June Issue of E-Bulletin

June 29, 2012

The June issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is now available on AALLNET.

IN THIS ISSUE

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

  • See you in Boston!

STAY INFORMED/GET INVOLVED: News and Action Alerts

  • Act Now! Help AALL Build the Case for Print Legal Resources
  • House Judiciary Approves FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization
  • A First Look at the FOIA Portal
  • Appropriations Update: Bills Await Senate Consideration
  • Open Access Petition to be Considered by White House

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: Chapter News

  • LLAGNY Helps Secure State Aid to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services
  • California Assembly Judiciary Committee Approves UELMA Bill
  • What’s Next for UELMA in California

FREE TIME WELL SPENT: Further Reading and Resources for the Info Policy Junkie

  • Federal Reserve Preparing Inventory of Historical Materials
  • NARA Releases Open Government Plan for 2012-2014
  • New National Security Archive Publication Makes Available 900 Formerly Classified Documents

The Economic Impact of Ending the American Community Survey? Not Good.

June 21, 2012

On Tuesday, the Congressional Joint Economic Committee held a hearing entitled, “The Economic Impact of Ending or Reducing Funding for the American Community Survey and other Government Statistics.” In direct response to the May 10th vote by the House of Representatives to strip funding for the American Community Survey (ACS) and 2012 Economic Census, the hearing offered inquiry into the economic value of U.S. economic statistics, their timeliness and accuracy. Four economists were called to testify. From the Democratic side: Mr. Kenneth Simonson, Chief Economist at the Associated General Contractors of America and Vice President of the National Association for Business Economics; and Dr. Andrew Reamer, Research Professor at George Washington University Institute of Public Policy. From the Republican side: Mr. Keith Hall, Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and former Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics; and Mr. Grant D. Aldonas, Principal Managing Director of Split Rock International. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-14) presided.

Though the hearing proceeded as you might expect any economic conversation would in this staunchly partisan Congress, there were several points that should be of particular interest to information policy advocates:

First, the hearing room was filled to capacity with eager observers. Congressional aides, representatives from nonprofits and the general public turned out in large numbers, rendering the Cannon House Office Building room to standing room only. Several audience members held signs calling on Congress to “Stop cutting tools for job creation.” An infant in an ACS onesie was also in attendance. The majority of the audience, it appeared, was there to show support for these vital Census Bureau programs and research tools—a critical reminder that the values and work of AALL members do not exist in a vacuum.

Second, Dr. Reamer made several persuasive points about the importance of data as a public good. Dr. Reamer founded and managed two economic development consulting firms and in 2010, published a report for the Brookings Institution measuring the overall impact of the ACS. In his prepared remarks, Dr. Reamer drove home a message familiar to law librarians:

Data are a classic ‘public good,’ resulting in substantial underinvestment by the private sector. Consequently, the tendency is for markets to lack access to information necessary to be efficient. Only the Federal government has the fiscal resources, authority, and motivation to produce data that are objective, reliable, and relevant to policy needs, consistent over space and time, and freely accessible to multiple users. Free access provides substantial benefits to society, including improved public and private decision-making and economic outcomes.  (emphasis added)

Equitable, no-fee permanent public access to authentic online legal information is a tenet of AALL’s advocacy work and Dr. Reamer’s statements about the value of the ACS emphasized this message.

Lastly, though most testimony fell along party lines, by the end of the hearing three out of four witnesses conceded that no adequate substitution or replacement for the ACS exists in the private sector, nor does the decennial Census provide sufficient socio-economic data to replace the ACS. Further, three out of the four stated that making the ACS voluntary would compromise the response rate and, therefore, the integrity of the data collected. The fourth witnesses declined to answer these questions. The ACS has gained bipartisan support with the Chamber of Commerce and economists at conservative think tanks like the Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation all speaking out in support of funding.

The House Appropriations bill (H.R 5326) that defunded the ACS is still awaiting consideration by the Senate, so there is still time to act. If yesterday’s hearing is any indication, these valuable research tools are being given real consideration. Your calls to your Senators just may turn the tide.


Shaping the Future of the FDLP

June 14, 2012

June is traditionally known for celebrations and outdoor fun, with highlights including the first day of summer (aka the summer solstice/longest day of the year), which in 2012 falls on June 20. This year, participants in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) have had one more special day on their calendars: June 30, which is the deadline for responding to the FDLP Forecast Survey Questionnaire.

The Government Printing Office (GPO) is conducting this survey of individual libraries and states in order to assess current needs and future expectations so that the future of the FDLP can be based on a vision shared by member libraries. The FDLP includes approximately 150 law school libraries and 50 state, court, county, and government law libraries. Depository coordinators in many of those 200 libraries have already responded to the survey by submitting their answers online. However, this important task still remains on the June “to-do” list of a number of our law library colleagues.

