ARCHIVED: Government Printing Office and Executive Branch Information Dissemination

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Statement of
Robert L. Oakley
Director of the Law Library and Professor of Law Georgetown University Law Center
Edward B. Williams Law Library

On behalf of the

American Association of Law Libraries
American Library Association
Association of Research Libraries
Chief Officers of State Library Agencies Special Libraries Association
Urban Libraries Council

Before the House Subcommittee on
Government Management, Information and Technology Committee on
Government Reform and Oversight
on the Government Printing Office and
Executive Branch Information Dissemination

May 8, 1997


Good morning. I am Robert L. Oakley, Director of the Law Library and Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center. Today I am testifying on behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, the Special Libraries Association, and the Urban Libraries Council. Together, we represent more than 80,000 librarians, information specialists, library trustees, friends of libraries, and their institutions--all dedicated to public access to information. Our members know first-hand, on a daily basis, the importance and impact that government information has on the health and lives of all Americans, on the economic well-being of our nation and on the preservation of our democracy.

Chairman Horn and members of the Subcommittee, I am honored to appear before you today as you consider ways to improve public access to government information. The use of new technologies is rapidly changing the way that Congress, government agencies, and the courts create and provide access to information. While these are very exciting times in many ways, our steadfast goal is to use technology to improve and enhance public access to government information. We in the library community are very concerned that especially during these transitional years, models are developing that result in a loss to the public of information already created at taxpayer expense. It is imperative that agencies fulfill their responsibilities under the provisions of Title 44 and that both the spirit and the letter of the law are met.

The library community is an active partner in the current policy discussions on how to use new technologies to enhance citizen access to government information. Representatives from many of our associations participated in last year's congressionally-mandated study by the Government Printing Office (GPO). The final report to Congress provides a framework for access to electronic government information through the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). We urge this Subcommittee to reaffirm the basic principles that have guided this partnership program successfully for more than one hundred years. These principles, most recently expressed in the GPO's Study to Identify Measures Necessary for a Successful Transition to a More Electronic Federal Depository Library Program (June 1996), are as follows:

  • Principle 1: The Public Has the Right of Access to Government Information.
  • Principle 2: The Government Has an Obligation to Disseminate and Provide Broad Public Access to its Information.
  • Principle 3: The Government Has an Obligation to Guarantee the Authenticity and Integrity of its Information.
  • Principle 4: The Government Has an Obligation to Preserve Its Information.
  • Principle 5: Government Information Created or Compiled by Government Employees or at Government Expense Should Remain in the Public Domain.

The public's access to government information and the future success of the FDLP will be achieved only if agencies within all three branches of government, as creators and disseminators of information, staunchly uphold these principles. Mr. Chairman, other findings of the GPO study, particularly the case studies relating to problems with the dissemination of information by executive branch agencies (GPO Study Task Force Reports, Attachment D), should prove very useful to this Subcommittee as you investigate this issue.

Mr. Chairman, our testimony today covers three areas. First, we focus on the partnership role of federal depository libraries in providing the public--your constituents--with timely, no fee, convenient access to the information they need. Second, we highlight the challenges and opportunities presented by new technologies, especially the need to recognize the entire life cycle of government information, from creation to preservation. And third, we discuss erosion of the public's access to government information and the need for agency compliance with the provisions of Title 44.

Part I: Equitable Public Access to Government Information Through Depository Libraries

Public access to government information is a basic right of the American people which we believe the government has an affirmative obligation to provide. From the earliest days of our nation's history, Congress recognized its responsibility to inform the American public of the work of the federal government, and established the Federal Depository Library Program to provide no-fee, geographically-dispersed access to government publications. By designating depository libraries in each state and congressional district, Congress ensured that government information from all three branches would be distributed throughout the country and available at no charge to the user. This system reflected a commitment to broad-based democracy and public accountability--principles that are as important today as they have been in the past. All Americans, whether in rural or urban communities and regardless of their economic status, must have equitable, ready, and timely access to government information. The FDLP meets this goal and is one of the most effective and successful partnerships between the Federal government and the library community.

