ARCHIVED: Washington Office Activities- November 1995

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November 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

 

Washington Office Activities, Fall '95

I would like to use this month's column to talk about some of the varied activities in which the Washington Office has been engaged during September. From the release of the NII "White Paper Report," which Bob Oakley summarized for you in the October newsletter, to our efforts to recruit AALL members so that we can improve information sharing and grassroots support, to the latest developments regarding the GPO Study, the Washington Office keeps up its busy pace. Even as the annual appropriations process heads towards closure, we continue to witness the trend towards swift change in a somewhat volatile political environment. Next month, as the 1st Session of the 104th Congress winds up its work, we'll summarize the impact of its legislation on our libraries. We'll also update you on the GPO Study and Strategic Plan mandated by this year's Legislative Branch Appropriations bill. In the meantime, here's a glance at some of our other recent efforts.

Chapter Outreach

Mark Estes, Chair of the Government Relations Committee, and I recently sent a letter to Karen Schuh, Chair of the Council of Chapter Presidents, as a follow-up to our meeting with the Chapter Presidents in Pittsburgh. We have set two goals: first, to improve communication between members of AALL and the Washington Office; and second, to develop a grassroots network to promote AALL policies with elected officials, at Federal, state and local levels. Our Chapters provide us with an established structure which we hope to build on and collaborate with in order to accomplish these goals.

We have asked Chapter Presidents to delegate to their GRC committee the task of tracking state and local issues, hopefully with representation from each state. One or two individuals would volunteer to serve as the contact person(s) for the Washington Office. Lacking a GRC committee, each Chapter would designate 2-3 members to assume this responsibility.

We are also looking for members able to commit time and effort to developing a long-term relationship with their state and/or federal legislators. If you would like to become involved in this area as a key contact for us, please don't hesitate to contact me. To help us further identify interested members, spaces will be added to the next AALL dues renewal form asking you to note your Congressional district (both work and home) and whether you would be willing to become a key contact on behalf of the association.

In order to keep us better informed about Chapter activities and state and local issues, we have requested that the Washington Office be added to the distribution list for all Chapter newsletters. This vital link between the Washington Office and the Chapters will also allow us to get to know our members better. Mark and I are confident that with the improved communication between the Washington Office and the AALL Chapters, we'll be able to better serve the needs of all our members. Again, if you are interested in joining either of these efforts, please give me a call or send me a note.

L.A. County Database

Hal Brown, Director of Library Information & Services, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, and President of SCALL, testified on our behalf at the L.A. County Board of Supervisors hearing on October 5, 1995. This was a continuation of a September hearing on a proposed agreement to develop a centralized, enhanced online access system for Los Angeles County civil court records. Hal's statement focused on our three main concerns with the proposal:

* that the County views the system as a profit-making venture and fails to recognize that these public records, compiled and maintained by county employees, should be available to the public at no or low cost;

* that controls on the downstream use of the information, through royalty fees and restrictions on using the data in bulk, on CD-ROM or in other media, would give the County monopolistic control over public information;

* that there are initiatives underway by the California Judicial Council to examine standards to implement electronic dissemination of court records and by the State Assembly to prohibit an agency from the for-profit sale of public records.

We are very grateful to Hal for responding to our call for help on this issue and for representing the association so well during the hearing. This is a perfect model on which we hope to build in order to better promote AALL policies with policymakers at all levels of government. Thank you, Hal!

White Paper Summary

An executive summary and analysis of the "White Paper" report, Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure, written by Arnold P. Lutzker of the Washington firm of Fish & Richardson, has been recently released. This analysis was prepared at the request of AALL, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, the Special Libraries Association, and the Medical Library Association. The summary discusses the impact of the White Paper on libraries and educational institutions, particularly regarding the contentious issues of access to and fair use of digital works. The ten-page summary is available electronically on Aaallnet (http://www.aallnet.org) or at the Georgetown University Law Center Homepage (http://www.ll.georgetown.edu). You may also request a print copy of this analysis from AALL headquarters.

On the legislative front, Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced S. 1284, "The NII Copyright Protection Act of 1995" on September 28, 1995 (141 Congressional Record S 14547). Joint House and Senate Committee hearings will be held in November on this bill which is identical to the draft legislation in Appendix 1 of the "White Paper."

