NEWS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
SEPTEMBER 2001

Table of Contents

  1. PubScience Under Attack
  2. FirstGov Web Portal Deluged With Citizen E-Mail
  3. National Security Archives Celebrates 35th Anniversary of the U.S. FOIA
  4. Ghosts of Old Federal Web sites Still Lurking Around
  5. E-Government Act of 2001 News
  6. HCUA Archives Opened to Public
  7. GPO Closes Down Three Bookstores
  8. NTIS News
  9. Congressional Research Service Publications
  10. Government Overlooks Web's Potential
  11. Government Web Sites See Record Traffic After Attacks
  12. Freedom of Information Versus National Security


PubScience Under Attack:
Budget Proposal Casts Doubt Over Physics Portal's Future

A powerful congressional committee has passed a budget bill which, if enacted, could close down PubScience, a free search service for the physical sciences literature, operated by the US Department of Energy (DoE) and available at http://pubsci.osti.gov/.

The budget bill, which was passed last week by the House appropriations subcommittee for energy and water development and was expected to be endorsed by the full appropriations committee, is likely have a chilling effect on other government-operated services, including the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central, according to some observers.

The proposal arose after a lobbying campaign aimed against PubScience, spearheaded by the Washington-based Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) on behalf of for-profit and non-profit member companies including Reed Elsevier, ISI, Chemical Abstracts Services and Cambridge Scientific Abstracts. PubScience provides a service similar to products offered by the association's members, and "makes it increasingly difficult for these private-sector companies to continue offering their products". He says that government initiatives should confine themselves to providing access to government information, and not act as secondary publishers.

Source: Declan Butler, Nature, June 28, 2001. For a time, the article will be available at http://www.nature.com/nature/debates/e-access/ according to David Cornwall, Alaska State Library, via GovDoc-L, June 28, 2001.

The Chronicle of Higher Education is also covering the development.

"A Web site operated by the U.S. Energy Department that allows scientists to search journals for citations and abstracts in the physical sciences is in jeopardy because of a bill approved by the House of Representatives. The bill (H.R. 2311) is accompanied by a report that recommends eliminating the service. PubScience allows researchers to examine more than a thousand peer-reviewed journals free and at the same time, instead of searching multiple Web sites, publications, and references."

Source: "House of Representatives Seeks to Close Free Bibliographic Database", Andrea L. Foster, Chronicle of Higher Education, July 2, 2001. For a time, the article will be available at http://www.chronicle.com/free/2001/07/2001070202t.htm according to Gary Price, the Virtual Acquisition Shelf and News Desk, July 2, 2001.

The fate of PubScience -- the U.S. Department of Energy's Web portal that allows scientists to search journal abstracts in the physical sciences -- looks brighter following Senate approval last month of a spending bill for the agency. The bill is accompanied by a report that does not recommend eliminating the service.

Source: "Senate Bill Offers Tacit Approval of Scholarly Web Portal Scorned by House", Andrea L. Foster, Chronicle of Higher Education, August 9, 2001. For a time, the article will be available at http://chronicle.com/free/2001/08/2001080901t.htm according to Jim Jacobs, University of California, San Diego in GovDoc-L, August 9, 2001.

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FirstGov Web Portal Deluged With Citizen E-Mail

Citizens are flooding FirstGov, the federal Web portal, with e-mail requests for information, creating a technology and management headache for the site's operators.

When FirstGov debuted last September as the one-stop shop for access to government services and information, 95 percent of all e-mail correspondence consisted of compliments and recommendations. Now, 70 percent of FirstGov's e-mails are queries that need to be routed to the appropriate agency and responded to, according to Deborah Diaz, deputy associate administrator of the Office of FirstGov, which is a part of the General Services Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy.

"Many citizens just don't know where to go for answers to their questions about the federal government," said Diaz."The number of feedback e-mails has diminished, while the number of queries looking for responses has increased."

Diaz said the flood of e-mails is a positive, if unforeseen, step in FirstGov's evolution. "This is a transformation of the citizens," she said. "People want more out of their government and want to use the Internet to make that happen."

FirstGov does not have the systems in place to handle the crush of e-mail. So the FirstGov team is looking for ways to route citizen e-mails to the correct agency. Diaz and her staff also want to ensure that agencies respond to the forwarded e-mails so that citizen questions are answered in a timely and appropriate manner.

