“Issued for Gratuitous Distribution”: The History of Fugitive Documents and the FDLP
The US government is the largest publisher in the world. Everyone quotes James Madison - or misquotes him for good cause -in philosophizing about and arguing for free public access to government information. In fact, this is one of the foundations on which is built the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). The FDLP has been in place in one form or another since 1813 when the US Congress found it necessary and expedient to enlist libraries to the cause of public access to public information by and about the US government.
The scope of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) consists of a large swath of published materials from all three branches of government, including publications from the 440-some-odd executive agencies and commissions, Congressional bills, committee hearings, committee prints, House and Senate documents and reports, and the publications, reports, and opinions of the federal courts. GPO states that the scope of the FDLP includes "publications having public interest or educational value." The scope rules exclude publications classified for reasons of national security, and publications issued for strictly administrative or operational purposes which have no public interest or educational value.
"Fugitive documents" are those publications that are supposed to be within the scope of the FDLP but were not distributed to libraries by GPO. Almost from the beginning, the issue of fugitive documents has been a fact of life for depository libraries. While government information librarians tend to think of fugitives as random documents that have mistakenly fallen through GPO's cataloging and indexing or distribution nets, the reality is not as clear-cut as that. It may come as a surprise to some, but GPO has never had a monopoly on government printing, despite the agency's authority under Title 44. There are whole classes of fugitives, all of which were not distributed to FDLP libraries by GPO, though some have made their way into libraries despite that, usually at much cost and staff time.
This article was part of a special issue on government information published in Against the Grain, 29(6), December 2017 - January 2018.
|Type of resource
|Jacobs, James Robertson
|Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP)
|Government Publishing Office (GPO)
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- Preferred Citation
- Jacobs, James Robertson. (2017). "'Issued for Gratuitous Distribution': The History of Fugitive Documents and the FDLP." Against the Grain, Volume 29, Issue 6, December 2017 - January 2018. Stanford Digital Repository. Available at: https://purl.stanford.edu/yc376vd9668
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