ARCHIVED: FY 1996 Appropriations for the Library of Congress

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Statement of Betty J. Turock
Chair and Director
Library and Information Studies
Rutgers University

on behalf of the
American Library Association
Association of Research Libraries
and the American Association of Law Libraries

before the Subcommittee on Legislative,
House Committee on Appropriations
on the FY 1996 Appropriations for the Library of Congress

February 23, 1995


I am appearing today on behalf of the Association of Research Libraries, the American Library Association, and the American Association of Law Libraries. I am President-elect of ALA, a nonprofit educational organization of 55,000 librarians, library trustees, and other friends of libraries. ARL is an Association of 119 research libraries in North America. ARL programs and services promote equitable access to and effective use of recorded knowledge in support of teaching, research, scholarship, and community service. AALL is a nonprofit educational organization with over 5,000 members dedicated to serving the legal information needs of legislators and other public officials, law professors, and students, attorneys, and members of the general public. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee on Legislative, a Subcommittee that has taken a leadership stance in support for libraries, access to government information, and in particular, continuing support for the Library of Congress.

Mr. Chairman, I recognize that all of the Legislative Branch, indeed all agencies are facing extreme funding pressures. In the past year, agencies have reduced or curtailed programs and services to meet these funding constraints. The recent hearing conducted by the House and Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittees explored additional means to meet these funding challenges while at the same time, not diminishing important operational programs. In the months ahead as Members of this Subcommittee consider and evaluate those options, I hope that you will consider the critical role that legislative branch agencies perform for libraries throughout the country. New initiatives at the Library such as THOMAS and the digital library initiative merit support to help the Library meet the challenges of the new information age, promote the continuing collaboration within the library community, and provide public access to needed information services.

At a time when we are experiencing a sea change in how we as a Nation, indeed, globally manage and access information, it is important to strengthen those institutions which will be key players in this rapidly changing information-based economy. The Library of Congress FY 1996 budget request of $378, 544,000 (including the authority to obligate another $25,406,000 in receipts) positions the Library to move more aggressively into the digital library arena while at the same time, ensuring that important programs such as the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and preservation activities are maintained. We believe that the request for an increase of 8.6% is needed to fund mandatory increases, to provide the necessary continuity for many programs, and to target selected strategic activities such as the digital library initiative.

Like the Library of Congress, libraries across the Nation are facing unprecedented challenges in meeting the needs of their users while investing in new networked-based programs to address current and future challenges. The key to managing in this rapidly changing environment, is by funding important operational programs, and by supporting library resource sharing programs and cooperative programs such as digital library initiatives. Programs such as these are central to the successful operation of all libraries and to the Library and its ability to effectively serve the Congress and the Nation in the years ahead.

I would like to focus my remarks on six LC program areas :

* Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped;

* Digital libraries;

* Preservation;

* American Folklife Center;

* Arrearage Reduction and Cooperative Cataloging; and

* Copyright Office

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is a critically important service to the Nation. This free national library service provides recorded and braille materials to blind and physically handicapped persons and is accomplished via a cooperating network of 143 regional and subregional libraries (state, regional, and public libraries throughout the nation) that circulate these resources to eligible borrowers by postage-free mail. Some 21 million items are borrowed by a readership of 770,000 annually. The network of libraries also serve as distribution points for specialized playback equipment and accessories.

We note that as in past years, the budget request for NLS can barely, if at all, meet the needs of the population that it serves. The growing elderly population in the United States relies heavily upon NLS service; thus we strongly request the Subcommittee's full support for this much needed national program. We support the NLS request to fund establishment of two centralized braille book storage and distribution centers.

Digital Libraries

Mr. Chairman, we have heard a great deal about digital libraries lately. The notion of having access to vast quantities of information has captured the imagination of librarians, scholars, educators, and policy makers. Such visions have also sparked the interest of commercial publishers, media companies and other information providers. To realize the potential of digital libraries, collaboration among public and private partners will be essential. It is also very important to recognize the opportunities that digital libraries present in making the unique research collections of our libraries publicly available -- namely, the opportunity to add content to the information highway. It is widely recognized that without such content the highway -- our future -- will not succeed. And libraries, as you are well aware, serve as the point of contact within a community to those resources. Thus libraries are both providers and points of access to these resources.

A variety and diversity of collaborative projects will be necessary to fully explore the potential of digital libraries. No single model will prevail given the number of institutions, collections, and differing constituencies that must be served. There are a number of collaborative projects and programs that are exploring these models with an array of public and private partners. For example, the National Science Foundation (NSF) with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) are supporting six digital library projects in a variety of disciplines utilizing diverse technologies. The Library's focus on American history and culture adds yet another important dimension to the building of global digital libraries.

