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.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Toward a Vision of the Government Information Environment of the 21st Century: A Draft Outline

Prepared by the Depository Library Council
July 22, 2005

The Federal Depository Library Program operates in an environment that has changed drastically over the past decade. The federal government has increasingly migrated its information resources to the Web and the Web is increasingly becoming the preferred avenue of access for many if not most information users. Federal Depository Libraries are no longer exclusive locations for access to government information. The current information context raises questions in four key areas: developing new roles for libraries in the non-exclusive government information environment; managing collections and delivering content; adding value; and deploying expertise. Discussion prompted by these questions will help shape the community’s vision of the government information environment.

Depository Library Council members are using the following questions to guide us as we draft papers on each of these important challenges. These papers will be posted in early September for wide comment and discussion. It is our hope that these papers will help us focus the discussion as we envision our future as providers of government information at the Fall Depository Library Conference. You can post comments here: http://dlcvisionoutline.blogspot.com

While we welcome comments on the outline at this time, we encourage your more deliberative attention to the papers to be posted in September.

Please post general comments here, or see below to comment on specific sections of the outline.


  • I hope general comments as well as comments related to each specific topic will be posted to this blog.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 02, 2005 9:19 PM  

  • Could we have an RSS feed set up for this blog like you do for the FDLP Desktop?

    Thanks for providing this platform where we can dialog with each other as well as with DLC and GPO.

    By Blogger Daniel, at August 03, 2005 12:43 PM  

  • One thing that is badly needed in redesigning the access and use of government information is figuring out how to involve the end user. I think any final vision document should broadly outline some approach to soliciting feedback from the public at large. In-library and web site visit surveys are not going to give a good awareness of the people who need to reached. So where do we go?

    A few pure brainstorming (i.e. not neccesarily practical) ideas:

    A set of short (5 - 10) question surveys put into Social Security and Government payroll checks.

    Partnering with a survey group to conduct a series of phone surveys.

    Direct mail surveys to random addressses.

    A short survey enclosed with next year's tax forms.

    By Blogger Daniel, at August 04, 2005 4:49 PM  

  • Following up on Daniel's comments, how about a webcounter on federal agency websites? For example, for certain Census pages, like American Fact Finder, a counter could indicate how many visitors have used the site. Another useful link for all federal government websites could be a link to information about the local federal depository library, that can be used by the patron. This could help the patron get the professional assistance they need and the web counter could let us know the most popular sites. The webcounter stats could allow all federal depositories to focus on target areas of needed information.

    By Blogger Mike, at August 08, 2005 1:07 PM  

  • This is a general comment that addresses a concern mentioned on the GOVDOC-L listserv. However, I think it also applies here.

    Why do so many public libraries tend to stay quiet? Probably because we’re too busy with too many roles to visit more and more websites asking for our input. Or because we know there is no way we can do half the things being suggested as ways for libraries to partner with FDLP in the future. Budget cuts have hit hard, and many of us are lucky to keep up with our other duties, let alone depository responsibilities. I still consider myself a depository librarian, still come to the rescue of other staff here when they get stumped by a government-related question, and still believe that I serve an important role here. I argued a few years ago that our library should remain in the depository program. But I am also the only reference librarian, the only periodicals librarian, and the only genealogy librarian in this building. Email takes all the time I can spend to catch up with what’s going on with the depository system; I really can’t go through too many other sources of information without ignoring other areas for which I am responsible.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 18, 2005 8:06 PM  

  • These comments are in response to the discussion paper posted 9/6/2005:

    The discussion paper has several positive aspects. The paper acknowledges (though not endorsing) the benefits of local deposit of electronic materials (pgs 9-10); it does endorse full no-fee access to electronic publications (p. 13); it acknowledges problems with digital rights management (DRM) software (p. 13); and on several pages it offers interesting and practical ideas for libraries wishing to extend their reach and expertise into the digital realm.

    There are significant negatives to the discussion paper as written, and I hope that community input can improve the final product. My biggest complaint about the paper is that DLC does not clearly endorse the deposit of fully functional electronic files into libraries as part of being a depository. A close second is that its opposition to DRM software is tempered by their suggestion that digital files distributed to depositories be "incorporated and fully exploited within their local digital environments." To me this sounds like "in-library use only" or "authenticated users only." That's no way to treat taxpayer purchased data.

