Public Access Assessments: GPO is here to Help!

Have you heard of PAA? PAA is actually an acronym for the current individual depository library assessment program, or the Public Access Assessment program. Coincidentally, it’s similar to, but not be confused with, PPA, or “permanent public access,” a basic tenet of the FDLP. The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) has the responsibility, pursuant to 44 U.S.C. 19, to ensure that the resources it distributes to Federal depository libraries are made accessible to the general public and that participating libraries comply with the Legal Requirements and Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program. While you can learn more general information about PAAs on the FDLP Desktop, this article is intended to illustrate the ways that a PAA consultation may be useful to your library.

We at GPO view the PAA as a consultation between the Outreach Librarian involved and a depository library’s coordinator and staff. The review is intended to be supportive of each individual depository library and involves sharing of best practices and recognition of notable achievements. We’re always happy to tout your achievements. Examples of just some of the numerous notable achievements we have observed in recent PAAs are:

  • Extensive knowledge of the U.S. Government information needs of the community served.
  • Comprehensive cataloging.
  • Ongoing collection maintenance activities, with the goal of keeping the collection current and most useful for the library’s patrons.
  • Encouraging staff to maintain their subject expertise by supporting conference participation and other continuing education opportunities.
  • Highlighting the visibility of online depository resources through cataloging and development of Web page guides.

Also during a PAA, we answer many questions about options and flexibilities that libraries have in the FDLP. We draw from our experiences and offer suggestions for activities that a library may consider to enhance depository operations or services. Consider this as guidance for what may be the next most beneficial steps for your library to consider. Some recent recommendations have been to:

  • Investigate the free passworded databases made available in the FDLP, and provide access to those that meet user needs.
  • Consider keeping usage, reference, and other statistics to assist in determining the information needs of the community.
  • Subscribe to Government information-related e-mail distribution lists or discussion groups to stay abreast of news.
  • Continue to promote the collections and services, whether solely or in cooperation with other depositories.
  • Pursue cooperative collection development to ensure continued access of selected resources in your community.

Please keep in mind that your library’s depository operations and services must be designed to meet the U.S. Government information needs of your library users, including the general public; however, the processes selected by your library to meet those needs continues to be a local determination.

If needed, GPO advises staff at a library how to achieve greater compliance with legal requirements and regulations, supporting free, public access and an effective FDLP. Some of the recently identified compliance issues have been to:

  • Revise or update library policies and signage to ensure that depository patrons may gain comparable (e.g., equal priority) access to use electronic U.S. Government information resources as the library’s primary patrons.
  • Revise or update library policies and signage to indicate how minors looking for Federal depository information resources may gain assistance.
  • Raise the visibility of uncataloged depository resources in closed stacks (or remote storage) through description and promotion of these resources for all patrons.

When an Outreach Librarian notes one of the issues above, we request that the library report back within a specified period of time, typically 1-3 months, explaining how the issues have been resolved. In almost all cases, the situation arose to meet a different need of the library and the impact on depository access was not apparent or not considered at the time. The PAA brings these issues to light and helps ensure that the need for free, public access to depository resources is considered as well.

It is helpful for depository coordinators to routinely review library policies, practices, and services to ensure that free, public access continues to be supported. We encourage you to review, for example, the library and parent institution’s Web pages and policies to ensure that the information there does not conflict with depository access. In addition, you should ensure that all library personnel are aware of the FDLP access requirements and that public services staff are able to identify depository resources in the library’s collection.

A compliance issue that we encounter for approximately one out of 10 depositories relates to a specific legal requirement, submission of the Biennial Survey. If a library is late (without gaining prior approval for a late submission) or fails to respond to the Survey, that fact is noted in the next PAA. Therefore, if you haven’t yet responded to the 2011 Biennial Survey, please do so immediately so we may note that your library fulfilled this legal requirement. Plus, since most of the questions in the Survey were designed to provide us with information for PAAs, we need this information for an effective review.

If you have any questions about Public Access Assessments or the legal requirements and Program regulations, please do not hesitate to contact the Outreach Librarians in GPO’s Office of Education and Outreach. Also, if you have questions about current access procedures at your depository library that could be seen as inhibiting free, public access or you would simply like to discuss ways you may reorganize your depository operations in order to meet your library’s overall goals, please contact us to discuss the issues. Outreach Librarians may be reached This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., feel free to call or e-mail. We enjoy speaking with you about your library’s Federal depository operation and services, and we want you to have a successful depository.