Another project is a collaborative effort between ARL and the Association of American Universities. These associations are pursuing a networked-based distributed program for coordinated development for foreign acquisitions of research materials. Three pilot projects are underway for materials that originate in Latin America, Japan, and Germany. The Library of Congress has taken a leadership role in the German pilot project. The cornerstone of the proposed German demonstration project is building the collections and electronic infrastructure to improve access to and delivery of German research resources. The project scope will focus on German politics and public life since 1945. The project will investigate the feasibility of building the electronic platform for the exchange of economic, policy related, legal, and other information among North American and German libraries.

Another digital library effort at the Library is the Global Legal Information Network or GLIN. GLIN is an international cooperative program in which participating nations share the work of indexing and abstracting each Nation's Official Gazette with the Library of Congress' Law Library in exchange for electronic access to the laws of other nations. This permits timely and effective access to laws and regulations of other countries.

Continued investment in LC programs and digital initiatives will enable the Library, with other partners, to build digital libraries that will greatly enhance the education, research, and life-long learning opportunities for the public.

Preservation Activities

This Subcommittee has over the past several years taken a much needed and welcome leadership role with regard to initiating and supporting the Library in its preservation activities. These activities must move ahead. The deterioration of our intellectual resources has not stopped, nor even slowed down. Finding timely solutions to this pressing problem continues to be critical and is mutually supportive of the digital library initiatives underway at the Library. Thus we appreciate the Subcommittee's recent approval of the Library's request to obligate $1.8 million for a new two-year action plan for the continuation of the Library's mass deacidification program.

The Library of Congress continues to provide leadership in researching and developing mass deacidification as an effective preservation tool for its own collections as well as for those of the nation's research libraries. The process of "deacidifying" or stabilizing paper is a cost-effective preservation measure that can significantly increase the longevity of acidic library collections. During the past year the Library of Congress conducted a testing and evaluation program for the Bookkeeper mass deacidification process. The year-long evaluation effort has laid the foundation for further refinements of the Bookkeeper process. The next phase of the Library's mass deacidification program will demonstrate the effectiveness of the Bookkeeper process for a wide range of research materials. All libraries benefit from this program.

American Folklife Center

At a time when Americans are increasingly aware of their varied cultural roots, the American Folklife Center and its Archive of Folk Culture are uniquely qualified to collect and preserve the sound recordings, photographs, histories, and traditions that document the threads that make up our distinctly American society. The Center plays a key role in preserving and presenting American Folklife to the Nation. ALA, ARL, and AALL support the request for $1. 187 million for this important program.

Arrearage Reduction and Cooperative Cataloging

The Library of Congress, in collaboration with others in the library community, continues to reduce the volume of unprocessed materials. The Library was able to reduce the arrearages this year by two million items. This is a notable achievement. Achieving this goal was possible for several reasons: the increasing use of cataloging copy from other libraries, collection-level cataloging, reselection of materials, and enhanced bibliographic workstations which have led to higher productivity and efficiency. Cooperative programs with others in the library community, and in particular, the utilization of cataloging copy from other institutions and related cooperative measures, has continued and indeed increased this past year. The Library is to be commended for instituting such measures and for supporting the work of the Cooperative Cataloging Council in the development of a national plan to build upon the important advances already made.

Copyright Office

Mr. Chairman, we would like to raise one final concern. In the joint House- Senate hearing of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittees, it was suggested that Congress consider the value in moving the Copyright Office, currently within the legislative branch, to the Department of Commerce. We strongly oppose such a proposal. The placement of the Copyright Office in the Legislative Branch permits the Office to be a neutral voice on copyright and intellectual property issues. Placing the functions of the Copyright Office in the Department of Commerce would place it in an environment devoted to the promotion of commerce, enhanced productivity, and U.S. competitiveness; not a environment that reflects the needs of creators, users, and researchers. In addition, we believe that severing the link between copyright deposit (for both published and unpublished works) would add significant new costs to the Library's budget and would have a detrimental effect on the depth and breadth of the Library's collection. The collections of the Library are unrivaled by any other library in the United States or the world. The richness of these collections is a direct result of the fact that the Library has been designated as the repository for U.S. copyright deposits for nearly 150 years.

We encourage you to see the importance of retaining the Office and functions of the Copyright Office within the Legislative Branch to ensure a balanced approach to issues relating to copyright and intellectual property.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee today. ARL, ALA, and AALL look to your continuing support of the Library of Congress and its programs that seek to provide wide-spread public access to its varied and unique resources.