ARCHIVED: Support for the Full FY 2001 Funding Request for the Federal Depository Library Program

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May 16, 2000

Honorable Ted Stevens
Chair, Senate Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510-0201

BY FAX: 202.224.2354

Dear Chairman Stevens:

On behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), I respectfully urge your support--and that of the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee--for the full FY 2001 funding requests of the Government Printing Office's Congressional Printing & Binding (CP&B) and Salaries and Expenses (S&E). AALL members are very concerned with the cuts that the House Appropriations Committee included in the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill as reported on May 9, 2000. The House bill, though not yet filed, imposes an 11% decrease to the CP&B and a draconian 61% cut to the S&E that threatens the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and the public's ability to access government publications today and in the future.

Since 1813 when Congress first began regular distribution of government documents to libraries, the FDLP has been the most successful partnership between Congress, the federal 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. We are grateful to Congress for its role as trustee in ensuring that our citizenry has equal, no-fee, effective access to information from all three branches of government through the FDLP.

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.

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. Law Libraries that participate in the FDLP provide our nation's citizens with no fee access to government information and high quality reference services. We are proud of our member libraries' participation in the program. According to the 1999 Biennial Survey, academic law libraries received 17,519 requests for government publications per week; the Federal court libraries received 469 requests per week; and the State Supreme Court libraries received 1,176 requests per week. 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.

We commend GPO for a thoughtful and well-planned transition to a more electronic program. 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, with no available electronic version. The U.S. Code is among the core government titles that we believe must always be distributed to depository libraries in print.

AALL is therefore very concerned with the $7.8 million House reduction to the CP&B that includes eliminating key congressional print publications, such as the 2000 version of the official U.S. Code, the Congressional Directory, the daily Congressional Record, the congressional Serial Set, the Congressional Record Index, engineering and agricultural reports submitted to Congress and printed as numbered documents, and other core congressional publications such as hearings. Congress should be very wary about ending print distribution of these core titles to depository libraries 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. 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. If not, the official historical record of the activities of Congress, agencies and the courts are at risk of being lost forever.

Your support for the full FY 2001 budget request of $34.4 million for the Superintendent of Documents Salaries & Expenses will guarantee continued effective and equal access to government information for all Americans. This request includes:

  • $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 to depository libraries (mandated by law to be produced every 6 years).
Chairman Stevens, Ranking Member Byrd and Members of the Committee, AALL appreciates your past commitment to the Federal Depository Library Program. We respectfully urge you to approve full FY 2001 funding for the FDLP to ensure that it may 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, Senate Appropriations Committee
Honorable Robert C. Byrd
Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510-4801

BY FAX: 202.224.8070