NEWS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
DECEMBER 2000

Table of Contents

  1. E-Gov: Reach Out and Touch It
  2. Patent Office Starts Taking Applications Online
  3. Federal Bulletin Board No Longer Updating Supreme Court Opinions and Orders
  4. Government Information Reference Services: New Roles for the Post-Depository Era
  5. Shelflist Database Programs
  6. GPO Bookstores Get New URLs


E-Gov: Reach Out and Touch It

 

By Kathy Millar
July 31, 2000

Mohamed Abul-Hawa, the manager of the Maryland Avenue Safeway in northeast Washington, DC, is the man responsible for making sure shoppers leave "his" store happy and satisfied. His shelves are stocked, the aisles are clean and clear, and employees are alert and standing by to help shoppers.

But that's not all. On July 27, Abul-Hawa offered a new service for his patrons -- an interactive kiosk in the store's lobby that opens a portal to another universe - the world of online government services and benefits. Officials from the federal government, the Mayor's office, and private sector companies cut the ribbon on a simple touch-screen computer linking shoppers to more than 150 government services - an opportunity for people who don't own computers or don't know how to use them to get information and services.

Today, customers cruising the aisles of Abul-Hawa's grocery store can send email to President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, contact their local elected officials, print out federal tax forms, and scroll through bios of special needs children available for adoption. With a touch of a finger, they can also obtain information from government programs that provide support to eligible seniors, single parents, and others who need services.

Hassle-Free Community Initiative Brings E-Gov to Customers

As part of the "Hassle-Free Community" initiative sponsored by the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, government agencies at the federal, state, and local level are working together to reach out to all areas and populations. "We want to deliver government services how, when and where people need them," said NPR Director Morley Winograd. "The kiosks are being placed where people live and shop so that getting forms or information from city hall to the federal government is as convenient as shopping for groceries."

Thousands of Communities Will Have Kiosks

The kiosk project is the brainchild of NPR and the General Services Administration. GSA has committed to bring at least 36 kiosks to communities throughout the country. Plans to bring the same kind of electronic access to thousands of communities across the country are in the works through a public-private alliance. At the July 27 event in northeast D.C., NPR and GSA officials announced a partnership with private internet companies Urban Cool Network and GS Planet (Golden Screens Interactive Technology). The Urban Cool Network will place more than 3200 kiosks in shopping malls in urban areas where there are few home computers or limited Internet access. GS Planet plans to locate thousands of kiosks in public transit centers such as train and bus stations as well as shopping malls and other public sites. Both companies are providing the government links at no cost to the American public.

It Started in Bedford, Texas

GSA launched the first pilot kiosk in February at a Wal-Mart in Bedford, Texas. Since then, other federal agencies and private sector partners across the country have been joining the effort.

Locations vary from the Atlanta Underground to the public library in Winsboro, Louisiana and the Great Mall in Milpitas, California. The key, GSA officials say, is to locate them in places where there are lots of people and the doors stay open evenings and weekends.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service set up one of the first kiosks in the East Dallas Fiesta Mart. About 2700 individuals accessed more than 22,000 services in its first month of operation. INS plans additional kiosks to serve populations throughout the US/Mexico border region.

"G" Is for Government

In addition to being able to access local, state and federal government services in one location, customers can also get information by topic. People may not know that "passports" fall under the purview of the Department of State. Now they don't need to know.

Now, if you need a passport application, and you happen to be standing in front of one of these new kiosks, all you have to do is touch the letter "P". For services available to Seniors, touch "S". For tax information, touch "T". And print what you need on the nearby printer.

"E" Is For E-gov

Agencies at all levels are rushing to create an electronic government - e-gov - with information, interaction, and transactions. Kiosks are bringing e-government information and services to people in their own neighborhoods, even if they don't have a computer.

This isn't the end of this story. It's just the beginning.

For More Information

For more information about the kiosks or hassle-free communities, contact Anna Doroshaw or Linda Walker at the National Partnership for Reinventing Government.

Kathy Millar is a writer at the National Partnership for Reinventing Government. Contact her at k.millar@jctc.org or 304-728-3051 x255.

