ARCHIVED: Full FY 1999 Funding for the Law Library of Congress and Broader Distribution of the Bound Congressional Record and U.S. Congressional Serial Set to Depository Libraries

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February 16, 1998

The Honorable James T. Walsh
Chairman
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative
United States House of Representatives
H147 Capitol
Washington, DC 20515-6025

Dear Mr. Chairman:

On February 12, 1998 the American Association of Law Libraries joined other major national library associations in testifying before the Subcommittee to urge full FY 1999 funding for the Library of Congress and for the Federal Depository Library Program. The American Association of Law Libraries is a nonprofit educational organization headquartered in Chicago with over 5,000 members nationwide. Our members respond to the legal and governmental information needs of legislators, judges, and other public officials at all levels of government, corporations and small businesses, law professors and students, attorneys, and members of the general public.

The purpose of this letter is to supplement the joint library community testimony with issues of special concern to members of the American Association of Law Libraries. We respectfully request that this letter be added to the public record of the Subcommittee's appropriations hearing on the Library of Congress and the Government Printing Office that was held last week. The two issues we address today are:

 

  • Full FY 1999 Funding for the Law Library of Congress.

     

  • Broader Distribution of the bound Congressional Record and U.S. Congressional Serial Set to Depository Libraries.

First, as stated in our recent testimony, we urge the Subcommittee's full support for the FY 1999 budget request of $6.7 million to fund fully the Law Library of Congress, our nation's de facto national law library. As part of the Library of Congress, the Law Library's mission is to build a unique, specialized legal research collection; to assist Congress, the courts, Federal agencies and the American public in using these collections that span more than 200 foreign jurisdictions; to develop unique digital initiatives, such as the Global Legal Information Network; and to preserve the Law Library's collection of knowledge for future generations.

The Law Library's FY 1999 budget request includes funding to allow the hiring of eight FTEs in order to maintain effective levels of research and reference services. Since 1992, the Law Library has had to abolish 15% of its FTE positions, resulting in significant losses in service to Congress: reference service is no longer available on Sundays; the number of legal research seminars has decreased by half; and important, specialized research is no longer provided for a number of nations, including Algeria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Restoring eight FTE positions is critical if the library is to be able to maintain effective levels of reference and research services and to pursue important projects in automation and preservation.

In the digital arena, the Law Library's FY 1999 budget request includes $340,201 needed to support automation projects that use electronic technologies to increase access to its unique collections. Among the most important and valuable of the Law Library's digital projects is the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN), a cooperative international project developed by the Law Library in which nations contribute the full, authoritative text of statutes, regulations and related material. The Law Library is in the process of upgrading the GLIN software and eleven countries now participate in the project, with an expected increase of up to twenty nations by the end of 1999. As the United States increasingly promotes the growth and development of global trade, this multinational legal resource fills a critically important global information need for members of Congress, the Federal government and the American business and legal communities.

Second, AALL is very concerned about decisions that have been made to limit distribution of the official, bound Congressional Record and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set to only one depository library in every state, and to produce both titles instead on CD-ROM for the other depository libraries. CD-ROM technology is simply not a permanent format. According to the February 16, 1998 article in the U.S. News & World Report "Whoops, there goes another CD-ROM" that was submitted to the Subcommittee as an attachment to our joint testimony last week, "Future generations will be fortunate...if they get a chance to view the records of the current Congress." The graph accompanying this article points out that documents produced on acid-free paper have a storage life of five hundred years, compared to CD-ROMs that have an unreliable and drastically shorter storage life of between five and fifty years. We believe that producing these two titles for depository libraries on CD-ROM is an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars, knowing as we do that within a few decades--if that--this format will deteriorate and become obsolete, thereby depriving users of all but one depository library in each state access to these important congressional records.

Mr. Chairman, the bound Congressional Record has been produced since 1873 in an official numbered edition as the authoritative record of the proceedings and debate of Congress, superseding earlier compilations that date from 1789. The U.S. Congressional Serial Set has been produced since 1813 in an official, numbered edition to preserve House and Senate reports and documents, executive publications, treaty materials and selected reports of nongovernmental organizations. AALL believes that the continued production and broad distribution of these important records of Congress on permanent acid-free paper is essential to ensure their preservation for future research and scholarship. All Americans, as taxpayers, have a right to the information that the government produces, in a usable format that will last for future generations. Limiting print distribution of these important titles to only one depository library in every state fails to ensure that the American public has convenient and permanent access to these historical records of Congress.

Therefore, AALL respectfully urges the Subcommittee to request that GPO explore less expensive means of producing both the bound Congressional Record and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, and that those depository libraries who wish to continue to collect these important titles in the permanent print version have the option of doing so. We are confident that the Government Printing Office, under the Subcommittee's direction, will successfully develop cost-saving measures that will allow production and distribution of these two important congressional titles to depository libraries at a reasonable cost. As law librarians, we are well-positioned to observe the important daily uses of the historic bound Congressional Record and U.S. Congressional Serial Set in depository libraries throughout the nation by legal scholars, researchers, policy makers at all levels of government, faculty and students, historians and authors.

We thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your consideration and support in both these matters. Full FY 1999 funding for the Law Library of Congress will allow it to fulfill its mission to serve the legal research needs of Congress, other government entities and the American public, and to proceed with critically important projects in automation and preservation. With full funding for increased positions to its specialized and well-trained staff and for automation projects such as GLIN, the Law Library will be able to proudly serve Congress and the nation in our increasingly global world. Developing a more cost-effective means of publication for the bound Congressional Record and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set will permit a broader distribution so that the American public is guaranteed permanent public access to these historically important series of official congressional documents. Attached for your convenience are copies of AALL's Resolution on the U.S. Congressional Serial Set and the Bound Congressional Record and the recent article from the U.S. News & World Report [link no longer valid]. The American Association of Law Libraries stands ready to work with the Subcommittee and the Government Printing Office to find ways to lower the production cost of these important titles. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information or for assistance in this matter.

Sincerely,

Judy Meadows
President
American Association of Law Libraries

Robert L. Oakley
Washington Affairs Representative
American Association of Law Libraries