So, why does this matter? Law libraries have had a vital stake in the provision of government and legal information through the depository program for over 100 years. Our participation in current efforts to forecast and shape its future is important. Completing the Forecast Survey questionnaire is a great way to provide feedback on preservation plans, education needs, economic and demographic factors, and the relative value of initiatives conducted by GPO’s depository administration team. No previous survey or research effort targeting the depository community has ever included as many open-ended questions as this one does. The information being gathered will ultimately be used for long-term decision-making about the FDLP. If we want our top concerns as law librarians (such as digital authentication, online court opinions, permanent public access, primary legal sources in print, etc.) to be considered, NOW is our chance to be heard.

Everything needed to complete the survey can be found here: http://www.fdlp.gov/project-information. For additional clarification or inspiration, you can view the slides from an April 19 AALL webinar, “Law Librarians and the Federal Depository Library Program: Working Together for a Successful Future.” The webinar included an in-depth look at GPO’s FDLP Forecast Study, explaining its purpose, goals, and how law librarians can get involved, presented by GPO staffers Cherie Givens and David Walls.

Another indication of AALL’s ongoing commitment to the FDLP is the formation of a new Task Force on the FDLP, which was announced by AALL President Darcy Kirk in April. I am chairing that Task Force and the other members and I have been charged to support law library participation in the depository program. Our plans include focusing attention on benefits of the program for law libraries, identifying changes that could enable law libraries to continue to participate, and encouraging law librarians to take an active role in discussions on the future of the program. We’ve just begun our work, which will continue throughout the 2012-2013 Association year.

How can you help? If you are not the depository coordinator for your library, please urge him or her to make the completion of the FDLP Forecast Survey Questionnaire a high priority— and soon! If you or someone else in your library has already submitted answers to the survey, that’s great— you deserve some guilt-free time with a cool drink and your favorite summer reading in hand. If not, please don’t let this opportunity slip by…the days remaining until June 30 will pass quickly. Be sure to do YOUR part to help shape the future of the FDLP.

Guest post by Sarah (Sally) Holterhoff, Chair, AALL FDLP Task Force


GPO Opens Nominations for Federal Depository Libraries of the Year

June 13, 2012

In this month’s issue of FDLP Connection, the Government Printing Office (GPO) announced that it will honor for the first time two Federal Depository Libraries of the Year: one regional and one selective. The awards will provide special recognition to libraries that have furthered the FDLP’s mission of ensuring the American public has free access to its government’s information.

GPO is calling for nominations of libraries that have demonstrated exceptional innovation, collaboration with other libraries and community organizations, and other accomplishments that greatly enhance public access to federal government information.  The criteria for selection includes outstanding promotion of the program, access to a well-defined collection, exceptional preservation standards, and a solid understanding of federal government information needs in the library’s service area. The full list of nomination guidelines in available on the FDLP website. Entries must include library contact information, a short description of the library’s accomplishments, and statistical data, if available.

This is an exciting opportunity for you to acknowledge the work libraries are doing in your community to promote improved access to government information. Law librarians lead the charge in advocating for equitable, no-fee, permanent public access to authentic online legal information, and it is crucial that the contributions of the FDLP be recognized.

In 2008, the Law Library for San Bernardino County was named FDL of the year. Law Library Director Lawrence R. Meyer said at the time:

“We are deeply honored and privileged to receive the award. We appreciate its significance to the depository community and the recognition the award conveys specifically to the Law Library for San Bernardino County as well as the recognition it places upon all Law Libraries that participate in the FDLP as selective depositories or through shared housing arrangements. In particular this award emphasizes the importance of publicly accessible county law libraries to the FDLP.”

Do you know a stellar Federal Depository Library? Submit your nominations for the 2012 Federal Regional and Selective Depository Library of the Year and tell your colleagues to do the same!

Nominations are being accepted online through July 31, 2012. The winners will be awarded by Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks during the Depository Library Council Meeting & Federal Depository Library Conference on October 15, 2012.


House Approves Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill While Leadership Prioritizes Bulk Access

June 8, 2012

The House of Representatives approved the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (H.R. 5882) today by a vote of 307-102. The bill spends $3.3 billion overall, about $33 million below the FY 2012 level and $190 million below the requested level.

Under the bill, the Library of Congress receives $592.6 million, an increase of $5.3 million above the FY 2012 enacted level and $10.9 million below the requested level. The bill allocates $122.6 million for the Government Printing Office (GPO), $3.6 million below the FY 2012 enacted level and $3.6 million below the requested level. GPO’s request for Congressional Printing and Binding and the Salaries and Expenses of the Superintendent of Documents is fully funded by the bill.  The bill cuts GPO’s Revolving Fund to about $4.1 million, $3.75 million below the requested level. However, in a message on the FDLP Desktop, Superintendent of Documents Mary Alice Baish assured readers that GPO has sufficient funding to continue the development of FDsys, including improving the search engine and digitizing the permanent edition of the Congressional Record.

