ARCHIVED: Support for the FY 1999 Appropriations for the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses

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

May 18, 1998

The Honorable Robert F. Bennett, Chair
Subcommittee on Legislative Branch
Senate Committee on Appropriations
S-125 Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Bennett:

We write on behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries and the Special Libraries Association to support the Public Printer's FY 1999 budget request of $30.2 million for the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses appropriations.

FY 1999 Budget Request Essential

Public access to government information is a basic right of the American people based on principles that Congress and the library community have long affirmed are essential to our democratic society. Since the establishment of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) within the Government Printing Office (GPO) in 1895, this unique program has evolved to become one of the most effective, efficient and successful partnerships between the federal government and the American public. Your constituents have equitable, ready, efficient and no-fee access to federal government information, created with their tax dollars, through the collections and services provided by their local depository library.

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.

The Congressionally-mandated GPO Study to Identify Measures Necessary for a Successful Transition to a More Electronic Federal Depository Library Program (June 1996) provides the necessary framework for the transition to a more electronic FDLP and the blueprint for the future. 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.

Growth and Increased Usage of GPO Access Impressive

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 during the past year. To illustrate the phenomenal growth and popularity of the system, we refer to the recently published Biennial Report to Congress on the Status of GPO Access (1997). From January 1996 to October 1997, online searches increased 1,178 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. The American public, your constituents, increasingly rely on GPO Access and its many services to search for and locate the government information they need.

GPO constantly adds new data and products to the system while at the same time upgrading equipment and software in order to provide better response time for users. The Code of Federal Regulations has been expanded to include additional titles, surpassing the Federal Register as the most popular database on GPO Access and accounting for more than 3 million documents downloaded each month. The heavily-used, award-winning CBDNet (Commerce Business Daily) provides real-time access to agency procurement opportunities and permits electronic submissions by contracting offices. We also applaud GPO's efforts to develop a searchable database for the Project Hermes collection of Supreme Court opinions. These additions and the continual upgrading of the system exemplify a strong commitment by GPO to meet the government information needs of the public through GPO Access.

Other significant examples of these improvements that are dependent upon a continued adequate level of funding by this Subcommittee 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;
  • 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 during the past year. In addition, we applaud new programs that GPO is pursuing to make it easier for the public to locate, find and use electronic information and to ensure that it will be permanently available for on-going and future use. GPO is developing a prototype online interactive service, due for release soon, that uses the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) and will permit greatly enhanced search and retrieval capabilities to GPO Access databases. Equally important to the library community is the Collection Management Plan, an initiative that will enable GPO to manage the FDLP Electronic Collection. This five-year plan will use library collection management policies and procedures to track the life cycle of electronic information in the FDLP, thus ensuring its preservation and permanent public access.

We have long viewed these two functions--preservation and permanent public access--as being the most difficult challenges of the networked electronic environment. We are very pleased that the new Collection Management Plan under development affirms GPO's role and commitment to these two key requirements to ensure public access to government information. It recognizes that successful solutions are dependent upon seamless access to core electronic government information, regardless of whether a database resides at GPO, at a remote storage facility or at partner institutions. This service function to the broad range of electronic government information will complement the role of the National Archives and Records Administration to maintain the records of government that meet their criteria for preservation.

We fully support the many three-way partnership programs initiated by the Superintendent of Documents in which a library or institution enters into a formal agreement to provide permanent public access to a specific electronic collection. Last spring GPO, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) entered into a model agreement whereby the UIC provides permanent access to the DOS's electronic Foreign Affairs Network. Most recently, GPO, the National Library of Education and the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) have embarked on the FDLP/ERIC Digital Library Pilot Project that will make an enormous collection of public domain reports of the Education Resource Information Clearinghouse permanently available to the public.

