Report on the Federal Depository Library Conference
October 16-19, 2005
Much of this year’s conference was spent on “visioning” the future of the federal depository system but there was still some sessions on nuts and bolts type of issues.
I have listed the GPO updates first (p.1-4) followed by agency updates (p.4-6) then vendor updates (p. 6-7) as these are the things that will actually be affecting us, and finally the vision thing (p.7-9) which may or may not affect us, followed by my own comments (p.9-10) which you’re free to read or ignore. In the updates sections, I’ve bolded key phrases so you can easily skim for those topics which interest you and skip those that don’t. The vision statement should be read in its entirety to get the full gist of what was discussed.
The authentication software is ready and will go live as soon as the contract is awarded. The first documents to get the watermark will be Congressional bills. The authentication watermark will be a stylized eagle with the caption “Authenticated U.S. Government Information”. There will also be an icon next to the watermark, either a blue ribbon which certifies that the document is authentic and original or a yellow warning sign which signifies that the document has been altered. Clicking on the warning sign will bring up the latest document and the original document with the changes circled. For more information, please see the authentication web site at www.gpoaccess.gov/authentication/index.html
There was some discussion about “official” with a capital “O”, those sources that the legal profession recognizes as the authoritative version and may be used in court and has legal standing, versus little “o” which are documents that the authoring agency declares originated from them. Until the various courts declare that an online version is the Official version, the print will continue to be of vital importance no matter how authentic the online version is. GPO and NARA are currently in discussion with the Supreme Court about this issue.
LOCKSS pilot project for selected serial titles in several libraries is continuing through the end of the year. The findings will be used to determine what’s the best course for depository serials.
The future digital system for GPO, FDSys, is now in the implementation phase. A Program Office is being created who will be the liaison between the vendors and the users (the FDLP). There is also a bid for a Master Integrator contract. The Master Integrator is like a general contractor for building a house. They will oversee all of the installations and make sure that everything runs smoothly. The time table for everything to be completed is July 1, 2007. This is an extremely aggressive timetable. (My comment: they probably want everything in place and working before the 2008 election campaigns start.) Funding is coming from “prior year” funding, about $20 million, which will get things started. GPO will go to the Joint Committee on Printing for additional funding. GPO is hoping that the Sales Program interface will be cost recovery and even generate a revenue stream. (Uh-oh.)
The registry for digitization projects of government documents is still being worked on. Hopefully it will be up by the beginning of November. (My comment: It’s now November 3rd and it’s still not up but I sure could have used it yesterday when I was trying to convince a patron that there simply is no online version of the Congressional Record for the 1920s.)
The “public live” date for Franklin has been pushed back to the beginning of November. (Nope, that’s not up yet either) because they’re still working out the bugs.
The next Biennial Survey will have several questions about the ILS in each depository library.
GPO drew up the contract for web harvesting software which will automatically search for government web sites and report on which sites are new and need to be “harvested” for the depository program. However there was a glitch in the bidding process so the process has to be re-opened. Hopefully the new contract will be in place in January. It will be for a pilot project with the EPA. In the meantime, GPO will continue to do manual harvesting.
GPO demonstrated their disaster recovery web site for GPOAccess which was created by a contractor. This site will automatically come up in case of a catastrophic loss of the main site or the server. It looked like the regular GPOAccess site but the search engine was much better and it was more responsive. The backup site is so much better than the main site that GPO would like to make it the main site and to make the current main site with the clunky WAIS platform the backup site. Everyone in the room heartily agreed. The “switch” will be done at the end of the year and will remain this way until the FDSys is fully functional when the FDSys will host the GPOAccess main site.
GPO is planning to go ahead and start digitizing the legacy collection. They are currently training staff in acquisition, scanning and digitizing. They are awaiting JCP approval for funds. They will start scanning what they have on hand in donations from depository libraries. They can’t ask for materials but if a library has a big run of material that they would like to withdraw from their collections and give to GPO, please e-mail Robin Haun-Mohamed. For now GPO will digitize what’s on hand regardless of what other institutions are doing because of ownership issues. Other institutions may drop their projects or may have quality control problems. But this issue could be revisited in the future.
