Wrap-Up of the 2015 Depository Library Council (DLC) Virtual Meeting - Navigating Through Change: The Conversation Continues

The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the Depository Library Council (DLC) held a spring virtual meeting from April 28 – 30, 2015. Both the DLC and GPO staff presented programs updating the community on progress made on the National Plan, other projects underway, and programs on topics of interest to the DLC and the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) community. In case you missed out on the action, below are brief summaries of the programs with links to their recordings in the FDLP Academy Events and Conferences archive.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


The chair of the Depository Library Council, Marie Concannon, welcomed all attendees. GPO Director, Davita Vance-Cooks, shared a welcome message with attendees. Superintendent of Documents, Mary Alice Baish, also welcomed everyone to the virtual meeting and provided framework to the three day virtual meeting programs. Members of the DLC also introduced themselves.

Public Library Depositories: Creating and Demonstrating Civic Value during Challenging Times

The first Council program was intended to explore the value public libraries bring to the FDLP and the challenges they face as depositories. David Cismowski of the California State Library, and a member of Council, provided a quick overview of the status of public depository libraries. He noted that when looking at the ratio of public depository libraries to the whole, that ratio has halved between 1909 and 2015. More troubling is that 20% of public depositories have relinquished FDLP status in the last eight years.

Four people from public depositories spoke about the challenges and opportunities they faced at their institutions.

Greta Bever of the Chicago Public Library, also a member of Council, is actively promoting their collections and services using marketing tools. Greta believes strongly that public libraries need to work hard to prove their value in serving the public.

Laura Saurs of the Newark Public Library is seeing more Government information traffic because agencies at all levels of the government are referring people to libraries for help in filling out forms and registering for government services. Depository staff members possess information literacy skills to help guide patrons to official resources, as well as ‘plain English’ resources. Laura sees public libraries dropping out of the FDLP because they are out of staff and space - often relinquishing status when they are unable to adjust their collection over the years. She feels public libraries benefit when they can use free official resources over expensive commercial ones.

Jessica Hudson of the Contra Costa County Library faced a county-wide change in her library system. In moving toward a system of peer libraries with no central branch, the library opted to transition to the provision of quality services for a virtual FDLP collection. The library expanded online resource access points for both staff and patrons. Working with a task group, they identified Government information as a need for their community. They found that about 180 Government information questions were being answered each week in the system for Government information (local, state, and Federal). They purchased MARCIVE’s Documents Without Shelves, which provides links to government information 24X 7 through their online catalog; they subscribe and use LibGuides, and the Government Guide is one of the most popular for the library that sees between 13,000 and 14,000 hits per year. They also provide live chat reference service Monday through Saturday, 8:30 -5:00 pm, with government questions rating among the top categories.

Janet Fisher of the State Library of Arizona, and a Council member, touched on several depository tactics used by public libraries: tailoring their depository operation to the needs of their community, using free versus commercial resources, training staff on Government resources, proactively disseminating Government information to key stakeholders, and linking to eGovernment services from library’s social media, webpages, and catalog. She stressed the importance of the mentality, “Use Government resources when answering questions” to highlight the value of FDLP participation in the minds of staff.

Government Information in the Background? A Look into Web-Scale Discovery Tools

In this Council session, documents librarians, Council members, and Government information experts Chis Brown (University of Denver Libraries) and Daniel Cornwall (Alaska State Library) presented an in-depth analysis of discovery tools and the breadth and depth at which they access Government information. Their study pointed out the positives and shortcomings of current discovery tools and how Government information can get "backgrounded" behind other search results about Government information.

Chris and Daniel also explained the December 2014 DLC Recommendation to GPO and how to best let discovery tool vendors access GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) content to incorporate into their individual discovery tools. GPO's response to their recommendation was also discussed, including GPO’s implementation of FDsys Sitemaps to allow vendors and others to access and obtain FDsys content.

The National Plan for Access to U.S. Government Information

GPO’s Mary Alice Baish provided an introduction and background to the National Plan for Access to U.S. Government Information. GPO’s Cindy Etkin conveyed the desired outcomes and the actions identified to successfully achieve those outcomes. GPO’s David Walls’ portion of the presentation focused on the Federal Information Preservation Network (FIPNet). Another article in this issue of FDLP Connection provides more detail on the National Plan and FIPNet.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Finding and Using Government Data to Support Patron Needs

Michelle Hudson of Yale University’s Center for Science and Social Science Information provided an introductory overview of data and statistics. This included the differences between data and statistics, and suggestions for data reference interviews. DLC members Scott Matheson, Hallie Pritchett, and David Cismowski followed up with a discussion of how data can be best be integrated into the FDLP. Areas of interest included:

