ARCHIVED: Fund the Production of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set and the bound Congressional Record

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July 17, 1996

The Honorable Connie Mack, Chair
Subcommittee on Legislative Branch
Senate Committee on Appropriations
S-128 Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Mack:

On behalf of the American Library Association and the American Association of Law Libraries, we urge the Committee to continue to fund the production of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set and the bound Congressional Record in the permanent, print versions required for long-term access and preservation. We request that the Senate restore the $1,200,000 cut by the House of Representatives for the Serial Set and the $1,050,000 cut for production of the bound Congressional Record. This letter supplements the one submitted for the hearing record on July 10 in which we urged funding the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses Appropriation for FY 1997 at the full amount requested, $30,827,000.

The House of Representatives cut $1,200,000 from the Public Printer's request, projecting that this reduction is possible by converting most Serial Sets to CD-ROM. Under the House plan, only the 50 regional depository libraries, plus one library in each state without a regional, would receive a bound set. Currently, 463 depository libraries have selected the paper bound Serial Set so they can provide permanent access to the work of Congress for their users. Most of these libraries would receive the Serial Set in non-permanent microfiche or electronic versions instead of the bound paper set if funding is not restored. The Serial Set, the permanent record of the Senate and House of Representatives, has been produced since 1813 in a bound, numbered edition. It includes Senate and House documents, congressional committee reports, presidential and other executive publications, treaty materials, and selected reports of nongovernmental organizations. We note that 44USC738 is still law:

The Public Printer shall supply the Superintendent of Documents with sufficient copies of publications distributed in unbound form, to be bound and distributed to the State libraries and other designated depositories for their permanent files....The library edition, as well as all other bound sets of congressional numbered documents and reports, shall be arranged in volumes and bound in the manner directed by the Joint Committee on Printing.

In October 1994, the Serial Set Study Group submitted a report to the Public Printer that presented a number of measures that would reduce the cost of the Serial Set and would use more efficient technologies to save enough money to continue production and provision of an archival bound paper Serial Set to all depositories requesting it. We urge Congress to implement the recommendations of the Serial Set Study Group which would allow for the economical production of both a bound paper set and a CD-ROM version.

Additionally, the House cut $1,050,000 from GPO's request, with the intention of converting the bound Congressional Record to CD-ROM. The bound Congressional Record has been produced since 1873 as the official record of the proceedings and debates of Congress in a uniform, numbered edition. The bound Congressional Record is already available only at regional libraries. The House cuts essentially would eliminate all paper copies of the bound Congressional Record available to the public at depository libraries.

The U.S. Congressional Serial Set and the bound Congressional Record are available through the Federal Depository Library Program, providing equitable, ready, no-fee access to the official version of these important titles in nearly every Congressional district. The documents are official, authoritative records of the deliberations of Congress, and are produced on acid free permanent paper to ensure their preservation for future research and scholarship. These titles are important historical materials for the legal and research communities, particularly for the compilation of legislative histories needed to determine legislative intent in interpreting federal statutes. The production and dissemination of these historically-significant titles in microfiche, CD-ROM or other electronic formats do not at this time meet required standards to ensure permanent long-term access and preservation, nor are they the official, authoritative versions.

ALA and AALL urge Congress to recognize the historical significance of the print versions of the U.S. Serial Set and the bound Congressional Record as the official record of their deliberations, and to guarantee their continued availability to the American public through local depository libraries.

ALA is a nonprofit educational organization of 58,000 librarians, library trustees, and friends of libraries dedicated to promoting the public interest in a free and open information society. AALL is a nonprofit educational organization with more than 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.

Sincerely,

Carol C. Henderson Robert L. Oakley
Executive Director - Washington Office
Washington Affairs Representative
American Library Association
American Association of Law Libraries