NEWS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
MARCH 2001

Table of Contents

  1. NCLIS Report Released
  2. Midwinter Highlights
  3. McCain Pushes to Put CRS Reports Online
  4. FirstGov Still Alive and Undergoing Improvements
  5. E-Mail Overwhelming Congress
  6. Documents Processing Tutorial Available


NCLIS Report Released

The US National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) has issued a report (see http://www.nclis.gov/govt/assess/assess.html), which calls for a new agency, the Public Information Resources Administration (PIRA), as part of a larger plan to treat public information resources "as a strategic national asset." The assessment also calls for an Information Dissemination Budget (IDB) line item at the individual agency level and an overall Information Dissemination Budget line item in the President's Budget. The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) and the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), the report says, are "in dire need of a new vision and an updated service model appropriate to the Internet Age" -- though reform, rather than funding cuts, were recommended. While the federal government should continue with the development of prototype new portals, such as FirstGov, libraries and information professionals should play a greater role in these efforts. Until a new agency is established as an umbrella agency, the report says, NTIS should be retained in the Commerce Department, which had proposed closing it and transferring its functions to the Library of Congress. Source: Library Journal Digital, Feb. 5, 2001.

For a critical look at the NCLIS report called "NCLIS' Wasted Motions", see J. Timothy Sprehe, Federal Computer Week, March 26, 2001. According to Sprehe, NCLIS has squandered an opportunity to effect a major impact on federal information policy. NCLIS devised a report whose recommendations were not only dead on arrival, but whose manner of back-room preparation systematically alienated most NCLIS supporters. No wonder that President Bush has recommended zero funding for NCLIS in 2002. Source: Ann Miller, Duke University Library, GOVDOC-L, March 29, 2001.

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Midwinter Highlights By Susan Tulis

The Federal Documents Task Force Update session was held Saturday, January 13, 2001 with Mike DiMario, Public Printer as the first speaker.† His comments were brief -† as of right now he hasn't been told that it is time for him to go.† In fact, in terms of the Bush transition, no liaison has been appointed to GPO.† The transition team has asked that one political appointee in each agency stay on until a new person is appointed.† In GPO's case, Mike is the sole political appointee.

† DiMario advised the group that we must keep an eye on the political climate - such as committee structures, heads of agencies, and structure within the agency.† New people may carry out policies differently than their predecessors.

† Lastly, he spoke of GPO's partnership with the libraries.† The system doesn't work well or at all unless we work in a very cooperative way.† He asked that we keep GPO informed of activities going on in the agencies as we become aware of them.

Andy Sherman, Congressional, Legislative and Public Affairs, reviewed what happened with GPO's appropriations last year - as a prologue to the present.† Hopefully you will all remember that last year GPO asked for a 13% increase in the S&E budget - to expand GPO Access, hire additional catalogers, for the printing and distribution of the US Code and to expand the electronic collection.† When the House acted on GPO's request, they cut GPO overall by 25% and the S&E by 61%.† The Senate initially provided a modest increase for S&E, since they don't hold the same view as the House to convert to all electronic at such breakneck speed.† In conference, they decided to split the difference, resulting in a net reduction for GPO.† The final S&E budget figure was $27,893,000 - a net reduction of 7% over last year.

It was only due to a strong vocal reaction from the library community that any funding was restored - keep this in mind as we go into the next appropriations cycle.† And it is important to keep both your House and Senate members informed.† Congress is pushing an increasing electronic FDLP and are willing to allow distribution of tangible formats for which there is no electronic equivalent - not so where there is an electronic version.

Two other measures were ordered by Congress with last year's appropriations:

  1. Study of the transfer of the FDLP from GPO to Library of Congress (LC) and a study of the transfer of the electronic dissemination program to LC.† GAO is doing this study, although it seems somewhat unnecessary since this has already been studied 3 times since 1994.† Study is due March 30th.
  2. Congress directed that the House portion of Congressional Printing & Binding (CP&B) funds,† starting with FY 2003, be appropriated directly to Clerk of House not GPO.† House will be able to print wherever they choose (not withstanding any provision of law).† Raises an interesting question about printing the Congressional Record, or House reports and documents, and has definite implications for FDLP.† Clerk of House has to do a study this coming year on what the House printing needs are, but that is all.† If House printing is removed from GPO, then Senate printing costs will go up.
† As for this year, GPO will be requesting an increase over what they received last year - for both S&E and CP&B.† The S&E increase is to improve and expand GPO Access services, additional hardware, servers, cataloging expertise, to expand the electronic collection program and finding aids, among other things.

Note: The Joint Committee on Printing is conducting a survey on the Congressional Record and the Congressional Record Index.† The House originally proposed the complete elimination of the Congressional Record since you can search it online.† Please take the time to respond to the survey, found in Vol. 146, No. XIV (nos. 120-128) Congressional Record Index.

