New public printer preps GPO for a multi-format future

In its 150-year history, the Government Printing Office has seen technology shift from cold type and ink on paper to digital media and electronic documents.

Davita Vance-Cooks, the newly appointed acting public printer and the first woman to hold that position, said the expectations of customer agencies are changing rapidly in a world in which information increasingly 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.”

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In shift to digital, GPO must 'do everything'

Vance-Cooks was appointed to her new position earlier this year by outgoing Public Printer Bill Boarman. She has been at GPO for eight years and before the appointment was deputy public printer. She now oversees 1,900 employees, many of whom are developing new skill sets for the information age.

The move to digital publishing began about 20 years ago with the GPO Access website, which has since been replaced with Federal Digital System. FDsys provides permanent digital access to authoritative documents that have been electronically signed by the public printer, and there now is a move toward making this information more easily accessible through mobile devices.

“We’re very interested in application development,” Vance-Cooks said.

GPO’s released its first mobile app, the Mobile Member Guide, in November. It 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.

In January, the Library of Congress released an iPad app for the daily Congressional Record. It was developed at the request of the House Administration Committee to make the publication available in a format for the Apple tablets that can be browsed by date and searched by keyword. The publication already is available in digital format through GPO’s Federal Digital System. GPO provided the library with Congressional Record files in both text and PDF formats, together with associated metadata. These files were used to develop the app, and GPO also will make daily updates of the Congressional Record available to the app through access to site maps on its system.

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

Slightly more than 70 percent of GPO’s budget for the remainder of fiscal 2012, $90.7 million, is slated for the preparation of electronic files that are used for both digital access and traditional printing. GPO also will continue to expand 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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