Article by Joshua Dean appearing in GovExec.Com Daily Briefing, July 5, 2001. For complete article, see http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0701/070501j1.htm.

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National Security Archives Celebrates 35th Anniversary of the U.S. FOIA

George Washington University's National Security Archive, the leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, today released its first annual "State of Freedom of Information" report, 35 years to the day after President Johnson grudgingly signed the U.S. FOIA into law on July 4, 1966.  The Archive study reported that: As part of the 35th anniversary report, the Archive posted today on its award-winning Web site, http://www.nsarchive.org, the key documents on the history of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, including President Johnson's half-hearted signing statement, excerpts from the Congressional Record debates of 1966, President Ford's veto statement on the FOIA amendments of 1974 and the ensuing Congressional debates, President Clinton's signing statement on the 1996 "E-FOIA" amendments, and the most recent General Accounting Office assessment of the FOIA and E-FOIA.  Also included on the site are a User's Guide to FOIA, sample FOIA request and appeal letters, the addresses of every major federal agency FOIA contact, and guidance from the Archive's experts on how to use the FOIA.

The documents are available at the following URL: http://www.nsarchive.org/NSAEBB/NSAEBB51.

Source: Paul Nielson, pnielson@home.com, GOVDOC-L, July 6, 2001.

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Ghosts of Old Federal Web sites Still Lurking Around

By Shane Harris Did you ever wonder where agency Web sites go when they die? The Cybercemetery, of course.

The University of North Texas Libraries created the virtual cemetery in 1997 to house the Web pages of defunct agencies for use by researchers and public officials.

The university is the final resting place for such bygone organizations as the National Bankruptcy Review Commission, the U.S. Trade Deficit Review Commission and the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, the first tenant to take up eternal residence in 1997.

At the Cybercemetery, visitors can browse the pages of the National Civil Aviation Review Commission, which went down for the big sleep in December 1997 after telling Congress that unless it gave the Federal Aviation Administration billions of dollars in special funding, the nation's skies would turn into the equivalent of the Los Angeles freeways at rush hour.

Like thousands of pilgrims paying homage to the grave of Jim Morrison in Paris, graduate students, scholars and government officials from around the world have visited the site to gather data, read white papers and learn more about the way some agencies used to operate, said Cathy Hartman, head of government documents for University of North Texas Libraries.

For the full article, see http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0701/070601h1.htm.

Source: GovDoc.Com Daily Briefing, July 6, 2001.

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E-Government Act of 2001 News

The proposed E-Government Act of 2001 -- jointly introduce as H.R. 2458 and S.803 -- addresses a host of federal information technology issues, including (1) the creation of a federal chief information officer to head an Office of Information Policy located in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ; (2) formalizing a government-wide CIO Council; and (3) creating an E-government fund to promote inter-agency cooperation on e-government efforts. Additionally, the bill addresses the life-cycle management of government information and calls for permanent public access initiatives to be developed. A Senate staff outline of the bill is available at: http://www.senate.gov/~gov_affairs/egovoutline.pdf.

Sharon Hogan, Director of Libraries at the University of Illinois in Chicago, testified on July 11th before the U.S. Senate Government Affairs Committee on behalf of S. 803. Hogan emphasized:

"Our Nation's libraries are key access points for the American public and already are and should be members of e-government teams at the federal, state and local levels. We cannot have an effective e-government without effective access to government information and coordinated information policies. . . the move to an e-government has not been accompanied by the development of a comprehensive policy framework focusing on the life-cycle of electronic government information."

Hogan's testimony indicated that the library community supports the

"overall information access policies through a Chief Information Officer for the executive branch. Too often access to Federal government information has been disorganized and untimely. . . .We need a policy framework that addresses information from its inception and acquisition to its organization and cataloging, and from its public accessibility to long term permanent public access and preservation. Lack of adequate funding has compromised information access and frustrated a reasonable transition to electronic dissemination. Funding is necessary."

The full text of her statement on behalf of ALA. ACRL, and AALL submitted for the record, the verbal testimony given on July 11th and a related ALA press release are available at: http://www.ala.org/washoff/hogantest.pdf and http://www.ala.org/washoff/egovpress.pdf.

Additional transcripts from the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on on July 11, 2001 are available at http://www.senate.gov/~gov_affairs/071101_witness.htm.

