NEWS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
MARCH 2002

Table of Contents

  1. Federal Science Web Portal Planned
  2. Presidential Records Act Executive Order Causes Controversy
  3. Top 20 Depository Libraries Making GPO Access Referrals
  4. The Wayback Machine
  5. Beleu in the Face
  6. Restricting Access to Government Information: Point/Counterpoint
  7. Despite Government Efforts, the Web Never Forgets
  8. How to Write Congress
  9. U.S. Patent Office in the News
  10. Lexis Nexis to Continue Documents on Demand Service
  11. Information at Risk


Federal Science Web Portal Planned

At the American Society for Information Science and Technology's annual meeting, officials from the Science.gov Alliance shared their plans for the new e-government portal, which is expected to launch next February.

Source: National Journal's Technology Daily, November 7, 2001; Full story: http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/1101/110601td1.htm .

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Presidential Records Act Executive Order Causes Controversy

On November 1, 2001 President Bush issued Executive Order 13233 entitled, "Further Implementation of the Presidential Records Act." The order replaces President Reagan's Executive Order 12667 (issued January 18, 1989) and reinterprets the Presidential Records Act of 1978 (PRA). The new Executive Order (E.O.) is posted at: http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/2001/11/eo-pra.html.

The order allows a sitting president to keep secret the papers of a previous president, even if that previous president desires to have his papers made public. In essence, the order provides for the release of certain types of presidential papers only when the former and sitting president both agree to release the papers. The order reverses the very premise of public access built into PRA which provides for the systematic release of presidential records after 12 years or by way of a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request; the new E.O. requires that the materials can be released only when a FOIA request shows a "demonstrable, specific need."

Administration officials stated that the new E.O. was merely designed to provide an "orderly process" for the release of presidential papers. During a testy press briefing on November 1, White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer stated that the order was designed to provide a "safety valve" for a current Administration because a former president, out of office for 12 years, may not recognize the national security implications of releasing certain documents (For the exchange, see http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/2001/11/wh110101.html). During a brief question and answer session in the Rose Garden the next day, President Bush stated his belief that, "It's a process that I think will enable historians to do their jobs" and at the same time help protect state secrets (For Bush's comments, see: http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/2001/11/wh110201.html).

Historians familiar with the provisions of the Presidential Records Act disagreed and lashed out at the Administration. Vanderbilt University historian Hugh Graham said the claims of the White House spokespersons "are absurd" because national security records are already protected from release. Graham characterized the order as "draconian...merely the latest effort by the Bush White House to clamp down on the flow of information to the public...clearly it will make it harder for the public to gain access to historically valuable presidential materials." American University historian Anna Nelson said that President Bush appears to be trying to set a precedent that would give him full control over his own papers 12 years after he leaves office. "This order sets up a minefield in front of what was a straightforward piece of legislation" said Nelson.

Not only were historians upset over the order, but similar concerns were voiced by an aide to former President Bill Clinton who reportedly opposed the language of the order. A letter written to the Bush White House by Bruce Lindsey, Clinton's deputy White House counsel and now a lawyer for the William J. Clinton Foundation, stated, "a government's legitimacy is based on trust of its people...when decisions are made on behalf of the American people, citizens eventually have to be able to see the process of how those decisions came to be."

Shortly after the E.O. was issued, a Congressional inquiry into the Executive Order and related issues (principally focusing on the delays in the release of the Reagan presidential papers by the White House) was announced by Representative Stephen Horn (R-CA), Chair of the Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations of the House Committee on Government Reform (see related story below). The new order is also likely to be challenged in court.

The NCC has scheduled a strategy meeting of representatives of concerned organizations on Friday, November 9, 2001 to explore the possibility of a legal challenge and to discuss a legislative strategy to bring about needed revisions to the Presidential Records Act.

Source: NCC WASHINGTON UPDATE, Vol. 7, #46, November 9, 2001.

For a related article, see "Lawmakers Ask Bush to Rethink Order on Presidential Papers", GovExec.Com Daily Briefing, November 7, 2001, http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/1101/110701p1.htm

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Top 20 Depository Libraries Making GPO Access Referrals

Here's a list of federal depository libraries whose web pages showed the most click-link referrals to GPO Access. The top 20 shown here accounted for 24% of the traffic.

Depository Library:

URL

1. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

http://www.lib.umich.edu

2. University of Maryland, College Park

http://www.lib.umd.edu

3. University of North Texas

http://www.library.unt.edu

4. Vanderbilt University

http://www.library.vanderbilt.edu

5. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

http://www.lib.lsu.edu

6. Saint Paul Public Library

http://www.stpaul.lib.mn.us

7. U.S. Department of State

http://www.state.gov

8. Western Michigan University

http://www.wmich.edu

9. Indiana University, Bloomington

http://www.indiana.edu

10. University of Louisville

http://www.louisville.edu

11. Michigan State University

http://www.history.navy.mil

12. Naval Historical Center

http://www.history.navy.mil

13. Columbia University

http://www.columbia.edu

14. San Diego State University

http://libweb.sdsu.edu

15. University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

http://www.uwm.edu

16. University of Virginia

http://www.lib.virginia.edu

17. University of Colorado, Boulder

http://www-libraries.colorado.edu

18. Pennsylvania State University

http://www.libraries.psu.edu

19. University of Missouri, Rolla

http://www.umr.edu

20. University of Delaware

http://www2.lib.udel.edu

Source: http://fedbbs.access.gpo.gov/referral.htm and Paul Schaffer, GOVDOC-L, November 15, 2001.