  • the challenges of finding and maintaining data portals, discovery tools, and repositories
  • questions of access and preservation, including harvesting, metadata, standards, formats and migration, hardware/software, ownership, and historical data
  • considering the scope of the FDLP and how best to distribute data through the Program
  • how to make data useful to patrons

Preservation & Access: Framing the “How Many?” Question

Council members Christopher Brown of the University of Denver, Marie Concannon of the University of Missouri, Daniel Cornwall of the Alaska State Library, and Larry Romans of Vanderbilt University took on the task of answering the questions, “how many copies do we keep?” and “what do you mean long term?”

Daniel took a more formulaic approach to answer these questions. Although in theory the formula looked promising, it was clear that the hurdles for this approach were far too many. As Daniel stated, “the outcome of the equation is only as precise as the initial question.” That question is, “how many copies currently exist?” The data needed for the equation to work rests in how many copies were originally sent out, and how many copies are there currently. There is no absolute way to know.

Christopher introduced his pilot program, consisting of a consortia of eight states, that takes a non-formulaic approach. The goal is to take an inventory. The intention is to see how many copies are available, decide how many should be kept, and create a checklist of older documents owned with a commitment to retain them. If this works, it has the potential to become a national model. Some of the other data Christopher is collecting are: condition, the holding depository, and item as it pertains to copy or volume and the SuDoc number. One of the pitfalls in this project is encountering libraries that have not done a retrospective catalog project and/or have piece level accounting. Another issue is time. How long will it take to complete? Is this attainable?

How much longer can Regionals wait? The new questions arises, “Are we asking the right questions?” There is no library in the FDLP that can say they have a “complete collection.” Some ideas Marie and Larry put forth were:

  • Is there a framework Regionals could use to weed?
  • Is weeding more effective as a local consortia?
  • After a given time, should the rules of retention change?

This Council session raised awareness of the complexity and challenges of the questions we face and the answers we seek.

Process of Change within the FDLP: Open Forum on the National Plan

During this open mic session, attendees had the opportunity to ask questions, and GPO staff addressed DLC questions regarding the Federal Information Preservation Network (FIPNet), a component of the National Plan for Access to U.S. Government Information.

When asked what they felt FIPNet encompassed, the audience responded with a variety of responses via chat. Responses included that FIPNet was:

  • To provide permanent collaborative access to the depository collection
  • A network of institutions committed to preservation of the “national collection of Federal documents”
  • To provide permanent online access to published Federal information.
  • Collaborative storage and access

Some additional comments from participants throughout the session included:

  • A request for regular reports from GPO on implementation progress and plans
  • Inquiries as to whether work has started on criteria to join FIPNet
  • A request for clarification about the roles of preservation and access
  • A question as to whether non-FDLs can be a part of FIPNet
  • Concerns about having commercial and private partners in the program

Return of the UFOs (Unbrowseable Federal Objects): Continuing to Develop Best Practices for Storing and Retrieving Documents in On-site and Off-site Storage

This Council program about “not-so-close encounters of the document kind” in closed stacks or off-site storage was a follow-up to the December 2015 Virtual Meeting program by the DLC Off-Site Storage Working Group.

The panel of presenters were the following DLC members and Kathy Bayer, Library Services and Content Management, GPO:

  • Christopher C. Brown. University of Denver University Libraries
  • Rich Gause, University of Central Florida John C. Hitt Library
  • Kate Irwin-Smiler, Wake Forest University School of Law Professional Center Library
  • Hallie Pritchett, University of Georgia Map and Government Information Library

They first discussed the results of a supplementary survey that asked more specifics about depository publications in storage locations. A summary of responses related to bibliographic control, types of access and retrieval, housing conditions, and staffing was provided. Presenters also provided an overview of a draft document, entitled “Best Practices for Storing and Retrieving Depository Materials in On-site and Off-site Storage.” Best practices related to collection moves, bibliographic control, collaboration, and alternate sources for Government information were discussed. The final Best Practices document will be released to the FDLP community in the coming months, and working group documents will be on the FDLP.gov DLC page.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Technology Update

GPO’s Lisa Russell, Katy Davis, and Darryl Walker provided updates on Library Services and Content Management’s (LSCM’s) systems, websites, and technology plan. Ongoing data cleanup efforts in GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) will provide cleaner search results. Planned CGP enhancements include modifications to the New Titles page to include new dynamic searches for web-harvested content and for newly ceased titles, as well as modifications to “Catalogs to Search,” to include a new page for eBook content and a new page for web-harvested content.