Today, approximately 1,370 depository libraries located in nearly every congressional district provide expert service in helping your constituents locate and use government information within the constraints of rapidly changing technologies. These libraries invest a significant level of institutional funds for staff, space, and equipment to provide the public with ready, efficient and no-fee access to government information. Moreover, depository libraries are at the forefront in providing access to the broad and growing array of electronic government information products and services--which require a further investment in equipment, software, network development and support, additional technical staff, increased costs for training, and greater service requirements to instruct and assist library users.

Your constituents, whose tax dollars fund the collection and dissemination of information from agencies in all three branches of government, use the resources of their local depository library daily to access needed information. The results of GPO's most recent Biennial Survey reported that in 1995, an estimated 189,000 to 237,000 users each week were provided assistance in locating and using depository materials. These numbers represent people from all walks of life and all levels of experience and technical sophistication. Without the local resources and services provided at depository libraries, many of these requests for government information would go unmet.

Significant Investment of Depository Library Partners

Mr. Chairman, in preparation for this hearing, we contacted the Regional Depository Library in California for some recent statistics. The Government Publications Section of the California State Library (CSL) in Sacramento has over 2.8 million federal documents in its collection. During 1996-97, users asked more than 18,000 questions relating to this collection--half of these through telephone inquiries. In addition to this high level of reference service, 56,433 items from this collection were used in the library or borrowed during a twelve-month period, and another 5,376 titles were loaned to other libraries.

The total 1996-97 budget of the CSL Government Publications Section was approximately $809,900, including all personnel costs and administrative overhead. Of this amount, $89,000 was spent for purchasing materials such as indexes and other reference sources that are necessary to support the collection. The California State Library, serving over one hundred selective depository libraries, is one of fifty-three regional libraries that assumes the responsibility of collecting all materials available through the FDLP and for preserving them for permanent public access.

Across the country, depository libraries in every state are expending similar proportions of their budgets to support the FDLP, exemplifying their institutional commitment to providing the public access to government information. In February of this year, I appeared before the House Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations to urge full support for the Public Printer's appropriations request of $30,477,000 for the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses, of which $25,886,000 will maintain the FDLP in FY 1998. When you consider the California State Library's annual costs of being a regional depository library, multiplied by the costs of the other fifty-two Regional depository libraries and more than 1,300 selective depository libraries, you recognize the significant investment that depository libraries make to participate in this partnership program. It is therefore incumbent upon the federal government to ensure that the system in place to deliver this information is efficient, comprehensive, and maximizes the investment of all program partners, including the taxpayer.

User Needs for Both Print and Electronic Formats

As professionals working in institutions dedicated to the importance of information and open access, librarians are uniquely situated to see the daily, real-life impact of rapidly changing technologies. In our role as intermediaries for the public, we are in the best position to recognize that government-wide policy decisions must be put into place now to manage these changes. Our experience shows that, as the average user requires assistance in navigating through the complex layers of technology and the confusing maze of government to find needed information, the role of depository libraries and librarians is more important than ever before. Depository libraries serve as the local link to government information in all formats, assisting the public and the federal government by providing the space, equipment, networks, training, professional assistance and user support necessary to connect people to the government information they require.

Depository libraries have built rich collections of print materials that will continue to serve the research and education needs of Americans for generations to come. These collections include important historical materials, such as the bound Congressional Record, older decennial Census reports, and the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. These rich historical collections--many of which are more than one hundred years old--represent the working history of our nation and are heavily used by citizens in every state. It is important to recognize that, while more and more of today's information is available only in electronic formats, libraries must continue to maintain these print collections even as they plan for a more electronic Federal Depository Library Program.

One of the greatest strengths of depository libraries is that they are the nexus where the requirements to access all formats of government information come together to meet the needs of the users. Whether it is a 19th century congressional report from the U.S. Congressional Serial Set or the Department of Commerce's most recent trade statistics from the Internet, users are assured that their local depository library will have access to the resources they need and will provide the personal assistance they require.