    The discussion paper also seems to suffer from some questionable assumptions such as:

    1) "First, the World Wide Web has become the preferred medium through which the public seeks access to information, including government information." (p. 2) - Seeking information may not be same as using information. Case in point - A user may use irs.gov to find what publication they need, but will want the publication in paper.

    2) "Google and other search engines provide “smart” indexing to federal and state government information sites," (p. 2) - What do the authors mean by "smart indexing?" Try to find the current strength of the National Guard on regular Google.

    3) "The public increasingly favors direct access to Web-based federal information over the alternative of visiting a local FDL." - This ignores the possibility that the public could be accessing a digital file over the web that has been deposited with a Federal Depository Library.(p. 3)

    3) Various references to Google Uncle Sam on page 5. - How many people in the general public use Google Uncle Sam over general Google? Should we put in a lot of effort working with a resource who usage pales in comparison to main Google?

    3)"Many depository librarians believe that their libraries should focus on serving as information centers for Federal government information.." (p. 10) - What does "many" mean? Has anyone surveyed the community other Free Government Information's unscientific poll showing 90% support for depositing electronic files?

    4) Fewer than 10 tangible collections are enough (see discusion on p. 11) - Where did this number come from? Any research?

    One last general problem that I have with the paper is all three posssible Federal Depository Library Program futures mentioned in the discussion paper envision the end of the Federal Depository Library Program: Fold, Status Quo and Proactive. Fold needs no explanation, Status Quo says FDLs will wither away, and even the Proactive scenario says "It is likely in this scenario that the status of designated FDLs becomes increasingly moot; in effect, all libraries function to some extent as government information access centers." Left unconsidered is a vigorous (though likely smaller) system of Federal Depository Libraries that provide full, no-fee access to government information that through local deposited files and simultaneous user agreements for agency databases.

    By Blogger Daniel, at September 06, 2005 10:55 PM  

  • I wanted to submit my comments on the Sept. Council Vision Document. I tried submitting to the visionspot blog but it wouldn't take any username or password I submitted it so I'll submit them to you directly.

    The overall conclusions of Council's Sept. 2005 discussion paper are valid and reflect the need for the depository community to support GPO's efforts to make the Federal Depository Library Program a primarily electronic program in the years to come.

    However, there are two caveats I wish to point out. The biggest one is that the document is extremely utopian and naïve if its authors believe that individual federal depository libraries, the Association of Research Libraries, GPO, and other entities are going to digitize the entire legacy collection of the FDLP. Anyone with a modicum of historical understanding of federal agency information technology initiatives and programs will realize that implementing such programs takes much longer than anticipated and is far more expensive than anticipated. Look at the difficulty the IRS and FBI have had with their computer systems and information sharing abilities!

    Comparable problems have occurred at many other federal agencies as they seek to integrate their dispersed information sharing resources, networks, and institutional information collecting and disseminating cultures. The delays GPO is currently experiencing in bring up its first Integrated Library System (ILS) are yet another illustration of the protracted time period required to install and implement dependable electronic access to even relatively modest federal information resources databases.

    While GPO and these aforementioned agencies should look carefully at providing dependable and dispersed digital access to current and future government publications, it is the height of folly to expect there will be a complete historical digitization of U.S. Government publications that were distributed to depository libraries in tangible format. Proposed retrospective digitization does not cover the enormous body of historical and contemporary government publications falling outside FDLP's jurisdiction such as the National Academies, Congressional Research Service, NTIS, and numerous other federal information resources. Consequently, Council should revise its vision document to incorporate this reality and let FDLP libraries and their administrators know that they should not be seduced by the illusion that they can throw away their historical print and microform legacy collections in the chimerical belief that they will be completely digitized.

    A second caveat I want to mention concerns what happens if we place exclusive reliance on GPO's PURL servers for electronic access to U.S. Government publiccations. This is fine when GPO's PURLs are working effectively, but when they are not it makes dependable access frustrating. While right to promote the use of LOCKSS, Council should also take steps to monitor the spped and response time of GPO's PURL servers and GPO should be able to document how frequently its servers provide less than optimal response times to depository library usrs and usrs outside of depository libraries who experience protracted delays in retrieving electronic government information resources. It is not good user service for a user to have to wait forever for a document to be downloaded when they may be able to access it more quickly when it's in tangible format. This vision document should also recognize that the longer a document is that a greater amount of time will be required to download the document.

