The past couple of weeks have been a travel fest for me. Trips to Chicago, New Orleans, Nashville, and Washington, DC. All in support of my year as the President of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). In those trips I represented the members of AALL as leader of the Executive Board, representative for a peer organization, visitor to a law library chapter, and finally, as a voice of our profession to the United States Congress. It was my first time testifying before a Congressional subcommittee, and it may very well be the last opportunity I get to sit in a conference room at the US Capitol and ask Congress to appropriately fund law library functions on the federal level.
The US House Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative Branch asked for public witness testimony on their Fiscal Year 2019 budget. The Library of Congress funding falls under this subcommittee so AALL stepped in to represent the law library industry needs from the US government, including the Government Publishing Office (GPO), the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), the Law Library of Congress, and centralized online public access to Congressional Research Services (CRS) reports. My testimony, both video and written are listed below. (Thanks to Jeff Woodmansee for setting up the video to start at the beginning of my testimony.)
I have to say that testifying before this subcommittee was an amazing experience. To sit in a room with subcommittee members, Chairman Kevin Yoder of Kansas, Ranking Member Tim Ryan of Ohio, and Dan Newhouse of Washington, and listen to their fellow US Congressmen Randy Hultgren of Illinois, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, and Mark A. Takano of California, speak on their own requests for FY 2019 funding. It was a great civics lesson for me on the inner workings of the legislative budget process, and I enjoyed the civility in the room between members of different political parties, and the willingness to listen to the ideas and requests of others with the cordiality we seem to lack in politics these days.
I appreciate AALL and Emily Feltren, Director of Government Relations, for arranging this testimony on behalf our our legal information profession, as well as my actual employer, Jackson Walker LLP, for supporting my efforts this year in leading the association. This was a great experience.
Testimony of Greg Lambert
President of the American Association of Law Libraries
On Funding for the Government Publishing Office and Library of Congress
Before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative Branch
Public Witness Hearing
April 17, 2018
Chairman Yoder, Ranking Member Ryan, and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of Legislative Branch Appropriations for FY 2019. In my limited time today, I would like to focus on the necessity of adequate funding for the Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the Library of Congress.
First, funding for the GPO.
GPO produces, authenticates, disseminates, and preserves government information in multiple formats from all three branches of government. These are complex and demanding responsibilities that are essential to the information lifecycle and promote government transparency.
GPO administers the Federal Depository Library Program, or FDLP, under its Public Information Program Account. Approximately 200 law libraries participate in the FDLP, including academic, state, court, county, and government law libraries. Law libraries rely on GPO for distribution of specific tangible materials, especially core legal titles in print, as well as access to official, authentic material online through GPO’s govinfo website.
On March 15, the bipartisan FDLP Modernization Act of 2018, H.R. 5305, was introduced in the House with the support of AALL, the American Library Association, and the Association of Research Libraries. The bill will update the FDLP for the digital age, strengthen the Superintendent of Documents’ responsibilities to authenticate and preserve government information, and improve oversight and increase transparency by adding reporting requirements.
Grant-making authority for GPO was not included in the final FDLP Modernization Act as introduced. However, we are pleased to request that the Subcommittee direct GPO to continue to study the creation of a grant-making program to support the services of Federal Depository Libraries in providing permanent public access to federal information.
Next, I’d like to address funding for the Library of Congress.
As the largest library in the world, the Library of Congress provides leadership on many critical issues, including digitization and preservation, access to legal and scholarly information, and copyright.
The Library’s FY 2019 request includes $1.8 million to strengthen the capacity of the Law Library of Congress. The Law Library is a world leader in providing access to reliable legal materials in print and electronic formats and it must have adequate funding to meet the needs of Congress, the Supreme Court and other court judges, attorneys, and the public. The Law Librarian must also be able to function with some autonomy within the Library of Congress, as she is the leader of the de facto national law library.
It is critical that the Law Library be adequately staffed with experts who have the appropriate foreign legal and language knowledge to answer complex legal questions and to meet increasing demand for foreign language and foreign law initiatives, including the maintenance and preservation of materials.
We strongly support the Law Library’s digitization strategy, which will provide access to public domain U.S. legal and legislative materials and unique foreign law materials not subject to copyright restrictions and not otherwise available free of charge.
Finally, I’d like to address a couple of other funding requests.
Now that access to CRS reports is law, we ask the Subcommittee to consider other priorities that would enable legislative branch agencies to provide greater access to government information. One way to do this is by ensuring access to reports that are mandated by Congress but not publicly available in any systematic, comprehensive way.
The Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, or ACMRA (H.R. 4631) would direct GPO to maintain a central repository for agency reports submitted to Congress. We are pleased that the Committee on House Administration reported the bill on April 12, and are hopeful it will soon pass the House.
We also urge the Subcommittee to formally establish the Congressional Bulk Data Task Force on a permanent basis. The Task Force has been successful in bringing various players within government together to improve access to legislative information and modernize legislative data.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Subcommittee on the FY 2019 requests of GPO and the Library of Congress. We urge you to approve as close to full funding as possible for these agencies. I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.