Document Discovery

How can the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) keep up with the onslaught of digital Government content and fulfill its responsibility to disseminate documents to the public? How can Library Services & Content Management (LSCM) staff reach out to stakeholders and become more proactive in working with agency sources to acquire content for the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP)? Read on to understand the role of depository librarians in capturing “fugitive” publications as well as tips for partnering with Federal agency contacts.

The Document Discovery program was designed to capture more digital Federal content. It reinforces GPO’s role, as designated by Congress, of identifying and disseminating all Federal publications to the public. Our role has become increasingly demanding as publications appear in so many electronic formats, including online, video, and now e-books. We have always worked with Federal agency content originators and other “gate-keepers” of Federal information; we need to increase this effort. In the past GPO used to get information about printed publications from a handful of Federal agency printing officers who worked with GPO. Now, as you know, many publications are no longer printed first by GPO, but rather posted directly to an agency’s Web site. Agencies frequently digitally produce / reproduce Government information and often delay or skip producing a print copy altogether. This results in greater numbers of “fugitive” publications unknown to GPO. Keeping up with this trend in the publishing / printing industry is our biggest challenge. While the print paradigm remains relevant, our methods of discovering Federal information dissemination products at GPO need to give way to the new, digital paradigm.

While authors and publishers of Federal content may not be aware of how the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) works and their responsibilities, most do want their publications to be read by as wide an audience as possible. Thus, our job is to communicate with them. We want to make Federal agencies aware of their responsibilities under Title 44. In addition, we want them to understand that our free dissemination services are not only required under law, but we want them to see that this dissemination also represents a “value-add” that GPO provides.

To spread the word, we proactively seek out stakeholders and authoritative sources of content. That increases our ability to find out about valuable Federal Government content. Content Acquisitions specialists in LSCM divide up agency responsibilities among themselves. Each handles a specific group of agencies, communicating in as many ways possible with content originators. The variety of discovery mechanisms used to find new agency content include: (1) providing a Web presence and means for agencies to electronically notify us of their publishing output; (2) directly contacting agency representatives, (3) negotiating partnerships between the agency and GPO, (4) piggy-backing on GPO’s contacts with agency customers, and (5) locating online documents by monitoring agency Web sites. We use these methods to increase the number of publications brought into the FDLP:

  1. Web presence — Because we want to encourage more digital content providers to contact us, we established a Web presence. Our agency Web page on GPO’s Web site explains how the FDLP works to benefit Federal agencies. From that page, agency authors can submit information about newly-released documents.
  2. Direct contact — We spend a lot of time directly contacting agency publishers. When we have a question about a specific online publication or group of publications we will contact them by phone or email. We pose questions about their publications related to scope, frequency, and other bibliographic information. As often as possible, we arrange sessions with agency content originators to present about the FDLP and leave information about Document Discovery. At one such a meeting, the agency representatives proudly announced their free distribution to all who attended an agency-hosted conference. We suggested additional distribution through the FDLP to help get the publications out to a wider public audience because not all members of the public would have had the opportunity to attend that conference. They agreed, thus initiating a new relationship between that agency and GPO. That resulted in FDLP distribution of the publications. Formal partnerships -- When we find restricted content that is available via password or IP Access, we sometimes are able to negotiate partnerships to help ensure continued public availability through the FDLP.
  3. Working hand-in-hand with GPO — Within GPO, our common mission is to manage, promote, and advocate for GPO printing and dissemination programs. We work with a wide range of GPO staff, including Customer Services, the Regional Offices, and GPO’s National Account Managers (NAMs). We participate at such events as “How to Do Business with GPO” to deliver our message to Federal agency publishers.
  4. Web harvesting — We continually examine agency Web sites for in-scope publications. We subscribe to available automatic notification tools to help us manually harvest online publications. In addition, we are exploring Web harvesting as a method of capturing electronic content. As described in the 2011 Year In Review, we entered into a one-year contract with Internet Archive’s “Archive-It” Web harvesting service to harvest and host Web-based Federal agency content within scope of the FDLP.

Even with all these approaches, we benefit from the help of Federal depository libraries, particularly in reaching Federal agency sources. We could never single-handedly discover all Federal documents without your help. Here are a few very helpful actions you can take as a Federal depository librarian:

  • Inform any Federal agency publishers you talk to about the FDLP.
  • Refer any agency contacts you consult with to GPO’s Web site page for agencies.     
  • Invite your agency contacts to submit content using the online form
  • Tell your colleagues in Federal agency libraries about Document Discovery, whether or not they are part of the FDLP. As the agency document experts, they are well-positioned to identify new agency publications. They may informally know the authors. Encourage them to use the agency Web page to report agency publications and supply the pertinent information, including an OCLC number if they cataloged the publication. The only requirement for using this input form is that the information dissemination product must originate from a Federal Government source.

If you do not work in a Federal organization, we encourage you to continue to keep us informed of Federal publications for inclusion in the CGP by sending requests for cataloging through askGPO. This ensures a quick, trackable response to your request. In submitting askGPO requests, it is helpful if you provide all available information about the publication, including an OCLC number, if there is one. FDLP requests are handled immediately by LSCM staff. Please keep in mind that your request will not show up in the CGP until cataloging is complete.

Document Discovery is a collaborative effort. We welcome your ideas on any new approaches you think could be tried. Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any suggestions!