GPO is increasing the number of shipments but there will be fewer items in a shipment. This is to accommodate the smaller depositories who now sometimes have to wait weeks before getting a full shipment sent out.
The microfiche is now only Congressional publications, the CFR, Federal Register and a few other GPO produced titles. All other titles formerly received in microfiche will be converted to digital format.
The specs are drawn up for the contract for retrospective cataloging of the pre-1976 documents and are awaiting JCP approval. The cataloging will be done by agency with the Department of Labor the most likely to be the first agency. The records will be loaded up into OCLC in batches.
For those of you wondering where the shipping list numbers have been disappearing to, the Bibliographic Control Office had been cataloging the publications before Depository Distribution was finished with their work creating the shipping lists. Library of Congress wanted the cataloging records ASAP. Unfortunately no one asked how this would impact depositories, especially those who use vendor records. But they are going back and adding shipping list numbers to the records. This situation will be rectified when the ILS is fully operational.
The item revision project is almost complete. Staff looked at all items that have not been active in the past 5 years. They inactivated 581 numbers and more were converted to EL format.
Map cataloging is behind because the one map cataloger retired (she was in the audience and answered a couple of technical map cataloging questions but I couldn’t follow them). Also cataloging personnel were shifted so they’re still catching up and one of them is being trained as a map cataloger. There’s also a distribution backlog of maps but they will be going out within the month (We’ve been seeing a lot of maps coming in this week).
The National Collection (a.k.a. The Collection of Last Resort) is awaiting funding and talks are ongoing with NARA over who is doing what. The National Collection right now has a complete Serial Set, a complete run of Congressional Record, and almost all annual reports. GPO is now looking for serials and monographic series. The collection will be housed in the DC area.
The revision of the Essential Titles list is almost complete. A combined committee of members from GPO and the DLC are working on it.
The item selection update cycle will start December 1st and run to Martin Luther King Day or thereabouts. The old rules will still apply to this selection cycle. The new rules won’t go into effect until the next cycle (no word on when that will be). Under the new rules, Marcive and other vendors will be able to profile because they can create profiles based on Sudoc stem numbers as well as item numbers (right now it’s more expensive to do it this way but if we have no choice…)
There were some complaints about the Customer Response interface. GPO said that a new enhancement will be out in 6 months.
There were also some complaints about GPO’s lack of communication about what’s going on with all of these initiatives. We’re asked for our input but then we’re left in the dark about the status. GPO replied that that’s not the intention; all communications now must be approved at the highest levels before being released and this puts a drag on what gets out. Often by the time something gets approved for release, the situation has dramatically changed. But if anyone is confused or needs clarification, please let them know.
GPO also asked to please, please, please put your depository library number in all of your correspondence with GPO. Several people may be working on one correspondence and they don’t always know who’s with what institution. Many members of the audience concurred.
Bruce James spoke at length about the plan to move GPO out of their historic building on Capitol Hill and into the suburbs. The original building will be leased for redevelopment. This move will be a big savings for the FDLP as most of the budget is now going for overhead in maintaining a hundred year old building with all of the related problems.
James also talked about the strategic plan for all of GPO. Two years ago was fact gathering, last year was the developed vision and now the plan is being presented to all stakeholders. This conference is part of this process and so is the development of the FDSys.
Department of Energy
Karen Spence from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information spoke about DOEs information services. The driving force behind the latest changes is the Strategic Initiative for Scientific Knowledge and Advancement. OSTI hopes that the Initiative will eventually become an Institute for Scientific Knowledge and Advancement. DOE is working closely with GPO to collect fugitive documents. Part of the problem is that the labs are autonomous so there’s no central office collecting what they produce. However anything that is to released to the public has to be cleared for security which can be a cumbersome process. Also some labs have had some security problems, especially Los Alamos, so that material has been pulled off the web. The material is still intact offline so when the security issues are resolved, the cleared material can be turned back on.
