June 9, 1998
Honorable James T. Walsh, Chairman
Legislative Subcommittee, Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-3225
Dear Chairman Walsh:
On behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries, I write to you and members of the Subcommittee today to urge your full support for the FY 1999 appropriations request of $30.2 million for the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses (S&E) which provides funding for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). Last week, the Senate Committee on Appropriations reported out the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act of 1999, cutting $600,000 from the S&E. We believe that full funding is imperative to continue the excellent progress of the GPO Access system as the FDLP moves towards a more electronic program. We have three main concerns regarding the Senate cuts, and we would appreciate very much your support for the full S&E appropriations request when the Subcommittee marks up the House version of the bill.
The American Association of Law Libraries was founded in 1906 to promote and enhance the value of law libraries to the legal and public communities, to foster the profession of law librarianship, and to provide leadership in the field of legal information. Today, with 4,800 members, the Association represents law librarians and related professionals who are affiliated with a wide range of institutions: law firms; law schools; corporate legal departments; courts; and local, state and federal government agencies.
First, we are troubled that the Senate Committee has reduced the Government Printing Office's (GPO) FTE level by 200. The move to greater electronic access and the subsequent important role of the ever-growing, award-winning GPO Access system is dependent on a highly-skilled, technical work force that can implement dramatically new technological systems. A cut of 200 FTEs is not the answer. Rather, GPO needs the authority to hire new staff equipped with the technical skills necessary to continue to enhance the products and services available through the GPO Access system. Today, GPO is hampered by being short-staffed at the technical end and many important projects are sidelined. While GPO has proven itself very capable of assisting agencies to migrate to electronic formats, it sorely needs an infusion of new staff to handle jobs that require technical innovation. The failure to allow GPO to hire new highly trained technical staff will stifle many new programs and services and will result in reduced public access to government information.
Second, AALL urges the Subcommittee to continue a level of funding for the bound Congressional Record and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set so that these two important titles can continue to be distributed to selective depository libraries in FY 1999, not just to only one library in every state. We strongly believe that these important Congressional materials must not be limited geographically until they are replaced by permanent, archival electronic versions. As we noted during testimony before the Subcommittee last February and in the attached U.S. News & World Report article entitled "Whoops, there goes another CD-ROM," we do not consider CD-ROM to be of archival quality.
Third, the Senate has limited GPO's travel expenses, including those of the Depository Library Council (DLC) to the Public Printer, to $150,000 for FY 1999. As a former member of Council, I would like to assure you that Depository Library Council meetings are extremely important and attract hundreds of depository librarians, most of whom travel to meetings at their own expense. More than 400 librarians came to Washington for the Spring 1997 DLC meeting that coincides annually with GPO's Federal Depository Library Conference. The work of Council is critically important to maintaining the two-way partnership between GPO and libraries that participate in the program.
The other area in which librarians--and the American public--benefit from an adequate level of travel funding for GPO is in the important area of training. Indeed, one of the benefits of DLC meetings is that GPO staff are on hand to give a variety of training sessions to librarians on the use of GPO Access, or on its latest enhancements. Recently, GPO began to offer "Train the Trainer" sessions so that a group of depository librarians could receive hands-on training, and then turn around and replicate it within their own state or geographic area. As the Director of a depository library, I am well aware of the importance of adequate training in the use of electronic resources. I urge you to provide GPO with sufficient funding for training so that it can provide more "Train the Trainer" sessions in FY 1999.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your full consideration of these important issues. Please feel free to contact me if you need more information or have any questions.
Robert L. Oakley
American Association of Law Libraries
Washington Affairs Representative