Congress examining Title 44 and the Federal Depository Library Program

Picture of the Government Publishing Office from the street. The GPO administers the Federal Depository Library Program.Congress’ Committee on House Administration this year began examining Title 44 of the U.S. Code, which is the authority for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and the Government Publishing Office (GPO). This process is an important opportunity for librarians to advocate for improvements to the FDLP and public access to government information.

So far, the committee has held two hearings on GPO, in May and July. There may be one or more additional hearings in the fall. The committee may also prepare legislation to amend Title 44.

In her testimony at the July hearing, GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks commented that “there are certain provisions of Title 44 that no longer make good business sense.” She also noted that the laws underpinning the FDLP, which have gone largely unchanged since the 1960s, have “been eclipsed in some areas by technology.”

To address those issues, GPO has asked the Depository Library Council, an advisory committee to GPO on FDLP issues, to provide the office with recommendations for potential changes. The council, in turn, has invited suggestions from the community.

In response, ALA submitted comments to the FDLP on Aug. 23 stating, in part:

For decades, FDLP libraries and GPO have worked together to implement Title 44 and help the public find, use, and understand government information. The FDLP’s purpose, to ensure that the American public has access to its government’s information, remains vital. Since the major concepts of Title 44 were last revised, however, the information environment has evolved considerably: government publishing and information-seeking increasingly take place online, and libraries continue to update their services to meet patron needs. Revising Title 44 to account for these changes would keep the FDLP relevant for the next generations of information users.

ALA looks forward to working with the Depository Library Council and GPO to advance ideas that strengthen the federal government’s partnership with libraries and expand the American public’s long-term access to government information.

For Title 44 to best serve libraries and the public, it will be critical for ALA members to engage with this process and provide their ideas. If you have suggestions, please share them with me so we can consider them as this process moves forward.

About Gavin Baker

Gavin Baker is an assistant director of Government Relations. He advocates for library priorities on government information and transparency issues. Previously, he worked at California Common Cause, the Center for Effective Government / OMB Watch and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. Gavin earned his M.S. in library and information studies from Florida State University and his B.A. in political science from the University of Florida.

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