Mr. Chairman, the library community is concerned that, in the rush to use new technologies, the historical record of key government resources--including historically significant congressional titles--is jeopardized by the discontinuation of print formats in favor of only electronic distribution. Last year's FY 1997 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act limited the distribution of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set to only one depository library in each state and eliminated the bound Congressional Record altogether. We have long recommended that format decisions be based on the value and usability of the materials, and not solely on cost concerns.

In neither case has a proven, comprehensive, permanent electronic replacement been developed that ensures long-term public access with the ability to migrate from one technological platform to another. We consider these titles among the core documents of our democracy and vital to the public's right to know. Electronic formats such as CD-ROM currently fail to meet the necessary standards to ensure permanent long-term access and preservation, nor are they the official, authoritative versions (Attachment 2, Scientific American article). The American Library Association (ALA) and the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) have formally expressed concern with the impact of this decision on long-term public access. (Attachment 3, AALL Resolution).

Examples of FDLP Innovative Electronic Services

In addition to the traditional role of acquiring and maintaining print collections, libraries are also seizing opportunities afforded by new technologies. Depository libraries have long been on the leading edge of technological change and have adapted to their new role of electronic access providers by developing a range of innovative services which improve the public's use of these new formats. I'd like to briefly illustrate some of the ways in which depository librarians are contributing to the FDLP by highlighting three projects.

First is the unique "Uncle Sam Migrating Government Publications" (http://www.lib.memphis.edu/gpo/mig.htm) service developed by the Regional Depository Library at the University of Memphis. This site tracks over 500 titles which in the past have been available to depository libraries in paper but which are now available only through the Internet. Librarians are grappling with the problems of how to ensure the continuing availability of these electronic titles. Many choose to download and retain their own copies, just like a print series would be bound and added to the collection, until the government establishes a comprehensive program for permanent public access.

Second, the "U.S. Federal Government Agencies Page" (http://www.lib.lsu.edu/gov/fedgov.html) hosted by the Regional depository library at Louisiana State University (LSU). This "mega-site" provides hotlinks to government agency Web sites based on the arrangement of the United States Government Manual. On a single day last week, there were 1,502 hits on this page.

Third, the "Infomine Project--Government Information" (http://logic17.ucr.edu/govpub/) site hosted by the University of California Riverside Library. Infomine is a catalog of universal resource locators (URLs) that includes both agency homepages and individual titles available on the Internet. It allows searching by title, subject, or keyword. The records for the Government Information section of Infomine result from the cooperative work of the government information librarians throughout the University of California system. There are currently over 2,400 URLs in the Government Information Section, and in March 1997 over 100,000 searches were performed.

Mr. Chairman, in addition to contacting California's Regional depository library to illustrate for you both the valuable services it provides and the significant costs it incurs to serve the public, we also spoke with the staff at the California State University (CSU) Long Beach Library. The library became a selective depository library in 1962, and today receives about 38% of the total items offered for selection through the FDLP. The library serves not only residents of its own congressional district, but borders Orange County so patrons from many different locations come to CSU to use the library's FDLP resources.

Currently, the library has one public access computer workstation dedicated to electronic government information products, and therefore meets the minimum technical guidelines for depository libraries. The many new challenges that all libraries face in providing access to electronic information are particularly hard on smaller institutions such as CSU-Long Beach.

Electronic government information is in high demand at CSU-Long Beach, so the depository collection--like that of other program libraries--includes several hundred CD-ROMs to date. Providing services for these CD-ROMs is problematic. Software for only 10% of the depository CD-ROMs has been loaded on the single workstation available for government documents, stretching the limits of this machine. The other 90% of the CD-ROMs are available for loan to users, but not all patrons have the type of computer necessary to run these products. The library staff report a number of software compatibility problems; for example, some of the older CD-ROMS won't run in the current Windows environment.

Smaller depository libraries often lack sufficient staffing to be able to provide the extensive additional support that electronic services require. Practically every CD-ROM has its own search and retrieval software. Staff do not have the time to load, experiment with, and become expert with so many different systems. While the electronic capabilities and degree of service provided by selective depository libraries--particularly smaller ones--vary, all libraries and users would benefit greatly from much-needed standards and support services for agency produced electronic government information products.

