Agencies lag in embracing GILS power

The Government Information Locator Service could become a nationwide and international standard for cataloging and disseminating government information but agencies have yet to embrace its potential according to federal officials and others attending a conference on GILS last month.

"GILS holds great promise as an information and records management tool " said Sally Katzen administrator of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs noting that state local and foreign governments are also interested in the system. But applying it as this kind of tool is "indeed a major challenge " she told participants at the conference.

The 1996 GILS conference held at the National Archives and Records Administration College Park Md. focused mainly on what federal agencies have done to build GILS and what the future might hold for the system. The General Services Administration is funding an evaluation study of the system which was discussed at the conference by researchers Charles McClure of Syracuse University and William Moen of the University of North Texas Denton.

GILS is designed to be a card catalog of all information held by the government. However two years after OMB issued guidelines to build GILS databases which are required by law the progress agencies have made is mixed.

To date most agencies including all Cabinet departments have set up GILS databases but Gary Bass executive director of OMB Watch which advocates broader access to government documents said that so far there is "enormous unevenness" in the type of information accessible through GILS.

In an interview McClure said the agencies that have been most successful with GILS to date appear to be those that already had procedures in place for disseminating information to the public although a more complete picture will emerge from the evaluation study.

The GILS evaluation study is expected to be completed next spring. For more information or to contact researchers see the Web site at www-lan.unt.edu/slis/research/gilseval/gilseval.htm.

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