ARCHIVED: AALL Government Relations Office: Ridley R. Kessler, Jr. regarding FY2000 Appropriations for GPO

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Statement of Ridley R. Kessler, Jr.
Regional Documents Librarian
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

on behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Medical Library Association, Special Libraries Association

before the Subcommittee on Legislative House Committee on Appropriations on the FY 2000 Appropriations for the Government Printing Office
February 10, 1999

Good afternoon. I am Ridley R. Kessler, Regional Documents Librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a position that I have held since 1973. I am honored to appear before the Subcommittee today on behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, the Medical Library Association and the Special Libraries Association to support the Public Printer's FY 2000 budget request of $31,245,000 for the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses appropriations.

FY 2000 Budget Increase Essential
Public access to government information is a basic right of the American public 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) in the early 19th century, 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.

Congress, government agencies, and the courts increasingly are using state-of-the-art technologies to create and disseminate government information through the Internet. We commend Congress for its vision in moving towards a cybergovernment by enacting the GPO Electronic Information Access Act of 1993 (Public Law 103-40). This legislation mandated the creation of GPO Access, a central access point within the Government Printing Office (GPO) for electronic government information. GPO Access has developed to become today an award-winning digital collection of more than 70 official government databases from all three branches of government, including Congressional bills, the Congressional Record, the Federal Register, and the Code of Federal Regulations. Just as the government has an affirmative obligation to provide current access to its information, in the digital arena this obligation extends to ensuring the preservation and permanent public access of electronic government publications.

In 1995, Congress also wisely mandated the Government Printing Office to conduct the Study to Identify Measures Necessary for a Successful Transition to a More Electronic Federal Depository Library Program (June 1996) that provided the necessary framework for GPO's transition to a more electronic FDLP. According to GPO statistics for FY 1998, approximately 34% of all titles disseminated to federal depository libraries were in electronic format, mostly through GPO Access. In order for GPO to continue to increase the amount of government information available for current and future public access through the Internet, it is critically important that Congress provide adequate funds to support this transition to a more electronic Program.

We, therefore, respectfully urge this Subcommittee to approve the Public Printer's full appropriations request of $31,245,000 for the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses for FY 2000. This amount includes an increase of $1,981,000 that is necessary to support the continued operation of the Federal Depository Library Program, its electronic transition plans, and the future development of GPO Access. A portion of this increase over last year's budget request, approximately $842,000, is necessary to cover mandatory pay increases and price level changes.

We commend GPO for the significant progress it has made during the past year in developing the FDLP Electronic Collection that today consists of over 140,000 electronic titles. Approximately 85,000 of these titles are available on GPO Access. GPO's electronic locator services, uniquely important in helping citizens locate the electronic government information they need, link to an additional 48,000 titles that exist at agency web sites. The increase of $1,077,000 of discretionary funding requested by the Public Printer is necessary to support workload changes to maintain, improve and enhance GPO's FDLP Electronic Collection.

In 1998, GPO issued a report containing guidelines on Managing the FDLP Electronic Collection ( This blueprint for action, based on the need to work closely with federal agencies, depository libraries, and other partners to increase the amount of electronic resources available through the FDLP and to ensure that they remain permanently available, has funding implications requiring the requested increase. This amount will provide the Superintendent of Documents with necessary funding to support increased hardware and software costs. These include acquiring additional server space and connection capacity to archive files; data conversion and migration costs to prevent technological obsolescence of agency files as well as titles available through GPO Access; funding to purchase software both to improve the searching capabilities of GPO Access and to manage electronic archiving and persistent naming for electronic collection resources.

These important improvements will enable GPO to fulfill its strategic plans for the FDLP Electronic Collection, and will result in broader and more efficient public access to electronic government information. In addition, we fully support the increased request for personnel costs to manage the ever-expanding electronic collection. The library community is pleased that the proposed increase includes funding for additional production personnel as well as the reallocation of existing staff time. GPO's blueprint for its electronic collection will be achieved only if adequate resources and staff are available to continue the excellent work that has been done to date.

