ARCHIVED: FY 1998 Appropriations for the Library of Congress

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

on behalf of the

American Library Association
American Association of Law Libraries
Association of Research Libraries
and the Special Libraries Association

before the Subcommittee on Legislative,
House Committee on Appropriations
on the FY 1998 Appropriations for the Library of Congress

February 12, 1997

I am appearing today on behalf of the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, the American Association of Law Libraries and the Special Libraries Association. I am a Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center and Director of the Law Center's Library. I also serve as the Washington Affairs Representative for the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). AALL is a nonprofit educational organization with over 5,000 members dedicated to serving the legal information needs of legislators and other public officials, law professors, students, attorneys, and members of the general public. The American Library Association (ALA) is a nonprofit educational organization of 57,000 librarians, library trustees, and other friends of libraries dedicated to promoting the public interest in a free and open information society. The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is an Association of 120 research libraries in North America. ARL programs and services promote equitable access to and effective use of recorded knowledge in support of teaching, research, scholarship, and community service. The Special Libraries Association (SLA) is the international association representing the interests of information professionals in 60 countries. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee on Legislative, a Subcommittee that has a long history of continuing support for the Library of Congress and for libraries across the Nation.

Mr. Chairman, last year, in landmark telecommunications legislation, Congress recognized that libraries are primary points of access for the public to participate in the information age. Libraries and librarians have embraced this challenge with enthusiasm. Since many Federal Depository Libraries are housed in academic and public libraries and libraries of all types that utilize the resources of the Library of Congress, some statistics regarding connections to the World Wide Web (WWW) are important. In academic institutions: 83% of doctorate granting institutions provide access to the World Wide Web, 67% of Master's degree granting institutions provide access to WWW, and it is important to note that access to the Internet outside the Library in these institutions is extremely high; 95% and 76% respectively. 44.6% of public libraries in the United States were connected to the Internet in 1996 and it is anticipated that 60% will be connected by 1997. Although only 23.6% of public libraries have full WWW capability, the discounted rates now being implemented by the Federal Communications Commission are expected to increase this percentage rapidly. All of these efforts are undertaken with an appreciation of the importance of ensuring citizens with access to needed information resources as well as necessary skills to fully participate in the information age.

The Library of Congress has invested in many technological efforts to promote access to a diverse array of information resources to the public throughout the United States. Programs and activities such as the Library's digitized American Memory collections, the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, those relating to preservation and cataloging, and electronic information services such as the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN), all serve constituencies throughout the Nation. These and other programs of the Library merit your continued support.

For the last several years, we have witnessed a rather significant transformation in how we create, manage, use, access, and preserve information. Libraries are at the forefront of this change and it has required and will continue to require, investments in infrastructure -- technological and human resources. The Library of Congress FY 1998 budget request of $387.6 million (including the authority to obligate $30.4 million in receipts) positions the Library to realize the benefits of the digital networked environment while ensuring that important programs and services are maintained. This request would fund mandatory increases, provide the necessary continuity for many programs, and target selected strategic technological activities such as the Integrated Library System (ILS) and the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN).

I will focus my remarks on five LC program areas :

  • Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped;
  • Electronic Initiatives;
  • American Folklife Center;
  • Arrearage Reduction and Cooperative Cataloging; and
  • Collection Security
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) is a critically important service to the Nation. This national library service provides recorded and Braille materials to 777,000 blind and physically handicapped persons and is accomplished via a cooperative network of 142 regional, subregional libraries (state, regional, and public libraries throughout the nation) and two multi-state centers that circulate these resources to eligible borrowers by postage-free mail. Some 23 million items are borrowed annually. The network of libraries also serves as distribution points for specialized playback equipment and accessories. We support the request for $2.5 million for the purchase of cassette book machines to ensure the availability of these machines for the blind and physically handicapped individuals.

Electronic Initiatives

Mr. Chairman, in a number of arenas we have made progress in achieving the goal of building a networked-based, distributed program of access to library collections throughout the country, and indeed the world. Our recent investments in digital initiatives indicate the need for:

  • many years of sustained support with a particular focus on technological, economic, and human resource issues;
  • changes in how libraries select and collect resources, and how these collections are managed; and
  • greater understanding of how users access these resources.

Integrated Library System:

Since the late 1970s, research libraries have invested in systems which permit the integrated processing of records. Such systems or integrated library system (s) (ILS), are in fact, fundamental building blocks of digital libraries and electronic initiatives in libraries throughout the United States. Research libraries have instituted such systems to achieve greater efficiencies and productivity and importantly, to better serve the user community. An ILS can integrate key library functions including acquisitions, cataloging, inventory control, serials management, circulation, binding and preservation, searching of the library's holdings, management statistics, and more. The experience of Yale University Library is illustrative of the efficiencies gained in research libraries through the adoption of more effective automated systems. The Yale University Library realized a 70% increase in cataloging throughput per full time equivalent (fte) over the past 10 years, from 762 to 1325 titles per fte per year.

