ARCHIVED: On behalf of NOCALL, SANDALL and SCALL Support for FY 2001 Funding for the Federal Deposiotry Library Program

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June 26, 2000

Senator Dianne Feinstein
331 Hart Senate Building
Washington DC 20510
FAX: (202) 228-3954

Re: FY 2001 Funding for the Federal Depository Library Program

 

 

Dear Senator Feinstein:

We represent the members of the Northern California Association of Law Libraries (NOCALL), the Southern California Association of Law Libraries (SCALL), and the San Diego Area Law Libraries (SANDALL). Our members are law librarians and other information professionals who serve in a variety of settings including private law firms, academic law libraries, government agencies, and county and other public law libraries. Many of the individuals who use our libraries, whether they are members of the general public, students and researchers, public employees, or judges and attorneys, rely on information made available through the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). Their ability to conduct current and future research on federal issues would be severely curtailed if Congress does not fund the FDLP at levels adequate to meet their information needs.

We write today because, as Ranking Member of the Legislative Branch Subcommittee, we look to you to take a lead role when the Conference Committee on S. 2603/H.R. 4516 begins its deliberations. We are very grateful to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee for supporting the FDLP with an FY 2001 appropriations of $30.2 million for the Superintendent of Documents Salaries & Expenses (S&E). On Friday, the House passed H.R. 4516, increasing the S&E but at the same time providing funds only to distribute paper copies of publications to depository libraries that are not available through GPO Access. There are no funds to continue print distribution of important titles that are available electronically even though the print version is the only official and authoritative one. Under the House plan, the public would no longer be able go to their local depository library and use the official print version of the Federal Register, the Congressional Record, or the Code of Federal Regulations. In addition, the House bill specifically fails to provide the necessary additional funding to produce and distribute to depository libraries the 2000 print version of the United States Code, a core legal title that is heavily used by the public.

Both as your constituents and in our role as law librarians who assist hundreds of Californians every single day in locating and using official government information, we urge you to support the maximum funding levels for the S&E needed to ensure that these important legal titles--and other important dual format titles--continue to be produced and disseminated to depository libraries in a timely manner.

Californians are fortunate to live in a state whose residents have free and relatively easy access to legal and government information at county and academic law libraries. It is the goal of law librarians and others to make this information ever more available as we progress into the twenty-first century and beyond. To this end, law librarians have worked hard to make legal information available on the Internet and to teach library patrons how to access online information. The Association was an enthusiastic participant in the congressionally mandated Study to Identify Measures Necessary for a Successful Transition to a More Electronic Federal Depository Library Program (June 1996).

At the same time, librarians and other realize the limitations of electronic access and the dangers inherent in promulgating government information in machine-readable format only. It is not clear at this date how long compact disks, magnetic tape, etc will physically endure. One thing that is clear, however, is that the machinery needed to access electronic information evolves rapidly and becomes obsolete within a few years. For instance, one of our member libraries produced computer back up tapes in 1996 which are no longer accessible because of equipment upgrades.

The ability to access government information not only today but also in the distant future is one of the reasons that we urge Congress to maintain core official titles in print as well as electronic formats. The purpose of the FDLP is two-fold. One purpose is to enable Americans to be informed about their government's current activities and to easily access the information they need today to make informed decisions. The second and equally important purpose of the FDLP is to make federal government available to historians and other researchers in future decades and centuries. Many depository libraries date well back into the 19th Century and contain important records of our government�s history. Old Census and other materials are invaluable tools for today�s scholars, and it is imperative that current core federal depository items be produced in formats that will be available forever.

At the same time, we must all recognize that not every library or library patron is able to access electronic information easily. A major goal of the FDLP has always been to make U.S. government information as widely and easily available as possible. For many Americans, this still may mean using print sources. The reasons for this vary widely - lack of expertise in computers or the inability to learn to use them - physical or psychological conditions which make reading online information difficult or impossible. Often the limitations inherent in having to have a machine available for each person needing to access online information as opposed to the larger number who can use various volumes simultaneously make print the most desired format. These are additional compelling arguments in favor of retaining the hardcopy versions of important and official titles such as the Congressional Record, the Federal Register and the U.S. Code.

Senator Feinstein, we urge you to support the continued production and distribution to depository libraries of important legal and government information in dual formats, including the 2000 version of the U.S. Code.

Thank you very much for your consideration in this very important matter that will affect the ability of all Californians to access official government information today and in the future.

Samuel E. Trosow, for the American
Association of Law Libraries
Government Relations Committee
Boalt Hall Law Library
Berkeley, CA 94720
(510) 642-0950

Donna S. Williams,
NOCALL President
California Court of Appeal
6th District Library
San Jose, CA 95113
(408) 494-2529

Joan Allen-Hart, for the
SANDALL Executive Board
San Diego County Law Library
325 S. Melrose, Suite 300
Vista, CA 92083-6697
(760) 940-4386

Lawrence Meyer, for the
SCALL Executive Board
LaVerne College of Law Library
1950 Third Street
La Verne , CA 91750
(909) 593-3511 x4405