Library of Congress rudderless on IT, says GAO

To help fix the lack of strategic direction, GAO suggested the world's biggest library hire a permanent CIO.

Shutterstock image: Library of Congress interior.

The Library of Congress has not aligned a strategic plan for information technology with its overall strategic plan, leaving the agency "without a clear direction for its use of IT," according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

The House Appropriations Committee required GAO to review the Library's IT management practices. The verdict? The world’s biggest library is "not effectively managing" its $119 million in IT investments for fiscal year 2014, and is struggling in key areas such as privacy controls, the report found.

Part of the problem is a lack of leadership, according to GAO. The agency needs a permanent CIO, which it has been without since 2012, the watchdog said. Moreover, the current CIO lacks "adequate authority over or oversight of the Library's IT," the report said. In a written response to a draft of the report, Librarian of Congress James Billington, who has led the agency since 1987, said he expects to hire a permanent CIO by September.

The GAO report details bureaucratic flaws in the library's handling of IT. The IT Services division "has not fully developed agreements with the other units specifying expected levels of performance," the report said. The other units were often unsatisfied with the IT Services division’s performance, leading them to do their own IT work, the report added. "This in turn has resulted in units purchasing unnecessary hardware and software, maintaining separate email environments, and managing overlapping or duplicative IT activities," the report found.

Aside from hiring a permanent CIO, GAO made 30 other recommendations, ranging from developing a complete inventory of information systems to implementing a library-wide policy for service level agreements.

Billington said the Library of Congress generally agreed with the recommendations, and that the agency will complete "an initial IT strategic plan" for implementing them in April.

In another report published March 31, GAO found that the Copyright Office, a unit of the Library of Congress, has failed to present its proposed IT investments to the Library's IT investment review board, which ensures spending is not duplicative. The Copyright Office requested more than $7 million in fiscals 2015 and 2016 for, among other projects, developing a digital repository for electronic materials, according to the report. 

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