ARCHIVED: FY 1996 Appropriations for the Government Printing Office

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

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

before the
Subcommittee on Legislative
House Committee on Appropriations
on the
FY 1996 Appropriations for the Government Printing Office

February 23, 1995

Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, I am Betty Turock, vice- president/president-elect of the American Library Association, and Director and Chair of the Library and Information Studies Program at Rutgers University. It is a privilege to be here representing the American Library Association and the Association of Research Libraries to support the Government Printing Office Salaries and Expenses appropriation for FY 1996. ALA is a nonprofit educational organization of 55,000 librarians, library trustees, and friends of libraries. ARL is an association of 119 major research libraries in North America. Additionally, this statement has been endorsed by the American Association of Law Libraries, a nonprofit organization with more than 5000 members.

ALA, ARL, and AALL strongly recommend that the Government Printing Office (GPO) receive the funding it requires to administer the Depository Library Program. We appreciate your providing Part I, justification of the budget estimates for the Legislative Branch appropriations for FY 1996, so that we could see that GPO is requesting $30,307,000 for the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses Appropriation. Of this amount, $25,618,000 is requested for the Depository Library Program and $3,254,000 for the cataloging and indexing of government publications. I will concentrate on those two programs today.

GPO has reduced its request by about $2 million from last year for the Depository Library Program. While we understand that fewer traditional paper publications are anticipated to be distributed to libraries, we are disappointed in this reduction because we believe that $2 million could be utilized to distribute electronic products and services to the public through depositories.

Depository libraries are partners with the federal government.

This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1895 Printing Act which formalized the Depository Library Program and transferred it from the Department of Interior to the Legislative Branch. The Federal Depository Library Program embodies many of the values being promoted by Congress: community-based partnerships, local and state decision making, and cost sharing among the partners. The Depository Library Program is a community- based partnership between 1,400 depository libraries and the federal government providing the public with access to government information. Decisions about what information to receive can be made locally. Most depositories select the information most needed by their users from the range of information available from GPO. Among other things, a depository in Florida or California would select information about oceanography and tidetables for their respective coasts; a Mississippi depository might focus on agricultural material; an Arkansas library would be sure to have information about forestry and farming.

In a long-standing cooperative effort, most states have a regional depository that receives every government information product distributed through the depository program and are responsible for retaining this material permanently. For example, the California State Library, a regional, has been a depository since 1895. Florida's regional is at the University of Florida, designated in 1907. The University of Mississippi has been a depository since 1883. North Carolina's regional, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been a depository since 1884. While they primarily serve local citizens, these depository collections are also national treasures.

Depository libraries--most designated by Members of Congress-- are funded by state and local governments, as well as private institutions, and provide a valuable service to Congressional constituents. Institutions supporting depositories contribute resources at a rate far in excess of the monetary value of the publications provided to them by the federal government. In return for "free" publications, online information and other information resources, depository libraries expend considerable money to organize; house; preserve; purchase equipment, computers, terminals, printers, modems, software and commercial indexes; train librarians and the public to use government information products; and provide public access to the publications. They hire highly trained librarians to assist citizens in accessing and using federal government information vital for citizens' participation in democracy and a productive economy.

Depository libraries assist the federal government in its constitutional obligation to provide information about federal activities, policies and regulations to state and local governments. That is why state, county, city and court libraries, as well as land grant institutions, are included in the Depository Library Program. If the Depository Library Program did not exist the federal government would have to establish a similar program to meet its constitutional obligations to disseminate government information.

The GPO Access System is a success.

With bipartisan sponsorship, Congress passed Public Law 103- 40, the "Government Printing Office Electronic Information Access Enhancement Act of 1993," directing GPO to set up a program to help users identify and locate federal information services and products; provide direct access to core databases, beginning with the Congressional Record and the Federal Register; and develop an electronic storage facility. GPO met Congress's deadline for implementation in June 1994, and less than 6 months later, the GPO Access Program received a Federal Leadership Award, "Recognizing the federal projects and programs that have made exceptional contributions to mission effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and service to the public through the use of automated information systems." Additionally, I am pleased to tell you that next month GPO will receive the James Madison Award as a champion of public access to government information. Two years ago, your colleague, Rep. Bill Thomas of California, also received this award from the Coalition on Government Information.

The unique GPO Access System is providing no-fee public access to important federal information on-site at depository libraries, off-site through gateways established by depository libraries, or by existing state or local public networks acting as gateways in cooperation with a depository library. Five gateways are in operation and GPO plans at least one gateway in each of the 50 states. The current gateways include COIN in Missouri, Alaska's SLED network, Georgia Southern University, Pennsylvania State University, and Seattle Public Library in Washington. Gateway users may access the information without charge 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is important to note that those libraries providing gateways are incurring additional costs to provide this important public service to your constituents.

Georgia Southern University Library opened its gateway in January of 1995 and has already served 1,429 users. A sampling of uses include: seeking regulations about capital gains on stocks, needing information from the Internal Revenue Service, looking for regulations in the Federal Register, searching for federal guidelines affecting a TV station, asking for census data to conduct market research, and looking for data on the toxic effects of chemical substances. Lynn Walshak, Head of the Government Documents Department at Georgia Southern, says "A high percent of the connections, perhaps as high as 45 percent, are from the public, off campus and out of state. I believe this may document the great need for information present in our nation and that the GPO ACCESS is quite user friendly."

