Federal Advocacy: The Year in Review

December 17, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

The 113th Congress has come to a close, marking the end of a historically unproductive and largely dysfunctional term. While political and economic factors created new advocacy challenges in 2014, AALL members rose to the occasion and helped to achieve real progress on several of the Association’s Public Policy Positions. Here’s a roundup of action on our priorities in the past year—including several lame duck developments.

GPO Gets a New Name

The recently passed “CRomnibus” spending bill for Fiscal Year 2015 (H.R. 83) included slight increases in funding for the Government Printing Office and the Library of Congress, as well as one particularly noteworthy policy change: it re-names the Government Printing Office as the Government Publishing Office. Throughout the year, AALL members worked in support of the Government Publishing Office Act of 2014 (S. 1947) to provide GPO with a name that more accurately reflects the agency’s role as the “official, digital, secure” source of federal government information in the digital age. S. 1947 was reported by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration but never received floor time. Instead, the bill text— which also changes the titles of the public printer and deputy public printer to “director” and “deputy director” and replaces gender-specific terms with gender-neutral ones— was rolled into the spending bill and passed into law.

FOIA Reform Phased Out

Though both the House and Senate cleared their respective bills to improve the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 2014, the FOIA Improvement Act (S. 2520) will not become law this year. After clearing a challenge from outgoing Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), the Senate bill moved to the House last Monday. Despite what appeared to be solid approval in the House, leaders in that chamber failed to put the measure on the calendar before their members adjourned for the year. The bill would have established a “presumption of openness” with government information, codifying President Obama’s 2009 directive to federal agencies. Congress is likely to revisit the issue next year.

Updates to Presidential and Federal Records Acts Enacted

This year, President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 1233, the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014. This set of amendments is the first statutory change to the Federal Records Act since it was passed in 1950 and implements the important modernization of the definition of a federal record to include electronic records. It also makes several updates to the Presidential Records Act to improve access. Among several key provisions, the new law codifies the procedures by which former and incumbent presidents review presidential records for constitutional privileges and establishes a reasonable standard for release of records.

Elimination of Indexes Avoided

When the House passed the Federal Register Modernization Act (H.R. 4195) in July, AALL advocates stepped up their advocacy efforts to defend the statutory requirement to print the Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations and produce indexes for these resources, which would have been eliminated by the bill. Sharing anecdotes about the usefulness of these texts and their indexes in print helped the Government Relations Office to engage with Senate staff about our concerns. The bill died in the Senate.

Privacy Safeguards on Back Burner

Efforts to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and reform the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance practices were both stalled in 2014 amid contentious party divisions. The Senate blocked consideration of the USA FREEDOM Act  (S. 2685) in December, despite support from the White House, Director of National Intelligence, Senators from both parties, tech companies, and a wide coalition of organizations for the bill to curb domestic surveillance practices. Critics of the legislation said they preferred to use the June 2015 reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act to enact reforms. A similarly popular bill, the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 1852) to update ECPA, gained 272 co-sponsors this year but was never awarded floor time because one federal agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, worked to keep the bill from coming to fruition. While AALL is disappointed that both efforts fizzled out, we look forward to the renewed opportunity to advance important privacy protections for individuals and library patrons in the new Congress.

House Appropriations Committee Approves Legislative Branch Bill

April 9, 2014

By Emily Feltren

Today, the House Appropriations Committee favorably reported its Fiscal Year 2015 Legislative Branch bill, which includes funding for the Government Printing Office (GPO) and Library of Congress. Given the continued fiscal constraints facing appropriators, the two agencies fared reasonably well this year.

The bill provides GPO with $122,584,000, an amount $3.3 million above the FY 2014 level but $6.3 million below the request. Most notably, the bill meets GPO’s request for the Revolving Fund, providing $11,348,000 for development of FDsys, replacement of the Composition System, and much-needed facilities repairs.

Government Printing Office (Amounts in thousands of dollars)

Printing and Binding
Salaries and Expenses Revolving Fund Total
FY2014 Enacted 79,736 31,500 8,064 119,300
FY2015 Request 85,400 32,171 11,348 128,919
FY2015 House Bill 79,736 31,500 11,348 122,584

The bill provides the Library of Congress with $594,952,000, a remarkable $16 million above the FY 2014 level and $1.9 million above the request. Importantly, the Draft Committee Report emphasizes the need to address the preservation challenges facing the Library. The bill includes funding for the Preservation Directorate, including support for mass deacidification. The bill also provides additional funding for the purchase of law books and for the Copyright Office to improve its technologies. It also directs the Government Accountability Office to review the steps the Library has taken to manage its information technology.

Library of Congress (Amounts in thousands of dollars)

Salaries and Expenses Copyright Office Books for the Blind
and Physically Handicapped
FY2014 Enacted 405,702 18,180 49,750 578,982
FY2015 Request 414,502 19,486 50,696 593,066
FY2015 House Bill 417,707 20,721 50,429 594,952

AALL thanks the House Appropriations Committee for addressing many of the funding priorities of GPO and the Library, several of which we highlighted in our written testimony.  We will continue to support as close to full funding as possible for GPO and the Library as the appropriations process proceeds in the House and Senate.