Source: Laura Dickson, MSU Libraries, GovDoc-L, July 12, 2001; ALA's Washington Office Newsline, July 13, 2001; and Tanya N. Ballard, GovExec.Com's Daily Briefing, July 16, 2001 at http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0701/071601t1.htm.

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HCUA Archives Opened to Public

Thanks to the efforts made on behalf of a coalition of historians and archivists, the records of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) are now open to the public.

In response to a letter sent to the Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, some 1, 245 feet of HUAC records containing correspondence, unpublished executive session transcripts, special investigative files relating to individuals and organizations dating from 1945-1975 (some 444 feet of records) will now be open to public scrutiny. Also unsealed is a unique and large collection (75 feet) of pamphlets and other periodicals gathered over a period of thirty years that were deemed "subversive" by the Committee. Collectively, the records are preserved and stored by the National Archives and Records Administration's (NARA) Center for Legislative Archives in Washington D.C.

HUAC was created in 1945 and abolished by Congressional action in 1975. Records of the House of Representatives investigative committee that proceeded HUAC - the Select Committee on Un-American Activities (the so-called Dies Committee (1938-1944)) - have been open to the public for sometime. Some of the records of HUAC, however -- infamous for its unrelenting pursuit of communists, espionage agents, homosexuals, subversives, and others often deemed as "security risks" -- have been closed for over 50 years.

Included in the Committee records now subject to public access are hearings into atomic espionage, previously closed transcripts and materials relating to landmark investigations including the Alger Hiss case. The collection also includes documents relating to the so-called Hollywood Hearings -- a nine-day "inquisition" into of Hollywood producers, writers, actors, and others affiliated with the movie industry who allegedly were connected with an international communist conspiracy. Records involving investigations into the Ku Klux Klan, American Nazis, civil rights and anti-war activists of the 1960s are also in the collection.

According to Dr. Bruce Craig, Director of the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History (NCCPH), "HUAC has a reputation and legacy unparalleled in American history for abuse of power and disregard of individual rights. With these records, for the first time, historians will be able to get a much clearer picture of the internal workings of America's own 20th century inquisition." The NCCPH is a national coalition of historical and archival organizations that filed the request that resulted in opening the records. The NCCPH had been seeking the release of these documents since 1998.

Requests to gain access to the records should be directed to: the National Archives, Center for Legislative Archives, (202) 501-5350.

Source: NCC Washington UPdate, August 7, 20018

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The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) Closes Down Three Bookstores

On August 17th, the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) will permanently close its Boston Bookstore. The GPO's Washington D.C. store at McPherson Square and its San Francisco store were closed in July.

The bookstores are closing due to significantly reduced sales resulting from the public's increased ability and preference to access government publications over the Internet for free - including the more than 2,000 government titles currently available on the GPO's web-site GPO Access (http://www.gpo.gov/gpoaccess). With book sales continuing to decline nationally, GPO is making changes in its sales program for its 23 operating bookstores.

Even though GPO had to close down the San Francisco, McPherson Square, and Boston bookstores, residents in those cities will not be deprived of access to U.S. Government publications. Those who want to purchase government books and publications can still do so by linking to the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov.

The Online Bookstore's Sales Product Catalog includes all titles available for sale in GPO Bookstores and can be searched by publication, title, subject, and keywords. All titles can be securely ordered online using a major credit card. U.S Government books can also be ordered by calling a toll free number, 866-512- 1800, between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (EST). You may also fax your request to 202-512-2250, or mail it to the Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954.

Residents can also continue to locate U.S. Government books and other online government materials at your local Federal Depository libraries -- which are free of charge and open to the general public.

Source: ALA Washington Office Newsline, August 14, 2001.

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NTIS News

NTIS is seeking comments on its new plan to make it easier to obtain technical reports. We hope that this new plan will be more responsive to the needs of libraries and small businesses and will take advantage of the Internet as an expedient and more cost effective method of dissemination.

The plan would allow users to search the NTIS database on its Web page for all documents entered into its collections since 1997 when NTIS began preserving documents electronically. The bibliographic records displayed would include the abstract.

When available, an identified document will include a digital object identifier (DOI) which would both point to the site of the originating agency and to the NTIS site. The user could opt to download full-text from the agency site or, for a nominal fee, from the NTIS site. The user could also order in alternative formats of choice such as paper, CD ROM, microfiche from NTIS for the standard NTIS fee.

