This essay first appeared in the August 2018 issue of Choice (volume 55 | issue 12)
Digital publication brought a host of new challenges to government information. Materials can disappear as quickly as they appear. The laws that govern print publication apply to digital formats as well, especially when it comes to e-government. Each administration has its own rules and interpretation about how and when it will offer services to their constituents. From local governments to the federal government, transformation to digital publication and e-government has opened up an entirely new path of controlling the release of information. The passage of the GPO Access legislation in the 1990s began the long process of embracing the internet as a way to offer information to the people. Several other laws followed on it. In GPO in 2023: Keeping America Informed in a Post-Print World: Hearing before the Committee on House Administration, then Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks stated: “GPO is transforming from a print-centric to a content-centric publishing operation. By 2023, we expect the organization to be fully rooted in a digital strategy with a name change to the Government Publishing Office to fully reflect our expanded capabilities and to emphasize that we are not just an organization that prints ink on paper.”
She recognized that this name change signaled to the world the enormous shift in publishing history. The transformation of information products from print to digital is more than just publication, it includes services. E-government is something the founding fathers could not foresee, yet in an examination of the arguments of early American print history, one can see parallels in the discussions and debates from revolutionary America to today. Government printing is more about information access and service than just printing, and therefore GPO has always been more than just a printing office.
Aimée C. Quinn is an assistant professor and government publications librarian at the James E. Brooks Library, Central Washington University. She is responsible for developing federal and state depository services and outreach to Central Washington citizens and helping with e-government services to the campus and broader citizenry. She teaches the foundations of library and information science and civic engagement courses in the LIS program. She has over thirty years working in academic libraries primarily in government publications services. She has published and edited numerous articles, essays, and chapters related to the preservation of government information and e-government services.