Friday, May 23, 2008

From Your Regionals: Now It's Your Turn

What you are about to read has been several days in the making and is not intended to be interpreted as a defense of particular people or the institutions to which they belong. Instead, it is a measured response to the results of the Regional Directors’ Survey and to the comments made by individual members of the depository community. These results and comments are now available on the FDLP Desktop at
If this response is successful, what you will see is a philosophical analysis of human and organizational behavior as it impacts the current discussions about Regional Depository Libraries. The response is also an acknowledgment of the right for people to express their dissatisfaction with the current Regional System--and a plea for our depository libraries here in Louisiana to be more actively engaged in local policy/procedural issues that must, in turn, conform to the policies and procedures of the GPO/FDLP.
If everyone in the Louisiana Depository Community communicates forthrightly about both the good and the not-so-good aspects of our current system, we should be able to reach consensus and avoid the majority of problems that have been highlighted in some of the responses to GPO’s Regional Study. Two of the responses from Louisiana Selective Depositories were shared with others in our community before being posted on the Desktop; one of those responses was quite favorable, one was not. The not-so-favorable one made some good points, as you will see acknowledged below; but most of those points have their origins in the past—and we need to be looking toward the future if we want to make satisfactory changes to our environment. There was a third comment that appears to be from Louisiana (in spite of GPO’s efforts to camouflage all the responses, certain tell-tale culturally and geographically oriented words stood out in some of them). This third comment was hard-hitting and provocative enough to give rise to this response—and again, the emphasis in this response should not be construed as a rebuttal as much as a desire to open the dialogue further and address the needs of all Louisiana Depository Libraries, both Regionals and Selectives alike.
In the political arena, we hear a lot about “Special Interests” and how they control our government and, by extension, our society. However, before “Special Interests,” there were good old-fashioned “Self-Interests”—the most individuated level of “looking out for number one.”
According to a well-known online quotation resource,, the 17th century French writer Francois, Duc De La Rochefoucauld, had quite a lot to say about self-interest. Two examples follow:

Self-interest makes some people blind, and others sharp-sighted.

Virtues lose themselves in self-interest, as rivers in the sea.