Data cleanup in the Depository Selection Information Management Systems (DSIMS) to remove square brackets from SuDoc stems is nearly complete. Columns for geography and format have been added to the display for the list of available items. A new List of Classes data file containing only items in online only format (EL) is now available and is updated on the 1st and 15th of every month.

LSCM revamped requirements for an automated Needs & Offers tool. A phased development is planned, and LSCM staff spoke about an upcoming contract that would be out for bid. (Note: since the 2015 DLC Virtual Meeting, that contract has gone out for bid, and GPO is receiving bids.)

The Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government redesign was launched to the FDLP community on April 14, 2015. Registry.fdlp.gov is expected to be back online later this year, and an update to WEBTech Notes will be released on FDLP.gov. Ongoing infrastructure enhancements will provide a more stable and secure website.

Strategic planning for the technology plan will include alignment with the National Plan for Access to U.S. Government Information. The next steps for the Technology Plan will be needs analysis and market research. This will include workflow analysis of depository libraries; a survey of CGP public users; and assessment of ILS systems, discovery tools, and library service providers.

Digitization and Authentication for FDsys

GPO’s Heidi Ramos presented on the current LSCM process for providing access to digitized content in FDsys, which contains four general phases. During the Initiation process, all the necessary analysis and preparation is completed; this includes acquisition decisions based on legal requirements and policies, agreements, and tangible condition assessments. In the second phase (Digitization), the scanning of the publications and quality assurance of the digital images is conducted. During the third phase of the process, the publication packages are delivered, metadata is produced, and the digital files are packaged. This phase could require a significant amount of effort. In the final phase, packages are processed into FDsys, testing is conducted, and once the packages are approved they are authenticated, made publically accessible online and stored in the systems repository.

Heidi then shared detailed information on the content authentication in FDsys. Within FDsys, three overall measures have been implemented. Two measures, digital signatures on PDF files and cryptographic hash values, assure users of the content integrity. The third measure, chain of custody information, is evidence that users can trust the source of the content and is available in the PREMIS metadata file. The chain of custody includes provenance information and records content technical information of the objects, events, and agents.

GPO’s Suzanne Ebanues then provided examples of digitized content currently available in FDsys. These are:

  • JFK assignation Air Force One Recordings
  • Nixon grand jury records
  • U.S. Statutes at Large
  • Coastal Zone Information Center
  • Five titles digitized by the U.S. Department. of the Treasury

Then, a few plans for new additions of digitized content were shared. The titles include:

  • Bound Congressional Record
  • Federal Register 1936-1994
  • Four Superintendent of Documents publications

Finally, Suzanne shared that one of the goals of the National Plan for Access to U.S. Government Information is to implement ingest of digital content from Federal depository library partners into FDsys, a preservation repository. This will require the development of new workflows and quality review processes.

Harvested Agency Content and PURLs

GPO’s Mark Ames, Dory Bower, and Laurie Hall presented this session, which reflects current GPO web content harvesting practices, along with PURL creation and maintenance practices. This presentation outlined GPO decision-making practices as related to harvesting Government information products after they have been declared as “in-scope” and accepted for acquisition. This is informally referred to as the “Harvesting Decision Tree” and is a work in progress that is constantly adjusting to the nature of Government information products that GPO acquires.

The “Harvesting Decision Tree” is outlined below:

  • Is the creating agency a partner with GPO? – This can be determined at the same time that a PURL is created for the information product.
    • If yes, then point PURL to agency copy (GAO, NREL).
  • Monograph? – This is done at the Bibliographic Control phase if harvest is a simple “right-click and save.”
    • Harvest and direct PURL to GPO copy.
  • Serial or integrating resource? – This is usually a complex type of harvesting and is referred to the Office of Archival Management for review.
    • Option 1 - Point PURL to agency site but harvest it for future use.
    • Option 2 - Harvest all or part of a site and point the PURL to the harvested copy.
    • Discontinued? Point the PURL to the GPO copies.
    • The Web Harvesting team or an Archives Specialist makes the determination.
  • Information product not harvestable in current form? Often an Archives Specialist makes this determination based on nature of the website.
    • Consult GPO Web Harvesting team for review and final decision.
    • If it’s not harvestable, point the PURL to the agency and seek a partnership.
  • Please note that GPO is working on a PURL backlog, and in FY14 over 2,500 older PURLs were reviewed, redirected, and/or harvested as needed.