Agency Operations and Expanded Public Access: What’s in the FY 2014 Omnibus?

January 22, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

On Friday night President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion omnibus FY 2014 appropriations bill (H.R. 3547) into law. The comprehensive spending plan designates funding for every government agency and, with a 72-26 vote in the Senate and 359-67 margin in the House, passed both chambers of Congress easily.

Those agencies whose services are integral to providing access to government information managed fairly well in the budget deal. The Government Printing Office (GPO) maintained their 2013 funding level of $119 million. The Library of Congress is provided with $579 million, a decrease of $8 million below the Fiscal Year 2013 enacted level.  The Electronic Government Fund received a boost in funding from recent years to $16 million. The Fund will also retain its budgetary independence, despite the House Appropriations Committee’s proposal to merge it with another fund and cut their combined funding.

In a victory for open access advocates, the omnibus bill also included language that requires federal agencies under the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education with research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to articles resulting from federally funded research within 12 months of publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The agencies covered would ensure that more than $31 billion of the total $60 billion annual U.S. investment in taxpayer-funded research is now openly accessible.

The language in the omnibus affirms the strong precedent set by the 2009 National Institutes of Health’s Public Access Policy and 2013 White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Directive on Public Access.

AALL continues to support the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) (S. 350, H.R. 708), which would strengthen the language in the omnibus bill by requiring that taxpayer funded articles be made available through a central database no later than six months after publication. Using our Legislative Action Center, you can contact your members of Congress today to ask them to support FASTR.

Following a series of short-term spending deals, sequestration cuts, and the September government shutdown, AALL was pleased to see the omnibus package address funding through Fiscal Year 2014. This budget agreement is an important step toward bipartisanship and provides greater certainty in agency operations. The uninterrupted operations of agencies like GPO and LC are essential to informing the American public about their government and promoting a healthy democracy.

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!

House, Government Printing Office Increase Access to Legislative Data

February 4, 2013

By Emily

The Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives has expanded its docs.house.gov site to include committee information such as committee rules, bills and resolutions to be considered, recorded votes, meeting notices, witness lists and testimony. Visitors can subscribe to Committee RSS feeds and download the XML for reuse. In addition, the Government Printing Office (GPO) is now making bills in XML format available for bulk download through FDsys, from the 113th Congress forward. These efforts advance the transparency goals put forward in the 112th Congress by the House leadership and House Report 112-511, which established the Bulk Data Task Force.

AALL submitted feedback to the Bulk Data Task Force late last year, recommending that a disclaimer and link to FDsys be included along with any legislative information that is posted for bulk download. We urged the Clerk to follow the example set by the White House, GPO and the National Archives and Records Administration’s Office of the Federal Register in adding a disclaimer to the XML of the Federal Register on Data.gov, which clearly states that the XML is not official. We are pleased that the new Help section of docs.house.gov includes the following questions along with a “Legal Status and Authenticity” section as part of the FAQ:

Q. What is available on docs.house.gov?

A. Text of legislation that may be considered on the House Floor is posted on docs.house.gov. Committee documents in accordance with the standards adopted by the Committee on House Administration are posted on docs.house.gov.

If available, both the PDF version and XML version of a document are posted. Documents follow the House’s document naming convention. If the documents have been processed by U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), there may be direct links to GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDSys).

 Q. What is the authenticity of data files from docs.house.gov after they have been downloaded to another site?

A. We cannot vouch for the authenticity of data that is not under the control of the U.S. House. The U.S. House does not endorse third party applications, and does not evaluate how our original content is displayed on other sites. Consumers should form their own conclusions as to whether the downloaded data can be relied upon within an application or its enriched results that were not necessarily the original reason for producing the raw source data.

AALL supports access in many formats. We commend the Office of the Clerk for clarifying the authenticity of the XML files and for recommending that committees link to FDsys where possible. We also applaud GPO for making XML files available on FDsys through the Bulk Data Repository, along with the authenticated PDFs. This affirms GPO’s status as a trusted repository of official, authentic, digital and secure information and allows other entities to add value to government information.

Free AALL Webinar on Law Librarians and the Federal Depository Library Program

April 11, 2012

AALL members and chapter members are invited to participate in AALL’s free April 19 webinar, “Law Librarians and the Federal Depository Library Program: Working Together for a Successful Future.” Registration closes on April 12.


The Government Printing Office (GPO) is conducting a study to assess the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and determine its direction. Law librarians are leaders in advocating for equitable, no-fee, permanent public access to authentic online legal information, so it is vital that you participate in building a robust FDLP for the future.

