The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) recently released their congressionally mandated report, Rebooting the Government Printing Office: Keeping America Informed in the Digital Age. NAPA’s five-member panel spent ten months conducting an audit of the Government Printing Office (GPO). The panel’s lengthy 166 page report does present some interesting, and at times, troubling thoughts.
On one hand the panel definitely grasps the difficult position that GPO is in considering that, with 97% percent of today’s federal documents are born digital, the GPO has had to make many changes over the past two decades. With the advent of GPO Access and later the Federal Digital System (FDsys), GPO has made strides in continuing to be America’s go to place for authentic government information. However, finances have become a problem. The change of providing access to materials that were primarily available in print to what is now primarily digital information comes at an increased cost.
The report contains 15 recommendations that “are designed to position the federal government for the digital age, strengthen GPO’s business model, and continue to build the GPO of the future.” The recommendations, among other things, suggest that GPO expand its services and the report points out the value of GPO’s relationship with depository libraries and the need for appropriated funds to catalog, digitize, and preserve government documents.
While much of the report is reasonable and responds to the needs of libraries, the public, and GPO itself, the section in Finding III-5, Government Information Dissemination and Access, is cause for concern. This section describes the history of FDsys and the costs associated with ensuring that it is continually up-to-date, future proof and, a usable resource for the public. It also gives some ideas on how GPO might ensure funding for FDsys in the future. One of these ideas is that “now might be the time to revisit charging the public for access to FDsys content.” NAPA recognizes that FDsys would still be available free of charge via depository libraries, however considering that the public has already paid for this material via their tax dollars, the government should not ask for them to pay a second time.
The report states that “free access of government information is an important tenet of a democracy.” They include a ‘however’ after that statement. The American public deserves access to the documents of their federal government without an additional cost. The American Library Association supports and will continue to advocate for funding for the GPO to provide access to government works at no additional cost to the public.
Jessica McGilvary is the Assistant Director of ALA Washington Office's Office of Government Relations (OGR).
President Obama is expected to sign into law a $915 billion budget bill for FY 2012 sometime today. This massive budget bill, that was passed by the House with a 296-121 vote on Friday and cleared the Senate on Saturday with a 67-32 vote, will be the year-long spending for the Military Construction-VA, Defense, Energy-Water, Financial Services, Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, Labor-HHS-Education, Legislative Branch and State-Foreign Operations. A FY ’12 budget bill had previously been passed for Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation last month. This most recently passed FY’12 budget bill contains many library programs including money for school libraries, Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), and the Government Printing Office (GPO).
After Congress zeroed out funding to Improving Literacy Through School Libraries for FY 2011, both the Senate and House recognized in FY ’12 that they cut the primary source of federal funding to school libraries. In the new federal budget, congress appropriated $28.6 million for literacy. A minimum of half, or $14.3 million must go to low income school libraries while the rest of the money will go to national not-for-profits that work for childhood literacy.
This budget appropriates money for the Institutes of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) which includes $185 million for LSTA funding. This is a 2.3 percent cut from the FY ’11 amount of $189 million. Under LSTA; Grants to States was appropriated at $156.6 million, Native American Library Services was funded at $3.8 million, National Leadership for Libraries was funded at $11.9 million, and the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian was received $12.5 million in FY ‘12.
Other library programs that received money in FY ’12 was GPO which was appropriated at $126.2 million; the Congressional Printing and Binding appropriated at $90.7 million; and Superintendent of Documents funded this year at $35 million.
Ted Wegner is the Grassroots Coordinator for ALA Washington Office's Office of Government Relations (OGR).
Great news from the Senate! The Senate Committee on Appropriations passed its Legislative Branch Appropriations bill with an increase in funding for the Government Printing Office (GPO) over the amount in the House committee’s bill.
The Senate version includes $116.8 million for GPO while the House bill set the amount at $108.1 million.
Thanks to everyone who called their senators yesterday to ask for increased funding for GPO! Keep an eye on the District Dispatch so that you can continue to be involved when the bill comes up for a vote.
Assistant Director, OGR
The Senate Committee on Appropriations will hold a markup of the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill that includes the funding for the Government Printing Office at 2 p.m. today. As we have discussed in previous blog posts, it is important that in this difficult financial time people make their wishes known on how the government should allocate the spending tax dollars.
The Government Printing Office (GPO) is an invaluable resource in ensuring that the public has access to government information. Appropriations for the GPO fund the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), and it is important that we ask for an additional $7 million to be specified for further development of the Federal Digital System (FDsys). FDsys is the gateway to greater access and preservation for government documents, allowing the public to locate documents from any computer with an Internet connection.
Please take a moment today to contact your senators and express the importance of continued and expanded funding for the Government Printing Office. For information on how to contact your senators and talking points, please visit the Legislation Action Center.
The House of Representatives passed H.R. 2551, the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2012 on Friday with a vote of 252 – 159. As was stated in a previous post, this bill will make large cuts to the Government Printing Office (GPO). Unamended, the bill would have lowered the GPO’s budget about 16.3 percent below the FY2011 level. However, many amendments were passed, and the final version further lowered the budget to a total of 20 percent below the previous year.
- H.AMDT.704 – An amendment to reduce the GPO funding by $4,946,140.80 by transferring $3,414,150.29 from GPO, Congressional Printing and Binding and $1,531,990.51 from GPO, Office of Superintendent of Documents, to the spending reduction account.
- H.AMDT.705 – An amendment to prevent the distribution of printed legislation to Member offices unless a Member requests the legislation.
- H.AMDT.706 – An amendment to prevent use of funds to distribute printed copies of the Congressional Record to Member offices.
The bill not only lowers GPO’s appropriations, but it tasks the Government Accountability Office with conducting a study “to review the feasibility of Executive Branch printing being performed by the General Services Administration, the transfer of the Superintendent of Documents program to the Library of Congress, and the privatization of the GPO … [and] report its findings to the Committee on Appropriations of the House and Senate no later than January 31, 2012.” In the letter that the American Library Association sent to the House Appropriations Committee, we requested “that the library community be involved in this study, as a report that speaks to the future of the GPO and the Superintendent of Documents program is of vital interest to the library community and to public access to government documents.”
H.R. 2551 has now been sent to the Senate, and we are hopeful that the GPO will fare better there when the Senate begins concentrating on appropriations after the August recess. Please take this time to contact your senators and let them know of the importance of the GPO and its relationship with the Federal Depository Library Program and public access to government information.