Growth and Increased Usage of the GPO Access System Impressive
We come before this Subcommittee each year not only to urge your support for the full Salaries and Expenses appropriations necessary to continue progress towards a broader electronic FDLP but also to note the exponential growth of GPO Access in terms of both content and usage. A comparison of monthly usage statistics over the past four years is dramatic: in October 1995, 837,494 documents were downloaded from GPO Access; in October 1996, 2,880,998 documents were downloaded; in October 1997, 8,195,747 documents were downloaded; and in October 1998, over 12.5 million documents were downloaded from GPO Access. Usage of the Code of Federal Regulations, the most popular database on GPO Access, doubled from more than 3 million documents downloaded monthly during 1997 to more than 6 million monthly during 1998. The American public, your constituents, increasingly rely on GPO Access and its many services to search for and locate the official government information they need.

In terms of content, GPO constantly adds new data and products to the system, building a current collection of valuable new electronic resources. At the same time, GPO provides permanent access to equally valuable older materials. For example, while you can use GPO Access to read the most recent daily Congressional Record, you can just as easily search the archived volumes of the Congressional Record that go back to 1995. Each year, the historic electronic collection grows, requiring GPO to meet its responsibility for ensuring permanent public access. This function presents probably the most difficult challenge of the networked electronic environment. We believe that the proposed increase for the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses for FY 2000 appropriations is both appropriate and necessary to support the maintenance and growth of GPO Access and to affirm the requirement that electronic government information must remain permanently available to the public.

FDLP Partners' Significant Services and Investments
The success of GPO Access cannot be measured without acknowledging the substantial costs that participating 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. As an example of the costs required to participate in the Program, I'd like to provide you with a brief description of our regional depository library collection at UNC Chapel Hill, as well as some cost data.

We are one of the 53 Regional Depository Libraries that by law is required to retain at least one copy of all government publications we receive, either in print, microfiche, or tangible electronic format, except those that the Superintendent of Documents authorizes to be discarded. We also provide interlibrary loan service, reference and other support services to the 33 selective depository libraries within our state. Our collection at UNC Chapel Hill is housed in a 19,000 square feet area of the library where users have access to print FDLP materials dating back to 1884 when we became a depository library. Our collection also includes over 1.4 million microfiche housed in 69 microfiche cabinets. In FY 1997-98, we received approximately 12,500 print titles, 1,000 CD-ROM and 38,500 microfiche. In addition, we have six computers dedicated to electronic resources that provide access to our collection of CD-ROM and the online FDLP Electronic Collection. These computers need to be upgraded every two years. Many depositories also require higher end computers to provide access to the Geographical Information System (GIS). As you can see, our regional documents collection is substantial, as are the costs that the library expends to support it.

It is not unusual for a regional depository library to expend up to $1 million each year to support their depository collections and services, and to provide access to resources for constituents in their state or region. This sum includes:


  • personnel and administrative costs;
  • space costs;
  • new computers to support CD-ROM and Internet access;
  • connectivity charges;
  • necessary software;
  • new cabinets to house the microfiche and CD-ROM collections;
  • cataloging and binding costs;
  • in addition, FDLP libraries purchase additional indexes, microfiche and supporting reference materials to enhance their collection, and many depository libraries, including our regional at UNC Chapel Hill, expend $90,000 or more each year for these materials.

The transition to a more electronic FDLP provides new opportunities for improved public access but it should not minimize the amount or importance of tangible materials, including print, microfiche, maps, CD-ROM or other formats, that continue to be distributed to depository libraries. FDLPs hold rich collections of historical materials that are heavily used by the public, students, faculty, and researchers. We are responsible for building and maintaining our valuable historic collection of tangible materials for permanent public access. The responsibility that GPO faces to provide permanent public access to the electronic publications that comprise the FDLP Electronic Collection can be achieved with your support in approving the Salaries and Expenses increase requested by the Public Printer for FY 2000.

