ARCHIVED: AALL Newsletter - September 1995

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September 1995

Mary Alice Baish
Assistant Washington Affairs Representative
Georgetown University Law Library
111 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
202/662-9200 *FAX:202/662-9202
Internet:baish@law.georgetown.edu

Bringing Federal Information Policy and the Depository Library Program into the Electronic Age: Amending Title 44

It has been apparent during the past six months that members of the 104th Congress have set as one of their goals to amend Title 44--Public Printing and Documents, in order to reflect evolving new technologies. Today there are nearly 1400 depository libraries throughout the country, including 133 located in law school libraries, 35 designated as the Highest State Appellate Court Library, and 18 Federal court libraries.

In my last two columns and also at the legislative update in Pittsburgh, I described some of the current Congressional efforts to amend Title 44, including the FY 1996 appropriations process. I also described at some length the work of the AALL-initiated Coalition of Many Organizations (COMA) which met here at Georgetown Law Library twice last spring. The COMA group drafted a two-page "framework" document which envisions the functions of an enhanced government information dissemination program and delineates partner responsibilities in the life cycle of information. I am very pleased to announce that the AALL Executive Board endorsed the framework at the Pittsburgh Annual Meeting and, because of its importance, we are including a copy in this month's newsletter. The framework is especially critical for several reasons.

* First, it assesses the current government information dissemination program and lays the groundwork for our efforts to reinvent federal information policy. It describes the necessary components of a more electronically-based program which we believe must be considered in any changes to Title 44.

* Second, a critical component of the framework is its attention to the entire life cycle of information and partner responsibilities. This is an area, unfortunately, in which we have not to date been very successful in educating members of Congress.

* Third, the framework results from the combined, collegial efforts of representatives of four library associations. COMA members are proud that the framework has now been endorsed by all four participating associations, AALL, the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and the Special Libraries Association (SLA).

* Last but not least, the timing of the framework is crucial as this very determined Congress is intent on change, both to the Depository Program and the Government Printing Office.

FY 1996 Legislative Branch Appropriations, HR 1854

During these long and hot Washington summer months, the 104th Congress has continued to move at a frenetic pace. HR 1854, the House appropriations bill proposing, among other cuts, a 50% cut to GPO's fund which maintains the Depository Library Program, passed the House on June 22, 1995 by an overwhelming margin of 337-87. We worked diligently during the entire House process to convince members of the House not to make such drastic cuts to the program without more careful study. During the Pittsburgh meeting, the Executive Board endorsed the Government Relations Committee's resolution supporting full FY 1996 funding for the program. Fortunately, we were much more successful in convincing members of the Senate not to make such drastic changes in an appropriations bill. As a result, the Senate did restore funding for the program and mandated that GPO initiate a study to assess the current program and the electronic capabilities of both libraries and government agencies. The study would include a strategic plan which hopefully would justify a gradual transition to a more electronically-based program. The Conference Committee accepted the Senate proposals but the study is to accompany GPO's FY 1997 appropriations request due in December and must "assure substantial progress toward maximum use of electronic information dissemination technologies by all departments, agencies, and other entities of the Government with respect to the Depository Library Program and information dissemination generally." (H. Rept. 104-212)

Forum on Government Information Policy, July 20-21, 1995

Just as your Washington representatives were preparing to leave for the AALL Annual Meeting, we abruptly learned that the House Oversight Committee would hold a hearing on broad Title 44 issues on August 1, 1995. To prepare for this hearing, ALA President Betty Turock hastily convened a Forum on Government Information Policy held in Washington on July 20-21. Currently Director and Chair of the Library and Information Studies Program at Rutgers University, Dr. Turock has firsthand knowledge of depository libraries having served as director of several large public libraries. Her attendance, as president of ALA, at our National Conference in Pittsburgh served as timely and valuable reinforcement of the key policy issues, particularly those specific to legal information. Dr. Turock was most grateful for the opportunity to attend the conference and on more than one occasion during the two-day forum, she referred to its excellent proceedings. AALL was very well represented among the thirty-some participants by Susan Dow, Susan Tulis, Bob Oakley and myself. Our discussions centered around further developing the COMA framework document into some strategic models for the future.

The first day's session consisted of several briefings, including an update on HR 1854; a view from the Executive branch by Bruce McConnell of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) acknowledging OMB's support of the Senate appropriations approach and the content of the framework document; the history of government printing and dissemination, and why the information policy area is so contentious. We also briefly discussed the study recommended in the Senate version of HR 1854 and concluded that it should assess, among other things: the costs to our institutions of participating in the program; the economic impact of shifting more costs to participating libraries and users as proposed in the House version of HR 1854; and the degree to which the fugitive document problem exists in the print environment and what it will be in a more electronic environment.