This announcement was made on August 14th in the Federal Register. The announcement also asks that the public forward comments on this proposal to Mr. Walter L. Finch at NTIS, 5285 Port Royal Rd., Springfield, Virginia 22161, or via email at wfinch@ntis.gov. Comments must be received no later than Sept. 13, 2001.

Jean Bowers - jbowers@ntis.gov
Director, Office of Database Services
National Technical Information Service

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Congressional Research Service Publications

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is the reference and research arm of the Library of Congress and as such produces a variety of in-depth policy analyses and research on every subject of interest to Congress, including background analyses; scientific, economic and legislative analyses; legal research and legislative histories. Athough legislation has been introduced to make these reports available to the public, nothing has passed yet. In the interim, here are a variety of sources where they can be located.

Many larger university libraries such as Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, MSU and Northwestern have purchased retrospective collections of CRS publications. You can always check their online catalogs for holdings information. The title to look for is Major Studies of the Legislative Reference Service/Congressional Research Service. The original microfilm collection covers reports from 1916-1975, and annual supplement collections have been released since then. The following indexes come with the set.

For a fee, Penny Hill Press will provide CRS reports and issues briefs on demand although the service is not cheap. However, you can use their online directory to identify titles and then request them for free through your favorite Congressperson or try contacting one of the larger university libraries and ask about interlibrary loan.

There are many other additional web sites that have begun selectively listing copies of CRS reports and issue briefs on the web. One of the most extensive collections is one provided by the National Library of the Environment. The web page provides a search engine as well as a directory of 30 different topics to choose from if you like to browse.

The Federation of American Scientists also posts CRS reports and issue briefs covering areas of interest to them. Some of the larger collections provided include:

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Government Overlooks Web's Potential

Many federal government Web sites failed to deliver updated information about the national crisis when citizens needed it most. Former Office of Management and Budget IT policy director John Spotila criticized federal officials for not taking the opportunity to demonstrate the abilities of the Internet to bridge government and citizens in times of crisis. Although the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) site quickly posted relevant information, the FirstGov federal Web portal did not post any news or a prominent link to the FEMA site, he said. Other agencies directly related to the government's response, such as the Department of Justice and Department of State, offered only sparse information about the attacks. One anonymous federal Webmaster expressed extreme annoyance with the administration of the FirstGov portal. Because it is operated under an outside contract, he said updating the content was a convoluted, drawn-out process. (Interactive Week, 17 September 2001) Source: Paul Nielson, GOVDOC-L, Sept. 30, 2001.

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Government Web Sites See Record Traffic After Attacks

Following the Sept. 11 terror attacks, many people turned to government Web sites to get information. In terms of the number of online visits, government Web sites ranked second only to news Web sites in the days immediately after the World Trade Center and Pentagon disasters. The White House site, for example, was visited by 162,000 people per day following the attacks, according to Jupiter Media Metrix, and the Navy's and Army's sites drew on average of 205,000 and 137,000 daily visitors, respectively. The FBI's site, built to collect leads in the investigation, succeeded in gathering 66,000 tips as of the Thursday after the attacks. The Federal Emergency Management Agency Web site activity also rose sharply to 88,000 visitors per day, up from what was considered a negligible amount of traffic. University of Southern California associate dean of the Annenberg School of Communication Joe Saltzman said people "hear a lot of information, but feel more comfortable by checking what they hear on reliable sites." (Reuters, 21 September 2001) Source: Paul Nielson, GOVDOC-L, Sept. 30, 2001.

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Freedom of Information Versus National Security

Some federal agencies have begun removing information from their web sites due to the recent terrorist attacks of September 11. The EPA has dismantled its Risk Management page which provided general information about emergency plans and chemicals used at 15,000 sites nationwide. In addition, the Department of Transportation has removed a map indicating where gas pipelines were located nationwide.

The decisions by these agencies and others have "reopened the delicate question about how much people ought to know about the safety of hazardous chemicals in their communities before knowledge begins to comprimise national security."

For a more extensive review, see "Agencies Scrub Web Sites of Sensitive Chemical Data: Government Debates Safety Versus Security" by Guy Gugliotta, Washington Post, Oct. 4, 2001, p.A29 temporarily available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A2738-2001Oct3.html.

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