Information Bridge has been revamped with an improved search interface and expanded coverage of full text documents back to 1994. Prior years are going to be added and selected older documents will be scanned and added as they are requested. An Alerts service has also been added.
Science Conferences has been up since last spring. It’s a portal to the conferences and proceedings of 18 learned societies. The search results link to either Energy Citations Database or to the society’s web page for full text access but in that case the user may have to pay for the paper.
Patents Database will be up next year. It will include energy related patents with a link to the Patent Office database for the full text.
Science Lab is DOE’s site for K-12. It includes experiments, science fair ideas, and curriculum resources for elementary, middle and high school students and teachers.
Department of Homeland Security
Gwynne Kostin gave an overview of DHS and their web sites. DHS is a hodgepodge of over 20 agencies formerly under a bunch of other departments so each web site is very different which makes it difficult to navigate across them. DHS will be undergoing a reorganization next year and will be more streamlined. Part of this reorganization is that the web pages will be standardized. Gwynne demonstrated the most popular DHS sites. www.US-cert.gov produced by the Computer Emergency Readiness Team provides information on cyber threats, attacks, and vulnerabilities on all levels from a possible terrorist attack to the latest virus circulating on the internet. Disaster Help at www.distasterhelp.gov offers disaster preparedness and response information for public officials, health care workers and the public. www.cbp.gov produced by the Customs and Border Protection Service includes information on imports/exports and the famous travel brochure Know Before You Go now resides here.
Laura Patching from the Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services spoke about their web site and government web content and design in general. www.uscis.gov is the site for the Office of Citizenship and Immigration Service and is the most visited DHS site if not one of the most visited government web sites, with information for new immigrants as well as the process for naturalization and citizenship. It also offers related immigration information including links for genealogists. The speaker went in detail about this site and asked the audience how immigrants use the libraries to find information and what improvements to the web site would help. She also went into detail about the federal policy on web design and web content and how it will affect the CIS and other government sites used by the public. The push is for standardization of design and for eliminating clutter. There was discussion about preservation and archiving old pages and vigilance on keeping sites up to date. Mention was made that government sites must be absolutely trustworthy or the public won’t use them and will go to “black market” sites instead. Phishing sites make this problem difficult but maybe the authentication technology will alleviate this.
Public Health Service
Penelepe Royal from the Office of Disease Prevention spoke about the process of disseminating health information to both the public and to the health care professionals. She used as an example the findings of the 2003 Committee for Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Committee was established to study the current dietary habits of Americans, to draw up nutritional guidelines and propose recommendations for getting Americans to follow them. The findings are significant because studies have found that 40% of early mortality is from behavioral patterns (bad diet, smoking, drinking, etc.) However the findings needed to be disseminated not only to the scientific and health care community but also to public officials and policy makers and most importantly to the public. These audiences all have different information needs. The solution was to produce several publications. The scientific findings are in Report of the Advisory Council of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the publication Dietary Guidelines for Americans in aimed at policy makers, and public information is being produced in several brochures. While the publications for the scientists and policy makers were produced with little fanfare, the agency did some research into consumer behavior before producing public material to make sure the language would be appropriate, the information would be trusted, and it would motivate the readers to modify their dietary behavior. They also are producing material that target high risk populations (elderly, minorities, etc.). Since many high risk groups are not computer literate, print sources are emphasized, especially brochures which can be easily distributed and quickly read. Web sources will also be produced which can be made interactive as the consumer research found that many people only want dietary information as it relates to themselves. There will also be ad campaigns to promote the guidelines and where to find the information on them.
Most of this information is still the same since our training session last May but there are a few new changes. You can ask Stat-USA to provide you with a script for an automatic login. I didn’t write down the name of the contact person but the contact info for the speaker is Shannon Smythe at 202-482-1406 or Shannon.email@example.com On the Stat-USA Training Center site at www.stat-usa.gov/training there are exercises and case studies that we can use on our own and…..one of us at the training session is quoted at the top of the page!
