Library Associations Support Nomination of Davita Vance-Cooks to Lead Government Printing Office

June 14, 2013

by Emily Feltren, Director of Government Relations

On June 11, the five major library associations – AALL, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Medical Library Association and Special Libraries Association – submitted a statement for the record in support of Davita Vance-Cooks for Public Printer of the United States. The letter cites her extensive knowledge of the Government Printing Office (GPO) and her exceptional management skills, which we believe will allow her to effectively lead the agency in the digital age.

The letter states:

Since becoming Acting Public Printer in January 2012, she has led a rebranding of GPO as the “official, digital, secure resource for producing, procuring, cataloging, indexing, authenticating, disseminating, and preserving the official information products of the Federal Government.

In her role as Acting Public Printer, Ms. Vance-Cooks has established a positive and productive relationship with the library community. In May 2012, representatives from our library organizations joined Ms. Vance-Cooks to discuss our priorities and challenges. We appreciated the opportunity to share our concerns and ideas with her.

On June 12, the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration held a nomination hearing for Vance-Cooks. The hearing was chaired by Senator Angus King (I-Maine) and attended by Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-Kans.) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) praised Vance-Cooks in a written statement, calling her “uniquely qualified” to lead the agency and urging his colleagues to move quickly to confirm her as the 27th Public Printer. Many other members of Congress have issued statements in support of her nomination, including the Democratic members of the Committee on House Administration who tweeted their support. If confirmed, Vance-Cooks would be the first woman and the first African-American to serve as Public Printer.

PCLOB to Probe NSA Surveillance Programs

June 13, 2013

By Elizabeth Holland, Public Policy Associate

A group of 13 senators has called for an independent investigation by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) into the National Security Agency (NSA)’s domestic spying programs. NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander said at a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday that the NSA would cooperate with an investigation and said  the agency met with PCLOB earlier in the week.

In a letter sent to PCLOB yesterday, Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and 11 colleagues requested the board examine whether the NSA data and phone record collection programs are legal as authorized by Congress and whether they adequately protect the privacy of Americans. The senators further asked that the investigation’s results be produced in an unclassified report for public release.

Established as an entity of the White House in 2004 by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (P.L. 108-458) at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and reconstituted as an independent agency by Congress in 2007, PCLOB was a long-dormant agency created to advise the Executive Branch on privacy and civil liberty issues impacted by U.S. counter-terrorism programs. With the August 2012 confirmation of four members of the Board and recent renewed focus on government oversight in surveillance program, it appears PCLOB will finally have the opportunity to begin its important work.

AALL has long supported PCLOB, most recently calling for the Board’s “focus on a variety of issues related to national security policies and programs…including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), cybersecurity, state secrets privilege, National Security Letters (NSLs), and the PATRIOT Act” in a November 2012 Blawg post.

Senators Call for Declassification of FISA Court Opinions

June 11, 2013

By Elizabeth Holland,  Public Policy Associate

A bipartisan group of eight senators has introduced legislation to require the Attorney General to declassify Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions governing controversial government surveillance programs. In light of the recent revelation of the National Security Agency’s secret data collection programs, the bill aims for greater transparency of the legal authority claimed for surveillance under the USA PATRIOT Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) is a special U.S. federal court charged with overseeing requests by federal law enforcement agencies for surveillance warrants within the United States. FISC is a “secret court” and its rulings and orders are highly classified. The proposed legislation would unseal some classified opinions by the court that authorized requests for surveillance. If a FISC opinion cannot be declassified without undermining national security interests, the Attorney General can instead release a declassified summary of the opinion or provide a report to Congress describing the surveillance that would be implemented.

Sponsors of the bill include several key privacy advocates, including Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Senators Merkley and Lee introduced the same bill as an amendment to FISA’s five-year extension in December 2012, but were defeated 37-54. Had it passed, the amendment would have covered the declassification of rulings related to the provisions used to authorize the controversial Verizon telephone records collection and PRISM program.

