Wednesday, 11 November 2009

CRS Report: Congressional Printing: Background and Issues for Congress

The Congressional Research Service has published a report (37 page pdf) entitled Congressional Printing: Background and Issues for Congress. It is a must-read for gov docs librarians (and law librarians who deal with Congressional documents). The report gives an overview of the GPO and the statutory requirements it must fulfill, as well as the actual practices of the GPO and statistics of what it publishes and how much it spends.
Some tidbits from the Summary:
"In current practice, more than half of all government documents originate in digital form, and are distributed electronically. As a consequence of electronic production and dissemination, some congressional materials are now more readily available to wider congressional, governmental, and public audiences than when they were only produced and distributed in paper form."
and " (T)he transition to electronic distribution of materials may raise questions about the capacity of current law and congressional practices to effectively oversee GPO’s management and distribution responsibilities regarding congressional information."
Finally, the report lists "Potential Options for Congress", should Congress believe that action on government printing practices might be necessary or desirable, (p. 16) which include:
1. Maintain the status quo.
2. Conduct Studies related to congressional printing policieson such topics as how users access congressional documents; whether current distribution practices for GPO-printed and electronic documents
are effective or efficient; the costs of creating paper and electronic documents, including retention of
archival documents, and disposal of obsolete materials; the extent to which current congressional printing and document distribution practices support Congress in its work; and what potential changes to congressional rules and practices might be necessary if Congress were to transition to “paperless” operations.
3. Consider legislation to amend current printing authorizations, found in 44 U.S.C. 906 and 44 U.S.C. 701 , to reflect current printing practices.

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