EDGAR Available on the Internet

Unfortunately, we haven't had very frequent occasion this year to send out a congratulatory-type letter. Thus it was indeed a pleasure to commend Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt for the recent decision to make the EDGAR database available through the Internet. A two-year joint project of New York University and the Internet Multicasting Service, funded by the National Science Foundation, demonstrated that electronic public access to government information is both efficient and cost-effective. This decision enhances the Administration's National Information Infrastructure (NII) goal of making government information more accessible to the public in a timely and easy manner. We have recently learned that there are some attempts underway to curtail the new Internet access to the EDGAR filings. We will closely monitor developments and take appropriate action as needed.

NIIAC Principles

Speaking of the NII, the Advisory Council is ending its two-year term and will disband the end of January following release of its final report. In August the NIIAC endorsed eight "Government Information & Services Principles" which envision how the NII will enhance the public's participation in government through improved access to government information and services. The broadest, most cost-effective dissemination of government information in a wide variety of formats is encouraged, as is the private sector's role in providing value-added information and services. The important issues of quality, integrity and security are all addressed, as is the need to ensure adequate preservation and archiving of electronic information. A ninth principle related to costs is to be approved at the NIIAC's October meeting in Pittsburgh. These latest principles are consistent with the tenets of the March 1995 report of the NIIAC, Common Ground: Fundamental Principles for the National Information Infrastructure. We'll keep you posted when the final report is issued.

OPM Library Closes

Staff at the Office of Personnel Management Library received RIF notices in late July accompanying the announcement that the library would close at the end of this fiscal year. We sent a letter to OPM Director James King in late August noting the unique and valuable research collections of the library and its importance to the agency's mission. The library also serves as a central resource for all other federal agencies particularly in the areas of civil service and personnel management.

A Working Group was created to assess the library's future, and on September 27th (two work days short of the end of the fiscal year), the staff of four was informed of the decision to downsize the library collection, rename it as a "Resource Center" and cut the staff down to one professional and one new clerk. The Resource Center will be open to the public between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. only. A depository library, the new Resource Center has dropped out of the program because of the reduced access and services policy. We have heard rumors that Congress has targeted OPM as another agency to be eliminated within the next couple of years.

Office of Technology Assessment Eliminated

The Office of Technology Assessment, an agency targeted for elimination by Congress in the FY 1996 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, officially closed its doors on September 29, 1995. We had opposed this action early on in the appropriations process, and it is a significant loss particularly as the government develops the NII. OTA has played a unique and valuable service during the past twenty years in providing objective analyses of public policy issues in the areas of science and technology. Its elimination is especially short-sighted in that OTA provided independent, bipartisan and objective analyses to Congress. OTA reports will still be available electronically during the next few months from OTAOnline (http://www.ota.gov) and in print from GPO. GPO is developing a CD-ROM product containing all the OTA reports while the National Technical Information Service will be the permanent archive for individual reports.

E-Mail Regulations Released by NARA

National Archives and Records Administration issued its new regulations on how agencies are to use, manage and preserve e-mail records (see Fed. Reg., 8/28/95, p. 44634). The new regulations clarify that e-mail records which meet the definition of record under the Federal Records Act must be preserved. However, just as with print materials, it is up to agency employees to determine which e-mail messages qualify as records. In the case of an e-mail message deemed to be a record, the permanent copy may be stored in any media, including print. The new regulations do not mandate that agencies acquire an electronic records management system to archive their e-mail messages. Although this had been proposed in the March draft, agencies had complained that the cost of acquiring such a system is prohibitive at this time.

The new guidelines are a direct result of the Armstrong v. Executive Office of the President case which began in 1989 in an effort to require the preservation of White House e-mail records. The 1993 decision by Judge Charles R. Richey of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that White House and National Security Council e-mail records must be reviewed to determine whether they are indeed records and should therefore be preserved. The only issue which remains to be decided on appeal is whether records of the National Security Council are agency records or presidential records. That decision is expected shortly and will determine whether the public has access to these important electronic documents.

1995, American Association of Law Libraries