NEWS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
MARCH/JUNE 1999

Table of Contents

  1. ALA Midwinter Report by Susan Tulis
  2. Web Page Template for Government Information
  3. Legislation To Make CRS Reports Publicly Available Introduced
  4. Speaking Up In the Internet Age
  5. More on CRS Reports
  6. 550 Government Information Librarians Attend Federal Depository Library Conference
  7. New Law Forces Web Sites to Be Handicapped Accessible
  8. USGOVSEARCH.COM Announcement Causes Controversy
  9. Government Pulls Out of Search Venture
  10. New York Times Celebrates Interactive Government Web Pages
  11. Census 2000: How Your Library Can Help Make it a Success!
  12. Government Documents Humor: A Selection


(1) Philadelphia in January - What a Pleasant Surprise!
Report from Various GODORT Sessions During ALA Midwinter 1999
By Susan Tulis

Francis J. Buckley, Jr., Superintendent of Documents, GPO, led off the Federal Documents Task Force Update session on Saturday, January 30, 1999.

Buckley began by outlining his activities as spokesperson for comprehensive equitable access to government information - including a trip to Tokyo to address a Symposium at the National Diet Library. He also spoke of Gil Baldwin's recent appointment as Director of Library Programs Service (LPS) - to ensure that the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) will be strong and viable into the next century.

Buckley then gave an overview of FDLP's accomplishments. In FY '98, GPO provided 15.2 million copies of more than 40,000 tangible products (print, microfiche, and CD-ROMs) to depository libraries. At the end of calendar year '98, GPO provided online access through GPO Access to more than 85,000 titles directly on GPO servers and pointed to more than 47,000 titles on agency web sites, making a total of over 133,000 publications available. As of January 25, 1999, there were 1,352 depository libraries in the program.

A major initiative in the FDLP has been the development of a policy and planning document titled, Managing the FDLP Electronic Collection, to chart GPO's course in the transition to a more electronic depository library program. In December the plan was shared with more than 130 individuals in the library/information community, including all members of the Depository Library Council to the Public Printer, the Inter-Association Working Group, staff and elected representatives of the major library and information associations, faculty at a number of graduate schools for library and information science, and a wide array of federal agency officials.

Buckley said that with the help of the documents community, GPO is making inroads in the fugitive documents arena.

GPO is pleased with the continued success and popularity of GPO Access. In FY '98, approximately $11.5 million worth of sales resulted from user activity on GPO Access. This includes both online orders and orders resulting from forms downloaded from the site and sent in for processing. This represents more than 15% of total revenue for the GPO Sales Program. Between October 1997 and September 1998, searches on GPO Access increased by 21%, while retrievals increased by 85%. Currently, the web site is averaging close to 5 million searches and 10 to 15 million retrievals per month.

Buckley reported that there has been internal approval given for the creation of a GPO Learning Center. The plan is being prepared for transmission to the Joint Committee on Printing for approval.

In FY '98, the Sales Program handled more than 653,000 orders and sold over 11 million copies of publications. Financially it appears that GPO's expenses exceeded revenues, but final year-end adjustments are still being made.

The inventory of the Document Sales Program consists of over 12,000 products offered in a variety of formats such as CD-ROM (over 100 titles), magnetic tapes, microfiche, and videos. However, the bulk of the inventory remains ink on paper, although GPO has been seeing a gradual decline in traditional printed products as more federal agencies place their products on their web sites or publish in other electronic formats.

To meet the need to retain some U.S. Government publications for long-term availability in the GPO Sales Program, Buckley has appointed a committee, chaired by former Depository Library Council member Peggy Walker, members of the depository community and staff from LPS and GPO Sales to help identify appropriate titles and develop guidelines for the program. An initial group of titles that will not go out of print has been identified. Also, a policy statement on the "Retention of Government Information Products of Historical Significance in the Sales Collection" is under development. For the purpose of such a policy, a Government information product of historical significance is one that documents or reflects major historical initiatives or activities of lasting importance carried out by the Federal Government, its branches, or its agencies or is one of permanent reference value. This may include historical documents or collections of historical documents, legal and regulatory decisions, or works of historical scholarship, legal and regulatory decisions, major statistical compilations, and official reports of significant events or occurrences. Government information products retained under this policy will meet both current and future needs of customers who wish to purchase their own copies of such products at a reasonable price. Products listed as historically significant will be reviewed periodically to verify the need for continued retention as sales items.

In terms of the Y2K situation, LPS has analyzed its computer applications and determined that much work on the various systems has been completed, including the modifications needed to ensure that the Shipping List application was ready for Y2K.

The software for ACSIS, the Acquisition, Classification and Shipping Information System, has been Year 2000 tested and implemented. Twenty-five percent of the DDIS' (Depository Distribution Information System) software still needs to be renovated, tested and implemented before it will be Year 2000 compliant. The process of replacing PCs in LPS is well underway and will be completed well in advance of 2000. GPO is currently working on requesting funding to upgrade the lighted bin system to be Y2K compliant.

Buckley concluded by saying that GPO recognizes and appreciates the partnership it has with libraries in the provision of access to government information. A number of GPO staff are in Philly to report on program developments and to listen to librarian's ideas and concerns.

Michael DiMario, Public Printer, gave an overview of the various staff changes at the Joint Committee of Printing resulting from the fact that, while the JCP does still exist, it has not been funded. He continued with a listing of the members assigned to date of the various committees that have an impact on GPO - House Oversight and Administration, Senate Rules and Administration, and the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee.

GPO has requested $31.2 M for the Salaries & Expenses portion of its budget this year. This is a $1 M increase over last year and the increase is for expenses associate with the Electronic Collection Plan and Collection Manager position.

