ACRL Letter on Multi-State Depository Libraries

I want to share with the ACRL membership the text of a letter I have sent as president to William Boarman, Public Printer of the United States, and Mary Alice Baish, Superintendent of Documents in regard to recent US Government Printing Office rulings on multi-state depository libraries. We recognize that there are members who fall on both sides of the issues as recently stated by other associations and consortia. Over the past few weeks we have been considering how to proceed – reviewing the current situation, what ACRL has done in the past, and giving careful thought to approach we should take.

We decided that ACRL needs to lend its voice to the conversation and that we have precedent to guide us. Our past actions and letters urged GPO to look to the future and work with libraries to develop collaborative models for managing federal documents. We believe the best approach is to continue in the same vein, an approach that is quite reasonable and measured, as ACRL is known to be.

I appreciate how this issue stirs passions. I also know that we are all invested in finding a viable future for the depository program and for its relationship to academic libraries across the country. I am sharing with you the text of my letter below.

Mr. William Boarman
Public Printer of the United States
Government Printing Office
732 N. Capitol St. NW
Washington, DC 20402-0001

Ms. Mary Alice Baish
Superintendent of Documents
Government Printing Office
732 N. Capitol St. NW
Washington, DC 20402-0001

November 2, 2011

Dear Mr. Boarman and Ms. Baish,

In light of the press coverage and statements about recent rulings that have rejected new multi-state partnerships within the Federal Depository Library Program, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) would like to add its voice to the conversation. As the majority of regional Federal Depository Libraries are affiliated with academic institutions, ACRL has a great interest in this issue.

ACRL believes that the future of libraries will be based in innovative uses of technology and intensive collaboration across geographic boundaries. The multi-state models for managing federal documents that libraries have developed address the pressing issues of the economic climate, the imperative for wider collaboration, and the improvement of access to these critical resources. We view these as necessary and viable partnerships that will sustain library collections and services and will create enduring programs of access and preservation.

We remind you of our past comments on these topics to the US Government Printing Office (GPO): on June 13, 2008, we reacted to the draft report titled Regional Depository Libraries in the 21st Century: A Time for Change?; on May 16, 2008, we wrote in advance of your report for the Joint Committee on Printing; and on June 26, 2007, we commented on the guidelines for shared regional depository libraries. Our belief from years ago remains pertinent today: “Flexibility and simplicity are critical to the success of rethinking models for housing and delivering government information to our various constituents.”

We understand that many people in the library community are concerned about the long-term quality of government information services, and ACRL is convinced that the quality of services associated with collaborative efforts will be stronger than stand alone efforts. ACRL urges the GPO to work closely and openly with depository libraries to explore and establish new models. It is essential that we leverage the possibilities inherent in 21st century practices to serve our citizens now and well into the future.

ACRL would welcome the opportunity to lend our perspective and expertise where they could be helpful in finding collaborative solutions.


Joyce L. Ogburn
ACRL President, 2011-2012
Dean, J. Willard Marriott Library and University Librarian, University of Utah

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