July 2023 marked the 51st anniversary of Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse operations!
Prior to 1972 there was no comprehensive program in the state for collecting and preserving Nebraska government publications. In 1971 the Nebraska Library Commission began surveying other states and Nebraska libraries to find out how such a program should work and drafting proposed legislation to give the program legal authority. In January 1972 LB 1284 was introduced in the Nebraska Legislature, passed and signed by the Governor in March establishing the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse. The program was launched in July of that year.
State Depository Program
“There is hereby created, as a division of the Nebraska Library Commission, a Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse. The clearinghouse shall establish and operate a publications collection and depository system for the use of Nebraska citizens” The original legislation has been amended several times to exclude Junior Colleges and reduce the number of mandatory copies that agencies must send, but the basic operation of the program remains the same.
Federal Depository Program
The legislation also directed the Library Commission to provide access to federal publications. “The Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse shall provide access to local, state, federal and other governmental publications to state agencies and legislators and through interlibrary loan service to citizens of the state.” The Commission began participating in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) in 1972. It served as Nebraska’s Regional Federal Depository until 1984, when Love Library at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln became the Regional. The Commission is now a selective depository and has reduced its selections to about 2% of the publications offered through the program.
How Publications are Collected
Agencies are currently defined as “every state office, officer, department, division, bureau, board, commission, and agency of the state and, when applicable, all subdivisions of each, including state institutions of higher education defined as all state-supported colleges and universities”
The first challenge facing the new Clearinghouse service was creating a comprehensive list of these agencies. The next challenge was getting them to send their publications. Unlike some other states, Nebraska does not use a central printing agency that could make extra copies for the documents program. A network of contact persons is used instead.
“Every state agency head or his or her appointed records officer shall notify the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse of his or her identity.” Every few years the Library Commission sends agency directors letters with a form for designating an agency contact person. The contacts are sent a packet of information about the Clearinghouse service.
In the early years of the program agencies supplied more copies to the Clearinghouse than they do now and both the statutorily designated recipients and the contract depositories received paper publications. Space restrictions at the depositories, cost limitations for the agencies, and a desire to preserve publications in a long-lasting format resulted in a reduction in the number of paper copies normally required from each agency.
The current statute reads “The records officer shall upon release of a state publication deposit four copies and a short summary, including author, title, and subject, of each of its state publications with the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse for record purposes…. Additional copies, including sale items, shall also be deposited in the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse in quantities certified to the agencies by the clearinghouse as required to meet the needs of the Nebraska publications depository system, with the exception that the University of Nebraska Press shall only be required to deposit four copies of its publications.”
One copy is kept at the Library Commission and copies are forwarded to the Historical Society and Library of Congress. Until the spring of 2005 microfiche copies were produced from the fourth copy and distributed to Nebraska depositories.
Processing and Cataloging
Once the list of agencies was compiled in 1972 a classification system based on agency names (NEDOCS) was created and the first Guide to State Agencies was published. The Guide lists agencies with their five digit alpha-numeric code and traces agency creation, mergers, discontinuance, and classification number changes. Originally a print publication reissued every few years, the Guide is now continuously updated online.
The Statute states that “The Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse shall publish and distribute regularly to contracting depository libraries, other libraries, state agencies and legislators, an official list of state publications with an annual cumulation. The official list shall provide a record of each agency’s publishing and show author, agency, title and subject approaches.”From 1972 until 1991 The Nebraska State Publications Checklist was produced. The Checklist included abstracts with a title, subject and agency index. It was issued on microfiche several times a year with an annual cumulation. In 1992 the Checklist was discontinued and publications began receiving full OCLC cataloging. Nebraska publications now are listed in the WorldCat, the OCLC database of catalog records contributed by its member libraries worldwide. The WorldCat can be searched without cost by any Nebraska citizen from NebraskAccess with a driver’s license number or password obtained from their local library. Older records from the Checklist can also be searched using the Library Commission catalog. Publications received are listed in What’s Up Doc and compiled into an annual publication.
The Depository Program
Contrary to what the word “clearinghouse” might make one think, the Library Commission is not a warehouse distributing giveaway or sale copies of Nebraska publications. The Commission is in fact prohibited by law from doing that. At first copies were forwarded to the Nebraska State Historical Society, Library of Congress, and Center for Research Libraries. This was amended later to exclude the Center for Research Libraries.
The legislation also authorized the Library Commission to “enter into depository contracts with any municipal or county public library, state college or state university library, and out-of-state research libraries. The requirements for eligibility to contract as a depository library shall be established by the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse. The standards shall include and take into consideration the type of library, ability to preserve such publications and to make them available for public use, and also such geographical locations as will make the publications conveniently accessible to residents in all areas of the state.”
By 1975 contracts had been signed with six institutions willing to serve as depositories. More depositories were added over the years, bringing the total since 1990 to 13 plus the Nebraska State Historical Society.
Depository Library Responsibilities
Making Government Information Accessible
Internet technology has created an opportunity to greatly improve public access to government information. Most state agencies now post key publications to their web sites, and much legislative information is available online. The Library Commission was already making extensive use of the Internet to direct users to Nebraska government information, and had created special web sites such as Nebraska State Government Publications Online and Nebraska Legislators, Past and Present.
In 2005 breakdown of the microfiche camera at the state Records Management Division led to a decision to discontinue fiche production and redirect the program toward providing online access to the same high-priority documents that were formerly sent to depositories on microfiche. They are downloaded or scanned, archived on a Library Commission server, and searchable via Nebraska State Government Publications Online and the NLC catalog. Instead of microfiche, depositories receive regular alerts via What’s Up Doc blog postings which include stable urls that can be used in library catalog records.
The Library Commission partners with the Official State of Nebraska Web Site to offer an “Ask a Librarian” link citizens can use to email, or telephone our reference desk. Many government information links are provided from our NebraskAccess site.
Formats and distribution methods may change, but the Publications Clearinghouse will continue to use new technology and strategies for making government information accessible to Nebraskans.