Gil Baldwin, Director, LPS, gave the Library Programs Service (LPS) update. He began by covering 3 inter-related aspects of building the FDLP Electronic Collection:

  • incorporating archiving into processing routines;
  • migrating from print media to electronic products; and
  • a new model for partnerships.

    GPO's policy defining GPO's management of the electronic government information products made available through the FDLP is found in a paper that has been circulating since last fall. The paper is called "Managing the FDLP Electronic Collection: A Policy and Planning Document" (known as the Plan or the little red book.) Currently, LPS is evaluating how some of their earlier efforts to incorporate electronic information products into the FDLP stack up against the Plan.

    LPS is looking for opportunities to expand the Collection and integrate functional activities and services. They are test-driving methods of archiving agency information products to make good on the commitment to permanent public access. LPS is also beginning to apply the policies laid out in the Collection Plan to GPO's production environment.

    In the Plan, the FDLP Electronic Collection is described as having four components. Many feel that the most challenging area of the Collection is what GPO calls Category 3. Not to be confused with Area 51, Category 3 includes in the Collection any electronic resource that GPO brings under some type of bibliographic control, whether through full cataloging or one of the locator services. There is concern that expanding the scope of the Collection in this fashion, without having some degree of control over the electronic products themselves, could lead to difficulties in providing permanent public access to those products. The thrust of GPO's internal discussions was how to "elevate" Category 3 products into Categories 1 or 2, which include products either under the direct control of GPO or one of their program partners. Currently, GPO is exploring ways to do that, by incorporating data archiving into its processing workflow.

    The third leg of the implementation triangle is the emerging new model for partnerships, one in which GPO takes a much more active role. They are now looking for partnership opportunities that emphasize an active role for GPO and a depository institution, and can accommodate a less active role on the part of the agency, beyond the initial creation of the information product. Baldwin envisions a depository library identifying a body of Government information that fits that library's collection development policy, possibly along subject lines. The library or its parent institution would agree to commit server space and associated resources to archive products from one or more agencies that fit this partnership profile. GPO would locate, evaluate, and apply bibliographic control to appropriate electronic products. GPO would advise the publishing agency that their product is being incorporated into the FDLP Electronic Collection, and establish a channel for the agency to notify them about significant changes in the product or its location. Then GPO would archive the electronic product, either at the partner site or on a GPO server. One possibility is NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, which has some really interesting electronic products that they are interested in finding an archiving partner for.

    Baldwin continued by saying the GPO is now at the point when its time to make permanent access happen. As in any transition period, their work is divided between maintaining and enhancing the traditional functions that relate to the management of tangible Federal Government information products, and developmental activities. But for the moment GPO's out of the study phase and onto making permanent access work in a production environment.

    Two years ago LPS proposed to phase out certain FDLP titles which were distributed in microfiche when an official, reliable electronic version was available from the agency. Subsequent discussion revealed that the library community felt that this proposal was premature. The principal reason for concern was GPO's inability to guarantee permanent access to the electronic versions. Since GPO is moving toward data archiving as part of its workflow, they feel that they are in a position to allay those permanent access issues. Baldwin did stress that this is not product conversion - they are not taking a print product and using technology to produce an electronic version. These are cases in which there are official, essentially equivalent, versions in both print and electronic media, and LPS is selecting a version for the FDLP. These decisions are based on expected usage, reliability, completeness, and so on, but their decisions must take into account the expectation of the Congress that this program will become increasingly electronic in nature. But while changing the FDLP dissemination format for existing products is one issue, products new to the FDLP are another issue. In these cases, LPS will generally bring the electronic version into the program and not attempt to secure the print version unless it is of extraordinary value.

    The 1999 Biennial Survey will be taking place this fall. LPS is in the late stages of completing the Survey design and will circulate a draft to the depository library community this spring, in order to provide sufficient advance notice about the Biennial Survey. The purpose of the Biennial Survey is to report on the conditions in the depository libraries. The draft survey is based on the questions asked during an on-site inspection and questions posed to depositories in the self-study evaluation process. Some questions are also asked to provide feedback to inspectors so they may better fulfill their advisory role with depository librarians and library directors.

    The new Biennial Survey will:

  • Enhance GPO's ability to knowledgeably manage the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP);
  • Assist GPO in carrying out its consultant role with depository librarians and administrators;
  • Allow GPO to report to Congress on the state of the FDLP; and
  • Reduce the reporting burden on individual depository librarians in their variety of institutional settings.

    Some problems and possible negative ramifications for individual depositories were recognized in responding to the cost-related questions. While GPO agrees that those questions should be included in the Survey, LPS has placed them in an optional section, to be completed at the library's discretion. This approach should provide LPS with data on the financial contributions to the FDLP made by individual depositories, but it will not force any library to divulge financial information that the library feels may jeopardize its continued participation in the FDLP.

    Last fall there was considerable discussion on access issues, particularly with Internet use policies and how local library policies relate to the free access requirements of the FDLP. The "FDLP Internet Use Policy Guidelines" have just been published in the January 15 issue of Administrative Notes. These Guidelines build upon the "Depository Library Public Service Guidelines for Government Information in Electronic Formats," published last September, and the 1998 "Recommended Specifications for Public Access Work Stations in Federal Depository Libraries," published last June.

    In general, GPO's position is that all depository libraries must offer the general public free access to online Federal Government information provided through the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). This follows the same principle of free access that governs the use of traditional depository materials, as provided in Section 1911 of Title 44, United States Code. Depository libraries should have a written access policy that addresses the issues regarding obtaining FDLP information on the Internet. One thing articulated in these new Guidelines is that all depository libraries are expected to provide access to the products in the FDLP Electronic Collection. This includes everything on GPO Access. Access to online Federal Government information provided through the FDLP must be available to any library user free of fees or other restrictions, such as age, residency status, or filtering software. This is the same principle of free access that governs the use of traditional depository materials.

