ASERL response to LJ Op-Ed, "The Future of the FDLP: From Conversation to Confrontation"
From: John Burger (
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2011 09:05:08 -0800 (PST)

ASERL Friends:


FYI – After consultation with the ASERL Deans FDLP Steering Committee, I have posted a response to the Op-Ed piece written by Jim Jacobs (UC San Diego) and Melody Kelly (U-North Texas, Denton) and published earlier this week in Library Journal, “ The Future of the FDLP:  From Conversation to Confrontation.”  The page can be viewed at  The full text of our response is below (with line breaks) as well as on the LJ web page (line breaks omitted by the software on the LJ site).


Please feel free to share this with other interested parties, and let me know any questions or other feedback.  Thanks.



The Association of Southeastern Research Libraries finds the content of this op-ed piece to be inaccurate and its tone unhelpful.  As Bill Sudduth, a veteran Government Information Librarian at a Regional Depository Library, points out in his comment, there are inaccuracies and innuendo here.  These serve to raise the political temperature, not improve it.  ASERL has asked for face-to-face meeting with GPO's senior leadership for months to address these issues.  We are hopeful such a meeting will happen in the not-too-distant future.


Specific to the comments by Jacobs and Kelly:  The 2008 CRS decision regarding the Kansas-Nebraska proposal was about an issue that was significantly different than the recent proposal submitted by the University of Minnesota to provide service to the residents of Michigan.  Although the Michigan-Minnesota issue does not affect ASERL libraries directly, we do not believe that a specific CRS decision should be applied broadly to any type of cross-state service proposal.


The ASERL proposal for managing FDLP collections in the South is about print retention -- to build better print document collections, and to improve access and use by improving cataloging of those collections based on subject strength and local needs, and developing local expertise about the collections.  The commitment to improve the cataloging and discoverability of these collections is significant, and should be welcomed by advocates for public access to government information.  Initial results from pilot sites have shown tremendous increases in the use of documents collections cataloged under this program.


And importantly, nowhere in the plan does ASERL advocate for the wholesale weeding or replacement of print FDLP collections with digital surrogates. 


The issue of authenticated digital copies remains unanswered at the federal level and long overdue.  It may be that current national standards for preservation-level digitization will meet those needs.  Once federal standards for authenticating digital copies are established, ASERL will seek to incorporate those requirements into our guidelines.  However, ASERL library deans/directors felt strongly that we cannot wait to implement the broader program while waiting for this question to be answered.


We agree with the authors that libraries need to retain an "adequate number of paper copies for direct user examination."  Again, building improved, comprehensive-as-possible paper collections of federal documents distributed across the region -- and improving the discoverability of these resources -- are the overall goals of this program.  We also believe these improved paper collections must be supplemented by digital access, both to serve the preferences of the overwhelming majority of users and to reduce wear and tear on the aging paper collections.


Lastly, ASERL's plan for managing FDLP collections in the Southeast Region has been under development for several years, after consultation with and positive responses from GPO until recently.  It is disturbing that our response to GPO's change in interpretation is considered by the authors to be a "confrontation" and a "personal attack of GPO leadership and the FLDP."  It has never been the intent of ASERL to personally attack anyone, and if ASERL is the offending party, we request specific examples of these "personal attacks" so we can examine them and attempt to avoid such miscommunication in the future. 


Again, we look forward to meeting face-to-face with GPO's senior leaders to discuss the issues and rectify any misconceptions.    We also welcome additional opportunities to share our perspectives and our desire to advance the availability and use of government information in a forward thinking manner.






John Burger, Executive Director
Association of Southeastern Research Libraries

ASERL has moved! As of July 1, our address is:
   Box 90182 / 411 Chapel Drive
   226A Bostock Library
   Durham, NC 27708
   919-681-2531 – telephone
   919-681-0805 -- fax


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