Recognizing the need to centralize government printing and to establish a mechanism to provide US citizens with no-fee access to federal government information, Congress passed the Printing Act of 1895 that established the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) within the Government Printing Office (GPO). The FDLP has evolved over more than one hundred years to become one of the most effective and successful partnerships between the federal government and the American people today.
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is working with the US Government Printing Office (GPO) as well as others in the library community on an effort to ensure that tangible US government documents are made perpetually available through online access to the public at no cost. In spring of 2004, ARL conducted a survey of its members to set priorities for digitization. Participants were asked to rate a series of documents by applying the following criteria:
- uniformity of size of the documents
- nature of the text
- opportunity for discarding from collection
- availability, or upcoming availability, in electronic format
Rethinking public access to government information has been a priority for ARL for many years. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, federal, state, and local agencies have been grappling with issues relating to access to government information. The delicate balance between responding to concerns about homeland security while ensuring public access to government information presents new challenges to many libraries.
More recently, with the Government Printing Office (GPO) and others in the library community, ARL is reexamining the role of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) in the networked environment.