    Thomas A. Downing, Chief of Cataloging Branch, provided a review of GPO's Internet-related cataloging policies and a description of how they have evolved.

    GPO's initial effort to provide access to Internet-related works published by U.S. Government agencies was to record URL-related data in the 530 note field of serial records. In April 1996, GPO proposed creating very brief records that consisted of a title, series (if available), SuDocs class number, and hot-linked URLs. This proposal was intended to provide people with low-cost access as an alternative to more expensive AACR2 cataloging. People responded to this proposal by expressing the view that AACR2 cataloging for such works was essential and should take precedence over cost-related concerns. This response was based upon an underlying principle that access to the many important Internet-related works should be available in the context of library online public access catalogs, or OPACs, in preference to specialized resources that are maintained independently as "stand alone" applications. Therefore, GPO continued to provide an indirect form of electronic access to Internet-related works via URL information in the 530 note field of our Monthly Catalog records.

    The initiative to provide short form electronic access was set aside in favor of a traditional approach. GPOs efforts to develop "non-traditional" approaches to providing access to Internet resources have resulted in the suite of Pathway Services, which provide browse able access and GILS (Global Information Locator Service) access.

    GPO's involvement with CONSER (Cooperative Online SERials) gave them the authorization to use a single record option for providing access to works that had been published in paper, microfiche, and other physical formats. Use of a single record for Internet purposes was consistent with GPO's well-established policy of using a record for a work in paper to also represent microfiche reproductions. In effect, LPS does not catalog most -FDLP Internet works (in the sense of creating unique separate records for them) but makes them accessible via the recording of hot-linked PURLs/URLs in the 856 field of records that represent works in physical formats.

    A second contribution of CONSER was to advocate the use of the 856 field of OCLC records to provide direct access to electronic works. The hot-linked 856 field saves users the trouble of producing a printout or copying an address and then typing an address into a browser.

    CONSER policies alone are insufficient to provide cost-effective electronic access to Internet- related works, therefore LPS began using PURLs (Persistent Uniform Resource Locators) in the 856 field. When users click on a PURL in the 856 field of a bibliographic record, they are routed through a server which connects the PURL to the most active URL at a Web site or archive. PURLs servers are easier to maintain than frequently changing URLs in bibliographic records. GPO's use of PURLs means that librarians will not need to change URL addresses in GPO- produced records within their local OPACs. OPAC users are directed to GPO's PURL server which then re-directs users to, in most instances, valid URLs. PURLs were designed specifically for cataloging operations and provide institutions with an environment that supports efforts to maintain electronic access. Downing reminded us that PURLs are not perfect and PURLs are not magic. Maintaining PURLs requires considerable human intervention and professional judgement.

    PURLs applications currently support electronic access to Internet-related works via both Browse Electronic Title (BET) entries and Monthly Catalog records. In a sense, BET entries, which are not integrated within OPACs, represent what had been GPO's initial proposal for short-form records for Internet-related titles. Monthly Catalog records at the GPO Web site provide users with OPAC-based electronic access for many Internet-related works and, through the locate function, the shelf locations for thousands of physical form works that have been cataloged and distributed.

    Downing concluded with a summary of Internet-related cataloging policies and operations:

    1. When electronic works have been cataloged as physical forms (paper, microfiche, CD- ROMs, etc.) prior to becoming available electronically, LPS upgrades many existing records by adding an electronic availability note (often, "Also available via the Internet") and an LPS PURL to the 856 field for electronic access.
    2. When no suitable record for a physical format version of an electronic work is available to be upgraded, LPS produces an "electronic only" record as the means of providing access. In some instances, records representing works that existed only in electronic form and were cataloged initially as "electronic only" are upgraded by the addition of physical description data to reflect subsequent publishing of paper and other editions. Thus, a record for a work cataloged as "electronic only" may itself be upgraded to reflect the availability of later physical form editions.
    3. LPS's most recent cataloging policy initiative, implemented in 1998, is to create "collection level" records for providing access to related, multiple electronic works accessible from a single main address. Collection level records contribute to their efforts to provide access to electronic works even as they continue to catalog and, through the locate function of the Monthly Catalog Web site edition, provide locations for physical format works distributed to depository libraries. Application of LPS's collection level record policy gives LPS the flexibility to provide aggregate cataloging records for Internet sites and products that are valuable to users but cannot reasonably and cost-effectively be "dissected" and cataloged at the "piece" level.
    Laurie Hall, LPS Program Analyst, then gave an overview of recent efforts by LPS staff to refine services and establish procedures within the context of developing the FDLP Electronic Collection and make sure these procedures reflect the policies described in the Plan. Judy Andrews, Electronic Transition Specialist, has been working with Hall on this task.

    Building the FDLP Electronic collection is a very daunting yet an exciting prospect because for the first time in many years, GPO will actually have a collection to build, manage and care for.

    Hall and Andrews began by assessing prior attempts by LPS to bring electronic resources into the FDLP. The piecemeal approach that LPS developed over the last few years had its problems. Attempting to manipulate the existing workflow which was developed for tangible products created inconsistencies and bottlenecks. It soon became apparent that LPS needed to look at electronic resources from a "holistic" approach, through the life cycle of each resource. A team comprised of LPS and Electronic Information Dissemination Service (EIDS) staff was assembled to discuss how to identify, evaluate, acquire, catalog, and provide ongoing access to the electronic resources that would become part of the FDLP Electronic Collection.