Many of the complex issues regarding the government's use of electronic information dissemination technologies were thoroughly examined in the GPO study. Attachment 4 to this statement is a letter from our associations to the Public Printer outlining the concerns of the library community during the transition to a more electronic-based FDLP. Our two most critical concerns are the public's ability to locate information in a distributed electronic environment and the fundamental need to guarantee that electronic government information will be permanently accessible. It is critically important that there is a strong, centralized, coordinated, and managed federal information dissemination and access program.

Part II: Electronic Access to Government Information--Challenges and Opportunities

Need for a Strong, Centralized, Coordinated Program

We commend the Government Printing Office for the steady progress it has achieved in moving towards a more electronic FDLP. The development of the GPO Access system is laudable in terms of both increased public use and the growing number of electronic information products that are now available at no charge to the user. With the passage of the GPO Electronic Information Access Enhancement Act of 1993 (Public Law 103-40), Congress wisely sought to develop a central access point to information from all three branches of government. Recent usage statistics of the GPO Access system are impressive, as is its expansion to include more than 70 databases. In March 1997, over 4 million documents were downloaded from GPO Access.

With the rapid and pervasive growth of electronic government information, one of the greatest challenges for users is simply identifying and locating the database or source that they need. GPO's Superintendent of Documents Web site provides centralized bibliographic access to government resources in all formats through the online Monthly Catalog. GPO has developed an electronic Pathway Indexer that links users to information resources at over 1,274 other federal agency Web sites and indexes over 112,000 pages. In addition, GPO maintains a centralized database that allows users to search through the Government Information Locator Service (GILS) records of twenty-six federal agencies. Usershave commended GPO's GILS database for providing a single point of access to these agencies' GILS records.

The assumption by some policy makers that there is no need for central coordination of the Federal Depository Library Program in a distributed electronic environment is simply not accurate. In fact, a more electronic FDLP requires greater coordination to bring all participants together on issues such as:

  • standards and guidelines for locator systems to ensure ease of identifying and finding information;
  • preservation and long-term access;
  • no-fee depository library access to government information, including fee-based products and services in all formats; and,
  • availability of government information in formats that are usable by the public.

The complexities of these issues and the need for central coordination, particularly when many agencies are creating their own Web sites, seem to be underestimated. Depository libraries and users today must deal with a vast and rapidly growing number of online publishing entities in a distributed electronic system. The administrative burden and inefficiencies of having nearly 1,400 libraries and thousands of citizens contacting each agency individually for materials and support would be enormous. Efficient and effective access to government information can only be achieved through a system of centrally coordinated access and dissemination services.

Need for Preservation and Permanent Public Access

It is critical that the law recognize the responsibility of the federal government to provide for permanent public access to government information in all formats through a comprehensively coordinated program that includes the Superintendent of Documents, federal agencies, the National Archives and Records Administration, the Library of Congress and other national libraries, depository libraries, and other library partners. This responsibility should be established within the Superintendent of Documents and is a natural and important extension of the public dissemination role of the Superintendent of Documents as administrator of the Federal Depository Library Program.

In the print world, this responsibility is being met successfully by the system of Regional depository libraries. As cultural institutions dedicated to public access, libraries are proven and effective partners in providing broad public access to physical collections. Whether these materials are printed publications or tangible electronic products like CD-ROMs, there are tremendous advantages to having multiple, geographically dispersed collections of government information located around the country for the public to use.

In the electronic world as well, libraries again provide an invaluable service by supplying the local infrastructure-- including hardware, software, training, expertise, and other services--necessary to effectively connect users to electronic resources. But physical custody of the electronic databases remains with the government, not libraries. In an electronic environment, the only partner in a position to assure preservation and ongoing access to government information is the federal government itself.