Taking each of the above quotes in turn, it seems that (1) self-interest can be either bad or good, depending upon the circumstances and (2) self-interest—when considered “bad,” i.e. “non-virtuous”—diffuses or drowns out the better human qualities. The river-to-sea simile is especially pertinent to any discussion of how the greater good can either be compromised by self-interest or conversely be strengthened by it.
When reading the various responses to the Regional Depository Study/Survey, one cannot help but notice how differently each constituency of the FDLP has responded. While each constituency is not represented by only one position, a majority position clearly prevails. Thus, directors have a view; professional organizations have their views; Regional Librarians have a view; and Selective Librarians have theirs. The problem is that most of these views reflect only self-interested positions—or is that really a problem? Does the self-interest of directors, for instance, negatively impact the FDLP system in its entirety? Should Regional Librarians stop complaining about lack of support and resources because their concerns are seen as selfish? Should the needs of the Selectives dictate how the whole program is administered?
The problem is not really that everyone is self-interested—it’s reasonable to be one’s best supporter, but the problem is that each group is so blinded by its own needs that it is not allowing its virtues to blend into the greater sea to benefit all FDLP participants. These self-interested players need new glasses in order to be sharp-sighted enough to make necessary and, above all, fair and equitable changes to the program. Now that the metaphor has been mixed and stretched to its utmost limits (apologies to the Duc), let’s talk about how we here in Louisiana can work together for a better vision.
The interested FDLP participant who looks through the recently posted “Comments Received for GPO’s Study of Regional Depository Libraries” on the FDLP Desktop, will find that a certain number of Selectives are not happy with their Regionals’ services—and that at least a couple of those Selectives are from Louisiana. It appears that the unhappiness stems from the following feelings: that there is too much turn-over in Regional Librarians; that the Regional Librarians who do come to Louisiana are not experienced enough; that these inexperienced Regional Librarians have no resources for being trained themselves or for providing training to Selective Librarians; that there are no “back-up” Regional Librarians for those times when the Regional Librarian positions are not filled; and that—for one reason or another-- not enough is being done by these Regionals in the areas of quick response to disposal lists
While this list of concerns has some validity, it does not completely nor accurately reflect the current situation in our state. Yes, there were times when each Regional had no professional librarian in the position of Head of Documents; and yes, GPO does not rush in to train new Regional Librarians; and, of course, during the stress periods of post-hurricane life in southern Louisiana, discards were not managed in the same way that they normally would/should be. Nevertheless, we now do have two Regional Librarians (more than many states have) who are trying to get acclimated to new locations, climates (both literal and figurative), and intense academic workloads.
The institutions in which they work expect them to do more than Regional Depository duties—the percentage of time allotted to Depository duties in one of the institutions is 35%--less than half of the total workload for the position of Government Documents Librarian. This thirty-five percent is actually quite generous when compared to some job descriptions for Regional Librarians in the FDLP. That said, quite a bit can be accomplished in that time frame—but only if everyone involved understands everyone else’s situation and expectations are not unrealistically high.
In the end, trust and communication are key elements to making Louisiana Depository Libraries the best that they can be. The Regionals are often placed in the awkward position of trying to please the Selectives while honoring their duties to GPO. At times it seems as if many Selectives see GPO as an enemy and expect their Regionals to take their side in what they see as a battle. Perhaps at some time in the past, this mindset was accurate; but today, with the new and proven emphasis on a more friendly and helpful GPO, this kind of combative attitude is out of synch and counter-productive.
This reference to a “kinder/gentler” GPO is the perfect segue into the conclusion of this response: as depository libraries respond to GPO’s request for feedback on the “Newly Released Public Access Assessment Initial Review Documents,” Louisiana Federal Depositories could be participating in an open discussion about these documents. Perhaps today is a bit late to begin this dialog, since tomorrow is supposed to be the deadline for sending remarks in via the Desktop; but the issue is far from set in stone—and the administration at GPO has shown itself to be receptive to suggestions for any of its programs, especially those that have an impact on the basic functions of depositories.
In summary, your Regional Librarians are also of the “kinder and gentler” model and will be happy to listen to your ideas and receive your constructive criticism. The venues for sharing are many in this era of electronic communication: Bayoudoc; the Blog (now linked from LSU’s main docs page []); regular email; or even that old technology called the telephone can be used to express opinions, flattering or otherwise. Remember, however, that not everything can be done quickly, perfectly, and exactly the way one person wants it done. Trusting that things are being accomplished or will be accomplished to benefit the greatest number is vital to any successful group or organization. By trusting that your voice will at least be heard, you make it possible for everyone concerned to be respected and dealt with fairly and (hopefully) expeditiously. If you will excuse an old phrase from the sixties, it does seem pertinent to our current situation that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Let’s be problem solvers and communicators and make Louisiana Depository Libraries the wonderful institutions and resources we know they can be—and let’s do it together.


Lori said...

My comments were made in the hopes that GPO, through this study, will be able to make whatever changes are necessary to ensure that our Regional Librarians will get the support that they need both from GPO and from their own administrations. And, that GPO will take some sort of measures to ensure that Regional Library administrators acknowledge that they don't stop being Regional Libraries when their Regional Librarian position happens to be unfilled.

After all, the only way to improve the future is to learn from the lessons of the past.

As for the exchange list process, I realize that both Stephanie and Rita have been innundated with lists since the embargo ended. The only thing I can suggest to make the process flow more smoothly (and quickly) would be for them to make sure they understand that they are doing two distinct things with each list they get.

1. Giving (or denying) the selective permission to withdraw the items listed.

2. Checking their own collections to see if they need to request any items from the list.

The first step requires only the five or ten minutes it takes to read through the list. At that point you can give us permission or you can call us to make sure we've really thought through withdrawing the U.S. Code (or whatever the case may be). In the current discard instructions, the Regionals have two weeks to complete the first step.

It's in step two where the Regionals check their collections to see if they need to request any items from the list. The Regionals have another four weeks to complete step two.

It's my impression, and I may be wrong, that step one may not be getting done until the end of step two. That could be causing some of the delay.

However, with a deluge of lists to check and limited manpower (in the case of Tech, *very* limited), the process will inevitably get bogged down a bit. We selectives will just have to be patient and send positive thoughts to our Regionals to help them cope with the onslaught.

Stephanie Braunstein said...