Related Resources:

FirstGov

Access America: Reengineering Through Information Technology

Access America E-Gov E-Zine

Electronic Government

Hassle-Free Community Initiative

Interactive Kiosk Brings Government to Local Community

Dallas-Fort Worth Uses Technology to Link Waiting Kids with Adoptive Parents

National Partnership for Reinventing Government

General Services Administration

Reprinted with permission by Access America.

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Patent Office Starts Taking Applications Online

Inventors can now file patent applications electronically with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which has taken the first step in moving its current paper-based process online.

"We have provided a software system that allows an applicant to submit a patent application online," said Wesley Gewehr, PTO's deputy chief information officer for systems modernization. "On our Web site are the authoring tools necessary to help an applicant prepare their information. Plus, we provide a software package that pulls the various pieces of the application together. These pieces could be text files or image files."

The site, PTO's Patent Electronic Business Center, uses digital certificates to provide the security necessary for patent applications. Inventors can apply for a digital certificate online, or in person at offices nationwide.

Full story: GovExec.Com Daily Briefing, October 31, 2000.

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Federal Bulletin Board No Longer Updating Supreme Court Opinions and Orders

The Federal Bulletin Board file libraries for the Supreme Court Opinions/Decisions and Supreme Court Orders are now archival in nature and are no longer being updated at (http://fedbbs.access.gpo.gov/court01.htm). Users should check the Supreme Court Web site (http://www.supremecourtus.gov) for the latest Opinions and Orders. This Web site is hosted by GPO Access.

Previously, Bench Opinions and Orders were posted on the FBB as part of Project Hermes. Currently, Slip Opinions and Orders are posted to the Supreme Court Web site in approximately the same amount of time as Bench Opinions were previously posted to the FBB. (Bench Opinions are the first release of a Supreme Court opinion. Slip Opinions are edited by the Court and released soon thereafter.)

Information will not be added retroactively to the Web site, but users can download Opinions/Decisions and Orders from the 1992-1999 terms from the Federal Bulletin Board. We will continue to provide permanent public access to this information.

For further assistance, please contact the GPO Access User Support Team:
Phone: 1-888-293-6498 (toll-free) or (202) 512-1530 (local)
E-mail: gpoaccess@gpo.gov
Fax: (202) 512-1262

Source: GOVDOC-L, November 9, 2000.

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Government Information Reference Services:
New Roles for the Post-Depository Era

At the last Depository Library Council meeting, two sessions were held to get depository librarians to start thinking more about their roles as government information providers: "Government Information Reference Services: New Roles for the Post-Depository Era" and "Reconsidering Depository Status". The following postings from GOVDOC-L mirror some of the better thinking on these topics.

Comments By Julia F. Wallace, University of Minnesota

As more and more government information is electronic, and as users can communicate just as easily with a library across the country as with the one in their own town, the depository model is definitely changing. We should look at this as a positive trend, and then work on how we fit in. We have always wanted to make government information as widely available as possible. It is becoming so widely available that depositories are less necessary as intermediaries. If the users are served, that is not a bad thing.

When government information is easily available on the web, the concept of a "depository" and of a web document which is "distributed" to depositories in electronic form is a strange concept. Everyone theoretically has it, so what is distributed? What is special about being a depository? Well, perhaps it is the cataloging, linking, and knowledge of how that information fits with all the other information we provide, in lots of formats, which gives us an edge, not just having access to an electronic publication. In addition, with paper documents we serve our local customers. But in the post-depository era, users who need a librarian with special skill in foreign affairs should probably contact the University of Illinois at Chicago, since they host the State Department web collection. Maybe they should be asking someone in California about some data in which they are experts, and asking us in Minnesota if they are studying the Mississippi River. So reference service in the post-depository era IS different.

In addition, since now all libraries can be electroinc depositories without portfolio, one of our big responsibilities is to help all the other libraries in our communities and states to learn more about helping users with government information. It is special, we know about it, but we no longer "own" it in the way we did before. So we can expand our impact by working with non-depositories. The second program Karrie mentions is recognizing reality, that more and more depositories are dropping out of the program. There are lots of reasons to stay in, but clearly there are reasons to drop too. We need to help our colleagues marshall the information they need on the continuing value of being part of the program.

Of course a major area now needing emphasis is the preservation of long-term access to the electronic information, more complicated than keeping paper publication on our shelves. This is where the commitment and proactive participation of depositories can save what otherwise could become a great body of formerly published information.

