CoSA is grateful for our friends at the Government Publishing Office (GPO) sharing with us their work on standards and accreditation in this two part interview. Part one of the interview is available here: https://www.statearchivists.org/blogs/michelle-gallinger/2021/11/09/2022-dpcmm-gpo-interview-15) What led up to the transition from FDsys to govinfo? What capabilities does govinfo have that FDsys did not?
GPO’s Federal Digital System or FDsys was launched in 2009, so the technology landscape and timing were ripe to fully redesign and reinvigorate GPO’s front door of access to Federal government information. GPO’s govinfo website was launched as a public beta in February 2016, and utilized a mobile-first design strategy as well as state-of-the-art innovative technologies incorporating a new modern look and feel, capability to link related content, new ways to access and browse to content via an A-Z and category browse, a new, open source search engine, enhancements to search filters, more options for sharing content and pages, better and more shareable links, curated articles and content, APIs to download relevant content, an overall improved user experience, and new hardware with an updated network infrastructure.
During the beta phase of the govinfo website, migration of functionality for over 50 content collections was completed and additional enhancements and functionality were built over numerous deployment increments that were implemented based on feedback received from the user communities. GPO moved the govinfo website out of beta in December 2017, and the FDsys public website and web application were retired in December 2018. Since then, GPO has become the only organization in the world to achieve and maintain ISO 16363 Trustworthy Digital Repository certification.
The transition from FDsys to govinfo included a rebranding of the entire system from FDsys to govinfo along with a thorough public site overhaul, all implemented while maintaining continuous access via redirects to content and pages previously accessed through FDsys. Design, navigation, searching and search results display, browsing, plus ways of sharing, accessing, and working with the documents were all updated. Behind the scenes, all digital preservation practices remained in place while the public-facing website and web application were renewed. A major difference between FDsys and govinfo is that the new public website provided value-added curated content in the form of featured articles that facilitate the creation of articles to showcase and provide context about content, announce new publications added to govinfo, commemorate events or anniversaries using content in govinfo, and also to communicate enhancements to govinfo when new releases of code are deployed. In this way, users were able to interact with content in ways FDsys did not support, and it also provided flexibility toward enhancing the way that content is displayed without requiring code deployments for some functionality; this allows value to be delivered to end users faster.
Design improvements included a focus on responsive design so that web pages were displayed in an optimized way no matter the device and an overall modern look and feel with less extraneous text and links, larger text size, and more white space. New features included a Related Documents feature that semantically linked the documents in govinfo that exist within a complex network of legislative, regulatory, and judicial publications, new public APIs services, RSS, expanded sitemaps, and additions to the bulk data repository to assist users in working with govinfo documents and metadata. New navigation features included a search widget with the ability to expand and collapse the widget on all pages, collapsible and customizable search filters to maximize usability, buttons and toggles to move up and down the pages and other sorting options in various locations throughout the site, consistent menus in the headers and footers, and quick access from the homepage to the most recent versions of certain daily publications, as well as links to popular and trending documents. The govinfo website also facilitates more options for sharing pages and content to social media, a citation generation tool, integrated Help information, searchable functionality for curated Help, About, and Featured Articles, as well as links throughout the site to related resources. GPO’s govinfo is a constantly-evolving website that will continue to grow and foster new and innovative ways for users to discover, access and use Federal government information.
6) What are the major types of collections managed by govinfo?
The collection development plan for GPO’s system of online access provides guidance for ingesting content into GPO’s govinfo system, determining collection priorities, and planning resource allocations in order to meet the needs of these Designated Communities. Building the system’s collection to make it the “most comprehensive information repository serving the information needs of Congress, Federal agencies, and the public” entails ingest of current and historical content. While the scope of content for govinfo is very broad, making it a useful resource to consult requires deliberate priority setting and planned collecting activities and goals.
While 44 U.S.C. §4101 sets parameters for content in GPO’s system of online access, there is flexibility. The Superintendent of Documents takes a broad view of how “other appropriate publications” is interpreted in order to better support user needs as well as the Principle of Government Information that is so vital to our democracy, the public’s right of access to their government’s information.
As the official handbook of the Federal Government, the United States Government Manual is used as a guide to agencies whose information products are in-scope for ingest into the system of online access. The Manual provides comprehensive listings of the agencies of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. It also includes information on quasi-official agencies; international organizations in which the United States participates; and boards, commissions, and committees. Superintendent of Documents policy defines the scope of content for the system as:
- Born digital and converted content.
- All, with few exceptions, official Government publications, information, or information dissemination products paid for with Federal funds originating from agencies of the U.S. Government.
- Government content converted by parties with whom GPO has a formally signed partnership agreement that contemplates ingest of such content are also within scope.
- The Congressional Record, the Federal Register, and other core legislative and regulatory information dissemination products will be ingested, as well as their historical issues or editions.
