GPO and its Collection of Last Resort

The Government Printing Office is serious about phasing out paper, but it still must preserve authentic copies of official paper documents.

So GPO is collaborating with the National Archives and Records Administration and others to preserve public access to 2.2 million government publications in all formats.

GPO, the Depository Library Council and other interested parties will meet next week in St. Louis to discuss a draft plan (PDF) for the Collection of Last Resort. Public comments are due by May 7.

Judith C. Russell, managing director of information dissemination at GPO, said the office last year hired the Center for Research Libraries, a Chicago consortium, to begin developing a framework for evaluating the libraries in the Federal Depository Library Program, their resources, management and other factors.

Some depository libraries have shared-housing agreements to cut storage redundancy, Russell said in a statement. 'A small number of comprehensive sets can be preserved more readily,' she said.

The repositories maintain public access to the government's core legislative and regulatory documents, electronic publications from GPO and individual agencies, and other government CD and DVD publications. The metadata for the collections would include catalog records and persistent hyperlinks.

So-called dark archives in secure locations outside Washington would file away official paper documents, after digitization, without any public access. Out-of-print publications could be printed on demand.

Over three to five years, GPO would collect two copies of each print publication and digitize an estimated 60 million pages at a cost of about $50 million, partly borne by its partners. GPO has requested $1.5 million for start-up costs in fiscal 2005.

'Born digital' files, also reproduced on paper for the dark archives, would be acquired by various means, including automated Web harvesting. Most of the digital objects would be in ASCII, TIFF, HTML or Adobe Portable Document formats. Video and audio objects might become part of the archives in the future, GPO's plan said.

NARA's guidance for long-term storage and management would become the benchmark for the dark archives, GPO said. Retrieval methods might include bar coding, radio frequency identification tags and robotic bins.

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