As Kate Mawdsley of the University of California, Davis, testified before this Subcommittee last year, it is often a week or more before the paper Federal Register reaches her library in California, but now with the GPO Access System, those users have as timely access as users who can walk into the Library of Congress or the House Library and get the Register shortly after it is printed.

We are pleased GPO has moved so promptly to implement the Access Act and to provide depository library access to the GPO Bulletin Board through the Internet.

A further indication of the success of the GPO Access System is that GPO was able to provide the Library of Congress with the data needed to establish the Library's THOMAS, which brings together much of the congressional information available online in disparate places on the Internet.

The public needs information in a variety of formats.

As enthusiastic as depository librarians are about the online connection to GPO through the Access Act, not everything can be distributed electronically. Paper, fiche and CD-ROM products continue to be critical sources of information and should continue to be distributed to depositories. Despite recommendations from non-librarians that have been made to you, it does not make sense to turn the depository program into a totally electronic program. Librarians report very heavy use of the National Trade Data Bank and 1990 census reports on CD-ROM. Paper and electronic publications serve different needs and often must be used together in order to really serve the user. For example, librarians were able to provide information quickly about the President's forestry plan from press releases and statements downloaded from the Internet. But the full report was a paper copy almost two inches thick with numerous graphs and charts. And users needed that too.

One important function of depository libraries is to maintain continued wide access to the historical record via tangible government publications, both print and CD-ROM. Online media resources are still highly ephemeral, and archival and preservation policies have not yet been adequately developed. The storage facility portion of the GPO Access program will be an important part of the developing mechanisms for ensuring that online information continues to be maintained and accessible for archival and historical purposes.

The system for distributing government information in a wide variety of formats to depository libraries is a highly cost effective one which has been developed by GPO in consultation with the depository library community. The Depository Library Program has a mechanism for determining how many libraries want to receive a given title or category of publications, and "ride" print procurement orders in order to produce the specified number of copies. Publications are batched and mailed using efficient cost- effective procedures. Although about 80 percent of GPO's printing is procured through the private sector, the vital link that GPO provides between procurement and dissemination ensures that important titles enter the Depository Library Program.

Continue the link between production and dissemination.

A number of proposals to reorganize government printing, as part of much larger reorganization plans, are currently before Congress. The reason I mention this issue today is to emphasize that GPO must continue to operate the Depository Library Program while Congress deliberates, and that requires continuing funding support from Congress.

I want to emphasize the strong concern of depository librarians that decentralizing distribution or separating procurement and distribution of materials are likely to be seriously counterproductive to the goals of increasing efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Many state government depository programs operate that way, and too many publications simply do not get distributed to the depositories. It makes it harder for the libraries, and more costly, when they have to spend time tracking down reports that have not come automatically.

We believe it will also be more costly for the agencies to establish and maintain distribution mechanisms for the nearly 1,400 depository libraries and the public which now use GPO as a sales source. In 1994, more than 17 million copies of 44,600 titles were distributed to depository libraries through the Superintendent of Documents. In addition, approximately 500,000 U.S. Geological Survey maps, 63,000 Defense Mapping Agency maps, and 2.1 million U.S. Department of Energy microfiche publications were distributed to depository libraries. Do we want each agency to have to worry about establishing microform contracts to lower their postage costs? What would be the burden on the public and on librarians to find individual publications in this "tower of babel" that government information would become in a highly decentralized environment?

More important, however, the people for whom librarians are collecting and distributing this information are short-changed when depositories do not have it ready for them when they come to use it. And we need to remember that many people do not go to libraries to get their information, but instead go directly to the government. Right now GPO is the central source for important federal publications.

GPO helps the public locate government information.

GPO provides bibliographic control of information published by federal government agencies, making it possible for Congress, agencies themselves, and the public to locate the information. The resulting records are distributed through online networks, tapes, paper and microfiche to libraries across the United States. Cataloging is prepared using standards developed by the Library of Congress and the international library community. During FY 1994, GPO processed 52,201 pieces. GPO is including the daily electronic cataloging records produced by GPO catalogers in the GPO Prototype Locator. The Locator will also provide records for a variety of federal information resources in electronic formats.

Satisfied Depository Users Offer Testimonials.

Attached to this statement are excerpts from letters from users of depository libraries about their good experience using depository libraries. We have more than a hundred of such letters from many states.


At its Midwinter Conference in early February, ALA's Council passed a resolution commending Congress for protecting and promoting public access to government information. Additionally, Council passed resolutions on the Federal Depository Library Program and the Government Printing Office. These are attached to this testimony.

I also note with real appreciation that this Subcommittee has shown strong support for the Depository Library Program, maintaining and even increasing its funding in years when other legislative appropriations were seeing cuts. We are grateful, but we need to make the case every way possible that your support is essential.

Support GPO's appropriations.

We wish to strongly support GPO's request for $30,307,000 appropriations for FY 1996 for Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses.

Thank you for the pleasure of appearing before the Subcommittee.