Lori: Thanks for starting the ball rolling. I'm going to ponder your comments about the two-step process to make sure I understand how changing the order would make a substantive difference. If Selectives are still required to wait until Regionals have checked their holdings before the Selectives can offer to other Selectives (via Bayoudoc), why would it make any significant time difference before Selectives can discard? I suppose if your concern is that some Selectives may try to discard items they should not be discarding at all--then that should be clear to the first person reading the disposal list immediately as long as the list is formatted correctly. Maybe inconsistent formatting is part of the problem, as was discussed at the meeting last Friday in Lafayette. Disposal lists that conform to the "standard" make it easy to scan to make sure things are not being discarded prematurely, for instance. If that kind of red flag went up, I would hope that the requesting Selective would be informed of that kind of problem pronto. Perhaps we Regionals could implement a system of quick response to that first aspect by having a two-part checklist generated by each disposal request. Something else to consider, but we're at least talking about it now.

Lori said...

You asked:
"If Selectives are still required to wait until Regionals have checked their holdings before the Selectives can offer to other Selectives (via Bayoudoc), why would it make any significant time difference before Selectives can discard?"

The thing is, selectives *don't* have to wait until the Regionals have checked their holdings before they offer to other selectives. Once they have permission to withdraw the items on their list, they can post it on Bayoudoc and everyone else can be checking their collections at the same time as the Regionals. At the end of the process, the Regionals do get first priority as requests from the list are being filled, so if the selective hasn't heard from the Regionals with requests (or a note saying there are no requests) by the date the list expires then they would have to wait. However, by that point the Regional has had six weeks to check their collection, so hopefully they'd have had time to finish by then.

Does that make sense?

Stephanie Braunstein said...

Lori: It's amazing how such different interpretations can come from reading the same exact text. When I first came to LSU and had the discard instructions explained to me by Donna, I was pretty sure she said that the Regionals checked their holdings before any of the Selectives had the opportunity. After reading your most recent post, I looked again at Appendix 5 of the State Plan--just to be sure. Reading it carefully, especially sections 2-4, I cannot see how it implies or expresses anything other than the interpretation I took from Donna. In number 2, it states, "Copies of the list should be sent, simultaneously, to each of the regional libraries." Unless each of the regionals is allowed to have a jumpstart on checking their holdings, this would not be a necessary requirement. I.E., if the only purpose of sending to a regional first was to get permission to offer, then the selective would just need to send first to that selective's primary regional. Also, looking at section 4, it states that "Materials must be made available for a minimum of 4 weeks to allow other selective libraries sufficient time to request materials." There is no mention of the regionals' needing time to request materials during this time period.
Now I'm wondering if this Appendix is not specific enough--if you and I have such different interpretations, then clarity could be a problem.

Doris said...

There has been some confusion in the interpretation of the "Discard Instructions" by the some of the Louisiana Libraries since the okay was given to begin weeding the collections again.
Some Libraries were sending the Discard List directly to Bayou Doc, prior to sending to the two Regionals or sending to only one Regional. This situation was cleared up at the previous Council meeting in November. Now the Discard Lists are being sent directly to Rita and Stephanie.
I have understood the plan to “say” that the Regional had two weeks to review, choose the materials needed, and reply with the okay to discard at the same time. The Selective would then post the remaining titles on Bayou Doc, in which other Libraries have 4 weeks to respond.
This has been the case with the exception of a slight time delay from the Regionals because of the number of lists in March and April.
By posting to Baydoc after the Regional has reviewed, the Selective can begin sending any requested titles out immediately to other Libraries and the other Libraries are not reviewing titles already requested by the Regional.
Rita, Stephanie and I have been discussing the issue of Discards, and what is to be listed since the beginning of the year, especially superseded material. I believe the topic at the May Council meeting may have made the issue even more frustrating.
By no means do the Regionals need to review all items from the “Superseded List,” only a select few titles they retain and definitely the call number stems marked with the “R.”
Stephanie and Rita should be posting a memo to BayouDoc next week concerning the superseded titles.

Stephanie Braunstein said...

Doris makes a couple of good points, especially the one about Selectives not offering materials that have already been picked up by either of the two Regionals. It's been a while since I was doing docs in CA (15+ years of docs specialization at a Selective), but if my memory is accurate, we did not offer to other Selectives until we were told whether or not the Regional needed any of our offerings. Can someone else here in LA give some feedback? This is a forum; and agreement, dissent, and even mental doodling on this topic are all welcome!

Lori said...

