DLC Vision: Future Scenarios

"2021: A Depository Odyssey"

Dream up the future. What does government information look like?

Is HAL in charge of your depository library? Why, why not? Are you Dave, out in the cold? What does your service look like? Your collections? What do you do in a typical day?

For the final session of the Spring 2006 meeting of the Depository Library Council in Seattle we’d like to hear from you. What’s your “future scenario” for the Federal Depository Library Program, for government information?

Some elements to include:

  • collections - physical and electronic
  • services
  • collaboration
  • relationship with federal government - governance
  • structure of "system" (FDLP)
  • metadata - cataloging - invisible (virtual) finding aids - whatever you want to call it

Any others you can think of, or want to include.
Duncan Aldrich and Bill Sudduth have dreamed up their versions of the FDLP in 2015 or 2021. Does it look like your vision?

Please email your Future Scenarios to bselby@virginia.edu.
You can also read and comment on any Future Scenarios that have been posted.

We'll collect the future scenario's posted and discuss them at the final session of DLC, Wednesday, 10:30am, in Seattle.

So, take charge, BE HAL! Let us know what you'd like the future to be. Let us know what you think the future will be.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

2015 - A Depository Vision (John Stevenson)

In 2015, American citizens enjoy no-fee access to a selection of documents available online through GPO Access as well as to the handful of titles distributed in tangible formats through the Federal Depository Library Program. Members of Congress no longer complain about the expense of “shipping dead trees” around the country. Instead, members of Congress have started to complain about the costs of reformatting older electronic information to keep it useful.

The future has some bright points. Recognizing the incomplete coverage of online formats, the GPO implemented new models for selecting online and tangible items in 2007 to better meet the needs of participating libraries. To the relief of many, the new online selection process offered the option of Online Plus, which enabled libraries to use online access as their primary format but to automatically receive printed copies of those titles which are not published online. This option resulted in the virtual disappearance of microfiche from the program since Congressional committees’ refusal to publish some titles online was the primary motivation for many libraries selecting microforms.

In the 2010s, FDLP libraries continue to cooperate to help their patrons. With the growing number of titles available online, the administrators of many Regional Depository libraries no longer saw the maintenance of tangible collections as fitting their institutional missions, leading to a dramatic drop in the number of Regionals. Informal networks of librarians filled many of the gaps but libraries in many states were unable to find Regional Libraries willing to service their needs.

The depository program’s electronic collection compliments the light and dark archives, and GPO makes digital service copies of publications available without fee to FDLP library users. The vision of “everything” being online seems to be within grasp, especially since GPO received special one time funding to ship the collections of five Regional depositories that left the program to its archives.

Acknowledging the growing dependence on Web resources to locate and access information, the FDLP moved virtually all of its operations to the Web. The availability of online indexes and substantial digital content pleases most people, who no longer need to use a printed 20th Century Monthly Catalog to locate a classic title about the boll weevil or need to wash their hands after accessing information from earlier decades.

Since 2010, titles from the executive branch of government have generally not distributed in paper format. The libraries continuing to collect tangible government publications use several cooperative electronic clearinghouses to share information about desirable titles available from publishing agencies. The clearinghouses offer librarians information on how to obtain the printed materials, kits, and media that are no longer distributed without a specific request.

What do depository librarians do in the new online world? In the new order, there are still hundreds of libraries designated as depositories spread throughout the United States but few have documents departments or divisions as functions are mainstreamed. Although tangible depository collections are becoming smaller, larger depositories still hold a large percentage of their old tangible collections. In many libraries, depository librarians spend their work days improving bibliographic access using new records for old titles created by GPO. Where staffing allows and space is at a premium, the existence of digital versions results in projects to withdraw decaying printed volumes and to substitute online versions.

When they’re not substituting online for print in their libraries, government information specialists still go hunting and ask GPO about new titles GPO to ensure that they’re given some priority in the FDsys. The FDsys (implemented in 2007 as Harding) harvests and archives digital publications. Harding gathers immense quantities of material and indexes it, but human judgment is still needed to determine whether a version is valid for public use, or whether a file is an errata or a complete corrected edition.

Depository libraries in 2015 face similar challenges to those faced a decade earlier: competing priorities prevent many libraries from doing the best job possible. Local data storage remains an unfunded mandate. While many libraries allocate some server space for titles of local importance, most see data storage and authentication as federal responsibilities.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Future Scenario (Duncan Aldrich)

I've enjoyed the upbeat pitch of the several FDLP future scenarios submitted to this blog. This is my second - which varies from the first primarily in my best guess as to the scope of the future FDLP partnership between libraries and the federal government (now focused on GPO).

