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Thanks to Annanamoi Sams for sharing this on our regional list.  I thought
others might be interested also so I am posting it here.

Auburn Steward, MLIS, AHIP
Center for Toxicology & Environmental Health
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ALAWON: American Library Association Washington Office Newsline
Volume 8, Number 90
September 16, 1999

In this issue:

September 14 House Hearing on Commerce Department Plans to Close NTIS

On September 14 the Subcommittee on Technology of the House Science
Committee held an oversight hearing on the Commerce Department's proposal
to close the National Technical Information Service (NTIS).  The hearing
was called in response to the August announcement by Commerce Secretary
William M. Daley to close NTIS. (See the August 6 ALAWON at
http://www.ala.org/washoff/alawon/alwn8081.html )

In August, Daley stated that NTIS' core business -- the sale of government
documents in microfiche and on paper -- "is rapidly becoming less of the
necessity it was as agencies and groups have begun to post their reports on
the Internet for free."  The Commerce Department proposes transferring NTIS
archives to the Library of Congress; government agencies would then provide
technical and business reports to the public via the Internet for "long
periods of time."

The statutory mandate for NTIS to be self-supporting was one of the key
issues raised at the September 14 hearing. All the witnesses spoke about
the need to thoughtfully and systematically approach the closing of NTIS
and how to retain its important functions and addressing the questions
about fugitive documents and permanent public access.

Testifying on behalf of five library associations was Caroline C. Long,
assistant university librarian for collection services at George Washington
University Library.  In addition to ALA, Long testified for the American
Association of Law Libraries, the Association of Research Libraries, the
Medical Library Association, and the Special Library Association.

"It is imperative the essential functions and services that NTIS provides
continue, whether at NTIS or at other federal agencies," Long said.  "These
core functions...inherently governmental...are identifying, collecting,
disseminating, and archiving scientific, technical and business
information."

Other witnesses included Deputy Secretary of Commerce Robert Mallett, who
was asked critical questions about how the Department came to its decision,
and even if they had consulted with the Library of Congress before
announcing their proposal. (They had not.)

Public Printer Michael DiMario testified about the importance of including
STI in the Federal Depository Library Program.  He also emphasized that
"the similarities in function between GPO and NTIS, the fact that both are
experienced in operating on revolving funds, the potential for valuable
synergies of technologies and staff expertise that could benefit public
access to Government information -- all of these are reasons for a
realignment of NTIS functions with GPO."

Ken Allen, chair of the NTIS advisory committee, spoke about the
importance of the scientific and technical information (STI) provided by
NTIS and the need to have both electronic and tangible/paper formats
continuing to be available. Speaking as an independent consultant, Bonnie
Carroll, president of the Information International Associates, Inc., also
argued the need for continuing to have paper and electronic materials
available during these infancy stages of the Internet.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington wrote for the record: "Given
adequate resources, [LC could] be a logical successor to NTIS for those
functions that compliment the Library's mission...However, such NTIS
functions as high volume document distribution, brokering agency databases
to the information industry, and publication...of information
products...are beyond the Library's current mandate."

Subcommittee Chair Constance Morella (R-MD) indicated that there would
continue to be a "study" of this proposal as discussion moves forward. She
asked all the witnesses to continue to work with Congress on determining
how to handle NTIS' core functions.

It is expected that there will be vigorous discussions in the coming
months about NTIS and where its core functions should go; clearly the
Library of Congress and GPO are part of that potential mix.  ALA and the
other library organizations will continue to closely monitor this
situation. It is an important opportunity to bring more coherency to the
overall discussions on access to federal government information, especially
in this increasingly electronic era.

******
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