Thursday, May 7, 2009

Who Makes Government Information?

The federal government generates a huge amount of information every year: budgets, statutes, regulations, brochures, pamphlets, speeches, press releases…the list goes on and on. Who is responsible for keeping track of these millions of pages? Established by Congress in 1861, the Government Printing Office is charged with "gathering, cataloging, producing, providing and preserving published information in all its forms." Today this daunting task is tackled by more than 2,000 employees, who print thousands of government documents each year and disseminate many more via websites such as GPO Access (soon to become FDSys).

In recent years, the government has reduced its print publications in favor of more cost-efficient electronic access, but many federal documents are still published in paper (and distributed free of charge to depository libraries, including the Goodson Law Library). As this fascinating video from today’s Washington Post illustrates, some of GPO's paper documents are still made much as they were in 1861—watch as employee Peter James demonstrates how to "marble" the edges of a book.

The full story is available at GPO’s newly-redesigned website ( provides additional information about its history and mission at About GPO.