Information concerning PURLs was also provided during this session:

  • Approximately 200,000 PURLs have been created, with hundreds more added every month.
    • These PURLS link to a mix of live sites: FDsys, Webharvest.gov, Archive-It, agencies-specific, and libraries who are partnering with agencies (to cite a few examples).
  • GPO conducts regular PURL Maintenance.
    • Staff perform maintenance based on monthly reports generated by the CGP and the PURL server.

GPO Responses to December 2014 Depository Library Council Recommendations

GPO and the DLC discussed the 2014 Depository Library Council Recommendations and GPO’s responses during this session.

Recommendation 1: GPO Collaborate with Discovery Vendors to Expose Full Text of FDsys

DLC and other program participants raised concerns that FDLP content is not available to the extent it could be within vendor discovery services, particularly for full-text. GPO does provide access to FDsys content through Sitemaps. This serves any interested vendor and other Federal agencies who are currently acquiring metadata and full-text content. The DLC and other community members commented that they could contact their vendors to request them to crawl more FDLP content.

Recommendation 2: Commitment to a Semiannual Meeting Schedule Including In-Person Events.

Participants from DLC, others in the community, and GPO staff discussed the value of regularly scheduled meetings and conferences with both onsite and virtual components. While the DLC is holding semi-annual meetings, GPO is planning for at least one in-person meeting annually to best serve the interests of the depository community. Scheduling must take many factors into consideration, including hotel availability, the D.C. tourist season and rate fluctuations, and other GPO staff responsibilities during the calendar year. GPO has announced that the next Depository Library Council Meeting and Federal Depository Library Conference will be onsite in the Washington, D.C. area from October 19-21, 2015 and will include daily virtual broadcasts of major sessions for those unable to attend in person.

Open Forum

Attendees were invited to ask remaining questions, comment on the programs, or bring up any new issues during the final Open Forum session. Numerous questions were raised on various topics, in a lively chat exchange. Topics discussed included: the availability and implementation of the National Plan for Access to U.S. Government Information; GPO harvesting; the status of GPO’s CD and DVD-ROM project; participation of GPO at the American Library Association Annual Conference, particularly in regard to FIPNet; GPO’s automated disposition tool; and datasets in FDsys.

DLC Recap

DLC Chair Marie Concannon facilitated the DLC Recap session. It was designed to allow DLC members to discuss issues raised during the Meeting in order to identify potential areas where DLC recommendations to GPO may be useful. Recommendations were not drafted during the session but were submitted to GPO in time to be included in this issue of FDLP Connection.

The discussion included these thought-provoking topics:

  • Geographic distribution of the FDLP tangible collection
  • Development of Government information specialist expertise at a time when many do not have collections at their libraries
  • Public library service to patrons through access to Government services, rather than the traditional FDLP model of access to publications
  • Ingest of library digitized content into FDsys 
  • Possible development of a measurement to determine how many copies are needed for interlibrary loan or other sharing.
  • The need for preservation of any remaining copies

Closing Remarks

In her closing remarks, Marie Concannon, commenting on the Virtual Meeting theme, “Navigating through Change: The Conversation Continues,” by sharing this quote from a book about the FDLP written in 1918:

“We are yet far from the fulfillment of the prediction, ‘Someday it will come about that every library can have just what it wants, nothing more, nothing less, and all from one central office.’”
(From: Clarke, Edith E., Guide to the Use of United States Government Publications - The Boston Book Co. 1918). Ms. Clarke quotes from James Ingersoll Wyer.

Marie also concluded with this thought: “The optimistic statement that every library would have just what it wants from one central office was written only 12 years earlier in 1906. They probably never imagined that we would still be working our way toward the goal 100 years later. Now, it might appear as those we cover the same ground every time we meet, circling around always to a few central questions: “How can we get the Government information we’re missing? How can we avoid receiving the information we don’t need? And how can GPO make all of this easier for us?” But in reality, we’re not going in circles. The FDLP has been moving in an upward spiral. Each time we come together again to talk about Government information access, we approach it from a slightly higher place, a more informed place than we ever were before. Consider how far we’ve come. The American public has far better access to Government information now than anyone dreamed was possible a century ago. It is our professional responsibility to continue these conversations because every year the information environment changes, the technical industry advances, our libraries must evolve to adjust, and public expectations will always set the bar even higher for information services. The FDLP has been functioning in various forms since 1813. And you have all just participated in a grand tradition. Your contribution to the conversation we have held this week will help make the FDLP better for the next generation.”

Finally, Mary Alice Baish thanked DLC Chair Marie Concannon and members Chris Brown, Steve Beleu, Rosemary LaSala, and Larry Romans as they completed their terms of service on the Depository Library Council.

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