AALL has long called for stronger oversight and transparency of government surveillance programs that monitor public communications, having opposed the extension of the FISA Amendments Act and changes to FISA under the USA PATRIOT Act, which permitted government surveillance in criminal investigations without a showing of probable cause.

As reported by The Nation and Albany Tribune, AALL strongly supports this important bill, which has also been endorsed the New York Times and numerous open government groups, including, of which AALL is a founding member.

Spying Programs Threaten Personal Privacy

June 7, 2013

By Elizabeth Holland, Public Policy Associate

Earlier this week, news broke that the National Security Agency is collecting the telephone records of millions of Verizon customers under a dragnet, top secret court order which provides location information, time, date, duration, and telephone numbers for all customer calls within the U.S. and between U.S. callers and foreign phone numbers. It appears the Section 215 order to obtain phone records is a regular renewal of a program that has occurred in secret every three months for the past seven years. Then, the Washington Post reported yesterday that the National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine U.S.  Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets. The program, code-named PRISM, had not been made public until now. Even the targeted Internet companies say they weren’t aware of the program, which was confirmed by the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The level of secrecy surrounding these surveillance programs is astounding, and as the ACLU states, it has “stymied our system of checks and balances.” AALL urges Congress to immediately conduct an investigation into the Executive Branch’s surveillance authority and enact reforms that protect Americans’ right to privacy and ensure effective oversight of our government.

AALL believes the protection of personal privacy is a core value of our society and has long called for greater oversight of surveillance programs. As our Government Relations Policy states, “AALL supports a comprehensive national and state framework for privacy protection to safeguard the rights of all Americans. We oppose any current or future legislation, regulation, or guideline that erodes the privacy and confidentiality of library users or that has the effect of suppressing the free and open exchange of ideas and information.” The government has a responsibility to protect the privacy of library users, including the confidentiality of library circulation and research records.  Changes to existing laws to protect electronic communications and effective oversight of laws that expand surveillance of library users are crucial to citizens’ privacy.

The PRISM program appears to be based on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FISA), which authorizes surveillance of communications if one party is believed to be outside the US. During FISA debate last year, Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) last raised concerns about the possibility of a loophole in section 702 that “could be used to circumvent traditional warrant protections and search for the communications of a potentially large number of American citizens.” FISA does not require the government to identify targets of their surveillance.  AALL joined a number of groups to oppose the reauthorization of FISA last fall and urged members to contact their members of Congress opposition.

Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act has been used to justify the surveillance of Verizon phone records.  Section 215 expanded the government’s power to collect information about innocent Americans by requiring the production of “any tangible thing” (including books, records, papers and documents) it claims to be relevant to authorized foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations. For more than a decade, AALL has urged Congress to reform the PATRIOT Act to balance the government’s interest in protecting national security with defending the constitutional rights of the American people. When the Act last came up for renewal, we joined other library associations in supporting language that would tighten Section 215 to require the government to show relevance to an authorized investigation and a link to a foreign group or power in order to obtain library circulation records or patron lists.

The news of this week makes clear that these reforms and greater oversight of surveillance programs are imperative to the health of our democracy.  We call on Congress to act now to safeguard the rights and civil liberties of all Americans, while fulfilling the obligation to protect our citizens and national security.

June Washington E-Bulletin

June 3, 2013

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

Vol. 2013, Issue 06





Law Libraries and the FDLP: An Interview with Sally Holterhoff

June 3, 2013

AALL past president Sarah (Sally) G. Holterhoff is the Associate Professor of Law Librarianship and Government Information/Reference Librarian at Valparaiso University Law School Library. Sally has chaired AALL’s Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) Task Force since its creation in 2012. The Government Relations Office recently sent Sally a number of questions about the mission of the task force, its past and present work, and the role of law librarians in the FDLP. Below are her responses.

What is the history and purpose of AALL’s FDLP Task Force? How did it come about?