    Working together with catalogers, classifiers, technology types and just plain librarians, the group recognized there were three important goals that would guide the building of the electronic collection. These were:

  • The need to provide for permanent public access to Government information,
  • the recognition of the reference needs of the user community, and
  • LPS's historical role of providing quality cataloging for Government information resources.

    The team is investigating a wide variety of issues - exploring archiving technologies, building decision matrixes, and discussing possible changes to online products and services. Hall stated that they will be experimenting with a lot of approaches, and asked for our patience as they work through this project. This collection is unique and some of the standard techniques used in providing information to the depository community in the past do not work as well as they should. LPS has to be inventive. And in this dynamic environment it's difficult to agree on the best approaches to take.

    Hall/Andrew's task is made a bit easier since the collection isn't being build from scratch. The collection, as defined in the 'Plan', consists of four categories. Two of the four major components of the FDLP Electronic Collection are already well established: Category 1- the core legislative and regulatory GPO Access products and Category 4 - the tangible electronic Government information products distributed to Federal depository libraries. Therefore, future efforts will be focused on Category 2 - the remotely accessible products managed by either GPO or other institutions which GPO has established formal agreements, and Category 3 - remotely accessible electronic government information products that GPO identifies, describes and links to but which remain under the control of the originating agencies. Even though LPS is focusing primarily on these two parts of the collection, the team is cognizant of and discussing the other major issues relevant to the other parts of the collection.

    Some of the tasks the team and other LPS staff will be working on in the months to come include:

    1. Enlarge and improve communications. Because so many parties have a vested interest in the FDLP electronic collection, the task of facilitating effective communications is critical. Four groups of constituents have been identified for focused communications. They are: FDLP Depository community; publishing agencies; peer institutions such as the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the National Libraries, and internal GPO offices.

    2. Refine criteria for selection. The first step in determining what will be included in the collection is to assess the legal authority that guides GPO's selection of resources. In the case of the FDLP Electronic Collection, the acquisition of online resources is guided by the mission and goals of the FDLP as outlined in Title 44, Chapter 19, U.S. Code, Section 1902. Evaluation includes analyzing the resource to determine if it meets the basic tenets of Title 44. Is it official, authentic government information? This is usually defined by a .gov, .mil or fed.us domain, but occasionally may be a .edu or .org domain, if information found on the site indicates an official relationship. Does it present a major activity of the agency, or is it the product of a major activity of the agency? Reviewing the resources one by one tests both the item and our selection criteria. Title 44 provides guidance for allowing for the exclusion of official use only or administrative material. The LPS team has identified some items that they will not include in the FDLP electronic collection. These items are: events/announcements, biographies, job announcements, some news releases, organizational charts, sales/promotional literature, posters and items of low informational content. The list may be expanded as they continue to review new online resources.

    3. Refine criteria for analyzing resources selected for the collection. Once the selection has been made the team examines the item's presentation and content. They try to determine how valuable and useful this product is to the FDLP community, and which current locator service would best provide the bibliographic control for this resource. One thing the team agrees on is that some form of bibliographic control will be provided for all resources selected for inclusion in the FDLP Electronic Collection.

    4. Test processing decisions. The team is in the initial stages of building a decision matrix, based on the answers to the questions of how something will be processed. This matrix will expand and grow as the team continues to evaluate online resources.

    5. Investigate storage options. The team envisions the collection being stored using a combination of server space at GPO, at agency sites and at institutional partners and they are currently investigating the possibility of permanently capturing selected agency online resources and archiving them on GPO servers or partnership sites. At this time, the team is considering having the PURL direct users to the agency version until the agency link is broken and cannot be reestablished. Then users will be directed to the archived version stored on GPO servers - which might be an answer to part of the challenge of providing permanent public access. Other questions being asked are how to organize an archive, how users will be assured that the archived version is authentic and what potential maintenance issues GPO will face as the collection grows.

    6. Evaluate locator services. Examining a resource throughout its life cycle includes listing it in the most appropriate locator service. LPS is currently examining the potential merger of several tools, with the major goal being to provide services that are easy to use, easy to manage and give the best possible access to the electronic resources in the collection. LPS is currently focusing on BET and Browse Topics.

      LPS is working on some major improvements to the BET. They plan to continue a brows able list of new additions to the collection, but instead of maintaining a long list by agency, you will be able to search a database. The database will include previous BET entries and will be updated weekly. They are also investigating additional ways to present Browse Topics and are very open to developing a partnership arrangement for Topics and welcome any suggestions from the community.

    7. Investigate collection management implications. The team, in these short few months, has identified a multitude of tasks and proposed directions for LPS to take. These efforts are essentially preparing a foundation for building, organizing and managing the collection. This work has been accomplished using existing GPO personnel. A Collection manager is needed to coordinate these diverse activities. LPS is taking steps to fill the position of Collection Manager. This will be a key position for the FDLP electronic collection. The manager will need to address personnel, maintenance, resource allocation issues and promote cooperation with partners.
    Hall concluded by outlining what the LPS team will be pursuing in the months to come:
    1. Better communications with all concerned stakeholders
    2. Work towards consistent internal processing procedures
    3. Create locator services that are easy to use and manage
    4. Pursue permanent public access to the FDLP electronic collection
    5. Investigate the feasibility of installing an integrated library system at LPS
    Duncan Aldrich, Depository Library Council, gave an update on Council activities in Tom Andersen's absence. The schedule for upcoming meetings is as follows:
    Apr. 12-15, 1999 - Bethesda, MD (in conjunction with the Federal Depository Conference),
    Fall 1999 - Kansas City,
    Spring 2000 - Providence, RI,
    Fall 2000- Washington area (in conjunction with the Federal Depository Conference).

