ARCHIVED: House Committee on Appropriations Support for the FY 2001 Funding Requests of the Law Library of Congress and the Federal Depository Library Program

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May 8, 2000

Honorable C.W. Bill Young
Chair, House Committee on Appropriations
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-0910

BY FAX: 202.225.9764

Honorable David R. Obey
Ranking Member, House Committee on Appropriations
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-4907

BY FAX: 202.225.3240

Dear Chairman Young and Ranking Member Obey:

On behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries, I respectfully urge your support--and that of the members of the House Appropriations Committee--for the FY 2001 funding requests of the Law Library of Congress and the Federal Depository Library Program. The Subcommittee on Legislative met on May 3, 2000 to mark up the FY 2001 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill. They imposed a draconian 4% cut across legislative branch agencies that will adversely affect the ability of the Law Library to support the legal information needs of Congress and that threatens the future of the Federal Depository Library Program.

Recognizing that the availability of legal and government information to all people is a necessary requirement for a just and democratic society, the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is a nonprofit educational organization with nearly 4,800 members nationwide. Our mission is to promote and enhance the value of law libraries to the public, the legal community, and the world; to foster the profession of law librarianship; and to provide leadership in the field of legal information and information policy.

The Law Library of Congress
AALL provided testimony in February before the Subcommittee on Legislative in support of the full FY 2001 funding request of $8.3 million for the Law Library of Congress that is absolutely essential to the ability of the Law Library to fulfill its mission effectively. As the Federal Government's only comprehensive legal and legislative research collection, it serves the unique role of being our Nation's de facto national law library. Its collection of more than 2.3 million volumes is the largest legal collection in the world. Using this extensive collection of U.S. federal, state, international, foreign and comparative law derived from over 200 jurisdictions, the Law Library's multilingual attorneys, researchers, and reference librarians serve more than 100,000 users each year. In addition, the Law Library serves a rapidly increasing number of remote users with electronic legal and legislative information through its web sites, recording some 1.5 million digital transactions last year.

The Law Library's budget request for FY 2001 includes 16 FTEs that are crucial in order to restore continued acceptable levels of research and reference service to members of Congress and other Government agencies and officials. These positions include Legal and Foreign Law Specialists, as well as library technicians and automation staff. The Law Library today is suffering from a staff shortage that has developed incrementally over the past decade and is now at a critical stage. In particular, timely updating of the library's important looseleaf services-which serve as core materials in any law library--is impossible because of technical staff shortages. These positions must be filled to enable the Law Library to provide a high quality of reference assistance to members of Congress and staff.

In addition, the Law Library has been engaged in two separate and unique digital library initiatives. The Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) is a multinational legal database of official, current foreign law resources that is uniquely important to our government in the rapidly changing global economy. A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation, U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1873 offers Congress, the nation, and the world unprecedented access to historical congressional debates and documents. Your continued support for this important project is needed so that the Law Library is able to complete the nation's Second Century of Lawmaking covering 1873 to 1972.

The specialized resources, important services and digital projects of the Law Library of Congress allow the Library to fulfill its mission in serving Congress and to develop state-of-the-art technologies to make available to our citizenry many of its magnificent collections through the Internet. The ability of the Law Library to fulfill its mission and to be our de facto national law library is dependent upon full funding of its FY 2001 budget request.

The Federal Depository Library Program
AALL also testified in February before the Subcommittee on Legislative as participants in the joint statement by the five national library associations that represent over 80,000 librarians. We urged support for the FY 2001 budget request of $34.4 million for the Superintendent of Documents Salaries & Expenses that funds the FDLP, including:

  • $1.6 million for the award-winning GPO Access system, including the need to ensure permanent public access to electronic information;
  • $3.3 million for the cataloging and indexing of government publications that is critically important in the electronic environment to help the American public find the government information they need;
  • $1 million for FDLP printing and distribution of the U.S. Code (mandated by law to be produced every 6 years).
The Subcommittee on Legislative mark-up included a drastic 25.3% cut for the Government Printing Office (GPO) that threatens the future of the FDLP and will result in a sharp reduction in the amount of government information that agencies, including Congress, will make available to our nation's citizens in the future. Since 1813 when Congress first began regular distribution of government documents to libraries, the FDLP has been the most successful partnership program between Congress, the government and libraries. This partnership is based on the fundamental principle that in a democratic society, citizens should have unimpeded access to information by and about their government. AALL strongly endorses this principle as the bedrock of our democracy.

Today there are 1,337 depository libraries throughout the nation, including 150 court, law school and county law libraries, that annually serve an estimated 9.5 million citizens. In addition to providing reference service to the tangible FDLP collections in print, microfiche and CD-ROM, FDLPs also provide expert assistance in helping students, faculty, researchers and the general public locate and use government publications available only through the Internet. Each month, the award-wining GPO Access averages over 21 million documents retrieved by users. In FY 1999, the GPO disseminated 46 percent of new titles electronically and thus far in FY 2000, some 50% of new titles available to the public through the FDLP have been online.

While we applaud increased access to electronic government information, there is still public need for a large number of titles in print. In FY 1999, the FDLP disseminated 16.1 million copies of more than 40,000 titles in paper and microfiche to depository libraries; 15,000 were in electronic and print formats; and 25,000 were available only in tangible formats. The U.S. Code is among the core government titles that we believe must always be distributed to FDLPs in print.

Indeed, Congress should be very wary of ending print distribution of core depository titles such as the U.S. Code until the federal government resolves two key challenges of the digital environment: the permanent public access and authenticity of electronic publications. Permanent public access is needed to ensure that government information available only through the Internet will be continually and historically available to the public, and authenticity is necessary to ensure that the electronic version of government publications, especially core legal titles, are certified as authentic. We urge the Committee to continue adequate funding for FDLP print publications, including the U.S. Code, until these important digital challenges are met.

Chairman Young, Ranking Member Obey and Members of the Committee, AALL appreciates your past commitment to the needs of the Law Library of Congress and the Federal Depository Library Program. We encourage your continued support so that in FY 2001 the Law Library can continue to build its valuable collections and services as well as its significantly important digital initiatives. In addition, we urge the Committee to approve full FY 2001 funding for the Federal Depository Library Program to ensure that the FDLP can continue to serve your constituents efficiently and effectively and that the American public can locate and use the government information they need in all formats. In this year of unprecedented national surpluses, we look to Congress to invest in the legal and government information needs of your constituents and our nation's citizenry. Thank you very much for your immediate attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Margaret Maes Axtmann
President
American Association of Law Libraries

cc: Members, House Appropriations Committee