The Government Printing Office (GPO) provides government documents available to the American public. In many ways, they act as a large technical services department for government documents. What I found of most interest was their emphasis in authentication, particularly since we had not heard this emphasized by other libraries. While making government documents publicly available and accessible (which GPO does through their catalog), they also have developed guidelines and procedures to ensure that what is being made available online is accurate and unaltered versions of government documents. Their catalog, along with the article level metadata and faceted search options, makes FDsys a significant source for legislative history, specifically, and government documents, writ large. I was also interested in hearing more about their “Business Intelligence and Analysis Group,” as this may be a move towards librarians expanding their role into analyst-type positions.
The Department of Defense’s Technical Information Center’s repository is a growing source for locating publicly available government documents. Learning more about how DTIC operates and what their librarians do has been of interest to me for a while. I was particularly interested in the embedded librarian participation in military exercises and their Information Analysis Centers. Both are clear examples of librarians moving out of the library and expanding their role as analysts and consultants, while also providing responsive and customizable information to their users.
The Department of Transportation’s National Transportation Library (NTL) is a library that has made itself into a mission critical organization. The exemplar of this can be seen in the requirement that the Director of the NTL must be a librarian who can ensure that the NTL functions in a way that provides critical transportation information and is a leader among transportation libraries in knowledge transfer and information sharing. Of most interest to me, was the NTL role with regards to the White House’s public access policy. Where others may be reticent or even against such actions, librarians are champions and leaders in bringing these materials and data to the American people.
The National Criminal Justice Reference Services’ (NCJRS) emphasis on collecting grey sources was a different example of knowing your users and providing customizable information to them. The funding of the NCJRS is also notable, as it is government-owned (through funds from various DOJ agencies and offices), contractor-run. This allows NCJRS to be “flatter” or horizontal and its librarians to be “institutional knowledge coordinators.”
While not a highlighted trend, practicing open access (particularly in federal librarianship) is a nuanced trend worth surveying. Surprisingly, regardless of department or location, each federal librarian spoke directly about how they serve the American public and the importance of making publicly-funded, government documents available to the American public.
This is a revised post of a daily report prepared for a Federal Library Resources Institute course and is part of a series of posts on federal libraries.