New public printer: In shift to digital, GPO must 'do everything'

Davita Vance-Cooks, the Government Printing Office’s newly-appointed acting public printer and the first woman to hold the position, takes the helm of the 150-year-old institution amid its transition from an ink-on-paper world to one in which information is created, disseminated and stored electronically.

“Our customers are involved in the digital world and understand the platform,” Vance-Cooks said. “It is important that we have the capability to do everything. That is critical to our survival at GPO.”

Vance-Cooks was appointed to the position earlier this month by outgoing Public Printer Bill Boarman, a recess appointment who was not confirmed by the Senate. She has been at GPO for eight years and before the appointment was deputy public printer. In the new position, she oversees 1,900 employees, many of whom are developing new skill sets for the information age.

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The shift is well under way. Slightly more than 70 percent of its budget for the remainder of fiscal 2012, $90.7 million, is for the preparation of electronic files used for both digital access and for printing paper documents. The move to digital publishing began about 20 years ago with the GPO Access Web site, which has since been replaced with Federal Digital System (FDsys). This provides permanent digital access to authoritative documents that have been electronically signed by the public printer.

GPO is moving into even more current ways of delivering official information and records. “We’re very interested in application development,” Vance-Cooks said.

The agency’s first mobile app was released in November. The Mobile Member Guide is a directory of House and Senate members for the 112th Congress that can be searched by name or state, or browsed by chamber and party. It is available as a free download for major mobile platforms, including iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Android devices.

“You are going to see a lot more application development from us,” she said.

GPO also will be expanding the online collections available on FDsys. It has begun making court opinions available and is working with the National Archives and Records Administration to host collections on its behalf.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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