ARCHIVED: Legislative and Regulatory Update - February 7, 1997

PrintEmail

Dateline: February 7, 1997

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
email:baish@law.georgetown.edu

Oakley to Testify at House Appropriations Hearing

Bob Oakley will appear before the House Legislative Subcommittee next week to summarize the joint library association testimony on behalf of the annual budget requests of the Library of Congress (LC) and the Government Printing Office (GPO), and to ask that these be placed into the public record. We are urging the Subcommittee to support the Library's FY 1998 funding request of $387.6 million that will position LC to explore its full potential as a digital library while ensuring that other important programs and services are maintained. We stressed the importance of LC's digital initiatives, many in collaboration with other public and academic institutions, that will greatly enhance the education, research, and life-long learning opportunities for the public. In his oral statement, Bob noted that:

 

  • the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) is a valuable international cooperative program in which participating nations share the work of indexing and abstracting each Nation's Official Gazette in exchange for electronic access to the laws and regulations of other countries. GLIN enables the Law Library of Congress to better serve Congress and its constituents;

     

  • in 1996 the National Digital Library vastly increased the number of collections on the World Wide Web to more than 350,000 digital files;

     

  • the development of an Integrated Library System at LC will achieve greater efficiencies and productivity by integrating key library functions including acquisitions, cataloging, inventory control, serials management, circulation, binding and preservation, searching of the library's holdings, and management statistics.

     

We are also urging the Subcommittee to fully support the Public Printer's FY 1998 appropriations request of $30.5 million for the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses to maintain the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). Our statement commends the growth of GPO Access which now includes 48 titles from all three branches of government in more than 70 databases. In October 1996, users retrieved 2,880,998 documents from the system. We believe that two recent additions, the Code of Federal Regulations and the Commerce Business Daily, will lead to even greater public use of GPO Access.

Since last year's GPO Study had been requested by Congress' Appropriations Committees, we also noted in our testimony that many critical issues regarding the shift to a more electronic FDLP remain unresolved. Bob highlighted three of our major concerns in his oral comments.

 

  • First, that one of the greatest challenges for users is simply identifying and locating the database or information they need. He noted that the new Superintendent of Documents web site provides three essential finding tools: the online Monthly Catalog, the electronic Pathway Indexer, and the centralized database containing the Government Information Locator System records of 26 federal agencies.

     

  • Second, that there are complex implementation challenges and significant costs ahead particularly in terms of preservation and long-term access of electronic information. Valuable government information resources disappear daily from agency web sites. A systematic and comprehensive national program for ensuring the preservation and permanent public access of government information must be developed.

     

  • Third, that important government information resources increasingly are being removed from the public domain, frustrating users and librarians. This erosion occurs when agencies contract with private publishers and fail to supply the resources to the Superintendent of Documents for distribution to depository libraries, or when the access and use of publicly-funded information is impaired by licensing agreements that prevent or curtail redissemination.

We also expressed concern with the discontinuation of key government titles in favor of electronic distribution only, and reiterated our belief that format decisions be based on the value and usability of the materials, and not solely on cost concerns. The statement noted that ALA and AALL have formally expressed concern that the distribution of two of the most historically-significant Congressional titles, the U.S. Congressional Serial Set and the bound Congressional Record, has been severely cut. The production of these titles on CD-ROM, as mandated by this Subcommittee in last year's appropriations act, at this time fails to meet the necessary standards to ensure permanent preservation and long-term access. The AALL resolution on the Serial Set and the bound Congressional Record was attached to the written testimony.

ALA Convenes Inter-association Task Group

AALL President Frank Houdek has asked me to represent the association on a small working group on government information policy that ALA President Mary Somerville has just convened. The first official meeting is on February 19th although the group will likely continue to work together throughout the 105th Congress. ALA is contributing the expertise of attorney Tom Susman to assist our efforts. The goal is to develop a detailed outline for a joint library association legislative proposal to revise Title 44, particularly those provisions relating to the FDLP and government information dissemination.

Second Study Underway on Executive Branch Printing

In addition to the joint study on agency standards by GPO and the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) described in this column last month, the Office of Management and Budget recently created an executive branch Printing Study Team. The team has been assigned two tasks: 1) to collect baseline and trend data on the volume of agency procurement for printing and duplicating; and 2) to develop business models that assure "increased agency flexibility." NCLIS executive director Peter Young attended this new group's first meeting with the hope that the two studies will complement one another, providing needed data to assist Congress in revising Title 44.

Institute of Museum and Library Services Established

I represented AALL at a recent service organization meeting of the new Institute of Museum and Library Services, a Federal agency created by legislation passed during the closing days of the 104th Congress. Federal library programs, primarily state block grants for technology and service to underserved communities, now fall under the Institute rather than the Department of Education. President Clinton's FY 1998 budget request is $26 million for the Office of Museum Services and $136.4 million for the Office of Library Services. There is also some funding for programs of national significance that partner libraries and museums. AALL will be exploring opportunities for law library participation in this grant program.

CDA Oral Arguments before the Supreme Court

The Washington Office continues to monitor developments as the attorneys at the D.C. law firm of Jenner and Block prepare the ALA plaintiffs' Supreme Court brief. Oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Communications Decency Act will be held on March 19th. The Department of Justice's brief was filed last month and ignores the findings of fact, from last summer's court victory, that captured the unique nature of the Internet. The latest updates on the CDA are posted at http://www.cdt.org/ciec/.

Illinois Obscenity Bill Reintroduced

If at first you don't succeed, try and try again is apparently the motto of certain Illinois legislators. In the wake of the defeat of SB 1036 reported here last month, Sen. Peter Fitzgerald and Rep. David Phelps introduced new anti-obscenity bills (SB 98 and HB 245) on January 23, 1997. Strong opposition from the library community helped defeat SB 1036 late last year, and the Illinois Library Association and CALL will continue to coordinate efforts to oppose these new measures. To end this month's column on a high note, the Washington Office salutes CALL for being recently honored by a Chicago City Council resolution commending their 50 years of service to the Chicago legal community. Well done!