Cambridge University Press
What’s a private publisher doing at a Depository Conference? The Census Bureau has asked Cambridge to publish a new edition of Historical Statistics of the United States. The Census Bureau no longer has the resources to update this title and there is a big need for it so in a very 21st Century move, the Census Bureau has turned over the publication to Cambridge. The Census Bureau retains the rights to the title so this will be the “official” version but Cambridge will do the publishing and will charge for it. The cost will be $825 for the print (5 volumes) and it will also be online but I didn’t get that price because that will be an annual fee instead of a one time cost. The release date is Spring, 2006. If anyone would like more information on this title (except for the price AARRGGHH!), go to www.us.cambridge.org
Lexis-Nexis Congressional is simplifying their search interface so that there will be only a “basic”, “guided” and “number” search screen for all of the files. The search screen will be the default screen rather than the list of files. “CIS Index” will be gone (it only made sense to middle aged librarians who had used the print source sometime in their careers) and the information will be incorporated in the pull down boxes and the “search within” options on the search screen. From what I saw I think that the changes will be a big improvement. The new interface goes live on December 11. The search interface for the Serial Set will also be improved. New for the Serial Set in 2006 will be color images added and black and white images cleaned up. Captions and titles of the images and maps will be indexed. Finally, MARC records will be included in the purchase price. Prices of course were not mentioned in the session I attended but I think that the Nelinet/NERL price is still in the low 90’s so this would have to be a cooperative purchase or a purchase with a grant.
No news from Marcive but they’re watching what’s going to happen with the revision of the item selection process.
Most of the conference was devoted to discussion on the Vision Statement. Much of the discussion took place in small breakout sessions and then within even smaller discussion groups. A summary of what was discussed was presented to all attendees at the last session on Wednesday
Before the discussions, background information was given to all attendees. Discussion on the impact of the electronic revolution on government information goes back to 1986. There have been several reports over the years all of which are predicting the same thing: that information will be easily accessible without needing to go to a library, that large bodies of information can be digitized and stored on smaller and smaller devices, that while digitized information is easier to access and use, it can be easily corrupted and must be preserved in such a way so that future generations will be able to easily use it, and finally this information is only as useful as the means to index and search it.
There was also a keynote speaker to set the tone of the discussion. Clifford Lynch of the Coalition of Networked Information spoke about current trends. Storage capacity is getting larger but occupying less physical space. There is interest in large scale digitization but only a few small scale projects have been actually completed. Now resources are shifting toward truly large scale projects. Despite the current lawsuit by publishers over Google’s library digitization project, large scale digitization will happen; if not in the U.S. then by other countries. GPO’s proposed project to digitize all government information is a good example of what can and will take place in the next 5-10 years. In a few years anyone with an iPod like gizmo will be able to store the text of hundreds of thousands of volumes of text and images and be able to easily retrieve and read them. Anyone could have a basic library of not only our cultural heritage but also have access to the huge body of government information. So where does that leave libraries in general and depository libraries in particular? That’s the question that we had to address.
At the end of the discussions, the following points were presented:
Government information needs to be free, accurate and legitimate.
It needs to be easily accessible.
If necessary, the information needs to have value added with a focus on the customer’s needs.
Libraries can provide the added value through their collective expertise and through their ability to work cooperatively in consortia.
Librarians can deploy their expertise through formal and informal networks, by participating in reference chat services, by creating interfaces to government information such as tutorials and finding aids, by engaging other members of their communities in advocating for government information, and by training non-experts on how to find and use government information.
Libraries and librarians can and should actively market government information to their communities.
Libraries will still be the holders of the legacy collections which contains our common heritage and which still need to be preserved and easily accessed.
Libraries can also be active participants in the preservation of electronic information by housing files on their servers, by participating in LOCKSS, etc.
Finally, this plan is not for now but what we anticipate will be in place 10 to 20 years from now. So yes we do need to accommodate the current digitial have-nots but the situation may be dramatically different in 10 years and we need to focus on that time frame.
The blog will remain up for additional comments and the comments from the conference will be posted. All comments will be incorporated into a revised vision statement. The revision will be discussed at ALA Midwinter and the beginnings of an action plan will be discussed. At the DLC Spring Meeting, further reactions will be considered and consensus will be reached. The final vision and action plan will be distributed in May, 2006.
