Law libraries have a critical stake in the vitality of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and need to be involved in the forecasts and discussions now underway to chart a secure course for the future of the program. That was the central theme of a webinar sponsored by the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and hosted by AALL Director of Government Relations Emily Feltren on Thursday, April 19.
Cherie Givens, Assessment Specialist Librarian at the Government Printing Office (GPO), provided details about the effort to build a foundation for a national plan for the FDLP and explained why it’s important for all depository libraries to participate. GPO is collecting information now to discover, document, and represent the views of all library types in the program; that data will inform decision-making to craft a national plan most beneficial to both users and libraries.
That information is being collected over three stages. First, each FDLP library is encouraged to complete the library forecast questionnaire sent out by GPO in February. The questionnaire asks for feedback on preservation plans, education needs, and economic and demographic factors affecting depository collections and activities at the individual library level, as well as opinions on the relative value of planned and ongoing initiatives conducted by GPO’s Library Services and Content Management (LCSM) team. Cherie noted that GPO has never before conducted a research effort that surveyed the depository community with as many open-ended questions as this one.
Second, FDLP libraries are taking their completed library forecasts to the state level to develop state forecasts that document the needs, vision, and environment at which FDLP libraries operate locally, and to try to build a consensus on the needs and future roles of depositories in the state. GPO is giving each state considerable leeway about how to conduct its own forecast; while quite a few state efforts are being coordinated by their regional depository libraries, states are free to come together through state government documents groups or any other model that suits them. Peggy Jarrett, Reference & Documents Librarian at the University of Washington Gallagher Law Library, presented a short session about how depositories in the State of Washington are organizing their effort around an ad hoc committee of four librarians in the Northwest Government Information Network (NGIN).
Third, each state will work from its state forecast to develop a state focused action plan, documenting the top five goals and initiatives to be undertaken by depository libraries statewide. GPO staff will look at those state plans to see “where we see great things happening” and how GPO can complement those efforts, Cherie said. GPO asks all that all three stages be completed and submitted by June 30, 2012.
All three streams of data – the individual library forecasts, state forecasts, and state focused action plans – will inform a national plan for the FDLP to respond to the most pressing needs of both users and libraries. Along the way, GPO will author a series of white papers that address some of the issues that arise, and conduct additional online forums to seek comments and continue discussions with the FDLP community. Progress reports will be posted in GPO’s monthly newsletter, FDLP Connection.
Quantitative survey results will be analyzed in house by GPO, and Cherie anticipates that by the time the Depository Library Council meets in October, that data will be available to present to the community; she hopes to have at least some of the qualitative data available to discuss by that time as well. The information gathered “will help us to document the need for change” and to demonstrate that the national plan “represents what the community wants,” she said.
“All of this is designed to shape the direction for our future,” Cherie said. “What we need is to pinpoint where change is needed, and to chart a course to make those changes – to make the changes that would be most beneficial to the users and to our FDLP libraries.”
If those changes require amending the Title 44 mandates governing the program, Cherie said that “GPO will work with the Joint Committee on Printing to make changes where they’re appropriate and to see how we can be as flexible to meet your needs as we can be.”
David Walls, Preservation Librarian for GPO, said that “as you might expect from a document that was last amended or updated in 1962,” Title 44 does not provide any guidance on depository library operations in a digital environment. One of the changes to anticipate is “to specify that we’re talking about information dissemination and not publication distribution,” he said.
Sally Holterhoff, Government Information & Reference Librarian and Associate Professor of Law Librarianship at Valparaiso University Law School and chair of the recently formed AALL Task Force on the FDLP, opened the session by reminding attendees of the close connections between law libraries and the FDLP. In the 1978 House report accompanying the bill that would become PL 95-261, which made academic law libraries eligible for depository status, “Congress took note of the natural fit between the service and research missions of law libraries and the goals of the depository program” Sally said. “The federal government is the source of official, authentic versions of the primary law on which our legal system is based, as well as a wealth of other vital government information. Our vital stake in the program makes it important for law libraries to play a part in the forecast of the future of the program.”