Sherman concluded by outlining GPO's comments on the NCLIS Study.† GPO is pleased with the concept of the heightened importance that needs to be placed on public information resources, but has reservations about the recommendation to establish a new federal agency.† GPO's view is that there is a statutory method within GPO for disseminating government information and with sufficient funding from Congress it can work well.

Fran Buckley, Superintendent of Documents, began with a summary of the current trends in federal publishing.† Technology has brought new formats and GPO is now seeing more than half the publications procured for the FDLP in electronic format. His view for the future is mixed media, with format selection driven by the following: agency mission, goals, funding, public acceptance and usability of material.† GPO doesn't control the methods of distribution - they respect the agency's decisions and assist them.† GPO has been trying to convey what they have been hearing from depository libraries and the Depository Library Council - "no, no, no, we don't want everything in electronic format."† As noted in the LPS FY 2000 annual report, the distribution of tangible products through the FDLP continues to decrease, with a particularly sharp decline in the number of microfiche titles.† An increase was seen in GPO links to other agency sites.†

† 53% of titles disseminated to depository libraries in FY2000 were online; paper distribution accounted for 22%, microfiche 23% and CD's 1%.

"Dissemination/Distribution Policy for the FDLP" (SOD 71) was issued on Jan 2, 2001 after much review.† This operating policy basically says that GPO would select electronic over paper titles but there is an accompanying list of essential titles for public use in paper format. The general philosophy of SOD 71 is that the primary dissemination medium for the FDLP is online electronic.† Tangible products (paper, microfiche or CD-ROM) will generally be furnished only when certain criteria or circumstances exist.† [SOD 71 and the essential titles list can be found at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fdlp/pubs/sod71.html.]

Please note that changes in the depository library distribution format do not affect whether the product is for sale by GPO.† GPO is archiving the products that are available only online - either at GPO or through a partnership.

Two new pages are available on the FDLP Desktop: one page contains a statement on the FDLP's archiving policy.† The other deals with the Electronic Collection and has a newly developed FAQs list that addresses collection development, archiving, PURLS, locators, and cataloging.

† LPS is working on a new project - the Collection Maintenance Manager.† This web-based service is an extension and expansion of the Superseded List and will provide in one location a searchable database with information to assist individuals in making decisions about weeding, superseding and substituting materials in their depository collections.

† Two new partnerships have been established: University of Central Oklahoma has become the home of the Browse Topics web site and The Library of Michigan has created a series of web pages for Regional Depository Libraries.† As an aside, the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR) web site materials will be migrating to the University of North Texas cybercemetery.

Buckley concluded with a number of personnel changes within LPS:† T.C. Evans is now Director, Electronic Information Dissemination Service (EIDS); Sheila McGarr left LPS to become Director, National Library of Education; Robin Haun-Mohamed is now Chief, Depository Services Staff (DDS); Tad Downing, Chief of Cataloging Branch, is acting Chief, Depository Administration Branch (DAB). Vicki Barber, Chief, Depository Distribution Division has been detailed to assist in implementing the Integrated Processing System (IPS) in Sales.† LPS has 2 inspectors now - Charles Bradsher and Walter Zoller.†

T.C. Evans, EIDS, gave an update on GPO Access.† The size of GPO Access has gone through roof† - with well over 17,000 databases; crossed the 200,000 titles threshold available through GPO Access (116,000 on server and links to 84,000 at authoritative government sites).† Usage: in Oct 2000,† 26 million retrievals recorded propelled the total usage for GPO Access to more than 1 billion documents retrieved since its inception 1994.† Average monthly retrievals has remained steady at just about 26 million, but the size of docs has grown to 49kb (about 24.5 pages).

User support contacts also went up - usually handle couple thousand e-mails during a month.† After Supreme Court decision on the Presidential election, GPO got 5,500 e-mails!

EIDS has also been studying referrals to GPO Access from other websites.† Basically the logs record the host domain from which a referral was directed to a page on GPO Access.† It doesn't measure anytime someone has used the deaddoc feature to do a link on their website that actually pulls the information directly from a database. GPO is gratified with # of referrals: Oct and Nov averaged 600,000 referrals from other sites, with 58% coming from no specific referrals.† Largest single identifiable referrals come from other government agency sites - more than 17% of total.† 11-12% of referrals come from dot.coms.† Top 20 of that group was almost all search engines with Google leading the pack.†† No other category that broke 10%; dot edu - 5%; dot org- just under 2%; FDLP sites - 3%.† FDLP sites leading the way: Univ. of Maryland, Univ. of Michigan, Louisiana State Univ., Univ. of North Texas, and Vanderbilt University.† The impetuous for study of referrals was to determine how many referrals came from First.gov (only Ĺ of 1% of total referrals received.)

