Newsletter of the Federal Depository Library Program
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May 1, 2003 GP 3.16/3-2:24/05
(Vol. 24, no. 05)
Current Status and Next Generation
of GPO Access
Remarks by Ric Davis
Director, Office of Electronic Information Dissemination Services
Spring 2003 Meeting of the Depository Library Council
April 8, 2003
I am delighted to have the opportunity to be here with you today to provide an update on the current status of GPO Access and to talk to you about our progress towards the next generation of GPO Access services. Hopefully, all of you have a copy of our printed GPO Access update, which summarizes recent changes to GPO Access and provides information about what is on the horizon.
Size and Usage
GPO Access continues to grow in size, with almost 2,800 databases offered through some 80 applications. At this time, over 240,000 electronic titles are available through the FDLP Electronic Collection, with more than 147,000 titles on GPO servers and more than 93,000 others linked to from GPO Access. Since 1994, GPO Access retrievals have exceeded 1.6 billion, and we are currently averaging 32 million retrievals from this service each month. GPO Access reached a new all-time monthly high of almost 37 million document retrievals in January 2003.
In coordination with Library Programs Service staff, we are also in the process of developing statistical reports of PURL referrals to enable libraries to determine how often documents within the Federal Depository Library Program Electronic Collection are being accessed through library catalogs and Web pages. We are requesting that individual depositories provide us with more information on the actual sites from which the referrals are received so that data can be related back to specific institutions.
GPO staff have developed a mechanism as part of the Directory update page on the FDLP Desktop by which libraries may inform GPO of their desire to receive these statistics and provide the necessary information. GPO will then be able to create a PURL referral report similar to the URL referral report for depository libraries currently available on the Federal Bulletin Board. Once completed, the PURL referral report will be available at the same location and will be updated on a monthly basis.
We have also moved forward on the procurement of an upgrade to our Web Trends reporting software that assists us in this statistical work, and we will continue to provide cumulative reports of referrals to GPO Access from depository web sites, using the web addresses depositories have registered with the Library Programs Service.
Although the number of products and services available through GPO Access is growing, users have continued to express to us that they are experiencing problems with slow system response and longer than expected transactions required to search for and download content. A number of different efforts are underway and more are planned for the future to address this issue.
We continue to use the Keynote performance measurement service to track system performance from the user perspective in 10 major cities in the United States. This service provides immediate alerts to GPO staff when performance problems occur, as well as statistical information used in the daily evaluation of selected GPO Access applications. Based upon the invaluable feedback we have received from this service, GPO's Production Services has taken steps to reconfigure existing servers to improve load balancing, and has added additional servers to expand system capacity where it is most needed.
Efforts are also continuing to break up large files wherever possible to make it easier for customers to download information. Additionally, GPO is taking steps to akamaize as many of the static files as possible so that they can be delivered through the Akamai content delivery network, effectively spreading the load to local servers and lessening the burden on the main GPO Access system. In addition to the Federal Register Table of Contents daily files, the browse feature beginning with the 2003 Code of Federal Regulations now includes akamaized Text and PDF files. Customer feedback on these enhancements has been very positive in regard to improving download time, and we will continue to work to expand the use of the Akamai service to other applications in order to help improve overall system performance.
While these solutions offer some immediate benefits for our customers, work also continues towards procuring a new platform to replace the WAIS search and retrieval software for GPO Access databases. Staff members from the Superintendent of Documents and Production Services are working closely on developing a detailed Statement of Work that outlines both customer functionality and the technical requirements needed to move forward with the procurement of the next generation of software. The Statement of Work will also include a requirement to migrate all WAIS databases on GPO Access to the new platform simultaneously to ensure continuity throughout the site.
These efforts aimed at improving the performance of GPO Access also extend towards our goal of establishing a geographically separate mirror site and backup facility for GPO Access in Pueblo, Colorado. Work is underway to establish this facility as a location for both backup data storage and a complete mirror site for all GPO Access resources that helps share the load with servers at GPO. It is expected that construction of the facility will be completed this summer, and then GPO staff will work quickly to build the necessary technical infrastructure.
GPO Access Redesign
In addition to improving performance, we have just released a redesign of the GPO Access Web site with a new and enhanced look and feel. This was accomplished as a result of the feedback that many of you provided to GPO through open forum sessions, as well as usability studies, customer surveys, focus groups, and contacts received through the GPO Access User Support Team. Additionally, we have established a new domain name for GPO Access, <http://www.gpoaccess.gov>. The former domain name, <http://www.gpo.gov/gpoaccess> will now re-direct users to the new domain name. Redirects from individual Web pages will also be provided as a service to customers.
If you have not already done so, I hope that all of you will have the opportunity to take a look at this new redesign of GPO Access in the near future and let us know what you think about it. As always, we welcome comments from each of you as we make additional improvements and refinements to this Web site. In conjunction with the release of this new Web site, we are currently working with other areas of GPO to finalize our GPO Access Web Design Guidelines. These guidelines are expected to prove beneficial for internal staff working on the site, and also serve as guidance to other Federal agencies whose web sites are hosted on GPO Access.
