March 31, 1998
The Honorable Robert F. Bennett, Chairman
Senate Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
S-125 Capitol Building
Washington, DC 20510-6035
Dear Mr. Chairman:
On behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries, I urge you and members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative to fund fully the FY 1999 budget requests for the Library of Congress and the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). In addition, we urge the Subcommittee to continue to fund the production of the bound Congressional Record and the print U.S. Congressional Serial Set and not to limit paper distribution of these historically-significant titles to only one library in each state.
The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) 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.
- Full FY 1999 Funding for the Library of Congress and the Law Library of Congress
First, we urge the Subcommittee's full support for the FY 1999 budget request of $369.3 million in appropriations for the Library of Congress and $27.7 million in authority to use receipts from the Copyright Office and the Cataloging Distribution Service. This request, an increase of 6.5%, is necessary for the Library to continue to fulfill its mission to make its resources available to Congress and the American public and to preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations. AALL also urges the Subcommittee to fully support the $6.7 million request for 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 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.
- Full FY 1999 Funding for the Federal Depository Library Program
Second, we urge the Subcommittee to fully support the Public Printer's FY 1999 appropriations request of $30.2 million for the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses to support the continued operation of the Federal Depository Library Program and the future development of GPO Access. We commend GPO for its continued commitment to develop the GPO Access system that currently includes 70 database from all three branches of government. Usage of GPO Access has grown exponentially: from January 1996 to October 1997, online searches increased 1178 percent and retrievals of information--that is, actual documents downloaded by the public--increased by 319 percent. A comparison of monthly usage statistics over the past three years is equally impressive: in October 1995, 837,494 documents were retrieved from GPO Access ; in October 1996, 2,880,998 documents were retrieved; and in October 1997, 8,195,747 documents were retrieved. Statistics for 1998 demonstrate that the number of documents retrieved monthly has increased to over 10.5 million. The American public, your constituents, increasingly rely on GPO Access and its many services to search for and locate the government information they need.
Other significant examples of improved services that are critical in assisting the public to find and use electronic government information include:
- daily updates to the electronic Catalog of United States Government Publications , an essential finding aid to government information produced from 1994 on that allows users to determine if a title is available at their local FDLP library or to hotlink directly to titles that are available in electronic formats;
- the substantial growth of the Pathway Indexer that now links users to more than 1,300 agency Web sites and over 150,000 Web pages;
- the centralized, user-friendly Government Information Locator Service (GILS) database that allows users either to browse GILS records by agency or to search all agency GILS records at one time and to link to the information they need;
- the excellent work of the GPO Access User Support Team that allows the public, through toll-free telephone, fax or e-mail, to get needed assistance in searching and locating information on GPO Access ;
- and the much-needed program for training and educational services offered through a series of national and regional conferences, including the new "Train-the-Trainer" classes, that are essential and must continue to grow.
These are but a few noteworthy examples of the excellent progress and growth that have occurred over the past year. Today Congress, government agencies and the courts increasingly use electronic technologies to create and disseminate government information. When Congress mandated the creation of the GPO Access system and the establishment of an electronic storage facility in 1994 (Public Law 103-40), legislators wisely sought to develop a central access point within the Government Printing Office for electronic information. They further recognized the government's affirmative obligation to ensure the preservation and permanent public access of electronic government information. Continued full funding for the Federal Depository Library Program is imperative so that your constituents continue to have equitable, ready, efficient and no-fee access to Federal government information in all formats, created with their tax dollars, through the collections and services provided by their local depository library.
- Broader Distribution of the bound Congressional Record and U.S. Congressional Serial Set to Depository Libraries
Third, 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 entitled "Whoops, there goes another CD-ROM," "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 these matters. Full FY 1999 funding for the Library of Congress and the Law Library of Congress will allow them to fulfill their unique mission of service to Congress and the American public. Full funding for the Law Library of Congress will ensure that it serves the legal research needs of Congress, other government entities and the American public, and at the same time proceeds 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.
Full FY 1999 funding for the Federal Depository Library Program will enable the smooth transition to a more electronic program and will ensure the necessary cataloging and locating functions that are increasingly important in the electronic environment. In addition, AALL has actively participated in and fully supports the important efforts and the commitment of Chairman John W. Warner and Ranking Minority Member Wendell H. Ford of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration to revise Title 44 this year to improve public access to government information. Among the library community's key goals are: to extend the definition of government information explicitly to electronic resources; to close current loopholes in the law that result in a growing amount of "fugitive" information; to provide incentives for agencies to participate in the program; and to ensure the preservation and permanent access of electronic government information. As discussions to amend Title 44 continue, it is imperative that the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses appropriations be fully funded in order to continue the steady and significant progress made to move the FDLP to a more electronic program.
Lastly, developing a more cost-effective means of publication for the bound Congressional Record and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set will permit broader geographic distribution so that the American public is guaranteed permanent public access to these historically important series of official congressional documents. Attached for your information 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 mentioned above. The American Association of Law Libraries stands ready to work with this Subcommittee and the Government Printing Office to find ways to lower the production costs of these important titles. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for your support for the Library of Congress, the Law Library of Congress and the Federal Depository Library Program.
Robert L. Oakley
Washington Affairs Representative
American Association of Law Libraries