Washington Brief - November 2000

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Dateline: September 28, 2000

Legislative Branch Appropriations Act Stalled
While the conference report on H.R. 4516, the combined Treasury-Postal and legislative branch appropriations bills for FY 2001, recently sailed through the House smoothly it met opposition in the Senate among members who want to add a provision banning the congressional cost-of-living adjustment that would otherwise automatically take effect. With the election just six weeks away, members in both parties are concerned about the appearance of giving themselves a pay raise as they campaign for reelection. The $2 million cut to the depository library program remains in the conference report. Thus far, only two of the 13 appropriations bills have been signed and Congress is set to adjourn on October 6th. The first continuing resolution to keep the government running is now under consideration to buy time while Congress and the White House iron out their differences.

Fall Federal Depository Library Conference
Registration for the joint depository library conference and Depository Library Council meeting scheduled for October 22-26th in Rosslyn, VA, may reach an all-time high, as it often does in times of a budget crisis. A letter dated August 25th to depository library directors from Superintendent of Documents Francis Buckley announced that GPO would present a draft policy during the conference that will serve as a guideline to GPO's decision-making regarding which titles will continue to be distributed in dual formats (http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fdlp/coll-dev/sdltr8-25-00.html). Among the determining criteria are: whether the online version is recognized as "official" by the publishing agency; whether the tangible product is of significant reference value to depository libraries and/or would be a significant barrier to public access if only available online; and whether there is a legal requirement to distribute the title in a print format.

Even though GPO is analyzing how the $2 million cut will affect the distribution of tangible documents, they have announced that they are committed to ensuring that the core titles identified as part of the 1996 study on the transition to a more electronic FDLP that are deemed significant will continue to be distributed in print even though they may be published online. These titles include, among others, the Code of Federal Regulations, the Federal Register, the Statutes at Large and the U.S. Code. However, the FY 2002 appropriations cycle is fast approaching and we can be assured that the House will continue to push for an end to dual distribution of some of these titles. Stay tuned and be ready to renew our important grassroots campaign after the election.

Clinton Unveils FirstGov on Schedule
True to the promise he made three months ago, President Clinton unveiled the Administration's new FirstGov search engine on September 22, 2000 (www.firstgov.gov). Using the powerful Inktomi software developed by Dr. Eric Brewer which he donated at no cost to the government, the General Services Administration (GSA) has launched FirstGov, Your First Click to the U.S. Government, as the one-stop shopping web site for government information. While many have commented that FirstGov isn't quite up to speed with other search engines like Google's Uncle Sam, we need to remember a couple of points: first, that this is just the first release, it's a work in progress and the next release is planned for mid-December; second, that the FirstGov developers want feedback and will consider serious suggestions for improvement´┐Żyou can submit your thoughts/ideas/problems easily from the front screen; third, that AALL believes that the creation of adequate finding tools to electronic government information is a core government responsibility, as are permanent public access and preservation; and fourth, that we want the government to support, sustain and improve the FirstGov service, regardless of the results of the November presidential election.

Congress is interested as well in FirstGov, and the House Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology is holding a hearing on FirstGov.gov: Is It a Good Idea? on October 2nd. Witnesses include Sally Katzen from the Office of Management and Budget; David Barram from GSA; Patrice McDermott from OMB Watch; and a representative from the Software and Information Industry Association. Check here next month for a brief report of the hearing.

Brown University Study of Government Web Sites
Speaking of the challenges resulting from the ever-growing number of electronic government web sites, the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University just published an analysis of 1,813 such sites, including 1,716 at the state government level, 36 federal legislative or executive sites, and 61 federal court sites (http://www.insidepolitics.org/egovtrelease00.html). Noting that there is a need for more consistent and standard designs across government web sites, among the findings are that: only 5% of the sites have a security policy and only 7% have a privacy policy; only 15% offer some form of disability access; some sites are beginning to offer commercial advertising, an alarming development for the public sector; the best predictor of state rank was population size; and federal agency sites with clearly defined constituencies had the highest-ranked web sites. Overall, the report finds that federal sites provide higher quality access than state sites and that the government generally is not taking full advantage of the benefits of the Internet to improve access to agency information, publications and services.

NAS Report on the Library of Congress
The National Academy of Science recently released a committee report entitled LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress at the request of the Librarian of Congress, Dr. James Billington. The report recommends that, in order to remain relevant, LC must not only continue to acquire digital information through CORDS (the Copyright Office Electronic Registration, Recordation and Deposit System) but also must assume a leadership role in collaboration with the broader library community to select digital information that has long-term value and to determine how it should be cataloged and preserved for continuous public access. The report finds LC moving slowly in the receipt and preservation of works that are born-digital, and recommends that the Library "aggressively pursue clarification of its right to collect copies of U.S.-based Web sites under the copyright deposit law. If questions about this right remain, then the Library should seek legislation that changes the copyright law to ensure that it has this right." The 207-page report is available at http://stills.nap.edu/books/0309071445/html.

Mary Alice Baish
Associate Washington Affairs Representative
Edward B. WIlliams Law Library
111 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-1417
202/662-9200 * FAX:202/662-9202