    Council now has 4 working groups: Electronic Transition (Duncan Aldrich), Partnership (Donna Koepp), Cataloging Locator (Carol Bednar), and Electronic Preservation and Archiving (Greg Lawrence). Feel free to contact the chairs of these work groups if you have questions, concerns, etc.

    Dan O'Mahony, IAWG, outlined the activities with regard to S. 2288 at the end of the 105th Congress and stated that the working group doesn't expect any activity right away in the 106th Congress.

    Bob Willard, NCLIS, gave a progress report on their assessment of electronic government information products. Willard's entire presentation is available on their website (http://www.nclis.gov/news/). 330 questionnaires were distributed; 313 products validated.

    Data analysis began 1/15/99. 90% of pre-selected products were accepted by participating agencies. 226 responses as of 1/29/99 (72.2% response rate). Schedule extended 30 days to increase response rate and improve quality.

    Some preliminary observations from meetings with agency participants are as follows: 1) agencies are developing a variety of exciting, creative and innovative web products and applications for public access, and 2) agencies conduct user studies to assess needs of both internal and external customers to enhance websites. Final report is due out March 1999. As always, I have left out lots, but this is all my brain and fingers could process.

    Source: Susan Tulis, Carbondale, IL; e-mail: stulis@aol.com; GOVDOC-L, February 22, 1999.

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    (2) WEB PAGE TEMPLATE FOR GOVERNMENT INFORMATION

    Are you interested in providing your library users with convenient access to government information on the web, but find yourself too busy to search for the perfect sites and design a web page? Check out the ALA GODORT Government Information Technology Committee's (GITCO) web page template, created by Cathy Hartman, University of North Texas Libraries, and Larry Schankman, Mansfield University. To view the Template and Help pages, connect to: http://www.library.unt.edu/gpo/template/index.html. The web page template has sections for:

    This web page template has been developed to help the librarian at a small-or medium-sized library add a government information component to its web page with ease. With minimal alterations, this template can be added to a library's web page to provide access to publications of all levels of government. Links to key sources of government information have been selected, and only stable sites were chosen in order to reduce the amount of maintenance required to keep the page current. The accompanying Help/Readme page offers hints and tips for the novice that allow easy alteration of the Template. Sections included in the Help/Readme page are: For comments or questions, contact Cathy Hartman (E-Mail: chartman@library.unt.edu; Telephone: (940) 565-2870).

    Source: Geoffrey D. Swindells, Acting Head, Government Documents Collection and Acting Regional Federal Depository Librarian (MO), 106B Ellis Library, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO 65201-5149; telephone: (573) 884-8123; fax: (573) 882-8044; e-mail: swindellsg@missouri.edu; URL: http://www.missouri.edu/~govdocs/.

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    Legislation To Make CRS Reports Publicly Available Introduced

    On February 9, Sen. McCain (Chair, Committee on Commerce and R-AZ) introduced S. 393, a bill to provide Internet access to Congressional documents including selected Congressional Research Service publications. Cong. Shays (R-CT) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives, H.R. 654.

    The bills, similar to legislation introduced last year, would make CRS reports available 30 days following their release to Members of Congress. In addition, the CRS publications would be publicly available via web pages of Members of Congress and Congressional Committees, not through the Research Service. The director of CRS will have the authority to remove confidential, copyrighted, or personal information included in the CRS reports. Last year, ARL with others in the library community supported similar legislation to make CRS reports publicly available.

    Source: ARL Federal Relations E-News, January 1999, written by Prue Adler (prue@arl.org) and edited by Bradley Houseton (bradley@arl.org), and distributed February 25, 1999..

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    (4) Speaking Up In the Internet Age:
    Use and Value of Constituent E-mail and Congressional Web Sites (Summary)

    It is often claimed that the Internet has the potential to strengthen the democratic principles upon which our nation is based. One test of that claim is the extent to which Congressional offices are using the opportunities provided by the Internet to make their policy positions known to the public and to communicate with their constituents.

    As part of its Nonprofits' Policy and Technology Project, OMB Watch sent surveys to all Congressional offices asking how they respond to e-mail from constituents. The survey sought to determine whether members take e-mail communication as seriously as other forms of communication and how an e-mail correspondent might most effectively communicate with her or his member. In addition, OMB Watch conducted a review of 70 web sites operated by House and Senate offices (50 House, 20 Senate). The review of the web sites sought to determine how consistently the sites are maintained, how often members use the sites to publicize their policy positions, and how accessible their sites are for constituent interaction.

    Despite our attempts to increase the survey response rate through follow-up telephone calls to randomly selected offices, only 37 Congressional offices participated in the survey. Sixty-eight offices stated that they do not respond to surveys at all. As a result, all findings from the survey are not necessarily representative of Congress as a whole. One possible reason for the lack of participation by Congressional offices is survey fatigue. Two other surveys on Congress and use of technology were conducted prior to the OMB Watch survey, one from the New York Times and one from Bonner & Associates and American University (both discussed below), that reached offices within a few months of the OMB Watch survey.

    Overall, the web site review and the survey found that Congress has a substantial and growing presence on the Internet but that there has been inadequate response to the possibilities the Internet provides for members to reach and to be responsive to the needs of their constituents. More specific findings include:

    These findings have significant implications for nonprofit organizations, which are increasingly working to encourage their members and the public to engage in public policy matters. For example, OMB Watch's web site contains a service called Activist Central that allows visitors to the site to send e-mail to members of Congress on selected issues. Similar services are offered through the National Education Association, the AFL-CIO, several environmental organizations, such as Defenders of Wildlife, and others. This research raises many questions about the value of such services in attempting to reach members of Congress other than one's own. To the extent that Congressional offices implement filters or keep e-mail addresses private to limit receipt of e-mail to that from constituents, it raises concerns about access in a democratic society.