The traditional role of the Superintendent of Documents has been to provide permanent public access to print, microfiche, and tangible electronic products through the system of Regional depository libraries (44 U.S.C. 1912). We believe that this responsibility should be extended in the online environment to include ready, permanent public access to remotely accessible electronic products. The GPO "Strategic Plan" envisions providing permanent public access to electronic government information through the development of a coordinated plan that includes:

  • preserving and providing continuous, transparent access to all electronic files on the GPO Access system;
  • ensuring that government information located at Federal agency Web sites is accessible through the GPO Pathway Indexer and is permanently available to the public; and
  • establishing partnerships with depository libraries and other institutions willing to serve as partners for permanent public access.

GPO recently established the first FDLP library partnership which was signed in a three-way memorandum of understanding (MOU) by the GPO, the U.S. Department of State, and the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC). Under the MOU, information products made available on the Department of State's main Web site, DOSFAN (Department of State Foreign Affairs Network), will migrate to a DOSFAN Electronic Research Collection when removed from the main Web site.

UIC will manage the DOSFAN Electronic Research Collection as an FDLP partner. Stipulations in the MOU require that UIC will: first, provide adequate online access to this research collection; second, ensure the security of the collection through mechanisms such as a fire wall; third, post notification that the collection is being maintained in partnership with the FDLP; fourth and most importantly, provide a copy of all DOSFAN Electronic Research Collection files to GPO should UIC no longer be able to support permanent access to the files.

This last requirement ensures ongoing access to the collection either through GPO or through a subsequent FDLP partner. The MOU also stipulates that both the Department of State and GPO will post notification on their Web sites that the research collection is being provided in partnership with the FDLP, UIC, and DOS. In addition, GPO is required to provide bibliographic access to the electronic products housed in the collection. Operational details of this partnership are currently being worked out for June implementation. The library community is pleased with this model that provides a centrally coordinated program to ensure permanent public access.

Need for Guidelines for Agency Web Sites

With the emergence of the World Wide Web, federal agencies are quickly embracing these exciting technologies to disseminate government information. Yet we have several concerns regarding agency World Wide Web practices that require the attention and guidance of the Administration.

First, there appears to be little recognition that information and data disseminated through a government Web site are federal records and public information. There should be guidelines to ensure that this information is preserved and available even after its current use.

Second and equally problematic, librarians and users are seeing valuable government information resources made available through agency Web sites disappear daily. In the absence of a coordinated national program to systematically capture, preserve, and maintain ongoing access to electronic government data, important information is lost everyday as files come and go from agency web sites and computer servers. The information then becomes useless to the American public whose tax dollars have supported its creation.

Third, some of these sites offer what we refer to as "info-entertainment" and seem to be little more than a public affairs initiative to promote the agency. While it is important that a Web site include the agency's mission and organization, the meaningful content that librarians and users rely on to meet their information needs is often lacking. Some agencies, particularly those who rely on interaction with the public as part of their mission, such as the Federal Communications Commission, have developed Web sites more rich in content.

Fourth, we must develop mechanisms to ensure the authority and integrity of information available on agency Web sites. Users must be assured that the information they locate is, in fact, official. The Office of Management and Budget clearly recognizes this shortcoming as it offers the following caveat on its Web site:

"Electronic versions of OMB documents are intended to provide broad public access to the text of OMB directives and other key information. These electronic versions should not, however, be treated as authoritative. The only official versions of these documents are printed or hard copy materials obtained from the White House Publications Office or from official OMB sources."

In fact, the printed official versions of OMB documents are not available to the public at depository libraries. On the other hand, the Office of Federal Register stipulates that the electronic PDF files available from GPO Access do serve as the official versions of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations.

There are complex implementation challenges and significant costs ahead, particularly in terms of long-term access and preservation of government information that is available only through electronic formats such as agency Web sites. The GPO has been innovative in helping users locate information on Web sites by developing its electronic Pathway Indexer and its centralized GILS database. No entity of government, however, has established the systematic and comprehensive means for ensuring the preservation and permanent public access of electronic government information. We believe that this function should rest with the Superintendent of Documents as an extension of its duties to oversee and maintain the FDLP.

