Creating Our Shared Vision: Roles and Opportunities in the FDLP

Mary Alice Baish Assistant Public Printer, Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO).

On behalf of Public Printer William Boarman and U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) staff, I would like to thank all of you who were able to join us for the very successful 2011 Depository Library Council Meeting and Federal Depository Library Conference (Meeting and Conference). We are very pleased that more than 350 participants took full advantage of the 40 excellent educational sessions offered by your fellow documents librarians, members of the Depository Library Council (DLC), and staff from Library Services and Content Management (LSCM). And many more of you followed us on Twitter. Thank you!

It was a great opportunity for open and fruitful discussions, both formally and informally, about challenges to depository libraries as well as the opportunity for networking with colleagues. We, here at GPO, are especially grateful for the feedback we received during focus groups on the new FDLP Desktop, FDLP Community, Ben’s Guide, and our future marketing efforts. For those of you who were unable to join us, the Meeting and Conference is the theme of next month’s issue of FDLP Connection and before then, we will be soliciting your feedback on some important initiatives through focused discussions on the FDLP Community site.

I would like to recognize and thank my very talented LSCM team for their tireless efforts to ensure the success of the Meeting and Conference. Our team of Education and Outreach librarians who planned and led the interactive discussion during the Thursday, October 20 daylong session on “Creating Our Shared Vision: Roles and Opportunities in the FDLP” deserve special recognition. I am also especially grateful to Blane Dessy, executive director of the Federal Library and Information Center Committee (FLICC), and the Federal Library and Information Network (FEDLINK) at the Library of Congress, for facilitating the open discussion with such expertise and humor. I’d like to summarize the day briefly because you’ll be hearing much more about it in the coming weeks.

In the opening morning session, I reiterated my earlier comments from the Depository Library Council's excellent session Monday afternoon on Regionals/Selectives. While each one of us is committed to GPO’s mission of “Keeping America Informed,” the FDLP is at a tipping point and its future is at risk. If this important program, which is the very foundation of our democracy, is to grow and become more robust, it must change to embrace the digital world while continuing to value the historic tangible collections in participating libraries. I set the tone for the day that we would not dwell on the past but rather work together to determine our future—mapping the needs of both regional and selective libraries in the digital age to current provisions of Title 44 and Program regulations, which currently are based on an outdated tangible distribution model.

For twenty years or more, many of us have been discussing the very same issues we face today. How many regional collections do we need to provide equal and equitable no-fee permanent public access to tangible historical FDLP resources? How can we better share and collaborate on vital services needed in the digital age? Also, how many times have we asked ourselves, why, in the digital world, can't every library in the country be a “depository” library? The word "depository" gets in our way as GPO and participating libraries rely today on building and providing access to digital collections and developing new service models.

It is very much my intention, as Superintendent of Documents, to work with the DLC and the FDLP community to determine not just the changing needs of the Program, but also how the needs of each type of library within the program map to “The Legal Requirements and Program Regulations of the FDLP.” Following my introductory comments, Daniel O’Mahony provided a short and often humorous overview of past efforts to update Title 44, offering “some historical context around the bundle of legal, political, logistical, and emotional issues that goes by the name of Title 44 Reform.” He reminded us, very importantly, that there are three things that need to happen to achieve success:

  1. A clear sense of what needs to be changed
  2. The library community must speak with a united voice
  3. There must be one or more champions in Congress to lead and shepherd a proposal through the legislative process

Thus began an open-ended discussion led by LSCM staff about how GPO can more comprehensively identify, document, and address the most pressing issues faced by depository libraries. While we have indeed talked about many of these issues for years, we need to bridge gaps in our data and therefore proposed to create two tools that will assist us in determining a national FDLP forecast and a national strategy that complement the efforts of the depository library community in every state. Our staff is designing templates for a FDLP State Forecast and a State Action Plan.

This new quantitative and qualitative data from states and all different types of depository libraries will inform the creation of a national Strategic Plan for the FDLP 2012-2017. Mapping the risks identified in the state forecasts, examining the initiatives being undertaken at the state level, and exploring issues in focused interviews will serve as a basis for developing consensus on changes to Title 44 and Program regulations and requirements that must, as Dan O’Mahony repeated several times during this remarks, ensure “no-fee public access to government information in all forms and from all three branches of government now and in the future.” I encourage all FDLP members to participate and assist us in creating and documenting a comprehensive knowledge base of the current status of FDLP libraries in your state.

In addition, we will be soliciting the views of the national library associations and other interested stakeholders. It is an exciting time as we work to identify key areas for change, build a shared vision of the future of the FDLP, and embark on a new national plan and structure for the Program. I hope that you will participate in this information gathering process and help us to define the FDLP for the digital age that will allow it to continue to thrive for another 150 years.