After much attention was given to the subcommittee’s appropriations report language about access to bulk legislative data, the House’s leadership issued a statement adopting the goal of “provid[ing] bulk access to legislative information to the American people without further delay.” In the statement, Speaker John Boehner R-OH-08), Majority Leader Cantor (R-VA-07), Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Crenshaw (R-FL-04), and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Issa (R-CA-49) direct the creation of a task force to expedite the process of making XML information available to the public. The task force will include representatives from the Library of Congress and the Government Printing Office, House leadership and key committees, the Clerk of the House, and the House Chief Administrative Officer. The leadership writes: “Because this effort ranks among our top priorities in the 112th Congress, we will not wait for enactment of a Legislative Branch appropriations bill but will instead direct the task force to begin its important work immediately.”

As the House moves forward with the release of bulk access to legislative data, AALL will continue to work to support efforts to ensure that the data is timely, accurate, and trustworthy.


New White House Digital Government Strategy Offers Promise, Raises Concerns

June 4, 2012

On May 23, the White House launched its new Digital Government Strategy, an initiative aimed at improving the way government agencies utilize new tools and technologies to serve the public. The plan lays out clear-cut procedures for making public information open and machine readable within one year, allowing Americans to engage with their government more easily.

In a memorandum introducing the new strategy developed by the Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO), Steven VanRoekel, President Obama directs each major federal agency to make two of their key services available on mobile devices within the next 12 months and to make “applicable” government information open and machine-readable by default. The strategy intends to “ensure that agencies use emerging technologies to serve the public as effectively as possible” and will require agencies “to adopt new standards for making applicable Government information open and machine-readable by default.” The memo calls on agencies to publicly report on their progress.

Further, the strategy promises to “transform Data.gov into a data and API (application programming interfaces) catalog that in real time pulls directly from agency websites,” as summarized in a blog post by VanRoekel. An excerpt from the report explains:

Rather than thinking primarily about the final presentation—publishing web pages, mobile applications or brochures—an information-centric approach focuses on ensuring our data and content are accurate, available, and secure. We need to treat all content as data—turning any unstructured content into structured data—then ensure all structured data are associated with valid metadata. Providing this information through web APIs helps us architect for interoperability and openness, and makes data assets freely available for use within agencies, between agencies, in the private sector, or by citizens.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will formulate a government-wide policy pertaining to API and systems will be required to support access to high-value open data. The report also outlines plans to set up a Digital Services Innovation Center to be carried out by the General Services Administration through a centralized effort to help agencies build out shared solutions for a “citizen-centric” approach to the web.

The scope of this new digital government strategy is laudable. The White House has put forth an ambitious and progressive strategy that has the potential to improve government transparency and accessibility. However, there are several omissions from the report that are cause for concern. Though leaders in producing, disseminating and preserving electronic information, the Government Printing Office and the Library of Congress are never mentioned in the report, and the National Archives and Records Administration is mentioned only once. NARA is charged with working with the Federal CIO Council and National Institute of Standards and Technology to “develop guidelines for standardized implementation of digital privacy controls and educate agency privacy and legal officials on options for addressing digital privacy, records retention, and security issues.”

Most troubling, the report puts forth a strategy for access to “high-quality digital government data” but does not address the need to ensure that the information is trustworthy, accurate, preserved and permanently accessible to the public, with explicit procedures to do so.

In all, the Digital Government Strategy is an important commitment by the White House to greater government transparency and more accessible information. However, to adequately create a digital government, the White House must take into account issues of the lifecycle of electronic information before it can offer a truly comprehensive solution.


May Issue of Washington E-Bulletin

June 1, 2012

The May issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is now available on AALLNET. 

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • New Government Relations Office Staff Member, Elizabeth Holland
  • Action Alert: Help Save the American Community Survey
  • Your Guide to AALL’s Public Policy Programs in Boston

STAY INFORMED/GET INVOLVED: News and Action Alerts

  • House Appropriations Committee Approves Fiscal Year 2013 Legislative Branch Bill
  • Judge Evans Issues Long-Awaited Ruling in Georgia State E-Reserves Case
  • New One-Pager on Presidential Records

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: Chapter News                                

  • Supreme Court of Ohio Plans to Discontinue Bound Volumes of Appellate Court Decisions
  • Utah Legislature Approves Funding for Statewide Self-Help Center
  • Diane Boyer-Vine is the 2012 Recipient of the NOCALL Legislative Advocacy Award
  • Connecticut General Assembly Passes Online Regulations Bill

FREE TIME WELL SPENT: Further Reading and Resources for the Info Policy Junkie

  • Scout, a New Legislative and Regulatory Research Tool
  • Chesapeake Group Finds Thirty-eight Percent of Online Documents Disappear in Five Years
  • Report Finds Agencies Still Struggling with Records Management

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