Dear Congress, here’s how to ensure public access to government information

As previously reported, Congress’ Committee on House Administration is currently examining Title 44 of the U.S. Code. That’s the law that governs the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and the Government Publishing Office (GPO).Logo for a Federal Depository Library

On Sept. 15, ALA President Jim Neal sent the committee a letter highlighting the vital role of libraries and the FDLP in providing equitable and long-term access to a wealth of information resources created by the federal government. As president Neal put it:

Libraries help the public find, use and understand government information. Through their decades-long partnership with the FDLP, libraries collect, catalog, preserve and provide reference services to support a wide array of users, including business owners, lawyers, researchers, students of every age and citizens.

However, the law designed to support those important activities has become less and less in tune with changing library and information practices. Many provisions of Title 44 were last revised in the 1960s and are understandably but badly out of step with the way Americans use, and libraries want and need to provide, information in the 21st century.

In order to ensure the public’s continued access to government information, ALA has made specific and detailed recommendations to Congress that it modernize Title 44 to:

  1. Strengthen library partnerships for public access to federal publications;
  2. Ensure the long-term preservation of federal publications; and
  3. Improve the collection and distribution of digital publications.

On Sept. 26, the committee will hold a hearing to discuss the FDLP – Congress’ first hearing on the program in 20 years. ALA looks forward to this discussion and appreciates the committee’s interest in exploring these issues, with particular thanks to chairman Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS3) and ranking member Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA1). We hope this hearing will identify directions in which reform legislation might productively go to strengthen the program and help libraries better connect Americans to their government.

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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