I would like to illustrate for you how 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 Regional Depository Library at Louisiana State University created the "U.S. Federal Government Agencies Page" that provides hotlinks to government agency Web sites based on the United States Government Manual (htttp:// And 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 (

In addition, depository libraries are also becoming involved in partnership programs by which a library or institution enters into a formal agreement to provide permanent public access to a specific electronic collection. 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. The FDLP is a true partnership program in which, as users increasingly have to rely on electronic information to solve their government information needs, participating libraries are investing substantially to successfully meet this challenge.

Revision of Title 44
In our testimony of previous years before this Subcommittee, we have expressed serious concern with the failure of some government entities to comply with 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 that we all uphold. They have fiscal implications as well in that they increase the costs to government and to libraries in administering and providing access to government information, and to the public in locating and using government information.

To assist Congress in revising Title 44 to ensure that the Federal Depository Library Program well serves your constituents as the Federal government moves forward towards a more electronic environment, seven library associations, including those of us who are testifying today, formed the Inter-Association Working Group on Government Information Policy (IAWG) in January 1997. The associations within the IAWG represent more than 80,000 librarians, information specialists, library trustees, friends of libraries, and their institutions all dedicated to public access to government information.

During the 105th Congress, the library community worked closely with congressional staff to develop legislation that would close loopholes in the law, provide incentives for agencies to participate in the Program, and ensure the preservation and permanent access of electronic government information. Our legislative proposal to bring the FDLP into the electronic age was incorporated into S. 2288, the Wendell H. Ford Government Publications Reform Act of 1998, that was introduced in July 1998. Our associations fully supported this legislation that was favorably reported out of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration in late September.

As discussions to amend Title 44 may continue in the 106th Congress, it is imperative that the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses appropriations for FY 2000 be fully funded in order to continue the steady and significant progress that has been made to move the FDLP to a more electronic partnership program. The Federal Depository Library Program is the most efficient system to provide the American public with government information, and participating libraries provide the national technological infrastructure that is necessary in the electronic age. Throughout the ongoing transition to a more electronic FDLP, the channels of public access to government publications must remain open, efficient, and technologically relevant.

Program libraries and your constituents are doing their part by investing in technologies to assist them in accessing electronic government information. The Federal government must fulfill its part of the partnership by establishing a framework that will remain vital and relevant in the 21st century. The Federal government must invest in systems and services that provide the public with government publications in all formats, and must ensure that valuable electronic government information created today will be preserved for future generations. Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today and for your continued support for the Federal Depository Library Program.



  1. Organizational Biographies.
  2. ALA Resolution on Government Printing Office
    FY 2000 Salaries and Expenses Appropriations
    (February 3, 1999).



Attachment 1




The American Association of Law Libraries is a nonprofit educational organization 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 American Library Association is a nonprofit educational organization of 58,000 librarians, library educators, information specialists, library trustees, and friends of libraries representing public, school, academic, state, and specialized libraries. ALA is dedicated to the improvement of library and information services, to the public's right to a free and open information society--intellectual participation--and to the idea of intellectual freedom.

The Association of Research Libraries is a not-for-profit organization representing 122 research libraries in the United States and Canada. Its mission is to identify and influence forces affecting the future of research libraries in the process of scholarly communication. ARL programs and services promote equitable access to, and effective use of, recorded knowledge in support of teaching, research, scholarship, and community service.

The Medical Library Association is an organization of over 3,800 individuals and 1,200 institutions in the health sciences information field. MLA members serve society by developing new information delivery systems, fostering educational and research programs for health sciences information professionals, and encouraging an enhanced public awareness of health care issues.

The Special Libraries Association is an international professional association representing the interests of information professionals in 60 countries. Special librarians are information resource experts dedicated to putting knowledge to work to attain the goals of their organizations.


Attachment 2