GPO also played a key role in the launch of the Regulations.gov Web site, which was released to the general public on January 23, 2003. This site was developed as a part of the President's Management Agenda-E-Rulemaking Initiative, and it helps ensure that the public has a role in making regulatory decisions. Citizens can find, review, and submit comments on Federal documents that are open for comment and published in the Federal Register. GPO is one of the partner agencies on this initiative, providing both hosting services for the Web site, and also serving as the point of contact for user support and technical assistance.
U.S. Government Online Bookstore
Over the past several years, GPO staff made a number of enhancements to the U.S. Government Online Bookstore to improve the customer experience in regard to searching and ordering Federal Government publications. In order to move forward more quickly with the "next generation" of services that customers are expecting from the online bookstore, GPO recently placed a Request for Information (RFI) in FedBizOpps. The purpose is to procure the services of a consultant who can identify an e-commerce solution and make a recommendation on how GPO should proceed with a commercial e-commerce product solution. This includes, among other items, reviewing the capabilities currently in use for the front-end interface and back-end legacy systems for the online bookstore, correlating GPO's needs with commercially available e-commerce software, and preparing a detailed report recommending a complete commercial off the shelf (COTS) e-commerce solution. The response date for the RFI was March 19, 2003, and GPO received approximately 30 responses for consulting services. The consultant GPO ultimately selects for this service will be expected to complete all of our requirements in a 60-day period. This will enable us to move forward more quickly and efficiently to make a number of enhancements that are required for the online bookstore to better serve our customers.
Search Engine Results
We have continued our work on the search engine project, which consists of a series of ongoing evaluations in order to assess and improve the visibility of GPO Access pages in the indices of major Internet search engines and directories. The just completed ninth evaluation found another overall increase in successful returns of GPO Access pages. This included gains in Top-5 and Top-10 returns, while Top-30 returns remained the same as our last evaluation. I am pleased to report that Top-5 returns reached a new high of 28% of the test searches. Some of these increases came in a number of interesting areas. For instance, the new search engine Teoma went from a number 20 ranking to number 7 since the last evaluation, with its Top-5 returns increasing by 467%. AOL has also moved up again, to a number 3 ranking, behind SearchGov and Google Uncle Sam.
We have also completed a second round of testing to promote the U.S. Government Online Bookstore through paid positioning on the popular search engine Overture. The GPO Paid Positioning Committee, with help from Overture, came up with a list of 26 keywords to bid on over a three-month period. During the testing period, almost 10,000 customers clicked onto the Online Bookstore from Overture and its affiliates. Moreover, 15 of the 26 keywords attained at least a 3% click-through rate, which is the rate at which listings are judged successful through benchmarks established by search engine experts. In fact, several of our keywords attained click-through rates of 15% or higher, which is an exceptional rate.
It is important to point out that while the percentages have increased in regard to top returns, our goal is to continue to improve the positioning of GPO Access pages in search engines. Selected EIDS staff just returned from the "Search Engine Strategies" conference in Boston, MA, where we had the opportunity to talk directly to search engine experts and industry representatives from Google, Yahoo, and other companies. Information gained from this conference will be used to make further enhancements towards improving the visibility of GPO Access pages.
What's New on GPO Access
There are a number of recent changes to GPO Access. The most notable are:
- A new listserv that enables subscribers to receive e-mail notification when new Public and Private laws become available on GPO Access. These e-emails include links to the ASCII text and PDF versions of new Public and Private laws.
- A Report of the Investigation of Enron Corporation and Related Entities Regarding Federal Tax and Compensation Issues and Policy Recommendations is now available on GPO Access.
- The 2001 Privacy Act Issuances are available via GPO Access.
- FY 2004 Federal Budget Publications are now available online.
- The Economic Report of the President, 2003 is also available.
- The Congressional Pictorial Directory for the 108th Congress is now available on GPO Access.
What's On the Horizon for GPO Access
Work is under way to add more content to GPO Access and to refine access to the products and services already provided. Some key examples of these activities include:
- The use of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to authenticate the PDF versions of Congressional Bills will be implemented for the 108th Congress. Users with a free software reader will be able to confirm that a bill was approved for submission to GPO by the appropriate Congressional authority and that it has not been altered since it was signed.
- Procurement has been initiated for a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software package for use by the GPO Access User Support Team, Library Programs Service, and other areas of GPO. This software will provide a dynamic electronic knowledgebase to help answer frequently asked questions, create more efficient problem escalation workflows based upon business rules, and improve web chat functionality in real-time.
- A version of Ben's Guide to U.S. Government targeted at adults is in the process of being designed.
As you can tell, many of the enhancements and improvements that we have made to GPO Access have been a direct result
of your feedback. Please continue to let us know what you think is needed to make GPO Access better as we work
together to move into the future. Thank you for your attention and I look forward to talking more with you during this