September 18, 2014

31 Regional Coordinators Protest FDLP Decisions

Thirty-one of the 47 regional coordinators at regional depository libraries around the country wrote a letter October 19 to the public printer at the Government Printing Office in Washington D.C. to protest recent decisions regarding the Federal Depository Library Program.

In addition, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), a consortium of the Big Ten member universities plus the University of Chicago, sent a letter the following day to Public Printer William Boarman and Superintendent of Documents Mary Alice Baish to express similar concerns.

Both letters join a growing chorus of protest and reiterate concerns made by the Association of Research Libraries at its annual meeting held October 11-13 in Washington D.C.

The coordinators, who are document staff that manage the regionals (not deans or directors), were troubled by the GPO’s response to a joint initiative being proposed by the University of  Minnesota and the state library of Michigan and to new guidelines being implemented by the Association of Southeast Regional Libraries (ASERL), both of which LJ has reported on in detail.

The letter from the regional coordinators reads in part:

We write as coordinators of regional depository libraries to express our deep concern over GPO’s recent responses to two initiatives within the FDLP system. Given these responses, and the rejection of the 2011 Ithaka S+R report (Modeling a Sustainable Future of the Federal Depository Library Program in the 21st Century), we do not believe that GPO recognizes the gravity of the current situation in many regional federal depository libraries, and does not appear to be making efforts to understand this situation or to creatively partner with regional libraries or groups of depository libraries to help ameliorate the situation.

…GPO’s reaction to community initiated proposals to creatively work within current law to address some pressing concerns is very disappointing, and seems to display a lack of enthusiasm for partnering with depository libraries in forward-looking ways.

Mark Sandler, the director of the CIC Center for Library Initiatives, echoed the criticism:

Beyond the particulars of the current situation in Michigan, there is a growing sense among ARL libraries that the current organization of the Federal Depository Library Program  is unsustainable. There is simply too much redundancy of content and effort, and not enough attention being given to finding ways to harness the benefits of technology and digitally formatted information to create a more cost-effective, service-oriented structure. In this age of electronic communication, there should be no doubt that satisfying “the public’s right to know” could be accomplished with far fewer than 1,200 Depository Libraries.

ARL is correct that the recent messages from GPO do not suggest an openness to retooling obsolete practices, or to cooperating with the library community—and organizations like the CIC and ASERL—to overcome operational inertia and replace it with a more streamlined, technologically sophisticated, and service-oriented approach to distributing government information. We hope this airing of views will create an opportunity for GPO and the research library community to begin a serious dialog about how to best meet the public’s needs going forward.

Baish has told LJ previously that she and Boarman were trying to seek a consensus in the community as they work toward a new national plan.

Michael Kelley About Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley (mkelley@mediasourceinc.com) is the former Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal.

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