Expanding the Forecast Framework: Discussion Summary

Members of the DLC were pleased to moderate discussions during December’s Expanding the Forecast Framework: Engage and Discuss virtual conference. The purpose of the focused discussion sessions was to gather more detailed feedback on issues raised in the analysis of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) Forecast Study data. As summarized below by the DLC facilitators, these sessions succeeded in providing more information for U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) staff to use in generating the FDLP National Plan. DLC would like to thank all those who participated in these discussions!

Larry Romans from Vanderbilt University facilitated the discussion, “Depository Library Collaboration: Structure For the Digital Age, Part 1: Regional and Selective Depository Libraries.” In discussing the topic of having fewer than 50 Regionals, participants identified the following issues:

  • Is it possible to organize around geographic regions used by other Federal agencies such as GSA or Census?
  • Could Regionals provide services across state boundaries? Would states provide funding for this service?
  • Does the library administration support its Regional services and collection?
  • How do we consider factors such as geography, population density, service needs, availability of ILL networks, extent of digitization, and/or level of discards?
  • Can we take advantage of existing within-state sub-regional and informal across-state cooperation?
  • Will selective depositories require different types of support from their Regionals: public vs. academic; rich vs. poor institution; or small vs. large depository collection?

Participants also identified several factors that would impact future roles of Federal depository libraries:

  • Regional collections and responsibilities shared among two or more libraries
  • More flexible selective housing agreements
  • Increased flexibility to substitute print with electronic only material
  • The acceptability of non-governmental electronic sources
  • Streamlining the discard process and whether documents would have to be kept for five years

Moderated by Blane Dessy, the discussion, “Depository Library Collaboration: Structure For the Digital Age, Part 2: New Opportunities for Depository Libraries,” generated lots of comments and issues about opportunities…and challenges. Asked to respond to questions about the changing roles of depository coordinators and staff, collections in a non-tangible age, collaborative models, and GPO support, the participants engaged in commenting and “conversing” with their colleagues via GPO’s eLearning platform. Some of the “take aways” include:

  • That depository library staff are often carrying multiple responsibilities in their libraries, staff numbers are not increasing, but commitment remains strong.
  • Depository staff are being challenged by eGovernment services and their appropriate role in this type of service. There was some mix of opinions on this issue.
  • Conference participants were very complimentary of the GPO webinars and other training opportunities.
  • There is strong support for GPO and the FDLP. Of course, conference participants would like as much GPO support as possible, but they understand the constraints. One specific recommendation was to offer cataloging for the pre-1976 titles from the Monthly Catalog.

Chris Brown facilitated the discussion, “Building an Authoritative National Bibliography of U.S. Government Publications.” Important contributions included:

  • General consensus for urgency of cataloging all pre-1976 documents as well as including links to all HathiTrust and Internet Archive document content
  • Pursue partnerships with commercial vendors for record generation (HathiTrust, ProQuest Congressional, ProQuest Executive Branch Documents, etc.).
  • Batch loading capability for pre-1976 records, but the ability to select by agency, year, subject, and format, and a limit to records with field 856 links
  • The need for a registry of Government publications, perhaps a “matching” tool to “claim” records for local libraries; or a partnership with HathiTrust to do the same
  • GPO’s content needs to work better with discovery tools (Summon, EDS, Primo Central, etc.), not just index content (Catalog of U.S. Government Publications), but GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) full text as well.
  • Leverage full text searching: link to FT search within CPG.

Kate Irwin-Smiler led a lively discussion, “In the Public Eye: Increasing Federal Depository Library Relevance,” examining roles for GPO and libraries. New ideas for GPO included working more closely with agencies to index and harvest agency documents; coordinating information on physical copies with that of digitized versions of documents, regardless of where they are hosted; and encouraging discovery layer vendors and search engines to include FDsys documents.

Roles for libraries include reporting errors in FDsys, becoming fugitive document hunters, and working with vendors to include GPO content. Other third parties with partnering potential include communities such as genealogy, open access, Wikipedia, Hathi Trust, and TRAIL. The ideal interface for documents was described as having the simplicity and flexibility of the Internet with expert search options available; the ability to manipulate search results and help at hand. The discussion concluded with consideration of rebranding the FDLP to emphasize the network of expertise that we represent.

Marie Concannon led participants in the discussion, “Resolving Anticipated Barriers to Digital Access.” The Forecast Study had showed nearly 90% of states anticipating problems in this area, with the most frequently-mentioned type of access problem being findability (cataloging, indexing, etc.). This was followed by concerns about the digital divide, technological hurdles, funding shortages, and insufficient digital preservation, in that order. 

The session’s polls helped GPO detect the degree to which each presents a problem for libraries. For example, although findability was ranked #1 in the Forecast by number of mentions, the poll showed that three quarters of participants considered it a minor rather than “major” barrier to access. Another surprising poll result concerned digital preservation. Although it had ranked below the other four categories in the Forecast, in the poll it floated to the top with 86% reporting it as a “major barrier” and none indicating it was “not a problem.” The polls were followed by a brainstorming session during which dozens of ideas were generated to help overcome identified barriers.

Stephanie Braunstein moderated the discussion, “Marketing” (the FDLP). Participants responded to seven questions designed to stimulate thinking about and planning for successful marketing methods. A question addressing flexibility of marketing tools to enable those tools to be used in “a variety of environments and with various approaches” informed the discussion. Thus, audience for marketing was a major concern; and responses to questions about what one actually does as a Government Documents Librarian—sometimes referred to as an “elevator speech”—were grounded in the basic tenet of Government documents librarianship: free access to government information.

The results of a short poll questioning the existence of a pre-set “elevator speech” indicated that just under half of the participants did have such a speech at the ready. When specifically answering a question about flexibility, the group suggested emphasizing more personalization and the providing of marketing materials in more languages. By the end of the discussion, several new ideas were shared, hopefully with the outcome of strengthening our marketing efforts.

Hallie Pritchett moderated two discussions on the Future of Microfiche Distribution: the first at the Regionals’ conference call on November 19th, and the second on December 4th during the FDLP virtual conference. The questions posed to both groups focused on how discontinuation of microfiche would affect depository libraries and what GPO could do to facilitate the transition from microfiche. It was emphasized that at this point no decision has been made about the future of microfiche dissemination, nor is any such decision imminent.

While many participants would be happy to stop receiving microfiche altogether, others (particularly regional coordinators) felt they could not give up microfiche, as they do not have space to collect those titles in paper. Both groups felt the ideal would be to transition those titles currently published in microfiche to online-only resources accessible through FDsys. A major take-away from the discussion was that if GPO is forced to discontinue distribution of microfiche, regional depository libraries must be able to withdraw tangible depository resources and substitute them with online access to those resources in FDsys.

FDLP Connection Archive

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