Part III: Erosion of Federal Government Information from the Public Domain

Less Access to Less Government Information

On February 27, 1997 Senator John Warner articulated his concern about "The Growing Crisis in Public Access to Public Information." (143 Congressional Record S1730). Increasingly, federal agencies are circumventing their obligations under Title 44. The trends toward decentralization, privatization, and commercialization of government information and the increased use of electronic technologies to produce and disseminate information have led to a large amount of government information eluding the primary systems of public access. The result is increased "fugitive" information and reduced public access.

Librarians and users alike are increasingly frustrated by the steady removal of important government resources from the public domain. The information needs of the American public are not served when agencies contract with private publishers and fail to supply these resources to the Superintendent of Documents for distribution to depository libraries. Broad access and use of publicly-funded information are substantially impaired when licensing agreements prevent or curtail redissemination, or when agencies copyright or restrict distribution of information.

These developments have exposed serious flaws in the current laws and policies of the federal government. There is no comprehensive plan to ensure the life cycle of government information in an electronic environment. There is no effective enforcement or compliance mechanism to assure that agencies comply with their responsibilities under Title 44.

Agency Dissemination Initiatives that Circumvent Title 44

To illustrate the problems mentioned above, I'd like to highlight some different scenarios that librarians have witnessed:

  • Publications that simply disappear from the FDLP because they are no longer published by the government and are now produced by the private sector using government data. A few recent examples are Significant Features of Fiscal Federalism, Handbook of Labor Statistics, and Business Statistics of the United States.

  • Publications that agencies make available for a fee through the Internet that are excluded from the FDLP. For example, depository libraries can select the National Criminal Justice Reference Service CD-ROM for their collections but have to pay subscription costs for access to the Internet database that contains the actual reports.

  • Publications which have been published by GPO and available to the FDLP in the past, but for which an agency enters into an exclusive contract, such as a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), with a private publisher. Examples of this are the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (now published by Oxford University Press) and the U.S. Industrial Outlook (McGraw Hill). Two titles which previously fell into this category, Big Emerging Markets (Bernan) and The Hispanics-Latinos: Diverse People in a Multicultural Society (Philip Morris and the National Association of Hispanic Publications), were subsequently made available to depository libraries because of congressional attention to this issue.

  • Publications that have been produced in paper for years but now are published only electronically and are not being made available to depository libraries. Sometimes this results when an agency fails to realize that their full responsibilities under Title 44 include the provision of electronic products and services to depository libraries. Other cases occur when agencies license proprietary software to use with a product, such as for the NTIS Order Now CD-ROM, and there is no agreement on how the licensing fee for depository access should be recovered.

  • Another scenario is when agency CD-ROMs or Web sites are available to depository libraries, but their use is restricted to only one password that must serve the needs of thousands of people in the congressional district. The Department of Commerce's STAT-USA is an example of an information service created by an agency that operates under a cost-recovery mandate. Depository libraries are limited to one password to STAT-USA, a valuable database that contains literally thousands of titles that are no longer available in print. Institutions that need to network this product to provide adequate access to their users must pay for additional passwords.

  • Finally some agencies, such as the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM), currently do not provide access to their databases for no-fee use in depository libraries. We believe that this information, created at taxpayer expense, rightfully belongs in the Federal Depository Library Program.

Compliance with Title 44 Needed Now

The library community has long maintained that there should be a strong enforcement mechanism and appropriate penalties for agencies that fail to comply with the provisions of Title 44. Government information created at taxpayer expense should remain in the public domain and be permanently available at no fee through depository libraries. The Government Printing Office and the Superintendent of Documents have no effective means for enforcing the FDLP provisions of Title 44 to ensure public access. OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), while responsible for developing information policy for executive branch agencies, has lacked the resources to ensure agency compliance with Title 44.