    Source: OMB Watch Nonprofit News, http://ombwatch.org/www/ombw/html/npi.html. The full report is available in pdf format at http://www.ombwatch.org/ombw/npt/reports/emailsurvey.pdf.

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    (5) More on CRS Reports

    CRS has not put any of its reports on the web because it has not been granted legal authority by Congress to do so. There was legislation in the 105th Congress and now the 106th Congress to do just that. Senator McCain of Arizona is one of the sponsors of this effort.
    ALA (see http://www.ala.org/washoff/cd2003.html and many other organizations have passed resolutions to encourage Congress to make CRS reports available via the web; but so far no luck.

    However, it is possible to find selected CRS reports on various web sites.

    Three nongovernmental sites with significant CRS reports include: And although Penny Hill Press does not make CRS reports available free over the web site, they do provide an extensive bibliography of titles available for purchase at http://pennyhill.com. However, please note that many members of Congress will send you a copy of any report mentioned free of charge.

    Sources: Bert Chapman, Purdue University; e-mail: chapmanb@purdue.edu; GOVDOC-L, April 24, 1998; and Becky Fox, Michigan State University Library, Government Documents Unit, who has compiled a guide to Congressional Research Service publications at http://www.lib.msu.edu/foxre/crs.html.

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    (6) More Than 550 Government Information Librarians
    Set To Meet For Major Conference

    In what has become the Nation's premier event for Government information librarians and those concerned with Government information dissemination programs, more than 550 Federal depository librarians and Federal agency representatives are set to attend the 8th annual Federal Depository Conference. Sponsored by the Government Printing Office (GPO), the conference is being held Monday, April 12, through Thursday, April 15, 1999, at the Holiday Inn-Bethesda, 8120 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD (301- 652-2000).

    The conference is being held concurrently with the 54 th meeting of the Depository Library Council to the Public Printer. The Council is composed of 15 representatives of the Government information community who advise GPO on issues related to the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). Administered by GPO, the FDLP has more than 1,350 libraries nationwide that provide local, no-fee public access to information produced by Federal agencies.

    FDLP library collections include documents in print, microform, and CD-ROM formats, and provide links to Government Internet sites. In 1998, GPO distributed 14.4 million copies of approximately 39,000 tangible products in traditional and electronic formats to depository libraries. In addition, the libraries provide public access to GPO Access, GPO's acclaimed website (at http://www.access.gpo.gov), from which users currently retrieve an average of 19 million Federal documents each month.

    The four-day conference will include demonstrations of many World Wide Web sites such as O*Net, Elaws, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics website from the Labor Department, as well as the Bureau of the Census' American Factfinder and the National Climatic Data Center and STAT-USA websites from the Commerce Department. The Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Center for Education Statistics, among others, will present updates on their public information activities and products. A representative from the Energy Department will discuss plans for the DOE's Virtual Library of Energy, Science, and Technology. The Director of the Agriculture Department's National Agricultural Library will speak about the USDA Digital Publications Preservation Framework. Information will be provided on the expanded test of the GPO and National Technical Information Service Depository Library Electronic Image Pilot Project.

    GPO staff will discuss specifics on building the FDLP electronic collection, based on Managing the FDLP Electronic Collection: A Policy and Planning Document (currently available online at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/dpos/ecplan.html). A representative of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) will be on hand to discuss the recently completed Report on the Assessment of Electronic Government Information Products, commissioned by GPO from NCLIS (the report is currently available at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/nclisassessment/report.html). Demonstrations of the online Federal Register, the Code of Federal Regulations, the U.S. Code, and other popular databases available on GPO Access will also be provided. In addition, a selection of technical and information sessions for attendees will be provided, as well as tours of the National Library of Medicine, the U.S. Senate Library, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Central Library. Prior to the conference, regional librarian meetings will be held on Sunday, April 11.

    For additional information, please contact Ms. Sheila McGarr, phone 202-512-1119; fax 202-512-1432; e-mail at smcgarr@gpo.gov; or the web site at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/dpos/calendar.html.

    Michigan government documents librarians attending the conference included: Carole Callard (Library of Michigan), Sandra Church (University of Detroit), Amber Elder (University of Detroit), Carolyn Gaswick (Albion College), Paula Kaczmarek (Detroit Public Library), Ann Sanders (Library of Michigan), Debbi Schaubman (Michigan State University), Grace York (University of Michigan), and Margo Zieske (Monroe County). Apologies to anyone else not identified.

    Source: GPO News Release 99-10, April 6, 1999.

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    (7) New Law Forces Web Sites to Be Handicapped Accessible

    An obscure provision of the Workforce Investment Act (Section 508), passed last year, has recently become the focus of public attention as it mandates that certain web sites become handicapped accessible. New rules will apply within a few months to all government agencies and to everyone who does business with the federal government. The guidelines are voluntary for others, but it is anticipated that there will soon be new federal rules for all online publishing. For those currently impacted, the new law requires sites to restructure their content, design, and technology to allow "individuals with disabilities who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal department or agency to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of the information and data by such members of the public who are not individuals with disabilities." The rules include a ban on audio which lacks simultaneous text and restrictions on animated graphics. On May 13th, the U.S. Access Board's Electronic and Information Technology Access Advisory Committee submitted its final recommendations to bring the government into compliance with Section 508. The Justice Department's guide to Section 508 may be found at: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/508/508home.html.

    To see if your depository web page is disabled accessible, run it through BOBBY at http://www.cast.org/bobby/.

