Letter to the editor

Regarding Patrice McDermott's insightful comments on the FirstGov initiative ["FirstGov: All bark, no bite," FCW, Aug. 14], we'd like to point out that the primary objective of FirstGov — "identifying and organizing information, as the president said, "in a way that makes it easier for the public to find the information it seeks'" — is the principle on which the Government Printing Office's Federal Depository Library Program has been operating for more than a century.

The GPO has put this principle into practice electronically with GPO Access and its Federal Depository Library Program Electronic Collection, as well as by providing extensive bibliographic information online in the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications. For the millions of people who use GPO Access every month, these resources offer a comprehensive suite of tools that seek out, point to and provide in-depth access to online publications from virtually every agency in all three branches of the federal government.

Patrice's column raises the question of how users can be assured that their searches on a given topic will reveal everything the government has to offer in the absence of a comprehensive, mandated and universally accepted system for providing locator information.

The GPO, as well as the national libraries, have been engaged in this work for many years. Indeed, their resulting systems draw on a vast, well-established pool of information that includes information from the entire federal government.

We hope that any new portal to government information products and services avails itself of the efforts these other systems have made at providing effective public access to government information.

Andrew M. Sherman


Office of Congressional, Legislative and Public Affairs

Government Printing Office


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August 29, 2000

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