AALL and GPO invite you to join us to learn more about the FDLP Forecast Study and how you can contribute. Sally Holterhoff, former AALL president and a two-term member of the Depository Library Council, will introduce the program, and Director of Government Relations Emily Feltren will moderate. GPO project leaders Cherie Givens and David Walls will explain the goals of the study, its three major components, and how you can participate in your state and/or region. Peggy Roebuck Jarrett, Depository Library Council member and leader of state efforts in Washington, will then explain how she has been working with other Washington State federal depository libraries to create a state forecast and action plan. The webinar is geared toward law librarians at federal depository libraries, but all AALL and chapter members are welcome to attend.

This webinar is free for AALL members and chapter members.

Learning Objectives:

• Participants will be able to explain the parts and goals of the FDLP Forecast Study.
• Participants will understand how and why to get involved in the project in their own states.


Sally Holterhoff is government information/reference librarian and associate professor of law librarianship at Valparaiso University Law Library in Indiana. She has served two terms as a member of the Depository Library Council–from 1987 to 1990 and from 2008 to 2011. Her AALL activities through the years have included serving as chair of the Government Documents SIS and of the Government Relations Committee and serving as president in 2006-07. She is also a founding member of INDIGO, the Indiana government documents group.

Peggy Roebuck Jarrett is reference and documents librarian at the University of Washington Gallagher Law Library and is currently serving on the Depository Library Council. She is organizing the efforts of the Northwest Government Information Network to craft a forecast and action plan for Washington State depository libraries.

Cherie Givens is an assessment specialist librarian at the U.S. Government Printing Office. She is co-leading the FDLP Forecast Study, has lead curriculum planning for online training on GPO’s Federal Digital System, drafted the Legal Requirements and contributed to the Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program. She holds a Ph.D. in Library, Archival and Information Studies, and is also an attorney-at-law with a particular interest in First Amendment issues and laws affecting libraries and archives. She has written and presented on issues related to the First Amendment, intellectual freedom, social policy, and the publishing industry.

David Walls is the preservation librarian for the U.S. Government Printing Office, where he is responsible for developing preservation initiatives for tangible and digital government information. He is the co-chair of the FedLink Preservation Working Group and is currently leading an initiative for FDsys certification as a trustworthy digital repository. Before coming to GPO, he was the preservation librarian at Yale University for over a decade. He is currently serving with Cherie Givens as the co-lead on the FDLP Forecast Study.


Emily Feltren, AALL Government Relations Office

AALL Federal Legislative Advocacy Update: GPO Funding

September 17, 2011

Senate Appropriations Committee Provides More Funding for GPO than House of Representatives, But Falls Far Short of Full Funding

The Senate Appropriations Committee, late Thursday evening (9/15), considered the Legislative Branch appropriations bill, which includes funding for the Government Printing Office (GPO).   The Subcommittee did not mark up the bill, instead sending it straight to the full committee for consideration.

The Committee debated three other appropriations bills (Defense; Commerce, Justice, Science; and Financial Services/General Government), starting at 2pm and ending with Legislative Branch at 7pm.  The Legislative Branch bill was approved in 10 minutes without debate or amendments.  The good news was that there were no amendments to cut GPO funding closer to the House funding levels, but there were no amendments to increase funding either.   See Senate Appropriations Committee Press Release and Senate Report on Legislative Branch Appropriations No.112-80.

For GPO, the Senate Appropriations Committee-approved bill includes a total of $116.8 million, $8 million more than the House-passed bill ($108.1 million) and $18.2 million less than FY 2011.  The Senate bill includes $500,000 for the Revolving Fund (the House had zeroed it out), $35,000,000 in Salaries and Expenses (the House provided $33.5 million) and $81.3 million for Congressional Printing and Binding (the House provided $74.6 million).  Here is a detailed chart showing funding trends (losses) since FY 2010.  As you can see, the Revolving Fund had already taken a significant hit, going from $12.7 million in FY 2010 to $1.6 million in FY 2011.

Unlike the House, the Senate Report includes very supportive comments regarding GPO’s work toward efficiencies and modernization, and for FDsys and the FDLP.  While some believe that cutting print editions will save large amounts of money, the Senate Appropriations Committee acknowledged “approximately 70 percent of the GPO’s budget represents the prepress cost of congressional publications for online access and print production.”

This bill severely cut government agencies across the board, including Congressional salaries which may result in further salary cuts, furloughs or lay-offs.  While Chairman Ben Nelson (D-NE) stressed that Congress and agencies must tighten their belts and live with less, AALL and its members have stressed that these cuts to GPO programs primarily and significantly affect the American public and the legitimacy of our government.

AALL members have played a significant role already in support of GPO funding and we thank you very much for your active involvement.  Personalized constituent contacts are critical to success, especially regarding issues that involve money.  Senate staff paid particular attention to specific examples of how FDsys and FDLP benefit their constituents.

The Senate bill could next be considered on the Senate floor or directly in a House/Senate conference process.  Therefore, continued contacts with all Senators and with key members of House and Senate committees are still needed.  A specific action alert will be sent out early next week.

Julie M. Strandlie
Director, Government Relations
(202) 942-4237

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