    Sources: Bytes in Brief, Issue 24, June 1999; Michael Aldrich, Government Documents Librarian, Ingram Library, State University of West Georgia, Carrollton, GA 30118-2000; Phone: (770) 830-2357; fax: (770) 836-6626; e-mail: maldrich@westga.edu; GOVDOC-L, May 6, 1999. For more information, see Web Content Accessibility Guidelines: Striving Towards Universal Access, an article by Carol M. Morrissey appearing in LLRX, May 17, 1999.

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    (8) USGOVSEARCH.COM Announcement Creates Controversy

    On May 17th, the Commerce Department suspended a controversial fee for usage of an Internet site which allows users to search millions of government pages from a single place. The new site will be operative, at least until June 1st, without a subscription fee. The search engine drew immediate attacks from legislators and public interest advocates who said that public information should be freely accessible and that it was inappropriate to charge a fee of $30 a month or $15 a day for searching government documents. The search engine allows searches of the more than 20,000 web sites managed by the government, including about 4 million web pages. The search service was created by the Commerce Department's National Technical Information Service (NTIS) and a private U.S. search engine company, Northern Light Technology. Revenue from the search service was to be split between the NTIS and Northern Light, depending upon which sources were tapped and who sold the subscriptions. The new search engine may be found at http://www.usgovsearch.com. Source: Bytes in Brief, Issue 24, June 1999.

    For more information, see U.S. To Offer Search Service That Links its Online Sites, an article by Jeri Clausing, New York Times, May 17, 1999; reported in GOVDOC-L, May 17, 1999. And the quick retraction at Government Halts New Search Service, by Jeri Clausing, New York Times, May 17, 1999; reported in GOVDOC-L, May 18, 1999.

    And in case you want even more commentary, Carl Hage provided the following analysis via GOVDOC-L (May 21, 1999):

    "This is a breakdown in reinvention, where user fees keep government working worse and costing more.

    The fallacy is that use fees are put in place to compensate for poor recordkeeping practices. Instead of simply storing documents on the file system of an ordinary web server, documents are often held in some proprietary format. This requires special software to convert, access, and search documents, and specialized private subscriptions are used for distribution.

    Because documents aren't published electronically in the usual way, they are invisible to all the Internet search engines. So instead of requiring agencies to publish conformant with usual standards, they build a private search tool and charge money for it. These fees just subsidize doing it wrong. [The documents published by GPO Access are invisible to search tools (they are in a WAIS server not HTTP) and the URLs are either temporary or are very long and complex.]

    Unfortunately, none of the articles mention this; they talk about how poor people can't afford $30 for a search, not the fact that government agencies publish with unsearchable and sometimes inaccessable methods. We should use the many good competing private (and free) search tools, not build a private government one.

    The OMB should rewrite it's recordkeeping practices:

    1. Redefine the meaning of "public notification" to require placing documents on a publically accessable Internet server (using common standards in practice).
    2. Redefine "archival" as having a document placed on at least 2 publically accessable Internet servers (other than records subject to privacy or secrecy). The Federal Depository Library system can be used to hold mirrored copies of agency servers.
    3. Require all electronic documents to have a permanently assigned (can't be withdrawn), easy to type, URL.
    4. Require all electronic documents to be compatible with standard Internet search tools.
    5. Require all existing document numbering systems to be mapped into a permanent URL.
    6. Require all electronic documents to be assigned index terms from a thesaurus of controlled vocabulary terms. HTML documents must have these terms inserted as META tags. Other documents must be listed in a metadata catalog stored with each site. Public domain software should be available to convert between popular metadata catalog formats and META tags in HTML documents.
    7. The controlled vocabularies used by the Federal government should be placed in the public domain and made accessable electronically. This means the Library of Congress subject index must be placed online in a redistributable/reusable form (it is copyrighted subscription only—in spite of the federal copyright laws). Open source software should be made available to convert the CVs into popular formats.
    8. Require all documents produced to have an announcement transmitted electronically using industry-standard push technology (e..g a gov newsgroup). These announcements should include metadata in a human & computer readable format, with open-source software to convert the humanized format into USMARC, RDF, etc. computerized formats.
    Note, none of the items above requires construction of a search engine. Now, it's just the opposite. Agencies are constructing search engines, but documents are not otherwise accessable and generally not indexed.

    Instead of just doing something simple like making documents accessable (to people and search tools), we've had a decade long effort to come up with metadata format standards (GILS). All the recordkeeping and publishing practices are excessivly expensive, and user fees keep this inefficient practice going. Editor's note: Carl Hage can be contacted via telephone at (408) 244-8410; e-mail: carl@chage.com; or by mail via C. Hage Associates, 1180 Reed Ave #51, Sunnyvale, CA 94086.

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    (9) Government Pulls Out of Search Venture

    The New York Times announced on June 15th that the U.S. Department of Commerce is no longer participating with Northern Light to provide access to government domain web information. In reaction, Northern Light has announced that schools and libraries can access the site free of charge. For the full article, see http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/06/cyber/capital/15capital.html.

    Source: Lois Aleta Fundis, Reference and Government Documents Librarian, Mary H. Weir Public Library, Weirton, WV 26062; E-mail: fundisl@weirton.lib.wv.us; Voice Mail: (304) 797-8510); GOVDOC-L, June 16, 1999.

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    (10) New York Times Celebrates Interactive Government Web Pages

    Rita Beamish has published an interesting article on Citizens' Electronic Inquiries Get Governments' Attention appearing in the May 20, 1999 issue of the New York Times.