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The Wayback Machine

The Wayback Machine
http://www.archive.org
Named after the time-traveling device invented by Mr. Peabody of "Rocky and Bullwinkle" fame, the Wayback Machine is the brainchild of Brewster Kahle, a legendary computer scientist whose former creations include WAIS and Alexa (bought respectively by AOL and Amazon, making him rich). In 1996, inspired by the great Library of Alexandria, Kahle unleashed an army of software "spiders" to seek out and copy all the Web, at least the part of it that was open without cost to visitors, to preserve the fragile information posted on the world wide web for researchers, historians, and scholars. The spiders were thorough, and the Internet Archive, which now resides inside the 300 computers at Kahle's offices in the Presidio near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, now consists of over 11 billion pages, about 100 terabytes' worth of information, or five times the information stored at the Library of Congress. The Wayback Machine is the search engine allowing access to the archive.

Unveiled to the public on October 24th at the University of California Berkeley's Bancroft Library, the Wayback Machine has already drawn more than a million visitors, overwhelming Kahle's servers from time to time. However, if you are patient, you can give it a try to locate many of the old government document web sites mentioned previously in RED TAPE that may have vaporized over time, plus earlier versions of tried and true web pages that still exist. Some examples include a collection of web pages about the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon captured during the first month after the event, web sights generated during the 1996 and 2000 presidential campaigns, and pioneering web sites from 1996. You get extra credit if you can locate the web page of the Heaven's Gate suicide cult.

To search the Wayback Machine, enter a familiar url or else click on one of the featured archival collections.

Source: Newsweek, November 12, 2001.

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Beleu In the Face:
My ideas about the Federal Depository Program, right and wrong.

Library directors are no dummies--they have always recognized the value of the Federal Depository Library Program. The July 15, 2001 edition of "Administrative Notes" features a report about a poll of 29 directors of depository libraries on page 13-14. From their responses to 9 statements, their replies to statements 8 and 9 are the most interesting to me.

Statement 8 showed that 6 directors disagreed and 16 directors strongly disagreed with this statement: "Because so much Government information is available online, there is a diminished need for a depository program that discovers, catalogs, and assures stable, ongoing access to Government information."

Statement 9 showed that 10 directors disagreed and 16 directors strongly disagreed with this statement: "Because of the many changes in the library environment, it is no longer important to have library staff devoted primarily to government documents."

Their responses to statements 1 through 7 also show that the majority of library directors support the FDLP. I salute these library directors. This is just more proof that only the ignorant attack the Federal Depository Library Program, or question its worth in the Internet era.

A report by S. Beleu, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, July 27, 2001, appearing in Red Dirt Depositories Newsletter: a Newsletter for Depository Librarians in the State of Oklahoma (http://regdocs.okstate.edu/news.htm).

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Restricting Access to Government Information: Point/Counterpoint

Rising Fears That What We Do Know Can Hurt Us
Eric Lichtblau, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 18, 2001 http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-111801inform.story
The government is pulling back on previously shared data to keep it from aiding terrorists. Includes quotes from Fran Buckley (Superintendent of Documents) and Julia Wallace (University of Minnesota)! Source: Cass Hartnett, University of Washington Library.
(Last checked 11/21/01)

In Utah, A Government Hater Sells a Germ-Warfare Book
Paul Zielbauer with William J. Brand, New York Times, November 21, 2001
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/21/national/21BOOK.html?todaysheadlines
Based on research done at the University of Nebraska Library. Source: Jerry Frobum, University of Nebraska Library.
(Last checked 11/21/01)

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Despite Government Efforts, the Web Never Forgets

Article by David Colker, Los Angeles Times, November 27, 2001
Reprinted in Chicago Tribune, November 30, 2001
http://chicagotribune.com/technology/sns-worldtrade-web-lat.story

Excerpt: "The Internet is not like a faucet you can turn off and on. It's like a leaky faucet that keeps dripping long after it's turned off," said Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, an organization that strives to cut back on government secrecy.

Still scattered across the electronic ether are a host of "erased" documents, including maps of nuclear reactors, pictures of secret spy satellite facilities and a description of a NASA space propulsion project.

In many cases, agencies had no idea that their erased documents are still available for anyone with a Web browser and Internet link. Detailed maps from the Energy Department's International Nuclear Safety Center, for example, are still retrievable through the Internet Archive.

Source: Stephen Sposato, Chicago Public Library, GOVDOC-L, November 29, 2001.