While the strongest incentive for an agency to disseminate information is to inform the taxpayer of the vital work which the agency performs, dissemination of information is rarely an explicit part of an agency's mission. There should be a balance between incentives and enforcement to ensure agency participation and compliance so that information created at taxpayer expense remains in the public domain and permanently available. We in the library community share the deep concern of members of Congress over the general lack of agency compliance with Title 44 and the negative impact this has on the public's ability to access government information.

Access America and the Federal Depository Library Program

Vice-President Al Gore recently released a new National Performance Review report on the reengineering of information technology, Access America (http://www.gits.fed.gov/htmtxto/intro.htm). We agree with the report's assertion that technology is dramatically changing the way the federal government provides services to all Americans. However, it is unfortunate that the vision embraced in this document ignores the successful, well-established infrastructure that provides citizens with no-fee access to government information within their own community--at their local depository library.

The report also assumes that government information disseminated through the Internet is readily and easily available in many households. Our experience underscores the fact that, while this is a laudable vision, it does not reflect the reality today. The report notes that in 1994, 72 percent of adults aged 16 and older living in the U.S. did not have access to the Internet at home, work or school. Even for those who do have personal computers and Internet access, the task of locating, retrieving, and using electronic government information remains a challenge for most Americans.

In focusing on how to improve access to government "services," Access America does not recognize fully the value of government information "content." We would like to see a commitment by the Administration to public access to government information, and a recognition of existing laws and policies that safeguard the public's right to government information.

Part IV: Summary and Conclusion

Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee this morning on behalf of our national library associations. Our members are in the unique position of being able to speak for the millions of American who each year visit their local depository library to find government information. Because of the increasingly complex maze of electronic government information, depository libraries are more valuable than ever before in meeting the needs of the public.

Allow me to summarize for you and the members of this Subcommittee the major issues addressed in our testimony today.

First, that the Federal Depository Library Program is the most efficient system to provide the American public with government information, and that libraries provide the national technological infrastructure that is necessary in the electronic age.

Second, that there is a strong need for a central, coordinating authority whose functions should include the development of much-needed finding tools, and the preservation and permanent public access of government information.

Third, that some agencies currently do not fulfill their responsibilities under Title 44, thereby depriving Americans of information created at taxpayer expense.

Fourth, that Congress should provide a meaningful method of enforcement so that agencies will understand their obligations under Title 44 and will comply with the law.

Fifth, that moving to a "cybergovernment" is replete with new challenges, and requires additional costs both for the government to produce and disseminate information, and for libraries and citizens to be able to locate and use it.

The associations that I am representing here today consider the problems of access to government information so pressing that in January we formed an Inter-Association Working Group on Government Information Policy. This group has begun identifying key issues that need to be addressed by legislation. Our draft working document, Goals for Revising U.S.C. Title 44 to Enhance Public Access to Federal Government Information, is attached. Also attached for your information is a document that identifies the essential components for enhanced public access to government information, and the responsibilities of all partners in the life cycle of government information (Attachments 5 and 6).

In closing, we believe that Congress, the Administration, and the courts should use electronic technologies to enhance the public's access to government information, not to diminish it. The channels of public access to government information must remain open, efficient, and technologically relevant. Libraries and your constituents are doing their part by investing in technologies to assist them in accessing electronic information. The federal government must fulfill its part of the partnership by investing in systems and services that provide the public with government information, and by assuring that valuable information created today will be preserved for future generations.


Attachments:

1) Organizational biographies.

2) Scientific American article regarding archiving electronic files, "Ensuring the Longevity of Digital Documents," (January 1995).

3) AALL Resolution on the U.S. Congressional Serial Set and the Bound Congressional Record.

4) Joint library association letter to the Public Printer on draft Study to Identify Measures Necessary for a Successful Transition to a More Electronic Federal Depository Library Program (April 26, 1996).

5) Goals for Revising U.S.C. Title 44 to Enhance Public Access to Federal Government Information, Draft Working Document prepared by the Inter-Association Working Group on Government Information Policy (April 1997).

6) Enhanced Library Access and Dissemination of Federal Government Information: A Framework for Future Discussion, Working Document of the American Association of Law Libraries, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Special Libraries Association (June 26, 1995).