Our hope is that the Collection Management Plan will evolve into a comprehensive national information management program to systematically capture, preserve, and maintain ongoing access to electronic government data. We commend GPO for leading these cooperative efforts and partnerships to develop additional models for the preservation and permanent public access of electronic information. Without successful models and guidelines, important electronic information will continue to be lost daily as files appear and disappear from agency Web sites and computer servers. We urge this Subcommittee to support fully these critically important efforts of GPO to preserve and ensure permanent public access to electronic government information.

FDLP Libraries' Significant Services and Investments

The success of GPO Access cannot be measured without acknowledging the substantial costs that the participating 1,365 depository libraries expend in order to provide your constituents with equitable, ready, efficient and no-fee access to government information in both print and electronic formats. These costs include providing highly trained staff, adequate space, necessary additional materials, costly equipment, and Internet connections. The 1995 Biennial Survey reported that each week , an estimated 189,000 to 237,000 users relied on the collections and services of their local depository library.

In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology last May, we cited the budget of the California State Library (CSL), one of the 53 Regional Depository Libraries, as an example of the significant costs that libraries expend to participate in the program. In FY 1996-97, the CSL budget for the Government Publications Section was approximately $810,000, a substantial sum that included personnel and administrative costs, as well as $89,000 to purchase additional indexes and supporting reference materials.

Depository librarians have been leaders in developing innovative electronic services to enhance public access. The Regional Depository Library at the University of Memphis created the "Uncle Sam Migrating Government Publications" Web site that tracks titles that no longer exist in print but are available only through the Internet (; the University of California Riverside Library created the "Infomine Project--Government Information" that catalogs universal resource locators (URLs) of agency Web sites and document titles (; and the Regional Depository Library at Louisiana State University created the "U.S. Federal Government Agencies Page" that links agency Web sites based on the U. S. Government Manual ( The FDLP is a true partnership program in which, as users increasingly must rely on electronic information to meet their government information needs, participating libraries are investing substantially to successfully meet this challenge.

The transition to a more electronic FDLP should not minimize the significant amount of tangible materials, including paper, microfiche, maps, CD-ROMs or other formats, that continue to be distributed to depository libraries. FDLP libraries hold rich collections of current and historical materials that are heavily used by the public, students, faculty, state and local governments, and other researchers. We reiterate the concerns we expressed before this Subcommittee last year about limiting the distribution of print titles of core historical materials, such as the bound Congressional Record and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, or relying solely on electronic versions that at this time do not meet necessary preservation standards. ALA and AALL have formally expressed concern over the impact of this decision on permanent public access and the ability of future generations to access and use these important records of the Congress.

Library Community Committed to Revision of Title 44

We have serious concerns about the failure of some government entities to comply with the depository library requirements of Chapter 19, U.S.C. Title 44, either through increased fiscal constraints or a lack of understanding of their responsibilities under the law. Librarians and users continue to be frustrated by having to track down missing or fugitive documents; by the persistent removal of important government resources from the public domain; by agencies that contract with private publishers and fail to supply important government resources to the Superintendent of Documents for distribution to depository libraries; or by agencies that enter into licensing agreements that prevent or curtail the distribution and use of government information. These actions are counter to the principles of public access to government information that we all uphold.

In February 1997, ALA established the Inter-Association Working Group on Government Information Policy (IAWG) that includes representatives from our four associations as well as other national library organizations. The IAWG has analyzed the Chapter 19 provisions of Title 44 that relate to the FDLP, and discussed at length ways to revise the law to improve public access to government information. Among the IAWG's key goals are: to extend the definition of government information explicitly to electronic resources; to close loopholes in the law; to provide incentives for agencies to participate in the program; and to ensure the preservation and permanent access of electronic government information. The IAWG testified before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee last May on that committee's first draft Title 44 legislation. In March 1998, the IAWG transmitted to Senator John Warner a revised draft of our proposed Federal Information Access Act of 1998.

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.

Thank you for your support of the Federal Depository Library Program.


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

Carol C. Henderson
Executive Director, Washington Office
American Library Association

Duane E. Webster
Executive Director
Association of Research Libraries

David R. Bender
Executive Director
Special Libraries Association