The Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) was established by Congress more than 100 years ago to ensure that the American public would have access to information created by the federal government. The government distributes federal information in various formats to designated libraries throughout the country. At the University of Minnesota, the University Libraries have been a depository since 1907, and in 1963 a new section of the printing law made the University Libraries the regional depository library for Minnesota. The University’s Government Publications Library is responsible for permanently maintaining a collection of all materials distributed through the program, sharing those materials with other libraries, and providing administrative and advisory services for the other 24 depository libraries in the state. In 1989, the University Libraries also agreed to serve as the regional depository library for South Dakota.
Implications for the University of Minnesota
Through the FDLP, the University Libraries receive government publications in paper, microfiche, floppy disk, CD-ROM, and DVD. Over the years, the collection has grown to more than 2 million items. University students, faculty, and staff use these publications with the assistance of trained staff. In addition, government publications and assistance are both available to the public, and materials are loaned to libraries across the state. Resources include current and historical laws and regulations, congressional activities, essential and baseline statistical information, and research reports on all subjects. The University has a special leadership position as the regional depository, a role shared by many large land-grant universities across the country.
Federal Role in This Area
The federal government supports the FDLP through appropriations to the Government Printing Office. The program is funded through the annual legislative branch appropriations bill. Oversight is provided by the Joint Committee on Printing, which also provides guidance on matters of information policy. Other congressional committees and executive branch entities such as the Office of Management and Budget also claim roles in the creation of federal information policy. The tradition of openness and the guarantee of permanent public access to government information are a cornerstone of a democratic society. This tradition faces several challenges: the conflict between open access to information and national security, continuing pressures to save money by discontinuing government information in printed form, and the move toward providing more information electronically before assuring its permanent availability. The federal government must continue to guarantee and fund public access to its information to academic users and all citizens to support their research and their civic lives.