I am intentionally ignoring the various names that other "scenarioists" have given for the future federal agency responsible for providing public access to federal government information - I like the creative thinking they've contributed along these lines but I'm just going to refer to it here as GPO regardless of how the agency might evolve or change.

What seems reasonable to me is that the nature of the library community's presence in the partnership will, on the one hand, expand significantly and, on the other, contract.

Contraction first. A possible future scenario is one in which there are approximately 12 full FDLP paper collections and 4 full digital collections. (We'll assume that fiche are no longer with us - yea!). All items distributed to these collections are authenticated, verified, and versioned -- and accepted as legal documents by the courts (and whomever). Ongoing authenticity of the transferred materials is assured by the LOCKSS like infrastructure supporting the digital component of these collections. These libraries (and folks, this is of course + or -) are backed up by the GPO/NARA paper and digital dark archives - hopefully two including the one that's moved from DC to Culpepper.

It is possible that 2 of the 12 full collections also serve as light archives, that 1 or 2 other institutions support light archives, or that there are no light archives.

As far as depository libraries having an obligation to the GPO/FDLP for managing collections - this is it, these are the program libraries.

And then Expansion. All other libraries have free, ready access to the full FDLP collections either through the GPO's FDSys or through their nearest Full collection. While many libraries depend on remote access to these resources - basically functioning as government information service centers - others build local collections, taking advantage of the program in which all libraries are welcome to establish a profile on the FDSys to have digital files pushed to their online collections replete with metadata, or similarly to select individual items for download. There are no ties for collecting these materials - they can add and delete them from their collections at will and need guarantee access to only their primary clientele. Libraries selecting materials from the FDSys may participate in the LOCKSS like infrastructure. Although many of these libraries will support government information specialists who have close ties to the FDLP and GPO, there will be no need for an official designation.

The large collections FDLs currently hold on deposit will be dealt with as follows:
1) a concerted effort will be made to transfer materials to complete the dark archives, light archives, and 12 Full tangible collections
2) legislation will provide for the transfer of ownership of remaining FDLP collection materials from the federal government to the libraries
3) OR remaining collection materials will be auctioned on EBAY to reduce the national debt.

Local reference services will be assisted through an online reference service coordinated by OCLC (or whomever). This reference service will be complemented by various user guides and tutorials, and a knowledgebase. A syndicate of subject experts in certain fields will be coordinated within the FDLP to assist reference librarians on "tough"questions. Training for information specialists providing reference service will be coordinated by the FDLP in collaboration with GICLA. This training will be freely available on the Web - live Webcasts will be recorded and made available on the Web for future access. Annual conferences may be held, a majority of attendees visiting virtually on Webcasts.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Future Scenario (anonymous)

With the advent of P.L.116-66, the Web, Internet, and Media Publishing Savings Act – WIMPS Act in 2019 much less information is available to the U.S. citizen than formerly. This act instructs agencies to post only the barest minimum of information about their activities. In addition, it drastically restricts the public’s rights under FOIA to request additional information.

The climate of fear and paranoia engendered by years of terrorist bombings, together with the fact that the average American sees only about 5 minutes of hard news per day (both newspaper and radio audiences have drastically declined since the turn of the century) has produced a climate in which Americans support, or at least, don’t oppose, censorship by their government. The tight job market, and continual lose of jobs to China mean that many Americans hold two jobs to make ends meet, and simply don’t care about anything other than their day to day existence, and getting the lowest price on jeans.

Wexis still makes a fair amount of information available – but only to paying customers. The non-profit, Abbott Hoduski Foundation among others, uses FOIA requests regularly to obtain information which it then posts to the internet and delivers to libraries wishing to store it locally. However, P.L.116-66 will squeeze this flow of information even further.

Government Information Centers, primarily at libraries, operate in a collaborative arrangement to obtain and web post information about U.S. government activities. This collaborative network is very loosely coordinated by the Government Web Office (GWO, formerly called the Government Printing Office), in conjunction with the Government Information Centers Library Association (GICLA).

Local storage of electronic files became very important when one of the “dark electronic archives” was attacked by terrorists in 2013 and about 60% of the files were destroyed. Since electronic government information is still free, when its available at all, research institutions see the value in hosting it locally. Many researchers have exploited government data sets to demonstrate, among other things, that the earth has warmed an average of 2° Fahrenheit since the turn of the century. Locally housing this digital information allows researchers to access it without additional barriers that the government is now imposing.

The two tangible dark archives of government information, maintained by the GWO have been used several times to re-digitize digital files that somehow vanished from the Internet. With sea level rising, the 2009 decision move the Washington, D.C. dark archive to Culpepper, Virginia proved to be a good one. Additionally, the 15 distributed full government information collections of printed materials are proving their value. While most users of government information are happy with electronic access, the printed documents are more trusted by historical researchers than the internet versions.