I agree that the discard instructions aren't as clear as they could be, but the intent (and I'm hoping Howard or Cindi can back me up on this) was that the regionals would give their permission to offer within two weeks and then check their collections at the same time as the selectives.

Back in the bad old days, we submitted our lists just to our primary regional and they had six weeks to respond with both permission and requests. We then mailed the lists to the selectives (this was pre-Bayoudoc) and they had another four to six weeks to check their collections. That meant the offering library had to store those materials for ten to twelve weeks prior to discarding what was left after filling requests.

The last time we revised the discard instructions we changed it so everyone would check their collections simultaneously (with regionals having two weeks longer than selectives). That way the offering library only has to hold their materials for a total of six weeks.

We decided that the time selectives would spend checking for items that would eventually be requested by the regionals would be minimal. Besides, since requests are filled on a first-come first-served basis after the requests of the regionals, it's always possible that two selectives will request the same thing. So, there's no guarantee each selective will get everything it requests anyway.

The point, again, was to allow the offering library to discard materials more quickly (without putting an undue burden on the regionals).

I still think that arrangement makes the most sense, but Stephanie and Rita are running the show these days. I'll jump through whatever hoops they'd like in whatever order they'd like to arrange them. :-)

Bayou Librarian said...

My head is spinning but I am starting to understand. I'm finally starting to gather enough federal superseded "R"s and things to ask permission to withdraw and started typing up discard lists. I am going to take things step by step and if I have questions, I will let you know. Thanks for your patience and clarifications. :-)

Bayou Librarian said...

P.S. Usually I have my staff type up the federal discard or duplicate offer lists (she's been doing it for years and years) but she will need to know if any changes are being made too, so if she makes a mistake, please let me know. But I doubt she will because I try to keep her abreast of any changes (such as emailing Doris the lists instead of Stephanie, for ex.). But I want to type up some discard lists too so that I have practice in the procedure.

Rita Franks said...

Well, I interpreted the disposal list policy as a two-step process:

1. Regionals have two weeks to review a Selective's discard list. They then grant permission for discarding the material and simultaneously request any items needed in the Regional's collection (with the primary Regional getting "first dibs".)
2. The Selective then offers the remaining materials on Bayoudoc for four weeks - allowing any other Selectives to review and request items.

This interpretation may come from my background in Michigan. Discard lists were first sent to the Regional. An "update" of when the list was received and processed was posted electronically. An example is located at this website:,1607,7-160-17449_18637_18650---,00.html

Then, according to their policy:

"After response from the regional library, it is strongly encouraged that selective depository libraries utilize available electronic mail or online lists to advertise the availability of discarded titles."

The full policy is available at this website:,1607,7-160-17449_18637_18649-112841--,00.html

It just seems to me that it would be easier for the Selective to send off the items that the Regional would like, and then offer the remaining items on Bayoudoc.

This is just my "mental doodling" - I am open to other ideas.


Tanveer Iqbal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ffoos said...

Foos input on expectations of fed doc regionals:

- Monitor GPO activity and depositories' responses then inform our state's selective depositories on a regular basis plus alerts as needed.
- Leadership role in state & local gov docs organizations and activities.
- Respond to discard lists within the established deadline of 2 wks or give target date with explanation of the delay.
- Institutional staffing to continue minimal service to selectives during regional libn position vacancies, including extended leave.
- Institutional paraprofessional/clerical support for libn.
- Institutional support for libn attendance at FDLC meetings at least once a year, preferrable twice.
- Advice & support upon request to selectives including on-site visits as needed.
- Assist/supplement selective institutional training of their new fed gov doc staff.

Cynthia said...

It is my understanding that when William sends his lists to the Regionals, they first request materials they want. After this is done, William edits the list and posts it to Bayoudoc.

Seems to be working for us.

Lori said...

I checked with our current exchange list person, Bryan, and he told me that the regionals are requesting a lot more titles from our exchange lists than I had thought. That being the case, maybe it does make sense to fill their requests first and then edit the list prior to letting the selectives review it.

However, I'm worried that two weeks isn't enough time for Tech to check their collection. So, how about this? We keep the six week period but split it in half. Three weeks for the regionals and three for the selectives. It might go something like this:

1. The selective e-mails their list to both regionals with a deadline date three weeks from the date the e-mail is sent. Within a few days after receiving the message the regionals send a quick response to let the selective know the list has been received.