In the round of discussions we had about this electronic transition a few years ago, including Dupont Circle, the Chicago Conference, and various follow-up discussions, the concept of electronic-only depositories came up. That would provide some sort of acknowledgement for and communication method for all the libraries which choose to be de facto depositories by linking to lots of government sites and/or importing MoCat records for electronic publications into their catalogs. If these other libraries could get some benefits from closer communication with traditional depositories, without going through offical designation, could there be value to their users?

I am going to append below a piece I did at the time of the Chicago Conference, and also presented to the government's Information Infrastructure Task Force (remember that?) I think it still helps articulate that depositories have value. Pardon the historical (1994) terminology!

Government Information, Depository Libraries, and the National Information Infrastructure

Government information will be a major component of the National Information Infrastructure. The electronic revolution presents exciting opportunities for enhanced dissemination of government information, but it also presents challenges to the principles of access which are essential to a democratic society. Government has an obligation to make information about its activities, and information assembled at taxpayer expense, available to its citizens. The federal government is a major producer and consumer of information; it makes substantial investments in collecting, organizing, managing, and disseminating information. The government's involvement in the National Information Infrastructure should assure that the system is both cost-effective for government agencies and responsive to the needs of users.

The Federal Depository Library Program was established by Congress to provide access to government information in every part of the nation. The principles underlying that program remain valid as an element of the new vision of information power to the people.

  • Depository libraries are a partnership between government and libraries, a link between citizens and their representatives. Depositories are located in libraries of all types in all parts of the country. Geographic dispersal makes them keys to local connectivity in the electronic environment, providing single points of access to a wide variety of government information in every Congressional district.

  • The mission of libraries is to provide information, while the mission of specific government agencies is to provide services and/or regulate within a specific sphere. Depository libraries can work with all agencies to make their information available to all possible users.

  • The depository library's absolute commitment to equity of access, to open and free public use, can enhance the diversity of the network and introduce a wide variety of users to government information products and services. Information, equipment, and assistance are available to all.

  • The knowledgeable staffs in depository libraries assist in evaluating information needs, synthesizing questions, identifying appropriate sources in all formats, and teaching the users to find information in traditional and new sources. This will be especially important during the electronic transition, when these libraries can be leaders in the training of electronic citizens.

  • Depository collections are organized for efficient access, through catalogs, indexes, and other research tools.
  • Depository librarians can assist agencies in the development of new information products by providing feedback on both content and software, and by participating in pilot projects.

  • Existing depository collections integrate new information with the historical, facilitating research and preserving the historical record, regardless of format.

  • Depository librarians serve as advocates for the public's right to know, and in particular the public's right to timely access to government information in usable form.

    Julia F. Wallace, University of Minnesota, Co-Chair, Chicago Conference on the Future of Federal Government Information, June 1994.

    More Comments from Duncan Aldrich

    I send this to support Julia Wallace's excellent comments regarding future directions for depository libraries, and to add a couple of comments concerning the concept of "depository" in the Web environment.

    Three critical aspects of the Federal Depository Library Program have been warehousing federal government information, allowing free physical access to that information, and providing reference service on those products, through a geographically dispersed network of service points. As Julia points out, the Web is significantly changing the nature of all three aspects -- warehousing for preservation can be provided by only a few libraries (I say a few because I like the concept of a minimal level of redundancy) through which all people with Web connectivity can access federal resources. In the Web environment, only a few libraries need to serve as points of deposit for materials, and each library acting as a point of deposit needs only to house a select set of materials (much as the University of Illinois Chicago and the University of North Texas are currently doing). The question becomes (again as Julie pointed out) that of identifying how best to assure preservation of those materials for ongoing access, and how to provide reference service in a dispersed Net environment in which people no longer need to visit the libraries to use the materials.