Access to locally stored as well as agency posted government information is primarily via the Franklin Digital System which is contracted out by the GWO to Moogle (the merged Microsoft/Google empire). No additional metadata is added because the fingerprint recognition built into computers is able to deduce what the searcher needs after analyzing the present search and correlating it with his or her previous searches. Individual Government Information Centers have either written software to search locally stored files, or use Moogle to access local files. Those concerned with antiquated privacy issues have usually written local search software that doesn’t work as well as Moogle.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Future Scenario (anonymous)

Future Scenario: After a period transition to online format for U.S. government information, a number of print copies of government documents are deposited at designated depository libraries in order to insure the historical record of government information.

Monday, March 06, 2006

2021: A Depository Odyssey (Lori Smith, Southeastern Louisiana University)

In 2021 the U.S. Information Dissemination and Preservation Agency (IDPA), formed in 2010 by combining GPO and NARA, provides full-text online access to every federal publication ever issued in any format from the founding of the country to the present. This database of public documents is called "Franklin." A separate database of all currently classified documents is also maintained by IDPA. Access to it is restricted according to the security clearance of the user. Users with appropriate clearances can access the classified information produced by all branches and agencies of the government. This classified database is called "George." After the legislatively established period of time has elapsed, materials automatically migrate from George into Franklin.

A bibliographic record has been created for each publication that includes a link to the copy available on the agency web site and/or to the archived copy maintained by the IDPA. For manuscript materials, text versions have also been archived. The publications can be located and accessed by searching just the bibliographic records, or for those with more time and/or more complicated research needs, the full text of the publications can be searched.

Print copies of each publication are maintained in a public access archive in Washington, DC, and in a dark archive outside the DC area.

To encourage public access to information beyond Washington, the Information Dissemination and Preservation Network (IDPN) has been established. In a partnership between the federal government and each state government, one IDPN Partner Library has been designated in each state to serve as a mirror site for Franklin. Contents of the database are saved on the state sites twice each day. If a member of the public tries to access a document in Franklin while the database is down, the link is automatically redirected to the nearest state mirror site.

Geographically distributed throughout each state are a number of Federal Information Assistance Centers (FIACs) that are IDPN Associates. Members of the public who need assistance in finding federal information are referred to FIACs. These centers, which are most often located inside libraries, provide free access to Franklin and other online resources. Many FIACs also maintain collections of print and electronic materials relevant to local needs. In addition to assisting walk-in patrons, FIACs answer questions via phone, e-mail, online chat, etc. The centers also offer patrons the opportunity to download a free copy of any document to their own portable information devices.

The IDPA and the IDPN Partner Libraries take an active role in training the professionals who staff the FIACs. A number of methods are used to ensure that they are up-to-date on the latest information technology, changes in federal information policy, and the availability of new information resources. Those who are willing to complete a formal course of training have the option of becoming Certified Federal Information Specialists. The IDPA also uses several methods to obtain input from the IDPN Partners and the FIAC staff members on a number of policy and usability issues.

The IDPN is similar in many ways to the former FDLP, but those who remember the former program agree that the IDPN has developed into a much more effective partnership.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Future Scenario (Duncan Aldrich)

One thought/question (mine) is whether we are thinking far enough out of the box. Are we too stuck in revisiting traditional solutions? It may be that the changes we face in the increasingly dynamic information environment are so dramatic that completely new solutions are needed to extend the FDLP as a viable program in the future.

With this in mind, trying to think of a program that would be viable given information and user trends, I made up the following future scenario of the FDLP. Perhaps this is 8 to 10 years in the future. Three things I think we need in particular to think outside the box are metadata, intermediation, and the impact of the FDSys. The top part below on collections is more whimsical than well thought. The remainder I think may well be accurate – if indeed there still is an FDLP based on depository libraries. If you find some of my content annoying or downright dumb, remember, this is put forward to poke holes in. My basic thought is if we can glean a sense of what the future will be we can better prepare to get there.

While there are many libraries that continue to have collections of FDLP materials on their shelves and continue to receive them as depository libraries, there are far fewer than there were in 2005. Perhaps we now have 300 libraries in the program dealing with more than nominal digital or tangible collections. Ten collections are full (or almost) - these ten are called Full Regionals and are actually distributed collections shared by 4 or 5 libraries covering five or six states each. These are circulating collections having some but not a lot of preservation activity. Two full collections are housed monolithically in single institutions - light archives. These two are partially supported by federal dollars in order that they can afford to meet the light archive criteria. Their collections are more archival than circulating – they operate more like special collections departments than like circulating collections. A GPO / NARA partnership maintains a full collection as a dark tangible archive.