OK, now for my unsolicited acerbic comments which I held off from making until the end. This vision is all very nice but it focuses on what the big ARL and large academic libraries (and I include URI in this bunch despite our library’s perennial underfunding for a school of our size) can provide. They’re the ones who can arrange to digitize and store and participate in LOCKSS, who have the staff to add value to a collection of government information, who can easily migrate from an obsolete technology to a new one, who will gain the reputation and prestige for housing these collections, etc., etc. but…. It’s the smaller depositories and the public library depositories who are out in the trenches and actually provide the information to the many patrons (NOT customers which implies a mercantile relationship, as in, those who can afford it can get it) who have minimal or no computer access such as the elderly, the minorities and the poor. And they’re providing this information to these patrons, many of whom need this information the most, with few resources from their own institutions. Unfortunately the conference was peopled by the ARL/large academics in overwhelming numbers who count their communities as the academic elite and the real public seldom if ever, darken the doorways of their institutions. Their institutions can afford to send people to conferences like these but the public libraries can’t so they were in present in very small numbers and in venues like this one, their voices can be drowned out.
I’m also concerned that during the conference there was a lot of emphasis on GPO “pushing” electronic files onto individual depository servers and storing it there. While this would be good for preservation and a good system for a back-up, it also requires an enormous commitment of hardware and staffing year in year out. I’m concerned that “pushing” government information onto individual depository library servers will create a system where government information will be found only at large well endowed libraries who are already serving a computer literate population. Nearly everyone at the conference was all for this “pushing” as a means of preservation and access but during breaks, meals and in the lobby nearly everyone quietly said that their own institution wouldn’t have the resources to do it. So I can envision an scenario that if this big push for “pushing” comes to pass, we may end up with a small elite depository system consisting of a handful of big academics dictating the housing, preservation, use and access to government information with GPO structuring their own resources to meet the needs of these “super-depositories” while those who do actually provide government information to the public will be left out in the cold. It’s nice to have government information on multiple servers but GPO should be the first, last and central holder of electronic information. It is government information after all and if GPO can’t it provide it adequately for all, then it’s up to us as citizens to see that they do.
While the public libraries were present in small numbers, present in a very miniscule number were library administrators and they’re the ones who are really going to decide which direction this program is going. They’re the ones who will actually give the money to their depository librarians to carry out these projects or not. And as wonderful as these projects are, they have to compete with the other needs of their respective institutions. Under the current arrangement, both GPO and the library “pay” something but get something in return. Under the proposed arrangement, it’s a more one sided arrangement. The libraries must pay a lot in terms of hardware, software, staffing, professional expertise, etc. but aren’t getting whole heck of a lot from GPO that would be exclusive to depositories. Even if a depository librarian is gung ho for whatever the future may bring, if his or her director says that they’re dropping out of the depository system for whatever reason, there’s not much there any more to argue for staying in, despite Bruce James’ assurances that he’s seen overwhelming support from the directors on where GPO is going. There wasn’t much discussion about what incentives there will be for directors and deans to say yes we need to remain a depository. There was some discussion about GPO providing pre-1976 cataloging records but that’s it and that would only be useful if you have a large legacy collection. On the other hand, James and other GPO honchos are still strongly hinting about “cost recovery” and “fee based” government information so a depository library that gets this information free of charge in exchange for offering it to the public would tip the scales back to where they were in the print era. So while many of us have been strong and scrappy advocates for the FDLP within our institutions in the past, I can see where we’ll have to be doubly so in the future.
Finally, these cynical comments are strictly my own which I made very plain at the conference but if you agree or disagree or have your own comments, I would emphasize that now’s the time to let GPO and the DLC know what you think. I have a strong feeling that the Public Printer is going to carry out a lot of whatever we propose on the basis that he’s heard from the depository community so if any of you feel strongly that all of this is going on the wrong (or right!) direction, please don’t be shy and make yourself be heard.
Being a documents librarian these days certainly isn’t boring and it will be very interesting to see which way things go.
Nov. 4, 2005