Section 1902 of Title 44 excludes publications determined by their issuing components to be required for official use only or for strictly administrative or operational purposes, or which are classified for reasons of national security, and thus they are outside of the Superintendent of Documents distribution program. Also, outside the scope of the program are cooperative publications which are sold in order to be self-sustaining (44 U.S.C. §1903). However, any document made accessible on the issuing component’s public website, Superintendent of Documents’ approach is that the issuing component has determined that the publication does have public interest or educational value, or it does not have to be sold, and therefore it is appropriately ingested in accordance with the collection development plan. In addition, unless impracticable, any request by the head of a department or agency to include their information in GPO’s system of online access will be accommodated (44 U.S.C. §4101(b)).
GPO’s govinfo system currently provides access to over 100 different types of content, which are discoverable through our A-Z listing https://www.govinfo.gov/browse-a-z. Over 25 Federal authors submit new content to GPO on a daily basis, constituting some of our most popular collections such as the Budget of the U.S. Government, Code of Federal Regulations, Congressional Bills, Congressional Committee Prints, Congressional Directory, Congressional Hearings, Congressional Record, Federal Register, Public and Private Laws, the U.S. Code, and U.S. Courts Opinions.
As of 2021, govinfo has nearly 3 million Archival Information Packages of digital Government information objects. These packages contain more than 8.4 million individual PDF files and 18.9 million images, as well as audio files, spreadsheets, and several other file format types. As the largest collection, the Code of Federal Regulations requires the bulk of the repository storage. The approximate volume of all AIP content is 80 TB. The largest package in the repository is part of the U.S. Statutes at Large collection and is around 10 gigabytes, including TIFF images. In recent years, The Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, United States Courts Opinions, and Congressional Bills collections are some of our most accessed collections from public users.
- Govinfo is currently a ‘peerless’ online portal and digital repository. Do you encourage / hope to see other federal/state/local government repositories aspire to ISO 16363 certification?
Absolutely, GPO truly would love to see other repositories follow in the pursuit of ISO 16363, and we encourage any repositories considering the process to contact us about our institutional experience.
In addition to ISO 16363:2012 certification, GPO intends to pursue certification under CoreTrustSeal (https://www.coretrustseal.org/). The CoreTrustSeal Trustworthy Data Repositories Requirements (formerly: Core Trustworthy Data Repositories Requirements) were developed by the DSA–WDS Partnership Working Group on Repository Audit and Certification, a Working Group (WG) of the Research Data Alliance. CoreTrustSeal offers to any interested data repository a core level certification based on the DSA–WDS Core Trustworthy Data Repositories Requirements catalogue and procedures. This universal catalogue of requirements reflects the core characteristics of trustworthy data repositories and is the culmination of a cooperative effort between DSA and WDS under the umbrella of the Research Data Alliance to merge their data repositories certifications. Pursuing CoreTrustSeal certification provides an opportunity for GPO to participate in a peer-review process of third-party assessment, contribute to a larger community of standards-based repositories, and commit to global transparency efforts. GPO sees this as an opportunity to be more engaged with other trustworthy repositories – over 160 institutions have been certified under CTS, including 10 federally-operated research data repositories.
8) What advice can you offer to organizations managing electronic government records to advance their capabilities to preserve and provide access?
It appears that many institutions feel underprepared to pursue the full process of repository certification, or they have concerns about gaining high-level administrative support to undergo such an extensive process. Prior to beginning its audit, GPO participated in a high-level training course offered by PTAB (http://www.iso16363.org/courses/) in order to gain a better understanding of its own preparedness for an audit. Resources like this may be a great option for repository managers to better understand the level of effort required for repository certification.
There are also many resources now available to repository managers which build off of the ISO 16363 standard and make digital repository best practices more accessible. The CoreTrustSeal process may be more appropriate for some institutions, and for others, resources such as the Digital Preservation Storage Criteria, https://osf.io/pwcvz/, by Sibyl Schaefer, Nancy McGovern, Andrea Goethals, Eld Zierau, and Gail Truman might be helpful to perform self-assessments for preservation infrastructure. Many institutions may see the level of effort GPO put into preparing for the audit and have hesitations about the human resources available for organizing all of the required documentation, but it may not be as intensive of an effort as it seems if most of the aspects of their repository – its operations, procedures, staffing, collection policies, etc. are well-documented.
Lastly, any repository considering certification or standards compliance must develop a thorough definition of its Designated Community. According to ISO standards, a repository’s efficacy is essentially defined by its ability to meet the needs of its Designated Community; without thoroughly documenting those needs and expectations, it may be very difficult to provide evidence of trustworthiness.#BACKERResources#DPCMM
Image credit: http://www.gpo.gov/newsroom-media/image.htm