On the second day two draft models were presented and these continue to be further discussed outside of the immediate forum participants. In essence, the model for redefined federal information access and dissemination responsibilities proposes creating a Chief Federal Information Dissemination Officer, responsible to a Steering Committee; a Coordinating Council composed of representatives of federal agencies with explicit information dissemination responsibilities; and a Council Steering Committee consisting of one representative from each of the three branches of government. The model for a reinvented program builds on the strengths of the current depository program while emphasizing the important link to the local community. It proposes a federal, state and local partnership approach with more coordination and planning at state and local levels. A draft summary of each model was attached to the August 1 testimony at which Betty Turock represented seven library associations, including AALL.

House Oversight Hearing, August 1, 1995

There were no surprises at the August 1st House Oversight hearing on Title 44, nor was there any indication of what legislation we might expect to see later this year. Chairman Bill Thomas stated that while the hearing was prompted by changes in technology, the committee's primary goal is expanded public access. He pointed to thirty-seven volumes of the US Code, contrasting it with a single CD, and questioned why the printed version is still the "official" one. Thomas noted that the hearing was on broad Title 44 issues and would weigh costs versus needs.

Four panels participated in the hearing. The first panel consisted of Reps. Jennifer Dunn (R-WA) and Scott Klug (R-WIS). Rep. Dunn noted the "remarkable" savings which her bill, HR 1024, would achieve: $1.2 billion over five years according to the Congressional Budget Office. She emphasized that HR 1024 would bring many fugitive documents from the executive branch into the depository program. Rep. Klug, leader of House privatization efforts in all arenas, emphasized that all GPO printing, including that of Congressional documents, should be privatized.

The second panel paired Public Printer Michael DiMario and Sally Katzen, Director of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. DiMario's statement was focused and terse. GPO is not a 19th century printing agency but rather provides the "building blocks" for the "cyber government." Katzen's message was two-fold: we need to be comprehensive in our reinventing efforts, and all interested parties need to be involved. Katzen applauded the framework document as a good starting point for change.

Betty Turock, representing seven library associations. and Wayne Kelley, GPO's Superintendent of Documents, were on the third panel. We had made substantial contributions to her written testimony and were very pleased that the resulting document focused on the current program and the concepts of the framework for an enhanced access and dissemination program. Dr. Turock emphasized the following main points during the three-minutes she was given to summarize her testimony: that changes need to be made in light of evolving technology and scarce resources; that the current program works well in terms of public access; and that we need to fully understand costs and implications as we move forward to a more electronically-based environment. Kelley cautioned that changes to Title 44 must include certain safeguards and that there are some "perils", such as authenticity and preservation, in the emerging new technologies.

The final panel consisted of Ray Lawton, President of Printing Industries of America; Fred Antoun, representing the GPO Contractors Coalition; and Dave Mason from the Heritage Foundation. All three testified that government printing, with no exceptions, should be performed by the private sector. Lawton stated that an open-procurement, centralized system like GPO is necessary and should be retained. Mason remarked that the committee should think about abolishing GPO and privatizing the depository program, or moving it into the executive branch.

Betty Turock represented our associations extremely well during the hearing. In general, the line of questions to her and other participants highlighted what little understanding members of Congress have of the public's use of government information. Thomas questioned the need for regional depository libraries to retain all publications and suggested that regionals and all depository libraries should have more flexibility. Thomas questioned Betty Turock as to whether the fugitive documents problem resulted from a patron's request for a particular publication or from a librarian wanting to complete a particular set.

It was a good hearing but disappointing in that we had hoped to learn in what direction the House will proceed to amend Title 44 now that the FY 1996 appropriations process is behind us. In a brief conversation with Chairman Thomas following the hearing, it was apparent that he seemed impressed that seven associations, representing 80,000 librarians, presented a united front at the hearing on these critical issues. While not directly commenting on either the framework or the draft models attached to the testimony, Thomas also seemed pleased that the library community was moving in a creative and innovative direction in terms of the dissemination of electronic federal information.

Where Do We Go From There?

Since the hearing of only a week ago, as Washington representatives for our associations, we have renewed our efforts to have a voice in these crucial policy discussions as new models are proposed. Along with Carol Henderson, Executive Director of the ALA Washington Office, and Prue Adler, Assistant Executive Director of ARL, I have in recent days met with representatives of the Senate Appropriations Committee, OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the Joint Committee on Printing, and GPO. Our current most important concern regards the GPO-initiated study which is to be submitted by the Public Printer with the FY1996 appropriations request. Our goal is that the study will justify to members of Congress the critical need of a comprehensive, gradual transition to a more electronically-based program based on the life cycle of information. The outcome of the study will be the basis for next year's appropriations for the program and thus, its future. 1996, American Association of Law Libraries