FC: GPO replies to Politech article on libraries destroying data

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Wed Feb 13 2002 - 10:12:17 PST

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    From: "Sherman, Andrew M." <ashermanat_private>
    To: "'declanat_private'" <declanat_private>
    Subject: GPO Statement on Withdrawal of USGS CD-ROM
    Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 12:32:00 -0500
    I saw your story about the withdrawal of the USGS CD-ROM from Federal
    depository libraries.  Sorry you didn't contact us about it before running
    your story, but if you had I would have provided the following information
    from a statement released by the Government Printing Office January 16,
    2002, which has been distributed throughout the library community:
    The following is a statement of the facts regarding the October 2001 request
    by the GPO's Superintendent of Documents to certain Federal depository
    libraries to withdraw from public circulation and destroy their depository
    copies of a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) CD-ROM providing information on
    water resources:
    	By letter dated October 12, 2001, Superintendent of Documents
    Francis J. Buckley, Jr.  requested Federal depository libraries to withdraw
    and destroy their depository copies of a USGS CD-ROM entitled Source Area
    Characteristics of Large Public Surface-Water Supplies in the Conterminous
    United States:  An Information Resource for Source-Water Assessment, 1999.
    The Superintendent of Documents is the Government Printing Office (GPO)
    official who by law is responsible for the operation of the Federal
    Depository Library Program (FDLP), under which the GPO distributes copies of
    Federal publications to designated libraries for the use of the public.
    	The Superintendent of Documents' letter was issued pursuant to a
    letter from the USGS, dated October 5, 2001, which asked the GPO to "request
    that depository libraries receiving the [Source-Water CD-ROM] be instructed
    to destroy their copies."  When a member of the library community questioned
    the USGS on the need for this action, a USGS e-mail reply dated October 31,
    2001, said:  "Subsequent contact with the Government Printing Office and the
    USGS Committee that sets official policy on restriction of sensitive
    information has reconfirmed the validity of the original written instruction
    from USGS and GPO to destroy the report."
    	The Superintendent of Documents' October 12 letter went to the 335
    Federal depository libraries which had selected this document for their
    collections (there are 1,310 Federal depository libraries nationwide).  The
    letter was subsequently published in the Superintendent of Documents
    publication "Administrative Notes," which is made available to the entire
    depository library community and is posted online on the GPO's Web site, at
    www.gpo.gov <http://www.gpo.gov>.  The Superintendent of Documents' request
    applied only to copies of the Source-Water CD-ROM distributed under the
    	The Superintendent of Documents' request followed established policy
    for the withdrawal of documents from the FDLP.  This policy has been
    communicated in writing to all Federal depository libraries.  Under the
    FDLP, the Government may request the removal of materials from depository
    libraries since the law (chapter 19 of Title 44) indicates that all FDLP
    materials remain Government property.  Requests to withdraw happen rarely,
    however.  Since FY 1995, the GPO has distributed 230,019 tangible product
    (print, microfiche, and CD-ROM) titles to depository libraries, and recalled
    just 20 (16 to be destroyed, 3 returned to the agency, 1 removed from
    shelves).  Such actions are taken only on the request of the issuing agency,
    most commonly because the titles contain information that is erroneous or
    has been superseded.  The Superintendent of Documents has no statutory
    ability to deny agency document withdrawal requests, but instead serves as
    the statutory conduit for carrying them out.  Prior to initiating any
    withdrawal request, the Superintendent of Documents' policy is to carefully
    review each request and ensure that all such requests to GPO are made in
    In partnership with Federal depository libraries, the GPO has been the
    Government's agent for providing public access to Government information for
    nearly two centuries.  The GPO  takes very seriously any Federal agency's
    request to restrict access to Government information that has been made
    public.  However, the GPO also has a duty under the law to cooperate with
    Federal agencies in the appropriate distribution of the official information
    they publish.  Since the September 11 attacks, the USGS CD-ROM is the only
    document that the Superintendent of Documents has requested to be withdrawn
    from depository libraries.  Any future agency withdrawal requests will be
    handled in accordance with law and established policy.
    Andrew M. Sherman
    Office of Congressional and Public Affairs
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