System response time:† easily withstood demand during election time, although strain was placed on servers.† EIDS is exploring a relationship with prominent content delivery network which should produce dramatic additional improvement in service from GPO Access. It will allow more copies to be housed on some 85,000 servers located at ISP throughout world to quickly supply copies of large and popular files to nearby users while greatly reducing the load on GPO servers.

New items on GPO Access:

On the horizon: EIDS just completed its 5th evaluation of Search Engines and found that 1/3 of respondents found GPO Access through a search engine.† (Full report is on GPO Bulletin Board - http://fedbbs.access.gpo.gov/libs/srcheng.htm.)† Findings suggest that despite a number of no-cost changes that EIDS has made to try to improve the positioning of GPO Access web pages in the search results of Internet search engines, they are falling further behind.† Therefore, EIDS has subscribed to a posting service that sends out pages to 1,000 search engines and directories and reports back monthly on that service - both good and bad.† One problem EIDS is running into is that search engines are not forthcoming with information about how they work and how they position web pages in their search results.†

A number of search engine companies have indicated that it is possible to "buy keywords" to improve positioning of GPO Access pages in search results.† As difficult as this is philosophically, EIDS may start to explore this avenue.†

FYI - GoogleUncleSam was the best performer - yielding the appropriate GPO Access page 46% of the time.† This was followed by Excite with 37%, Magellan with 34%.† Firstgov was 26% and Yahoo 20% - not a good hit rate!

Judy Russell, National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, gave a update on the NCLIS Study - "A Comprehensive Assessment of Public Information Dissemination" which was due to various Congressional committees on January 26th.† Volume 1 will be the executive summary, report and appendices 1 through 10.† [As of 1/30/01, Volume 1 had been sent to GPO for printing.† It is NCLIS's understanding that paper copies will be sent to all depository libraries.† It is also available at http:www.nclis.gov/govt/assess/assess.html.]

Volume 2:† Legislative and Regulatory Proposals (Appendices 11 and 12) and should be available by March 1st.† [NCLIS understands that paper copies will be sent to all depository libraries.† When available, it can be accessed at http:/www.nclis.gov/govt/assess/asess.vol2.pdf.]†

Volume 3:† Supplementary Reference Materials (Appendices 13 through 34) should be currently available.† [This volume will be available ONLY in electronic form, at http:www.nclis.gov/govt/access/assess.vol3.pdf.]

Volume 4:† Compilation of Recent Statutes Relating to Public Information Dissemination (Appendix 35) should be available in March 2001. [This volume will be available ONLY in electronic form, at http:www.nclis.gov/govt/access/assess.vol4.pdf.]†

Concern was expressed that many of the letters sent to NCLIS commenting on the report were not available on their web site.† Russell stated that this should be corrected by the time report is up on January 26th .† [Note:† many of these additional public comments are not accessible as of 2/5/01].

Mary Alice Baish, AALL Washington Affairs Representative, gave an overview of the comments sent by AALL, GODORT, ALA - Washington Office, and ARL.† They did acknowledge the vast scope and importance of issues covered in report as well as the very limited timeframe to complete review.† The joint letter also raised a number of issues:

  1. Think seriously about shifting primary dissemination responsibilities from the legislative to the executive branch.
  2. Congressional review of† hundreds of laws is an enormous investment of time and resources - Is this worthwhile and necessary?
  3. An information dissemination line in all agency budgets is really a noteworthy idea and has been discussed before by others, but never proposed as a solution.
  4. The small figure for STI in this report proposal is well below the current expenditures for STI.
  5. Will Congress fund the costs to establish a new agency?
  6. The recommendation that public/private sector partnerships should be expanded and strengthened where the private sector can serve as a government agent in a wide variety of roles requires careful review and further discussion in terms of what roles are inherently governmental. It is certainly true that the public has been well served by a variety of information service providers. But the private sector should not impede a federal agency from providing enhanced electronic services.†
  7. While the report commends the role depository libraries play, it may not encourage libraries to support the role of a government information specialist in a mostly electronic environment.
† Baish suggests that we ask at least the following questions as we review the report and any legislative proposals:
  1. Do these proposed changes meet the goals of improving access to government information?
  2. Do they strengthen the FDLP?
  3. Do they stand up to the 4 core principals: government provide access, ensure permanent public access, authenticity, etc.?
  4. Are they really necessary in light of the current environment?
  5. Is the idea of creating a new executive agency really necessary?
†Other Tidbits Picked Up at Midwinter Source: Susan Tulis, Government Information Librarian, Southern Illinois University, Library Affairs, Mailcode 6632, Carbondale, IL 62901-6632; Ph:† (618) 453-7108; Fax:† (618) 453-8109; E-Mail:† stulis@lib.siu.edu via GOVDOC-L, Feb. 6, 2001.

