impetus for past policy decisions
- students to be inspired to become the next generation of our leaders
- entrepreneurs to evaluate business locations and product demand
Congress established the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) as one way to meet their obligation to keep the public informed. It gave the Government Publishing Office (GPO) the responsibility of running the program and the Joint Committee on Printing oversight. Members of Congress can designate 2 libraries in their district as depository libraries. Senators can designate 2 libraries in their state. To find out if there is a current opening for a new designation, contact the Superintendent of Documents. Libraries that commit to housing these government publications appoint at least one librarian to learn the intricacies of government resources to assist the public in finding the information they seek. This partnership between Congress, libraries and the GPO results in one-on-one professional research assistance for local constituents.
Every aspect of this service, from collecting the information to disseminating it; from providing access to publications to preserving them for future access, has become more complex as information is increasingly made available through the internet.
Federal agencies put publications up on their websites, then take them down, without considering future access. The Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group survey found 51 % rate of "link rot" for dot-gov URLs over 6-year period. If those publications were sent to GPO, professionals would have created standardized metadata so that they could be more easily discovered by the public and would have preserved an electronic copy so that the publication could be used well into the future. When publications are sent to GPO to be printed, GPO rides the print order to create copies to send to selected depositories. Those libraries then take on the task of keeping the publications available to the public in print or in microform.
Naive people believe that everything can be found through Google. The truth is that Google does not create content, it simply points to information created by others. If they are not put up on internet servers for public access and maintained on internet servers for public access, then they are lost. Google cannot find what isn't there.
Some policymakers believe that public agencies' statistical programs are competing with private publishers, when the truth is that private publishers who offer statistical publications or databases do so by utilizing data that has been gathered by public agencies. They may repackage it in useful ways, but they could never afford to gather it. Federal agency publications are not their competition, they are part of private publishers' supply chain. The statistics gathered by federal agencies are used by researchers and business people across the country. Citizens all want what is best for America. Accurate data is the foundation of making meaningful improvements.
The information world has become more complex:
“The simple fact is that no one knows how much born-digital US Federal government information has been created or where it all is.” -- Jim Jacobs, CRL Leviathan Conference.
Leveraging the benefit of federal information resources through this partnership with information professionals at libraries in every congressional district throughout the country is simply brilliant. Members of Congress can help their constituents get help by linking the depository libraries on their district web sites and the GPO directory of depository libraries on their web site. Find FDLP libraries your district here: http://catalog.gpo.gov/fdlpdir/FDLPdir.jsp
Bill Olbrich, government information specialist at the St. Louis Public Library was able to help concerned citizens with accurate information from both his state and federal government. He told us:
"The police shooting of un-armed Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, on August 9, 2014, brought information requests explaining the actions of government agencies. While many questions asked about Missouri state legal practices, others queried the role of federal agencies. The United States Government Manual served as the starting point for understanding the Justice Department and the Civil Rights Commission. Their websites expanded that knowledge. The Commission’s website first announced it was streaming the Missouri State Advisory Committee meetings live. Justice Department statistics from Crime in the United States, 2013 and Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 2013 provided a realization beyond the numbers they gave. Finally, the Census Bureau’s incarceration statistics (1 Black male out of 3 will sit in a cell sometime in their life) drove home the incredible obstacles faced by American young Black males today."
David Smith, a librarian at St. Clair County Library in Port Huron, Michigan who helped voters prior to a recent election reported:
"During the last millage election for the library system, I would have several people come in looking for population data for St. Clair County. The Census Bureau web site provided everything they could have asked for and more. Some patrons felt comfortable going on the site by themselves, while others required some instruction to obtain the data they needed. It was a good feeling being able to educate the voters before they went to the polls to cast their ballots. Most people had never been to the web site before, and they were very impressed."
Members of Congress can assure that the depository libraries are able to serve everyone by supporting funding for the "Public Information Programs of the Superintendent of Documents" in the Government Publishing Office's appropriations request.
ALA Committee on Legislation, Federal Depository Library Program Task Force Final Report and Recommendationsby Jill Vassilakos-Long on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 at 01:09 pm
I wanted to spend my term following up on concerns that had been generated by our community. So often we are reactive, and I wanted to define our priorities. When I look at the GPO 2014-2018 Strategic Plan, I like to think that we had some impact. I could be deluding myself. In any case, these are issues that were brought up at the MidWinter meeting:
1) Fugitive documents:
Background: this has been a concern of the depository library community since its inception and electronic dissemination (with more and more information published directly by the agencies onto the web) has exacerbated the problem.
