Magazine article Information Today

GPO Convenes Working Group on Permanent Public Access Policy

Magazine article Information Today

GPO Convenes Working Group on Permanent Public Access Policy

Article excerpt

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) has announced that, for the past year, it has convened a series of high-level meetings involving congressional and executive branch officials to develop long-term strategies that will provide permanent public access to federal government information made available over the Internet. Led by public printer Michael F. DiMario and superintendent of documents Francis J. Buckley Jr., the meetings represent one of the government's leading initiatives to ensure that federal information remains accessible to the public once it's made available online.

According to the announcement, there are thousands of federal government Web sites today, making millions of government documents available to the public electronically. Yet documents frequently disappear from the Web just as fast as they appear, resulting in a growing amount of lost and often irretrievable information. Federal census, agricultural, energy, environmental, and budget information are just some of the categories from which online information products have disappeared in recent years. The files are no longer available for a variety of reasons--they may have been updated or revised, or they may have become outdated or were removed. Regardless of the reason, however, the result is the same: an electronic document that is no longer available. The problem is becoming so pervasive that many observers in the library and government information communities are beginning to speculate that the current era will one day be known as an enormous "black hole" in the availability of government information, acco rding to the announcement.

Speaking at the first meeting of the Permanent Public Access (PPA) Working Group in September 1999, DiMario said there was 'a pressing need to examine permanent public access to government information in this time when computer systems encounter problems with viruses, overloaded servers, and other challenges. The public must be assured that government information will be available electronically, on a long-term basis."

Since the initial meeting of the PPA Working Group, there have been four sessions involving key officials in the federal information community, including representatives from GPO, congressional staff, the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Agricultural Library, the National Library of Medicine, the Energy Department, the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS), the Defense Technical Information Center, and other agencies. …

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