ARCHIVED: AALL Newsletter - October 1995

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October 1995
Mary Alice Baish
Assistant Washington Affairs Representative
Georgetown University Law Library
111 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
202/662-9200 *FAX:202/662-9202


Follow-up on HR 1854, Legislative Branch Appropriations--the GPO Study

Last month's column on the FY 1996 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill concluded with a brief mention of the GPO-initiated study and strategic plan mandated by the Senate report language on HR 1854. The purpose of the study, to be initiated by the Public Printer under the direction of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is to plan for the successful transition to a more electronically-based Federal Depository Library Program.

Specifically, the study is to examine the current program; survey the technological capabilities of participating libraries; assess current and future dissemination plans of executive branch agencies; review current laws and regulations governing federal information dissemination policy and recommend improvements; identify measures to ensure a smooth transition to an expanded electronic program; and lastly, ensure the most cost-effective program.

The conference committee report on HR 1854 further directs the Public Printer to include in GPO's 1997 appropriations request, due in December, recommendations consistent with the strategic plan developed as an outcome of the study. This budget request, therefore, must demonstrate a significant transition towards the maximum use of electronic dissemination technologies by all government agencies.

In addition, the conference report language states that agencies which do not make "substantial progress" in shifting to electronic will have to pay the cost of dissemination for print or microfiche materials. This language is similar to the original provision in HR 1854 which would have required agencies to reimburse GPO for all costs of producing and disseminating paper or microfiche products to depository libraries.

At the time, we vigorously opposed this proposal as an unfunded mandate for agencies and GPO, and we were pleased when the Senate also strongly objected to this provision. The conference committee report language, however, has simply bought a little bit of time for GPO to define a new electronic program. And when Congress holds hearings next spring on Title 44, the results of this study/strategic plan will undoubtedly be closely examined.

Along with representatives of other library associations, I attended half a dozen meetings with members of GPO, OMB and Congressional staff during the first few weeks of August to discuss the study. We were troubled that it would be a difficult task for GPO to complete the work within such a narrow timeframe. We believed that the study would be more credible to members of Congress if representatives from other agencies could be active participants. We also were convinced that at least one depository librarian, preferably from a regional library, should be involved in the study.

Public Printer Mike DiMario originally stated that the study would be limited to the current program, within the current law. This approach was softened somewhat following an August 17th meeting between study chairman Wayne Kelley (GPO Superintendent of Documents) and Congressional staff (representatives from the Joint Committee on Printing and both House and Senate authorizing and appropriating committees).

The core working group for the study is being chaired by GPO's Judy Russell (Director, Electronic Information Dissemination Services). In addition to GPO staff, the working group now includes representatives from LC, OMB, NARA, the Federal Publishers Committee, and the Interagency Council on Printing and Publication Services. We were successful in suggesting to GPO the merits of involving the Judicial Branch in the study. As a result, a representative from the Administrative Office of the Courts is participating in the core working group. Due to the very short timeframe, members of the working group are committed to spending 2-3 days per week on the study.

Julie Wallace, regional documents librarian at the University of Minnesota, will serve as a full-time GPO consultant in representing the depository community. Some of you may remember meeting Julie during the National Conference in Pittsburgh which she attended as a MALL delegate. A former chair of ALA's Government Documents Round Table, Julie also played a significant role in the preparation of the Dupont Circle Report, the Chicago Conference Report and the COMA document. We are very fortunate to have Julie as part of the working group for the study.

In addition to this core working group, there is an advisory group which includes representatives from NCLIS, CENDI (Commerce, Energy, NASA and Defense Information), the Council of State Governments/National Governors' Association, Depository Library Council, the Information Industry, and the library associations.

Fortunately, I have been able to observe several meetings of the core working group as the library association representative. Ten task forces addressing the issues outlined in the Senate report have been designated by the working group. We were pleased that the representative from the Administrative Office of the Courts is part of a task force to examine enhancing the program with electronic formats of materials not currently available in print or microfiche. Examples include Federal district and circuit court opinions, patents, SEC filings, and scientific/technical information.

Congress has just returned from its August recess as the task forces are beginning to take shape. The House passed the HR 1854 conference report on September 6, 1995 by a vote of 305-101 and the Senate will act on it shortly. As the study continues to evolve over the next few weeks, we will continue to closely monitor its development.

1995, American Association of Law Libraries