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Advancing Institutional Progress through Digital Repository Assessment

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The following is a guest post by Jessica Tieman.

Photo of U.S. Government Publishing Office Director Davita Vance Cooks giving presentation
U.S. Government Publishing Office Director Davita Vance Cooks reveals the new during the site launch event on February 3rd. Photo: U.S. Government Publishing Office

Three quarters of the way into my twelve-month National Digital Stewardship Residency at the U.S. Government Publishing Office, I reflect on the success and challenges of my project. I also recognize how the outcome of my work will impact the future of the GPO, its business units, the communities within the Federal Government and the general public that are all invested in the success of GPO’s audit and certification of govinfo (formerly FDsys) repository.

In this post, I’ll give a brief update on my assigned role at GPO: to prepare govinfo for ISO 16363 Trustworthy Digital Repository Audit and Certification. I’ll also explain how preparing for the audit has served as a way for GPO to advance its strategic plan to transition from a print-centric model to a content-centric digital agency.

I have been collecting and evaluating all existing documentation relating to GPO’s govinfo to satisfy the requirements of the 109 criteria outlined in ISO 16363. Not only this, but where necessary, I have had the opportunity to participate in and sometimes offer guidance for writing and developing documentation for procedures and processes based on digital preservation best practices not yet fully captured within existing documentation at the time I arrived at GPO.

In preparation for evaluating GPO’s documentation and readiness for an ISO 16363 audit, I interviewed TRAC-certified and OAIS-compliant digital repository managers to gather feedback about repository assessment to share with GPO internal staff. I am beginning the internal audit process.

GPO implemented a SharePoint folder-based system to organize all of their documentation and evidence by each criteria. Documentation includes workflows, roles and responsibilities and organizational charts, strategic plans, technical documentation, project specifications, meeting notes, planning documents and vision statements, data management definitions, risk registries, standard operating procedures, policies, and gathered statistics on systems and users, and more. (the repository’s Architecture System Design document is available online.

For me to evaluate GPO against each criteria, I will assess the content I have gathered within the SharePoint system for:
• Adequacy: How well it satisfies the specific criteria requirements;
• Transparency: Documentation truly captures the repository activities and practices and is written with clarity
• Measurability: Procedures have been documented in a manner that can be substantiated through measurable outcomes, such as not only listing end-user requirements, but also providing the data collected on users to validate the requirements;
• Sustainability: Are the current processes scalable and will they remain effective over time as systems, people and funding change

This project has been a time-consuming and highly detailed. What surprised me most about it has been the dynamic nature of evaluating and creating “good” documentation. Many times I found that a document seemed to perfectly meet the expectations of criteria, but later, I realized the many ways in which it wasn’t actually enough.

There is another dynamic aspect to the project: advancing institutional change through assessment. The U.S. Government Publishing Office was the U.S. Government Printing Office for over 150 years until its recent name change in 2014. In addition to the intentional name change, GPO has increasingly been engaging in business and fostering internal developments to further its commitment to authenticating, preserving and distributing Federal information that remains critically important to American democracy in the digital age.

This is a unique opportunity for an ISO 16363 Audit and Certification of the govinfo repository to support GPO’s efforts. In many ways, the govinfo repository plays a critical role in this transformation as it exists as the primary source of Federal information products for all of GPO’s stakeholders and its user community, including all branches of Federal government, the depository and non-depository library community, local and state government, private industries, non-profit organizations, transparency organizations, legal professionals, researchers, data consumers, and the general public.

The value of the govino repository to the Federal Depository Library Program is changing due to GPO’s overall digital transformation. Indeed, the present-day FDLP program was initially codified in Title 44, Chapter 19 of the U.S. Code to mandate availability of government publications for public access. In 1993, Title 44 was expanded to include a mandate for electronic access to government publications in an online facility managed by GPO.

Since this time, GPO has fulfilled this responsibility by providing an open, free, publicly accessible preservation repository, with the goal of functioning as the official resource for government information products. In order to meet this goal, however, collection development for govinfo is essential to increase the variety of digital content within the repository, including digitized content submitted by FDLP libraries.

The repository itself is both impacting and reacting to this “digital stimulus.” This has an effect on how I determine the sustainability of the repository’s documentation in the context of the audit. The repository’s underlying technology will need to be flexible enough to anticipate content that may be arriving from new library partnerships. Staff must be agile enough to develop the workflows for handling producer-archive agreements, digitization guidelines and ingest processes.

For GPO, the eagerness for a certification process impels the need for cross-functional decision-making across business units, receptiveness to new policies and procedures centered around digital publication and preservation standards, and a strong commitment to communicate these new commitments and values to their user community, which includes both their Federal stakeholders, the depository library community and the American public at-large.

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