2. The primary regional reviews the list to ensure that nothing is being offered that shouldn't be. Prior to the regional deadline date they send an e-mail to the selective telling them that they have permission to withdraw the items listed and reminding them to post the edited list on Bayoudoc after requests from the regionals have been filled.

3. By the end of the three-week regional deadline, both regionals e-mail the selective to request the items they need from the list or to let the selective know that no items are needed.

4. The selective fills the requests from their primary regional first and then fills the requests of the other regional.

5. The selective edits the list to delete the items taken by the regionals and posts the edited list on Bayoudoc with a deadline date of three weeks from the date the list was posted.

6. The selective can fill additional requests as they are received or can wait until the deadline for the list has expired and fill all requests in the order they were received.

Would that work?

Stephanie Braunstein said...

It's late, I'm draggin', so I'll take a look at Lori's suggestion tomorrow with fresh eyes. In the meantime, think about how we can avoid "comment spam"--before I deleted it, you probably saw that unrelated message that showed up from who-knows-where. I may have to set this blog up with one of those annoying word-recognition filters. Does anyone have a better suggestion? I want things to be as easy for everyone as possible, but some spammer had to go and spoil it!

Stephanie Braunstein said...

Lori's proposal does seem sound and in keeping with what we have essentially already been doing--with a few improvements in communication added. If we did make a change like this, then I think we should change the State Plan to clearly delineate the process.
What does everyone else think?

Rita Franks said...

The procedure that Lori has written is very clear and concise. It would solve a lot of problems, including communication and timeliness issues.

I realize that this will need to be presented to the council for additional input - but will we have to wait until November to do this??

Stephanie Braunstein said...

Ahhh--yet another oddity of the current State Plan. I would like to see us amend it to include provisions for updating in real time. I'm thinking in terms of loose-leaf filing and the way that new information is inserted as a current revision page and then inserted into the full document when a major revision/new edition gets published.

Lori said...

During the last revision of the Plan we put in some provisions that do make it much easier to update between formal reviews. It says:

"Revisions to one portion of the Plan may be approved at any time by a majority vote of the members of the Council. Appendix 5 will be revised as needed by representatives of the Regional Libraries in consultation with the Council and in accordance with GPO regulations. Changes made to the Plan as the result of a formal review done in years ending in 0 or 5 must have the support of a majority of the chief administrators of the federal depository libraries in Louisiana."

So, Rita and Stephanie can update Appendix 5 (the Discard Instructions) pretty much whenever they want to, as long as they get the majority of the Council memebers to approve the changes. I don't see any reason such a vote couldn't be done via e-mail, or even here on the blog (if folks don't mind not being anonymous).

However, since we're about to have a switchover in Council members, it might be good to get the revisions made and the vote taken before the new members come on board on July 1. (Just a thought.)

Stephanie Braunstein said...

I'm on board with the idea of making these revisions right away and voting on the blog, if everyone agrees.

Lori said...

Since (as far as I know) there's no way to know how many Council members are actually monitoring the blog right now, I would suggest you send out the draft to them via direct e-mail and give them the URL for the blog to cast their votes.

Even though I'm not a member of the Council, I would like to see the draft (if only for proofreading purposes), so you might want to post it here, or on Bayoudoc, prior to finalizing the draft you'll send out to Council members.

Rita Franks said...

As a follow up:
Stephanie and I are currently working on revising Appendix 5 (Discard Instructions) of the "Plan for Federal Depository Libraries in Louisiana."

A draft should be available soon. Stay tuned! :)

Stephanie Braunstein said...

Soon, very soon, we will have a revision draft of Appendix 5 "Discard Instructions" ready to post here. Rita has been called out of town; but as soon as she returns, we* will share the fruit of our labors with you all.

*"We" includes Doris Hutson, who started the ball rolling with the first of the drafts.

Vernon Parish Library said...

I am one who does not monitor any site, not enough time. One of the things I like about GPO is that they send out on the listserv notices of new things. If it is something I need or am interested in, I look, otherwise, go my merry way. This Director takes 2 to 6 hours of work home almost everynight, and more on the weekend. If I monitored every site, I would do nothing else. University and large public libraries often have specialized tasks/duties etc. I select materials, order, catalog, publicity, documents, etc. Simplify is a good thing. Long hours means no backlogs. One of the reasons I don't discard more is the headache of doing so. We catalog everything, shelve by Dewey. Fun and easy to put in system, agony and three times the time and work to remove.