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McCain Pushes to Put CRS Reports Online Again

The Congressional Research Service may be the most influential think tank in the nation. Each year, the CRS conducts studies on hundreds of subjects as diverse as the future of cloning, alternative methods of airport financing and the economics of baseball. Its findings are sent to a very select audience ó the 535 members of Congress.

Several hundred CRS reports have been made available online on several House members web pages. CRS reports also are available on paper through a company that charges $49 per copy. "Itís not fair for the American people to have to pay a third party" for copies of reports they have already paid for through taxes.

Source: William Matthews, Federal Computer Week, Feb. 15, 2001. For complete article, see http://www.fcw.com/fcw/articles/2001/0212/web-crs-02-15-01.asp.

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FirstGov Still Alive and Undergoing Improvements

While the Bush administration has yet to announce its e-government agenda, the officials behind FirstGov, the one-stop Web portal built at the end of the Clinton administration, are quietly making improvements to the site.

FirstGov is a joint project of the federal government and the private FedSearch Foundation, which oversees the search engine that powers the site. The site is governed by a board of directors drawn from the President's Management Council and the federal Chief Information Officers Council. While the board is restructuring under the new administration, a new FirstGov office opened within the General Services Administration last month.

"We are continuing to add more pages and step up the feedback and search capabilities of the site," said Deborah Diaz, deputy associate administrator within the FirstGov office. Diaz noted that the Bush administration added a FirstGov link to the White House Web site within a week of Bush's inauguration.

Staffed by a mix of career GSA employees and employees on leave from other agencies, the FirstGov office is focusing on improving its feedback mechanism and site security in response to congressional concerns. The site now provides an automatic response to all questions submitted online and will soon add a "frequently asked questions" section, said Diaz. An interagency task force is also designing a system that will route users' questions to the responsible federal agency.

For the full story, see "FirstGov Web Portal Finds a Home in New Administration" by Shane Harris and Jason Peckenpaugh at http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0201/022301p1.htm.

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E-Mail Overwhelming Congressional Offices

Ever wonder why you never get a response to your e-mail questions sent to Congress?

E-mail is overwhelming Congressional offices, creating a customer service problem that Capitol Hill is not equipped to deal with, according to a new report. The report, "E-mail Overload in Congress: Managing a Communications Crisis," found that the number of e-mail messages to Congress has more than doubled in two years, reaching 80 million to the House and Senate combined last year. The report is the first in a series of studies on how Congress interacts with the public through the Internet, called the Congress Online Project. The project is run by the Congressional Management Foundation and the George Washington University and is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

In 1998, prior to President Clinton's impeachment trial, Congressional offices received a few dozen e-mails per week. But the beginning of the impeachment process marked the beginning of the e-mail revolution on the Hill, the report said. In January 1999, during a key week in the impeachment proceedings, House offices received up to a thousand messages a day while Senate offices received up to 10,000 messages a day. This year's election recount also sparked record e-mail highs. In December 2000, the House received 7 million e-mails.

The technology that was supposed to make Congress more accessible has instead led to frustrated constituents and frustrated members. "Rather than enhancing democracy--as so many hoped--e-mail has heightened tensions and public disgruntlement with Congress," the report said.

Grassroots lobbying efforts, in which groups organize e-mail campaigns to support or oppose certain measures on the Hill, are a major contributor to the problem, the report found. Most of the e-mails that members of Congress receive do not come from their districts or states.

For the complete version of this story by Katy Saldarini, see GovExec.Com, March 20, 2001.

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Documents Processing Tutorial

The Government Documents Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries is pleased to announce that a three part tutorial on processing government documents, a cooperative project between ALA GODORT and AALL's Government Documents Special Interest Section, is now mounted on the AALL server and ready for use.

Background
A little over three years ago, a survey conducted among AALL Gov Docs SIS members revealed that an web-based tutorial geared toward documents assistants (library paraprofessionals, graduate assistants, and undergraduate student workers) would be helpful to library workers learning to implement basic procedures for processing US federal publications and information resources.

The tutorial contains three modules: 1) the basics of documents processing; 2) the basics of documents maintenance; and 3) a guide to the Superintendent of Documents classification system. Prerequisites for the tutorial include the usual basic computer skills, such as use of a mouse and desktop navigation. Previous knowledge of government information and publishing is not necessary.

The tutorial is located at: http://www.aallnet.org/sis/gd/tutorial/

Source: GOVDOC-L, Jan. 23, 2001.

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