Where we are: The GPO Strategic Plan 2013-2017 cites the Statutory Foundation (U.S.C. Title 44) of the FDLP and states that they will determine and pursue eligible work not being handled by GPO. At the FDTF MidWinter meeting Anthony Smith of GPO stated that a 2012 web harvesting pilot project focused on 19 agencies. There was no description of the results of the pilot project. Mr. Smith said that GPO has inaugurated a formal process for nominating sites for harvesting. Nominate sites by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sites are recorded as a one-time “snap-shot.” It looks as if the home for this is https://archive-it.org/home/FDLPwebarchive. He stated that some metadata is collected by the harvesting software and sent to the CGP. The time frame for it showing up for searches is not set. It may be found in the New Electronic Titles lists and In-Process Titles in the meantime.
- Superintendent of Documents Mary Alice Baish will look into the question of Smithsonian documents being sent out in GPO envelopes in paper, but not showing up in GPO online lists.
- Does FDTF want to make any recommendations regarding Fugitive Documents?
2) Collection of last resort:
Background: It would be difficult to find every FDLP document that has been disseminated. Damage, loss, theft, destructive digitization, etc. have all taken a toll on our "complete" Regional collections. As materials go online, fewer libraries see a reason to keep hardcopy. At one point we worked on developing a "Collection of Last Resort." At one point some FDLP libraries donated materials to GPO for a dark archive, but Congress did not authorize funding to pursue this.
Where we are: The GPO Strategic Plan 2014-2018 recognizes the problem:
4. New Library Services and Content Management (LSCM) Strategic Partners –
Library Services and Content Management will continue developing new strategic partnerships that safeguard historical Government documents, preserve print collections, and include cataloging, digitizing, and preserving tangible copies of government publications. LSCM will support efforts to increase public access to digitized collections of high value
to the American public
At the ALA MidWinter FDTF meeting Ms. Cindy Etkin stated that the 2014-18 Strategic Plan discusses the possibility of partnering with NARA in a preservation initiative.
3) Mirror Server:
Background: As more of the collection goes electronic the concern that a computer virus or hardware failure could take out portions of the electronic collection has haunted librarians. A power failure in D.C. could make government information unavailable for the duration, a fire could take out the server and the back-ups. Plans were made to create a full backup and house it on the west coast, so that there would be redundancy (and it could help with sharing the load) for access to the collection.
Where we are: There is a mirror server for all Legislative Branch (including Legislative Agencies information). Its location is kept confidential as a matter of security. GPO also has a real-time backup server within its building. At the ALA Midwinter FDTF meeting Mr. Anthony Smith stated that there are plans for GPO to move the primary servers to another facility. At that same meeting, Mr. James Jacobs reported that there are currently 37 libraries, including two in Canada, involved in the LOCKSS-DOCS program.
Ms. Valerie Glenn spoke about Hathi Trust digitized documents. There are many, but some are incorrectly identified as under copyright and so are not available to the general public. If you find one misidentified in that way, contact Hathi Trust, they are willing to correct the problem on a case by case basis.
Dear GODORT FDTF Member,
The conference in Las Vegas is coming up soon and I will be assuming office as FDTF Chair at the close of business. Consequently, I am looking for people willing to serve as liaisons between the FDTF and GODORT standing committees for 2015. Duties are not difficult: primarily serving to provide brief updates at the Midwinter Meeting and the Annual Conference on GODORT committee activities and the FDTF and vice-versa.
I will list the needed committee liaison positions below. If interested, please contact me ASAP at email@example.com . Current committee chairs are encouraged to serve again if they wish, so please let me know if you are interested.
Legislation Liaison (NEED TWO people)
Rare and Endangered Government Publications Liaison.
Many thanks to those who volunteer (or re-volunteer). I would suggest listing SEVERAL committee liaison choices just in case your first choice finds a volunteer before you contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
GODORT FDTF Chair-Elect
Our first task is going to be to review and comment on the six statements that were advanced at the MidWinter meeting. These were disseminated at the FDTF meeting at MidWinter (and I believe that they were also available at most of the other GODORT meetings). I asked people at the meeting to send comments directly to Bernadine Abbott
After that (i.e. post Feb. 10) we have a question about the FDTF frequently used sites libguide: http://www.library.vanderbilt.edu/govdb/fdtf/. I would like to send feedback to Larry Romans by mid-March.
Then I would like us to work (possibly in collaboration with other GODORT committees) on a one page overview of the program, suitable for inclusion in the packets given to legislators at the beginning of the legislative session.
We also have a list of previous projects undertaken by members of our Task Force that I would like us to review and identify the outstanding projects, target a few for action, and then identify resources and strategies to move forward so that those can be worked on at ALA Annual.
Thank you for joining this group!