Mary Alice Baish
Assistant Washington Affairs Representative
Georgetown University Law Library
111 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
Charting the Future of Federal Information- Dissemination and Access
On April 13, 1995, during the GPO Spring Depository Conference here in Washington, AALL sponsored a meeting at Georgetown Law Library for twenty-four representatives from AALL, ALA, SLA and ARL. Bob Oakley and I initiated this meeting to refine earlier discussions on the future of the Federal Depository Library Program held by the Dupont Circle Group in April 1993 and the Chicago Conference in October 1993. So much has developed in the growth of the electronic dissemination of government information since these earlier discussions that an update was clearly in order. AALL members participating in this April meeting included Susan Dow, Chair of the Government Relations Committee (GRC); Carol Moody, Chair of the Government Documents SIS; GRC members Susan Tulis and Cheryl Nyberg, and Sally Holterhoff. Our major premise was that the federal information infrastructure today employs several distinct dissemination channels. These include the Government Printing Office, the National Technical Information Service, the Library of Congress, and individual federal agencies. Another area of agreement was that we, as librarians, need to become more proactive so that we are not always having to react to the various legislative proposals which come along. Our ultimate objective of developing a model for enhanced dissemination of government information led us to set the following four strategic goals for this discussion:
* to identify the core elements of an effective federal information program;
* to acknowledge the growth of electronic dissemination while recognizing the viability of print;
* to prepare criteria by which to measure legislative proposals regarding the Government Printing Office and the Federal Depository Library Program in preparation for future hearings;
* and to build consensus among the four library associations regarding these criteria.
We successfully worked through all four goals during the morning session which was facilitated by Prue Adler, Assistant Executive Director of ARL. As a test case, we measured the Dunn bill against the yardstick criteria for an effective program which we had developed. Following the meeting, a two-page summary was drafted and we have continued our discussions through a special listserv set up by Susan Dow.
Since many of us agreed that much still remains to be developed in preparation for the upcoming hearings on the Dunn bill and other amendments to Title 44, we have scheduled a follow-up meeting to be held here at Georgetown Law Library on May 10, 1995. The goal of this second meeting is to further develop the concept for a "Federal Information Dissemination and Access Program." We are now debating in our listserv discussions whether there needs to be some kind of "central authority" to administer the program. And if so, how should it be organized, as an independent agency or perhaps as a board or commission, and how far-reaching should its authority extend?
With answers to these complex questions, and hopefully consensus on the part of the four library associations, we will be able to present to members of Congress a model dissemination and access program for government information that will carry us well into the 21st century.
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995--The PRA was part of House Speaker Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" and thus was on a legislative fast track. The Conference Committee met just prior to the April recess to reach consensus on differences between H.R. 830 and S. 244. Members of the committee agreed to a 6-year, rather than a permanent, reauthorization of the PRA. In addition, the waiver clause language of H.R. 830, by which agencies could potentially charge excessive user fees, was stricken from the bill by the conferees. We had lobbied in support of both actions and were pleased with this outcome. The bill is being held up in the Senate but will be sent to the White House following President Clinton's summit trip to Russia later this month. AALL took a leadership role in responding to the PRA legislation with each of our letters being co-signed by ALA, ARL and SLA.
H.R. 1024, the Dunn bill--Hearings have not yet been scheduled on the Dunn bill or other amendments to Title 44. We see this as a plus particularly in light of the discussions described above to reach consensus among library associations on an enhanced model program. On the afternoon of April 13th, a meeting was arranged for GRC members with Susan McColley, Legislative Assistant to Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-WA). Since McColley expressed a desire to visit a depository library, a tour of the documents department at Seattle Public Library was set up for her during the April recess. Seattle Public, a GPO access gateway site, has been a depository library since 1908. We are also scheduling a visit to the documents department at Georgetown University's Lauinger Library for McColley, and perhaps Rep. Dunn as well, once exams have concluded. It is clear that few members of Congress have firsthand knowledge of depository libraries and that we are faced with the critical need to educate them as they weigh the future of the program.
Telecommunications Competition and Deregulation Act of 1995--S. 652, the telecommunications deregulation bill, may go to the Senate floor for a vote as early as next week. On the House side, Rep. Markey (D-MASS) has recently distributed a draft copy of a House telecom bill to members of the House Commerce Committee. We hope that this draft will be made available to the public soon. AALL sent a letter last week to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) commending him for introducing S.714, the "Child Protection, User Empowerment, and Free Expression in Interactive Media Study Bill." This legislation authorizes the Dept. of Justice, assisted by the Commerce Dept, to study and report back to Congress on technological alternatives to control information on online communication systems. Unlike the Exon amendment of S. 652 which would hold authors of "obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, indecent" materials criminally liable, S. 714 does not attempt to control the content of information available through networks. In our letter, we urged the removal of the Exon amendment from S. 652 and we endorsed Sen. Leahy's alternate legislation. Copies of the letter were sent to the co- sponsors of the Leahy bill, Senators Bob Kerrey (D-NEB) and Herb Kohl (D-WIS); to Sen. Larry Pressler (R-SD), Chair, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; as well as to Senators Exon (D-NEB) and Gorton (R-WA) who introduced the "Communications Decency Act."
And Now, A Note of Thanks
My first three months as Assistant Washington Affairs Representative have been a most positive although hectic experience for me. Looking back at those first few days and weeks, with Legislative Branch downsizing hearings threatening to dismantle several agencies and controversies arising such as the so-called "West provision" of the PRA, I was certainly thrown into a maelstrom of legislative activity. Few of us had envisioned the frenetic pace of the first 100 days of the 104th Congress. Now, as our representatives return from the April recess, let us hope that a semblance of thoughtful restraint descends upon Capitol Hill and that the impact of legislation is carefully considered by members of Congress.
I would like to take the opportunity in this, my inaugural column, to thank all of you who have offered me very kind words of welcome and support. In March, I had the fortunate opportunity to meet members of the Executive Board during their Chicago meeting, and I have very much enjoyed working with members of the Government Relations Committee. I look forward to meeting many of you at the Legislative and Regulatory Update on Tuesday, July 18th, in Pittsburgh. Hope to see you there!
1996, American Association of Law Libraries