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Long-awaited FDLP Modernization Act would strengthen public access to government information

The bipartisan FDLP Modernization Act of 2018 (H.R. 5305) was introduced on March 15 following months of effort by the Committee on House Administration. The bill would modernize the Federal Depository Library Program and related programs that provide public access to government information. The bill is sponsored by Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-MS), Ranking Member Bob Brady (D-PA), and Committee members Rodney Davis (R-IL), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Mark Walker (R-NC), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD).

The FDLP Modernization Act was developed with input from the library community following a series of public hearings in the Committee on House Administration in 2017, which included testimony from librarians. Chairman Harper commented at the time that the hearings were an opportunity “to see how we can make something that we like, better.” The bill follows that approach and incorporates many of the recommendations ALA sent to the committee.

While earlier, unintroduced drafts of the legislation dealt with a wide range of topics related to the Government Publishing Office (GPO) and government printing, the FDLP Modernization Act focuses solely on the FDLP and the Superintendent of Documents’ programs that provide public access to government information. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Modernize the FDLP to provide greater flexibility, facilitate collaboration, streamline program requirements, and allow more libraries to participate
  • Improve public access to electronic government information by clarifying that digital information belongs in the program, guaranteeing free access to GPO’s online repository, modernizing the repository and online services, and authorizing the Superintendent to digitize historical publications
  • Strengthen preservation of government information by clarifying the Superintendent’s responsibility for preservation, establishing partnerships with libraries to preserve publications, and directing GPO to preserve publications in its online repository
  • Increase transparency and oversight to encourage the program to continue to evolve to meet the future needs of libraries and the public

ALA welcomes the legislation and sent a letter of support, along with the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), following the bill’s introduction. Prior to this process, it had been 20 years since Congress last held hearings or introduced legislation regarding the FDLP. After such a long wait, we are pleased to see bipartisan consensus that the time has come to modernize this program.

ALA is grateful for the committee’s work to strengthen this vital program. We appreciate the leadership of Reps. Harper, Brady, Davis, Comstock, Walker, Loudermilk, Lofgren and Raskin in introducing the FDLP Modernization Act. This commonsense legislation will better support libraries in providing effective and long-term access to government information. We encourage the Committee on House Administration to promptly advance the legislation.

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Gavin Baker

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