    I hope Council, GPO, and the depository community will take a prudent and measured approach to implementing emerging government information delivery and dissemination systems. These entities should recognize that 21st century federal information delivery will be a hybrid mixture of tangible and electronic formats and that it is imprudent for libraries and government information librarians to expect their users government information needs to be met exclusively by a single format. We need to recognize that some government information resources such as maps and lengthly congressional committee hearings (e.g. Appropriations Committees) are best suited for tangible format distribution from a user services perspective while many other materials are beneficial in both tangible and electronic formats.

    Thank you for your consideration of these opinions.

    Posted for
    Bert Chapman
    (by Barbie Selby)

    By Blogger BarbieUVA, at September 15, 2005 3:21 PM  

  • We think Daniel Cornwall's recent comments regarding the DLC Vision statement were thoughtful and thorough. We'd like to add a few additions and stress some of his more important points. We thank the DLC for opening the discussion on the future of the FDLP and offer this constructive criticism in the hope that the DLC will find some information of use to the final draft. We feel that there are strong reasons for having an FDLP into the future.

    We believe that the draft could be greatly improved by changing its tone in Part I from a negative focus ("no longer exclusive...," "superseded FDLs," "curtain call for FDLP") to a positive vision of the role of libraries in the future. The tone of the current draft seems to imply that FDLP libraries need to recapture what was once a captive audience.

    Rather than focusing only on "access" (and thereby ignoring and diminishing the importance for libraries to select, acquire, organize, and preserve information for a constituency), Part I could describe both the effects and opportunities of digital information distribution including the provision of new and better services. We believe that the vision statement would be improved if it, instead, took a more positive and innovative approach to the future, rather than looking to the past.

    Here are some specific changes that could make it both stronger and more forward-looking.

    1. On the effect of the web on access, it would be more accurate to say that the web adds a new, welcome, and very useful way for some (though far from all) citizens to get information.

    2. The DLC vision should describe the opportunities for FDLs to facilitate access to ALL citizens. Many citizens still do not have broadband access, and Americans are now adopting broadband more slowly than they have in the past. Many government web sites are designed to be most effective if the user has broadband access. Therefore, there are opportunities for libraries to facilitate access to all citizens. (This can include providing public broadband terminals and having digital and print copies on hand in local collections.)

    3. The vision needs to recognize that the ability of users to "access" government information is not enough; libraries should make information easier to find and use. Digitally-distributed information provides opportunities for many different aggregations and views of the vast amount of information available from the government. We already see that, for the government itself, one "portal" is not enough. FirstGov, GPO Access, fedrnd.osti.gov, science.gov, Ben's Guide, and THOMAS are just a few of the "portals" available. We take the view that more-views-are-better because each can cater to a specific user group. Libraries have the opportunity to build such views based on their own collections that include, not just federal government information, but also information from local and international governments, private publishers and institutional repositories. Libraries should encourage and facilitate such use and re-use of government information and should actively participate in such use and re-use. Providing pointers to information on servers that are not controlled by the library is only one way to do this. A more secure and sustainable approach is to build actual digital collections. By building focused, locally controlled, digital collections that include government information as well as non-government information, libraries can make it easier for users to find information.

    4. While the DLC vision addresses some roles for GPO, it omits some crucial ones. One essential role for GPO is to provide no-fee, fully functional digital content. Another is to take an active approach to notifying libraries and the public of all new and changed content. Those looking for government information should not be required to browse or spider government web sites hoping to find new or changed information. The DLC vision statement should clearly state that GPO must actively notify libraries of new information based on library-defined profiles (similar to item lists) and either "push" new content to FDLP libraries or allow for the easy "pull" by libraries of content they select.

    5. The vision needs to identify roles that none but libraries will fulfill. The vision statement could describe at least some of these roles. These could include selecting and organizing and integrating materials from different sources (e.g., the federal government, private sector, other governments) to create integrated collections for particular constituencies; reusing and recombining information to create new information services; and preserving information. While the private sector and the government will certainly provide some useful tools and services, it would be wrong for the library community to assume that government or market priorities will always match the needs of our users. We should not assume that others will fill in gaps left by libraries shirking their responsibilities. Libraries must also recognize that the web has not created an environment where the private sector will assume responsibilities for no-fee, permanent public access to all information for all users forever. While it makes sense to use tools created by others (e.g., Google, GPO collection, private sector products etc.) as long as they exist and are useful, libraries should not ignore their own responsibilities for providing collections, tools, and services.

