Washington Brief - April 1999

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Dateline: February 25, 1999

Hearing on FY 2000 Appropriations Requests for the Library of Congress and the FDLP

Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC-11), the new chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative, heard library community witnesses testify in strong support for the full FY 2000 budget requests of the Library of Congress and the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses appropriations during a hearing on February 10, 1999. Testifying for the Library of Congress, Patricia Wand, University Librarian at American University, noted that LC's request of $383.7 million is needed to maintain its important ongoing programs as well as to enhance its valuable digital initiatives. Wand stressed that the Law Library's budget request of $8 million is needed to permit the Law Library to continue to provide a high level of service and to increase remote access to its unique digital and legal information.

In a AALL letter submitted for the hearing record in support of the Law Library's budget request (http://www.aallnet.org/aallwash/lt021099.asp), President Jim Heller noted that the Law Library has been very successful in efforts to maximize use of state-of-the-art technologies to make its collections more accessible. The Law Library serves a rapidly increasing number of remote users with electronic legal and legislative information through its website, recording some 1.2 million digital transactions last year. In addition, the Law Library continues to enhance the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN), a multinational legal database of official, current foreign law resources that is uniquely important to our government in the rapidly changing global economy. Full funding for GLIN is imperative to expand the number of participating nations to at least twenty in FY 2000, and to expand its content by digitizing more retrospective materials and adding new categories of specialized legal resources.

The Law Library's other very significant digital project is "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1873" that offers Congress, the nation, and the world unprecedented access to historical congressional debates and documents. In addition to the congressional debates of the first forty-two federal Congresses (1789-1873), the project also includes the debates and laws of the Continental Congress, the records of the Federal Convention, and the debates on the ratification of the Constitution. When this project is completed in 2001, it will comprise the documentary history of the building of our nation and the development of the Federal government. The FY 2000 budget request includes funding to complete the nation's second century of lawmaking covering 1873 to 1972 (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lawhome.html).

Ridley R. Kessler, Jr., Regional Documents Librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1973, testified to urge full support for GPO's FY 2000 budget request of $31,245,000 for the Superintendent of Documents Salaries and Expenses. The S&E funds the Federal Depository Library Program, and this request includes a $1.98 million increase over last year's budget. Kessler focused on three key points in this testimony:

First, that GPO's proposed budget increase is essential to support the FDLP Electronic Collection, including the future development of GPO Access. The FDLP Electronic Collection consists today of over 140,000 electronic titles, approximately 85,000 of which are available on GPO Access. Kessler also noted that 12.5 -15 million documents are downloaded monthly from GPO Access.

Second, that the success of GPO Access cannot be measured without acknowledging the substantial services and investments by depository libraries to maintain tangible collections and to facilitate public access to the growing array of electronic government publications.

And third, that librarians and users continue to be frustrated when the government information they need is fugitive, or when electronic publications disappear from agency web sites. The library community believes that the Government must commit itself to ensuring that valuable electronic government information available to the public today will be preserved for use by future generations. (Note: Testimony available at: http://www.aallnet.org/aallwash/testimony.asp)

JFK Assassination Records Review Board Honored with 1999 James Madison Award

The Coalition on Government Information has named the board members and congressional sponsors of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board recipients of the 1999 James Madison Award. They will be honored on March 16, 1999, Freedom of Information Day, at a special celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Madison Award. The Board, consisting of five members, was established by Congress in 1992 as an independent agency to facilitate the release of documents relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The work of the Review Board has resulted in the collection of over four million pages of records related to the Kennedy assassination that now are available to the public through the National Archives. The Board has completed its work, and submitted its final report to Congress on September 30, 1998. (http://www.fas.org/sgp/advisory/arrb98/index.html). New CRS Bills

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) have renewed their personal efforts to enact legislation in the 106th Congress to provide for public access to certain reports of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) through the Internet. Access to the CRS documents--issue briefs, reports and documents relating to appropriations bills--would be through the websites of individual members and congressional committees. McCain's bill, S. 393, is broader than the House bill, H.R. 654, in that it also includes other congressional materials, including Senate lobbyist and gift rule disclosure reports. In addition, S. 393 includes a "sense of the Senate" provision that each Senate committee "should" provide Internet access to committee information, including bills, reports and transcripts of proceedings.

Members of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee have maintained that these bills are unnecessary. Last summer, they advised members of the Senate that it was entirely appropriate, at each Senator's discretion, to provide access to CRS reports through their own websites. In early February, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) posted almost 300 of these valuable reports that were either written or updated during the 105th Congress at http://www.senate.gov/~dpc/crs/index.html. They are in a searchable database and available in either pdf or ascii format.

 

Mary Alice Baish
Associate Washington Affairs Representative
Edward B. WIlliams Law Library
111 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-1417
202/662-9200 * FAX:202/662-9202
email:baish@law.georgetown.edu