Our task force was created in the Spring of 2012 by then-president Darcy Kirk, in response to shifting circumstances in the depository library community. At that time, concerns had been raised about the future direction of the FDLP. Also, the Government Printing Office had announced plans to begin a new process of gathering information about the changing needs of depository libraries. AALL clearly had a stake in these matters and in making sure that law librarians would be represented in the discussion and the outcomes. Forming a task force was also an indication of the Association’s long-standing and still-strong commitment to the FDLP.

At the Fall 2011 Federal Depository Library Conference, Superintendent of Documents Mary Alice Baish announced that GPO would be asking each state to respond to a forecast questionnaire that would solicit information about the depository library community in the state and what needed to be changed for the future. States would use the survey results to create state-focused action plans, which would all be brought together to form a national plan. As it happened, many of the librarians attending the conference commented that they would like to complete surveys for their own libraries.  In response, GPO expanded the original proposal to include individual library forecast questionnaires. So, in early 2012, the depository coordinator of each FDLP library was asked to complete a detailed survey, with a June 30 deadline.

With a national conversation on the FDLP’s future underway, it was clearly important to ensure that the issues and perspectives of law librarians would be represented in the process. Two hundred law libraries participate in the FDLP and many others rely on them for government information resources and expertise. It also seemed like a good time to reexamine and reemphasize the valuable participation of law libraries in the program now and through the years.  The Task Force was given a charge directing us to highlight the benefits of the program, to identify changes that would encourage continued participation by law libraries, and to facilitate a broader role for law librarians in discussions on the future of the FDLP.

How have law librarians been involved in the FDLP Forecast Study?

Our new Task Force received some visibility right away when I was asked to give the introduction for a webinar that AALL and GPO were sponsoring jointly: 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, presented by two GPO staff members, explaining its purpose, goals, and how law librarians could get involved. In my remarks, I emphasized the long history that law libraries and the FDLP have shared for over 100 years, including the 1972 law that added the highest appellate courts of the states to the program and the 1978 law that made academic law libraries eligible for depository status. In making these additions to the program, Congress acknowledged the natural fit between the service and research mission of law libraries and the goals of the depository program. Approximately 150 law school libraries and 50 state, court, county, and government law libraries are currently part of the FDLP.  As we know, the influence of the depository program extends far beyond those 200 libraries.  The legal profession depends on the federal government to provide official, authentic versions of the primary sources of law. The working partnership between law libraries and the FDLP serves the public by providing access to justice.

To encourage law librarians to respond to the Forecast questionnaire, I posted several messages on the e-group list of the Government Documents SIS and in June I wrote a guest post for the Washington Blawg. Because the questionnaire included a number of open-ended questions, it offered an opportunity for law librarians to mention such high priority concerns as digital authentication, online court opinions, permanent public access, and primary legal sources in print.  As it turned out, the rate of responses by law librarians to the survey was quite good overall. In the academic law library category, 71 percent submitted a completed questionnaire. For the highest state court library category, the response rate was 70 percent.  The lowest response percent was from the federal court library category, at 46 percent. Law librarians also worked together very effectively with colleagues in public, government and other academic libraries to create state action plans in a number of states. Just last month (May 2013) GPO began releasing data reports on the answers to some of the Forecast questions. The Task Force has started to analyze the responses from law librarians in the categories of academic, highest state court, & federal court, and to come to some logical conclusions based on the results. Since future releases are scheduled after our Task Force term is over, the analysis of the data will have to be continued by the GRO or some other AALL group.

What are some of the highlights of the last year and a half?

The Task Force decided it was important to “take the pulse” of law libraries involved in the FDLP. Doing phone interviews with AALL members was the method we chose to do that. In June 2012 the other Task Force members and I together spoke with about 40 AALL members who have a connection with or interest in the depository program. From these conversations we identified some common concerns of law librarians and came up with some specific suggestions for what law libraries need to stay in the program. Following our charge to provide feedback to GPO, we arranged to meet with Mary Alice Baish, Superintendent of Documents, during the 2012 AALL Annual Meeting in Boston, so we could discuss our findings with her.  Common concerns included preservation of government information in all formats and the digitization of legacy print collections. AALL members would like FDsys to have a more user-friendly interface and to include more federal court opinions. There is still strong support for the FDLP from law libraries of all types. The individuals we contacted say their libraries intend to stay in the program. Here are some representative quotes that sum up a general attitude of support:

  • “The FDLP is the public face of the U.S. government for the public.”
  • “GPO is the central agency for organizing government information and adding value to it by making it accessible.”
  • “A real strength of the FDLP for law librarians is authentication of legal resources, so that they can be taken to court or used in a contract.”
  • “Thanks to GPO, the U.S. is a model of digital authentication for the 50 states and for countries around the world.”