    Goodbye, phone-menu torment. Adios, disembodied operators taking calls in the order received. A revolution in customer service is emerging on the government pages of the Web. Those daunting Web sites containing volumes of government data, images and icons are moving beyond the standard fare of search engines, links, forms that can be downloaded and the like. Now government officials actually accept questions via e-mail. And, more important, they send answers.
    I would provide the entire article but alas the New York Times wanted $15 for reprinting the article in RED TAPE! So track it down free via the New York Times Online while it is still available.
    Source: GOVDOC-L, May 21, 1999.

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    (11) Census 2000: How Your Library Can Help Make it a Success!
    By Debbie Gallagher, MEL

    Census 2000 is right around the corner and your library can be a vital partner in the effort to make sure everyone is counted. Remember, the thousands of statistics generated by the decennial census are the basis for distribution of billions of dollars of federal, state and local funds that help your library, your patrons, your community.

    Libraries are welcoming and accessible community centers that citizens have come to rely on for information and assistance. Your contacts, your knowledge, your concerns about the community are the keys to an accurate census. Start by spreading the word about the importance of the census. Set the record straight by helping to dispel the myths about the confidentiality and uses of the census.

    How Can Your Library Help?

    (1) Recruitment.

    The Census Bureau needs to recruit candidates for census taker positions in every neighborhood across the nation. Help by offering free testing and training space, by distributing printed materials, or by advertising census jobs in your newsletters or on public boards.

    (2) Be Counted Program.

    The Be Counted Program is a national campaign that targets the traditionally undercounted who cannot be reached by the usual direct mail methods. Be Counted forms are very much like the traditional short form census questionnaires and can be easily placed in accessible public places in your libraries.

    (3) Questionnaire Assistance Centers.

    The Census Bureau is looking for accessible public places where they can set up Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QACs). QACs are walk-in centers that will assist respondents who have questions about the Census or who otherwise need help in completing their questionnaire or who did not receive a questionnaire. Language assistance guides will be available in 46 languages.

    (4) Partnership Specialist Presentations.

    "This is Your Future. Don't Leave it Blank." Partnership Specialists are available to schedule one hour presentations at your library in order to talk about the importance of the census, to describe the benefits to your community, and to answer any questions that local residents might have.

    Of course, there are lots of exciting ways to get the word out about Census 2000. Visit the Census Bureau's Internet site (http://www.census.gov) to get partnership ideas. Visit MEL (http://mel.org) for information and downloadable forms on the Library Partnership Program. Or, e-mail or write and I'll send you more information: Debbie Gallagher, Government Information Specialist - MEL, Ann Arbor District Library, 2713 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor MI 48105; e-mail: dgallag@umich.edu.

    To talk directly to a Census 2000 expert, contact Kathryn M. Reisen, Government Partnership Specialist, Troy, (248) 288-4300.

    Thank you for your help -- from promoting the census to providing space or volunteers -- whatever you can do to make the Census 2000 picture complete for your community.

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    (12) Government Documents Humor: A Selection

    How Many GOVDOC-L Subscribers Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?

    Answer: 52

    1 to change the light bulb and post it to the list that the light bulb has been changed.

    14 to share similar experiences of changing light bulbs and how the light bulb could have been changed differently.

    7 to caution about the dangers of changing light bulbs.

    3 inquires to see if anyone has had updates to the "Changing Light Bulb Manual" since October 1998.

    10 confirmations that this was the last update that they had received.

    2 comments that they had inquired on Ask LPS, but had yet to receive a response.

    5 pointing out that the most recent "Changing Light Bulb Manual" is available via the DOE Information Bridge.

    5 comments that it was sad that light bulbs had migrated to electronic access only.

    2 Needs & Offers of the "Changing the Light Bulb Manual"---one a bound edition!

    2 comments that when light bulbs were under the Federal Power Commission that they lasted longer.

    1 final comment that back in the good old days, we didn't even need light bulbs!

    Source: Cindi Wolff, Manager, Reference Services, US Department of Interior Library; e-mail: cindi_wolff@ios.doi.gov; via GOVDOC-L, February 2,1999. Note: By the way, this response is based on a number of light bulb jokes floating out there --- I should definitely give credit to the best one about "discussion list subscribers" at http://www.legalnews.net/quotes/lists.htm -- and to the help provided my ALA roomie, Michele McKnelly, University of Wisconsin @ River Falls.

    More Humor : GovDoc Psalm 23

    The Public Printer is my tormentor.

    I shall not smile.

    He maketh me to work all day for naught .

    He leadeth me astray with misnumbered issues.

    His Roman numerals confound me.

    He changeth titles over and over for His own sake.

    Yea, when I walk through the shadow of missing and irregular issues, I find no respite, for He has dropped and added titles; He answereth not my letters, nor uses the item numbers; He sends not my claims, and microfiche for paper issues.

    My work never endeth.

    Changing class numbers and duplicate issues shall follow me All the days of my life.

    And I shall moan and groan in the Library Forever.

    Source; Gwen Newborg, Documents Librarian, Portland State University Library D506A, Portland, Oregon 97207; telephone: (503) 725-4126; e-mail: newborg@lib.pdx.edu; via GOVDOC-L, February 22, 1999.

    More Humor : The Documents Prayer

    Our Father who art in Washington,

    SuDoc be thy name,

    thy Depository come,

    thy Publication be done,

    in Microform as in Hard Copy.

    Give us this day our Daily Shipment.

    And forgive us our Class Numbers, as we forgive those who number against us.

    And lead us not into non-Depository status, but deliver us from the Post Office.

    For thine is the Census, and the Patents and the Monthly Catalog, forever.

    Amen

    Source: Hal Hall, 1976, via Suzanne Sears, Tulsa, and Grace York, University of Michigan Library Documents Center; GOVDOC-L, February 22, 1999.

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