    While the remainder of the draft promotes the concept of "service," those parts are negatively affected by Part I. Instead of describing a future in which libraries can offer enhanced services by making use of the opportunities of digital information, the services described are rather passive and do little more than piggy-back on services actually offered by others (government and private sector).

    We offer some ideas of what might be a fourth "possible future for the FDLP" in our paper, Government Information in the Digital Age: The Once and Future Federal Depository Library Program (Journal of Academic Librarianship, May 2005, Vol.31, No.3, pp198-208.) particularly in the sections "The Once and Future FDLP" and "Stakeholder Roles." We won't repeat those ideas here, but instead will list a few small examples of possible future FDLP library services.

    1. Information should be used and reused. A first year graduate student created GovTrack.us which draws information from THOMAS, House and Senate pages, Congressional Budget Office, and Federal Election Commission and creates new information for tracking and researching activities of Congress. What if libraries did things like this? Libraries such as Oregon State University and the California Digital Library have done just such projects in the past and can do more of this in the future, especially if digital deposit is part of the future FDLP.

    2. The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) (trac.syr.edu) actively acquires information from the government through FOIA and other means and assembles it for public use. Libraries equipped to accept digital deposit would also be able to include in their collections FOIA-acquired information and "fugitive" documents; in so doing they would facilitate projects like TRAC by providing regular updates of public data through their digital selection, acquisition, and delivery technologies.

    3. Libraries regularly find broken "PURLs" and dutifully report them to GPO. If there was digital deposit, libraries could provide pointers to the local copy and the original so that when a PURL breaks, the user still has a copy of the document while the broken PURL is being fixed.

    4. All libraries do not have all the digital amenities of large, better-funded, libraries. Many of the users of such libraries may also lack the tools (e.g., broadband access, up-to-date hardware and software), training, and experience increasingly required to find, locate, and use information on the Internet. But even small libraries could help users by acquiring copies of needed information once and adding that information to a local collection (on a stand-alone PC, or even CD or DVD) so that users could get those documents instantly rather than re-downloading them. Digital deposit could also facilitate innovative collaborations between large and small libraries.

    5. While digital versions of information are often useful, the digital format is not always the most usable for simple reading, browsing, preserving, or even reference. Libraries could acquire ready-to-print versions of digital documents and print them for their print collection or provide a local print-on-demand service.

    6. Academic libraries are increasingly creating Institutional Repositories (IRs) for storing digital versions of academic research. Libraries could use those IRs for storing local copies of digital government information, thus creating integrated collections from multiple sources and providing the same tools for finding and locating government information that they provide for academic research.

    It seems to us that the current draft assumes that GPO will provide permanent, no-fee access to all digital government information. GPO, however, does not have the ability to make such a guarantee. Because GPO is a government agency that is subject to rules and budgets set by others, is subject to pressure from the private sector not to compete, and even has a public printer who has characterized Congressional support for permanent public no-fee access as a "hand out" rather than as an essential role of government, the DLC vision statement should not base its possible futures for the FDLP on this assumption.

    Finally, we are well aware that, while a few of us have been vocally advocating digital deposit for some time, govdoc-l and other forums have not had extensive discussion of this issue. Many librarians have been quiet while a few have expressed opinions. At freegovinfo.info we did a very un-scientific survey and received 153 (92%) positive responses to the question, "Should GPO deposit digital files in FDLP libraries?" As Daniel Cornwall has suggested (govdoc-l post on 9/22/05, Subject: "85% Library Support for local deposit of federal e-pubs?") GPO's own, more comprehensive poll of FDLP libraries shows that there are *few* libraries (15%) that have *little* interest in digital deposit which implies that *most* libraries *are* interested in digital deposit. Since GPO has explicitly asked FDLP libraries about the delivery of digital content to depositories through "Automatic push of content from GPO," we suggest that DLC should have in hand the full results of the GPO study before dismissing the option of digital deposit from its vision of the future. If hundreds of libraries express a high or very high interest in this, it would be consistent to offer a fourth possible future of digital deposit.

    For over 150 years, the FDLP community has worked collaboratively to inform citizens. There are very few organizations that have lasted as long for such a noble cause. We hope the DLC's revised vision will reflect this fourth possible future for a strong, vibrant FDLP that we have described.

    James A. Jacobs, James R. Jacobs,
    Shinjoung Yeo.

