Federal Depository Program Highlights: ARL Endorses New Set of Principles; GPO Announces Depository Library of the Year

By David Rapp

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) announced that it had recently endorsed a new set of principles regarding the Federal Depository Library Program, which in part addresses digitization issues. The same day, the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) announced its 2010 Federal Depository Library of the Year: Johnson County Library in Overland Park, KS.

Digital principles
On October 18, the ARL announced that it had endorsed a set of seven principles [PDF] four days earlier regarding the Federal Depository Library Program. More than 100 ARL members—including nearly all of its members based in the United States—are federal depository libraries, and nearly half of the 49 regional federal depository libraries are ARL members. Nationwide, there are more than 1,250 federal depository libraries.

In the introduction to the statement of principles, the ARL addresses digitization in the context of depository libraries, stating that "the best means of providing broad public access to these collections is through online access to digital and digitized copies. Therefore, the management of our tangible collections should include efforts to support or participate in initiatives to create a comprehensive digital collection in the public domain."

When the GPO hired its first preservation librarian, David Walls, in July, one of Walls's first duties was to work on updating the Federal Depository Library Program's collection management plan for the preservation of federal government documents. The GPO has also been exploring using its Federal Digital System (FDsys) as a digital preservation repository.

Principle 4 specifically addresses federal depository libraries' role regarding digital federal documents, and seems to indicate that a "comprehensive digital collection in the public domain" of federal documents should reside with a non-governmental third party: "Federal Depository Libraries are not required by law to provide long-term storage for digital Federal documents. GPO should identify and have certified one or more trusted third party repositories that are not part of the Federal government for preservation of and, when necessary, access to digital Federal documents."

Two other principles specifically address federal depository libraries' obligations, which are spelled out in Title 44 of the United States Code. Principles 1 and 3 assert, respectively, that federal depository libraries "may choose to do more than is required under Title 44 but they are not obligated to provide services beyond those required by the law," and that "State Plans for management of Federal documents collections should be reviewed and, where necessary, modified so that the plans do not require more services or collections than those identified in Title 44."

Other principles address withdrawal procedures, cataloguing records, and replacing lost, stolen, or damaged items.

Library of the Year
On the same day that the ARL made its announcement, the GPO honored the Johnson County Library for its "excellent customer service and ongoing commitment to open government." In its announcement, the GPO highlighted a number of Johnson County Library initiatives, including its GovFest event, to be held November 18, which aims to bring together government agency representatives and local business owners, and its participation in the national GovDocs Kids Group, which promotes the use of government information by K-12 students, teachers, and school librarians.

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