The Library's request for $6.1 million for automation projects would include first year funding for an ILS, the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN), and more. This request does not reflect the necessary reprogramming of funds within the Library to move to an integrated model. Such reprogramming is critical to the success of an ILS and would not be unique to the Library of Congress. The Library will benefit from the "lessons learned" by other research libraries as ILS is now the dominate model in the community.

Digital Libraries:

A variety and diversity of collaborative projects are underway to explore the potential of digital libraries. Given the number of institutions, collections, and differing constituencies that must be served, there is a need for many models. A number of collaborative projects and programs are exploring these models with an array of public and private partners. The Library is participating in many of these projects. One unique and valuable digital library effort at the Library is the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN), an automation project that began production in the spring of 1995. Under the leadership of the Law Library of Congress, the de facto national law library serving the needs of members of Congress and the American people, GLIN is an international cooperative program in which participating nations share the work of indexing and abstracting each Nation's Official Gazette in exchange for electronic access to the laws of other nations. GLIN is an on-going effort that improves upon traditional acquisitions methods to provide ready electronic access to valuable legal sources of information. Its timely and ready access to the laws and regulations of other countries enables the Law Library to better serve Congress and its constituents. Eleven member countries currently participate in GLIN, and membership is expected to nearly double in the coming year. We fully support all efforts by the Library of Congress to expand GLIN to its full capability, and request the Subcommittee's approval of the Library's appropriations request for this valuable project for FY 1998.

The Library is also participating in the National Digital Library Federation. The Federation is a cooperative program among 16 public and academic institutions. The Library's National Digital Library (NDL) program focuses on American history and culture, adding an important dimension to the work of the Federation and to the building of global digital libraries. In 1996, NDL vastly increased the number of collections on the WWW. There are more than 350,000 digital files available with 1,7000,000 digital files in production or under contract for digitization. We applaud the Subcommittee for its support of the Library's digitization efforts and believe that this support provides leverage to the digital library efforts underway in libraries throughout the Nation.

Finally, the Library is engaged in a collaborative effort between ARL and the Association of American Universities. These associations are pursuing a networked-based distributed program for coordinated development for foreign acquisitions of research materials. Three pilot projects are underway for materials that originate in Latin America, Japan, and Germany. The Library of Congress has taken a leadership role in the German pilot project, the cornerstone of which is building the collections and electronic infrastructure to improve access to and delivery of German research resources. This is but one example of the Library's leadership in the acquisition of foreign research resources. The overseas offices service libraries throughout the United States, thus assisting in the building of these collections.

We understand that the General Accounting Office believes that the Library of Congress does not have the full legal authority to retain direct and indirect funds from approximately 100 participating research libraries throughout the United States and we welcome the opportunity to work with the members of the Subcommittee to clarify the Library's authority to continue this collaborative relationship that is both cost effective to the Congress and participating libraries. Continued investment in these initiatives will enable the Library, with other partners, to build digital libraries that will greatly enhance the education, research, and life-long learning opportunities for the public.

American Folklife Center

The American Folklife Center and its Archive of Folk Culture are uniquely qualified to collect and preserve the sound recordings, photographs, histories, and traditions that document the threads that make up our distinctly American society. The Center plays a key role in preserving and presenting American Folklife to the Nation. ALA, ARL, AALL, and SLA support the request for $966,5000 for this important program and were actively engaged in the recent two-year reauthorization. We support continued authorization of the Center.

Arrearage Reduction and Cooperative Cataloging

The Library of Congress, in collaboration with others in the library community, continues to reduce the volume of unprocessed materials. The Library was able to reduce the arrearages this year by 1.5 million items; a reduction of 47.2% since 1989. Cooperative programs with others in the library community, and in particular, the utilization of cataloging copy from other institutions has continued and indeed has increased this past year. The Program for Cooperative Cataloging is illustrative of collaborative efforts. 213 libraries are participating in the Program and contributed 14,173 bibliographic records, 97,964 name authorities, 8,074 series authorities, 2,026 subject authorities, and 780 classification numbers. With the introduction of the ILS, even greater productivity and efficiencies should be realized.

Collection Security

The Library requested several evaluations regarding the security of the collections to ensure that these unique resources are secure. The Library is in the process of implementing many of the consultants' recommendations including implementing a Reader Registration System, installation of anti-theft gates in the Library's reading rooms, and more. As in past years, we support the Library's request for additional funding to improve the security of the collections. Funding security measures is yet one more important facet in making the resources of the Library publicly available. The successful integration of the ILS within the Library will also significantly enhance other security related measures.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee today. ARL, ALA, AALL, and SLA look forward to working with you and we appreciate your continuing support for the Library and its programs that seek to provide public access to the Library's varied and unique resources.