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FINS: Communicating the Emerging Philosophy of The Information Age       
Vol IV, Issue No. 9                                          April 29, 1996
Espoused Goals & Inequitable Plans
By Vigdor Schreibman

     The US Government Printing Office issued its Report to the Congress for
a transition to a more electronic Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP)
(Mar 29, 1996). The report espouses these principles and goals:

     1:  The Public Has the Right of Access to Government Information
     2:  Government Has an Obligation to Disseminate and Provide Broad Public
Access to its Information
     3:  Government Has an Obligation to Guarantee the Authenticity and
integrity of its Information
     4.  Government Has an Obligation to Preserve its Information
     5.  Government Information Created or Compiled by Government Employees
or at Government Expense Should Remain in the Public Domain

     1.  Ensure that the public has equitable, no-fee, local public access to
Government information through a centrally managed, statutory authorized
network of geographically-dispersed depository libraries.
     2.  Use new information technologies to improve public access to
Government information and expand the array of Federal information products
and services made available through the FDLP.
     3.  Provide Government information in formats appropriate to the needs
of users and intended usage.
     4.  Enable the public to locate Government information regardless of
     5.  Ensure both timely, current public access and permanent, future
public access to Government information at or through depository libraries,
without copyright-like restrictions on the use or reuse of that information.
     6.  Facilitate preservation of Government information through the
National Archives and Records Administration.
     7.  Ensure that the program is cost-effective for all parties involved,
including Government publishing agencies, GPO, depository libraries, and the
     A Strategic Plan is included in the Report to Congress, but WATCH OUT! 

     This plan is not designed to realize those enlightened principles and
goals.  It is designed, instead, to inequitably grab the financial benefits
of electronic communications (presumably for allocation to other priorities
of Gingrich Republicans such as further obscene tax breaks for the super
rich!), while pushing the costs of the transition onto already overburdened
Depository Libraries and the public.  

     This kind of incongruity between espoused goals and goals-in-use is at
an epidemic level in the United State, according to the research findings of
Harvard scholar Chris Argyris.  Such false goals must be explicitly exposed
and rigorously opposed.

     The Montana Library Association squarely addressed this inequity at a
membership meeting Apr 26th [Fins-PI2-08].  At that time the MLA membership
unanimously approved a resolution stating (among other things) that, 
     GPO's goal is to provide 50% of government publications to
     depository libraries in electronic format by October of 1998; and
     ... Most paper copies except for a limited core list will be
     eliminated and libraries will be expected to provide users with
     on-line access and print on demand ... Many Montana libraries and
     their users are not equipped to access government information
     primarily on-line and can not afford to print copies on demand.

     The MLA resolution went on to urge Congress,
     to sufficiently fund the Federal Depository Library Program so that
     a mix of formats appropriate to the information and the users can
     be provided; and ... to provide sufficient funds so that key
     government publications can be published in paper for preservation
     for future researchers; and to adopt a 5 to 10 year transition
     period so libraries can budget and plan for adequate and equitable
     electronic access for the public.

     Congress and the Executive Branch have allocated hundreds of billions of
dollars for information technology during the past 15 years, to empower the
government and to subsidize private industry, while imposing a crippling
freeze on the dissemination of public information through the FDLP.  The
colossal, inequitable expenditures on IT have admittedly been "thrown away"
on an unrelenting basis that undermines our democracy and the sovereign
powers of the people [Fins-SR2-16; Fins-PaN-23].  

     The FDLP is the lifeblood of democracy and must be fully supported. 
This issue is political and not financial.  The professional groups that
understand these inequities have a special opportunity during this election
year to educate members of Congress and the public about this situation. 

     Moreover, libraries throughout the nation can best inform library users
about the existing situation and future possibilities by dissemination of
alternative publications that "speak truth to power."  Established
publications of the mass media that are customarily made available through
libraries simply reinforce the false images of privileged groups, whereas
resisting "censorship through silence" on such vital matters is essential.