    By Anonymous james a. jacobs, at September 23, 2005 5:02 PM  

  • Depository Library Council
    Fall 2005 Meeting
    Executive Summary


    The mission of the Depository Library Council is “[t]o assist the Government Printing Office in identifying and evaluating alternatives for improving public access to government information through the Depository Library Program,” and “to provide advice on policy matters dealing with the Depository Library Program as provided in Title 44 U.S.C.” Over the years of its existence DLC meetings have ranged from small meetings held at the GPO, to large open mike town hall type meetings, to presentations from GPO with responses from members of the Council. Results of these meetings have similarly ranged from a set of “recommendations” from DLC to GPO, to minutes of the meetings, to responses and requests for clarifications on presented white papers.

    GPO, under the direction of Public Printer Bruce James, has undertaken an ongoing strategic planning initiative to move the agency from primarily a printing operation to an information access and delivery operation. The Council and the federal depository library community have largely reacted to these GPO planning initiatives. During the Summer of 2005 the Council decided it was time to become more proactive in envisioning the future of government information provision and the part that libraries will play in that future.
    To this end the DLC wrote a discussion paper The Federal Government Information Environment of the 21st Century: Towards a Vision Statement and Plan of Action for Federal Depository Libraries (http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fdlp/pubs/dlc_vision_09_02_2005.pdf), began a blog, encouraged input in other ways, and worked with GPO to dedicate the Fall 2005 DLC meeting to envisioning the future of government information provision.

    DLC Meeting

    Through four days of meetings in October 2005 the Council solicited more direct feedback on its discussion paper from the depository community. Clifford Lynch, in his keynote address, set the stage by scanning the information environment expected to emerge in the next several years. DLC members put the visioning process in historical and situational context with short talks. The DLC meeting was structured into topical and “library type” breakout sessions. The Council summarized and presented major points to the Public Printer on the last day of the meeting.
    The Depository Library Council identified four issues:
    • Roles of FDLs in the non-exclusive environment of the Internet
    • Managing collections and delivering content
    • Deploying expertise
    • Adding value

    The discussions and breakout meetings further identified six overarching themes:

    • Customer focus
    • Increase flexibility
    • Education
    • Promotion (Marketing)
    • Collaboration
    • Innovation

    In what were basically very large brainstorming sessions, participants came up with many interesting and innovative ideas for the provision of government information and the role of libraries. As might be expected, all agreed that any future system should leverage the vast expertise of government information professionals. Expert registries, collaborative chat reference, training - both giving and receiving, and local library partnerships were among the many ideas floated that would exploit the knowledge of current experts. As a community, we could both widely deploy our content expertise and extend its impact by partnering with such technical experts as Google, Yahoo, Internet Archive, Memory Hole and other Internet memory organizations.

    While acknowledging the continuing importance of print collections participants expressed great interest in the possibilities of digital deposit of files, and collaborative digitization projects – both collaboration with GPO and among depository libraries. Participants acknowledged GPO’s concern for authenticity of digital files, but want to explore options for hosting files, and locally digitizing materials in partnership with GPO. There were good suggestions, as well, to explore options for archiving electronic and print resources made available by GPO or directly by federal agencies.

    It was suggested in our discussions at DLC that we invite Internet search and memory organizations to the Spring 2006 DLC meeting as observers and participants. Whether one believes that the future of digital government information resides with GPO, Google and Yahoo, or some combination of each, it has to be the case that we can learn from one another, and benefit from more ongoing sharing of information and coordination of efforts.

    A strong theme throughout the sessions was the importance of promotion and marketing to instill the idea that “if Google fails you, your FDL won’t.” This message should be directed to the public and fellow information professionals, including library administrators. Promoting our services and expertise is closely tied to the theme of customer focus. Government information professionals know there are complex information needs which neither the Internet nor a good search engine can meet. If we can successfully market our services and expertise then we can help the researcher who needs that elusive 19th century statistic or the elderly person looking for an explanation of the new prescription drug plan.

    Next Steps

    The Council will share all notes, comments, and meeting summaries as widely as possible. As announced at the meeting the process will open up from this point forward. Our next steps are to solicit active participation from the federal depository library community in revising the vision discussion paper into a truer “vision paper,” and then to identify concrete actionable items as the basis of a community action plan. We expect that this plan will be ready for further review by Midwinter ALA, and finalized by the spring DLC meeting. As the discussion proceeds, we very much want to broaden participation to include library administrators, Internet memory organizations, other technology organizations, and, most importantly, the public.

    By Blogger BarbieUVA, at November 14, 2005 3:09 PM  

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