Most access to federal information is done over the Network - which of course is currently true today as well. The virtual collections are housed in the FDSys and its mirror, and in two libraries that have made a deliberate effort to mirror the e-collections in FDSys. When library users request materials in libraries that don’t own an item, the usual procedure is to grab an e-copy from one of these sites and either give the patron the file or print it out (at either their or the library’s expense). Sixty libraries participate in a LOCKSS partnership which further provides for redundancy, though these are mostly not complete collections. LOCKSS is fed by the FDSys. 100 to 200 libraries actively retrieve and load individual files from the FDSys for public access - but these are mostly transitory postings along the lines of items currently selected and disposed of after 5 years - no guarantees of ongoing maintenance. These items mostly support special local collections and projects (Hurricane relief, Martin Luther King’s birthday, burial of nuclear waste, etc.). These libraries have the option of having these materials pushed to them from FDSys via a profile, or of selecting and downloading individual documents.

Items included in the FDSys are harvested from federal sites with some level of intervention by GPO staff to help direct the crawler and categorize them (by agency, subject, whatever). Librarians specializing in subjects help identify fugitive documents.

A question on which I have no prediction - how many libraries will remain in the program to serve as service centers with little or nothing in the way of collection? Will there be a class of libraries known as service centers and what is it they will be?

There is simply too much information out there to provide full MARC cataloging. Additionally, the public is not interested in MARC cataloging, a system designed mostly to inventory library holdings. The public generally prefers using full text indexing along the lines of Google so there is a decreasing use of OPACs, AND full text search technologies have evolved to include limited (often machine generated) searchable fields so are much better at precision searching. GPO has adopted a high end full text software application that provides this fielded indexing - human intervention is minimal, primarily for quality control. Fields are either inserted by agencies in the original XML document (XML is standard for text items by this time) or are generated by the indexing software. Because everything is xml libraries collecting these objects can create their own access tools. Some fuller cataloging (MARC perhaps) is done for materials deemed important enough for tangible distribution, particularly legislative materials.

This is the hardest part to figure - how do we insinuate ourselves into the digital arena to assist users in locating materials relevant to their information needs. I am particularly concerned about this because I think the Web is the primary place we will find our users (decreasingly at our ref desks) so how do we intermediaryize things there? The national online service along the Illinois model will develop. I particularly liked a scenario Walt Warnig described to me in a sidebar conversation describing an FDLP network of experts/specialists:

"Technologically, one single librarian with special expertise could be accessed by everyone in the country or beyond, but physically, no single librarian could handle such a load. We must have gatekeepers. A gatekeeper might be this: an expert FDLP librarian could be accessed by other FDLP librarians (and local patrons), but not by just anyone anywhere or by non-FDLP librarians."

Will libraries be able to cooperate to develop very useful Network based tools for assisting users? We already have a variety of handouts up there, but can we get some more elaborate user aids that fully incorporate technologies available on the Web?

Future Scenario (Bill Sudduth)

Future Scenario (lets go way out of the box)

Accessing government information in 2025 or the results of the America's Town Meeting Act of 2022.

Government Information will be at America's finger tips in the year 2025. American's will expect full disclosure and complete and accurate information immediately. Some of this will be provided by public pod-casted media outlets and electronic news distribution services. Links to relevant information sources will accompany the information stream accessible to all Americans.

There will be public information access service centers that will help individuals locate needed information. Much of this will be on demand and will take place as part of the public's electronic town-hall participation in governmental decisions.

The America's Town Meeting Act allows for no more than 10% of the Congress (House or Senate) to be thrown out on an annual basis. Federal spending on all programs comprising more than 5% of the budget are voted in referenda that include time limits for that program to prove success or not.

Each congressional district will have one service center staffed by one or several information experts; while one library in each state will act as an information aggregator/ short-term information archive. These state-level archives will be connected and maintain redundant back-up systems.

Congress will not sit as one body but as multiple bodies linked through web-casts or video hook-ups. Since government is largely information driven * large numbers of federal government employees will be dispersed throughout the country. Secure information will flow over secure networks but will be subject to time limits * (ie after some days or hours) depending on the level of security the information will become public.

Citizens will need the following tools to access and use government information:

Network connection with secure transmission capabilities. Information filtering devices that will sort information by level of interest or economic activity. Secure transmission and ID protocols that allow for participation in town-hall like decisions. Software that verifies and certifies information transmitted from information providers for authenticity and accuracy. Collections will become artifacts for information archeologists whose main function will be to sift for actual facts and correct errors in the human record. Metadata systems were replaced several years 2010 when Microsoft invented full-text voice-driven searching. By 2015 all accents and languages were successful 99.99% of the time in accessing information no matter what the language.