    What I would like to add are two concepts that I readily admit are borrowed. First, people will almost always opt for the path of least effort to fulfill their needs. We see this every month as 29 million plus people download from GPO Access and our reference desk and gate count statistics decline. (See George K. Zipf, 1949, Human Behavior and the Principal of Least Effort). While we all know that people turning to the Web will be losing some valuable reference assistance and bypassing the cummulated knowledge of depository librarians by taking this route, the reality is that the path of least effort is the Web, not the local depository. As we plan to extend services to the Web environment, this is something we need to keep in the forefront of our thinking -- we no longer have a captive audience as we did in the tangible information environment. To use an analogy, blacksmiths who expected to continue shoeing horses rather than learning to repair tires found themselves quickly sinking into obscurity -- people taking advantage of new technologies no longer needed them. And more and more people are turning to the new technologies.

    The second concept is really another analogy that was recently used in a library faculty meeting here -- that the railroad industry had such a dramatic decline because they saw themselves as railroads rather than as part of the transportation industry. Translating this to our current discussion, are we depository librarians or are we government information specialists? Of course I think we're a combination of both, but we need to be planning less for the former and more for the latter.

    Source: Duncan M. Aldrich, Head Business & Government Information Center, University of Nevada, Reno, GOVDOC-L, October 20, 2000.

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    Shelflist Database Programs

    Want to computerize your documents shelflist?

    There are two free and publicly available programs for processing US documents records into a computer shelflist/database. Both utilize the shipping list files available in dbf format at the Federal Bulletin Board http://fedbbs.access.gpo.gov/fdlp01.htm.

    One is Autodocs ( http://www.winona.msus.edu/library/gov/autodocs.htm. Vernon Leighton's program is an Access database which incorporates all post-download functions into a "Switchboard" from which the user can perform various processing functions and view the document records in the "Shelflist" table.

    The other is DocAssist* (http://www.nthbit.com/products/docassist/docassist.php3) which can be used in combination with Access or other database software. DocAssist includes an FTP function for downloading multiple shipping list files with a single command. From the batch download, the Process function creates a dbf file of documents selected which can then be imported into a database. A text file for label printing from a word processor is also a result of the Process function. Either or both files can be used according to your local need. The program also has an Archive function which creates a searchable database of the downloaded shipping list files.

    We import the dbf files created by DocAssist into an Access database tailored to suit our requirements. Many of our database components (queries, forms, macros, etc.) were inspired by the features of Autodocs, but the database can be as simple as a single table/shelflist to which the dbf files are appended. In Access the document records can be easily retrieved, sorted, modified, deleted, and so on.

    If you decide to try DocAssist, after download and installation be sure to also download the patch at http://www.nthbit.com/support.php3.

    * I confess to some bias for DocAssist, a creation and gift to the documents community of my former student assistant, Ted Dyer, now employed as a programmer for a NASA contractor. The web site (http://www.nthbit.com) now serves as a personal page for Ted. nth Bit Software is no longer in business.

    Source: John P. Birkman, Library Associate (Government Documents), Alfred R. Neumann Library, University of Houston-Clear Lake, 2700 Bay Area Blvd., Houston, TX 77058; Telephone: (281) 283-3938; Fax: (281) 283-3937; E-mail: birkman@CL.UH.EDU; GOVDOC-L, Dec. 5, 2000.

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    GPO Bookstores Get New URLs

    The web addresses for the U.S. Government Bookstores throughout the United States have been changed in response to user feedback. Please update your bookmarks. The old URLs have been changed to redirect users to the new pages. The new urls are as follows: Source: GOVDOC-L, January 8, 2001.

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    Government's Greatest Hits

    A new survey rates the federal government's most significant accomplishments of the past 50 years.

    Looking back from the edge of a new millennium, it is difficult not to be proud of what the federal government has tried to achieve in the past half century. Name a significant domestic or foreign problem, and the federal government made some effort to solve it. If a nationís greatness is measured in part by what its national government succeeds in doing, the United States measures up very well, indeed.

    The proof is in the federal statute books. All told, Congress passed 538 major laws between 1944 and 1999. Recently, a Brookings Institution team analyzed those statutes and came up with a list of the federal governmentís 50 most significant problem-solving endeavors of the last half century. The list includes efforts to reduce discrimination; help veterans readjust to civilian life; balance the federal budget; strengthen the nationís highway system; ensure safe food and drinking water; protect the wilderness; expand foreign markets for U.S. goods; increase assistance to the working poor; and provide financial security in retirement.

    Source: Article by Paul C. Light appearing in GovExec.Com, January 1, 2001.

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