ARCHIVED: Support for the FY 2003 Budget Request of the Government Printing Office

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May 7, 2002

The Honorable Charles H. Taylor
Chairman, Subcommittee on Legislative
Committee on Appropriations
H-147 Capitol Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-6025

Dear Chairman Taylor:

On behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), the American Library Association (ALA), and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), we write in support of the FY 2003 budget request of the Government Printing Office (GPO). Collectively, these three associations represent thousands of individuals and institutions serving communities throughout the Nation, including the more than 1300 federal depository libraries located in nearly every congressional district.

AALL is a nonprofit educational organization with over 5,000 members dedicated to promoting and enhancing the value of law libraries, fostering law librarianship and providing leadership and advocacy in the field of legal information and information policy. ALA is a nonprofit educational organization of 63,000 librarians, library trustees, and other friends of libraries dedicated to improving library services and promoting the public interest in a free and open information society. ARL is an Association of 123 research libraries in North America. ARL programs and services promote equitable access to and effective use of recorded knowledge in support of teaching, research, scholarship, and community service.

We urge your support for the Public Printer's FY 2003 budget request of $129.3 million for the GPO that includes $34.1 million for the Salaries and Expenses (S&E) appropriation of the Superintendent of Documents and $95.2 million for the Congressional Printing and Binding (CP&B) appropriation. The S&E request includes $27.3 million to fund the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), $4.0 million for the Cataloging and Indexing Program, $.7 million for the International Exchange Program and $.3 million for the By-Law Distribution Program. This amount includes necessary increases to support the continued operation of the FDLP, its continuing electronic transition plans and the increased demands upon GPO Access. We urge you to approve the full S&E appropriations request for FY 2003.

The FDLP is a unique program and one of the most effective, efficient and successful partnerships between Congress and the American public. The FDLP provides your constituents with equitable, ready, efficient and no-fee access to Federal government information in an increasingly electronic environment. Today Congress, government agencies, and the courts increasingly are relying on state-of-the-art technologies to create and disseminate government information through the Internet. One of the critical keys to GPO's successful transition to a more electronic program has been the growth of the GPO Access system, a central access point within the GPO for electronic government information that today makes available to the public approximately 225,000 titles. Created by Public Law 103-40, GPO Access has grown into a unique digital collection of official government databases from all three branches of government including the Congressional Record, the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations. Currently an average of 31 million documents are downloaded by the public each month, a substantial increase from last year that attests to the importance and value of this award-winning system to the American public.

The FDLP and GPO Access are vital to the dissemination and access of Federal government information to our citizens. We believe that the FY 2003 S&E budget request is essential to the continued transition to a more electronic program and the continued success of GPO Access. We urge you to approve the requested increase that includes $91,000 to hire 3 additional FTEs to assist in managing the FDLP Electronic Collection and $2.6 million for equipment and systems improvements necessary to enhance GPO Access. Since GPO is responsible for permanent public access to the content of its Electronic Collection, funding to strengthen digital archiving and migration capabilities is essential.

GPO has continued to make excellent progress over the past year in enhancing its Electronic Collection. GPO constantly adds new data and products to the system, building a current collection of valuable new electronic resources. At the same time, GPO provides permanent access to core legislative and regulatory information and to agency information managed by GPO on GPO servers. Each year, the historic electronic collection grows, requiring GPO to meet its responsibility for ensuring permanent public access. This function presents probably the most difficult challenge of the networked electronic environment. Just as the government has an affirmative obligation to provide current access to its information, in the digital arena this obligation extends to ensuring the preservation of and permanent public access to electronic government publications.

FDLP libraries are doing their part by investing in technologies to assist them in accessing electronic government information. These investments exemplify the substantial costs that participating depository libraries incur in order to provide your constituents with equitable, ready, efficient and no-fee access to government information in both print and electronic formats. These costs include providing highly trained staff, adequate space, necessary additional materials, expensive equipment and Internet connections. The success of GPO Access cannot be measured without acknowledging the substantial costs covered by libraries. Depository libraries serve as important channels of public access to government publications and contribute significantly to the success of this program. The government's responsibility to make available to depository libraries government publications in both tangible and electronic formats is successful because of the necessary partnerships developed between the Federal government, the GPO, and the Federal depository libraries. In order for GPO to continue to increase the amount of government information available for current and future public access through the Internet and in order for the Federal government to fulfill its responsibilities of the partnership, it is critically important that Congress provide adequate funds to support the transition to a more electronic program.

We also urge your support for the Public Printer's request of $95.2 million for the Congressional Printing and Binding (CP&B) appropriation. This amount includes $5.9 million to cover a budget shortfall in the FY 2001 appropriations that will not be needed if Congress approves GPO's FY 2002 supplemental appropriations request submitted last month. Broad public access to legislative information, including the Congressional Record, the text of bills, as well as committee hearings, reports, documents and other legislative materials, is crucial to the ability of our citizenry to engage in the political process. Indeed, recent polls have demonstrated the public's increasing awareness of and thirst for information from their government, including Congress. Full support for the CP&B request will ensure the necessary electronic infrastructure to make congressional materials available in a timely manner for permanent accessibility through GPO Access and will maintain GPO's in-plant printing operation for Congress.

We are very grateful to the Subcommittee for your past support of GPO Access, the Federal Depository Library Program and GPO's Congressional Printing and Binding services. The investment in systems and services to provide the public with government publications in all formats will ensure that valuable electronic government information created today will be preserved for future generations. We respectfully urge your continued support by approving the Government Printing Office's FY 2003 appropriation request in its entirety. We ask that you please include this statement as part of the April 24, 2002, hearing record. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Mary Alice Baish
American Association of Law Libraries

Lynne E. Bradley
American Library Association

Prudence S. Adler
Association of Research Libraries