Making law library depositories more visible was another goal for us. Thanks to outreach to the AALL Public Relations Committee by Task Force member Camilla Tubbs, a new category of “Government Information Librarians or Libraries” was added this year to the AALL Day in the Life photo contest. There were a number of entries in that category and three winners were selected. We plan to use some of the photos for displays at the 2013 AALL Annual Meeting in Seattle.

Communication with the Government Printing Office was part of our charge. We decided that one important contact would be with the Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks. We worked with the AALL GRO to draft a letter which was signed jointly by AALL President Jean Wenger and by me (on behalf of the Task Force). In the letter, which was sent in early February, we offered GPO the praise and  support of AALL, as well as encouragement to do more of certain activities. We also suggested a possible in-person meeting between the Acting Public Printer and Jean (who was coming to D.C. in April for other reasons). We were pleased that the meeting did take place and that it resulted in an excellent discussion. We are hopeful that this is the first of more meetings of this sort in future years.

What does the Task Force have planned for this year’s Annual Meeting in Seattle?

=We want to focus the attention of Annual Meeting attendees on the important role of law libraries in the depository program. Thanks to Task Force member Kate Irwin-Smiler, we will be presenting a Poster Session, “Law Libraries and the FDLP: Still a Winning Partnership”. We will be spotlighting both policy and practice in the modern-day law library depository. We investigated law library collection development policies and found some good examples of language mentioning federal depository status and resources. These could serve as good models for others to use and our poster will feature them. We will also be proudly displaying some of the “Day in the Life” photos from the “Government Information” category, which show law librarians at work providing access to government information resources in a depository setting.

With only four members of the Task Force (and one of us not able to be in Seattle), we all should be very busy taking part in various other activities in addition to the Poster Session. We plan to be represented at the CONELL Marketplace, at the Legislative Advocacy workshop, in the Activities Area of the Exhibit Hall (sharing table with GD-SIS), at the Coffeehouse Chat with the Superintendent of Documents, and at the GD-SIS business meeting and breakfast. We hope to spread the word on what we have learned and accomplished as a Task Force and to recruit others to carry on some of our ongoing projects.

The Task Force will soon be wrapping up its work. Will you have recommendations for the future? 

We are working on a final report from our Task Force to the AALL Executive Board for its July meeting. In our recommendations we are trying to make sure that FDLP issues will continue to be addressed by other appropriate entities within AALL.  We are recommending that the work of the Task Force be continued in some form by a new committee or working group of the AALL Government Documents Special Interest Section. There is still plenty to do and lots of chances for others to become involved!

We are completing work on some new resources that will be linked to from the FDLP page in the Advocacy section of AALLNET. One is a listing of all law library depositories, with name and contact information for the depository coordinator in the library.  Another is a list we’ve compiled of Selected Resources Concerning Law Libraries and Librarians as Participants in the Federal Depository Library Program, including articles, webinars, Annual Meeting programs, presentations at Depository Library Council Meetings & Federal Depository Library Conferences, and AALL Testimony on the FDLP (starting with the 104th Congress, 1995-96). Another is A Brief History of the Relationship of Law Libraries and the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) with the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). Finally, we have created a list of all the law librarians who have served on the Federal Depository Library Council to the Public Printer through the years, since its beginning in 1972. All these resources seem to us to reinforce the strong ties that law libraries have had with the FDLP through the years and to emphasize the need to work together to develop a program that works well for the 21th Century. Watch for these resources to be posted soon!

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