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How To Write Congress:
Advice from the Capital Fire Services Institute

Ever heard of the old adage that the squeaky wheel gets the grease? No where does that hold more true than in Washington, D.C. Letters from constituents and special interest groups inundate members of Congress on a daily basis. It is the most effective means to capture their attention and gauge public sentiment about particular issues. But if written in haste, a letter can do more harm than good.

Here are some useful tips for writing your favorite member of Congress. Whether you elect to follow them or not, just remember that your letter is one of many received each day. The way you present your concerns in a letter will determine to a large extent the reply you receive.

For original article and a sample letter, see http://www.cfsi.org/writingcongress.html.

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U.S. Patent Office in the News

The patent office, home to nearly 6.5 million patents dating to 1790, is converting to an electronic database and discarding a significant portion of its paper files after they have been scanned and digitized.

The New York Times reported on December 30th that the president of a local patent research firm had discovered many historical patents, including some by Thomas Alva Edison, in the trash bins outside the agency recently.

When asked, the patent office reported that the items being discarded are part of a collection used by patent examiners. A separate archival paper collection is, at least for now, still available to the public at the agency's headquarters in Crystal City. However, duplicate copies have been routinely culled from the agency's holdings for the past several years to try to cut down on the expense of storing them. Documents judged to have historic, scientific, or even artistic value have been preserved or turned over to the National Archives.

Some patent lawyers and researchers, however, are worried that in the drive to computerize useful information is being lost, like notes taken by patent examiners over the years and written in the margins of the patent documents. And they say that some information, like materials submitted with patent applications for design, does not reproduce well. They also fear that once all patents are digitized, the current elaborate classification system may be discontinued in favor of word searches and that some patents could be effectively lost as a result since many inventions (like Velcro) are not always called by the name they eventually assume when they are first introduced.

In August, the patent office requested comment in the Federal Register on a proposed plan to eliminate the entire paper collection of patents. The office said it would consider transferring its paper collection to a nonprofit group or another government agency or offering it for sale if that occurred.

For the full article, see Alison Mitchell, "Blueprints of U.S. Ingenuity End Up in the Dustbin of History", New York Times, December 30, 2001, p.A1 and A18.

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Lexis Nexis to Continue Documents on Demand

We at LexisNexis Academic & Library Solutions have been following the discussion about the discontinuation of our Documents on Demand services. I must confess that I, for one, did not fully appreciate the importance of this service to the government documents community or the way in which it was being used. I apologize on behalf of LexisNexis Academic & Library Solutions for taking this action without giving adequate notice to the user community.

The former Documents on Demand provided services such as research assistance and rush delivery of documents. It was designed to support individual researchers, not to serve the library community. Thus, it was our judgment that it did not fit the mission of LexisNexis Academic & Library Solutions. We decided to discontinue the on-demand part of the service in 2002, while continuing the special collections that we produced through Documents on Demand, such as statistical publications of specific federal agencies.

The response we have seen in the last few days has made it clear that libraries do rely on the LNALS document service, and that we are the only source for many documents. Supporting your libraries is our mission, and we will make adjustments to meet this need.

Documents on Demand will be restructured as an offprints service, eliminating research assistance and rush delivery. We will continue to provide either paper or microfiche copies of the documents, which may be ordered by their CIS or ASI accession number (included in the bibliographic information in our abstracts). An order form will soon be posted to our website at http://www.lexisnexis.com/academic or available from our customer service department next week (see below). Pricing will be simplified so that it can be calculated on the order form, but the cost will not increase for an average order.

Another point of concern in the listserv postings was the status of deposit accounts. Our accounting department is in the process of preparing statements for all customers with deposit accounts. It is our intention to discontinue this payment option, which was only used for the Documents on Demand service not our CIS, UPA, and Universe products.

It is our sincere hope that this restructured service will meet the needs of the document community. Please feel free to contact me or your LexisNexis Academic & Library Solutions Library Representative if you have questions or concerns that I have failed to address here.

Source: Alistair Morrison, Regional Sales Operations Manager, LexisNexis Academic & Library Solutions, 4520 East-West Highway, Bethesda MD 20814-3389; Phone: 800-638-8380 or 301-951-4529; Email: Alistair.Morrison@lexisnexis.com; URL: http://www.lexisnexis.com/academic.

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Information at Risk

Another newspaper account of the destruction of the USGS CD-ROM and removal of materials from the Internet also brings up the important issue of reader privacy. See Information at Risk, by Greg Kline, Champaign, IL News-Gazette January 20, 2002.

"There was a recognition in this country that what you read should be protected," said Emily Sheketoff, director of the library association's Washington office. "Forty-eight states passed privacy laws protecting [circulation] records," including Illinois. But now the Patriot Protection Act makes it much easier for law enforcement agencies to get such information.

This raises another reason for libraries to have local copies of digital government information: libraries guard users' privacy while government agency computers actually collect data about users' use of government information.

The GAO has issued several reports on government web sites and privacy. Here are two:

Source: Jim Jacobs, Data Services Librarian, University of California, San Diego, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive Library 0175-R, La Jolla, CA 92093-0175; Telephone: (858) 534-1262; E-mail: jajacobs@ucsd.edu, via GOVDOC-L, Jan. 26, 2002.

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