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Newsletter of the Federal Depository Library Program

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Cumulative Table of Contents Vol. 1 - present [ PDF ] ( includes current issue )

July 15, 2004

GP 3.16/3-2:25/08
(Vol. 25, no. 08)

2004 Recommended Specifications for
Public Access Workstations in
Federal Depository Libraries

These recommended specifications (RS) are intended to assist depository librarians who are planning purchases of new personal computers (PCs) for public use in Federal depository libraries. This document supersedes the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) "2003 Recommended Specifications for Public Access Workstations in Federal Depository Libraries" (Administrative Notes, v. 24, no. 7, June 15, 2003).

In accordance with Depository Library Council action at its Spring 2000 meeting, these RS will become requirements October 1, 2005.

Recommended New Workstation Configuration



Intel chip, 3 GHz Pentium 4 or comparable AMD Athlon (Athlon XP 2200 if using Windows XP as an operating system) processor minimum.

  • FOR CARTOGRAPHIC DATA USE: 3.4 GHz processor minimum

Memory (DDR SDRAM - Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic RAM)

512 MB (expandable) minimum.



One (1) Serial

Two (2) Universal Serial Bus (USB), 2.0 standard

One (1) Universal Serial Bus (USB) located on computerís front panel

One (1) Parallel

One (1) P/S-2 Mouse

One (1) SVGA Video (If video is built into system board.)

One (1) IEE1394 Firewire port

One (1) Ethernet port if connecting the computer to a networked printer

I/O bus

PCI. Should have at least four available PCI or shared PCI/ISA slots after system is configured for delivery.


64 or 128 bit PCI interface SVGA controller. Should come with 16MB Windows RAM (WRAM) or Video RAM (VRAM), and be expandable. Recommend the selected device provide MPEG hardware acceleration.

  • FOR CARTOGRAPHIC DATA USE: 64 or 128 bit PCI interface SVGA controller with 128 MB DDR VRAM.


Sound Blaster PCI64 sound card or compatible


Hard Disk Drive

120 gigabytes (GB) capacity or greater, partitioned into smaller drives for quicker access time. EIDE (enhanced integrated drive electronics) interface that conforms to the ATA/100 specification. Rotational speed of 7,200 rpm. 4MB cache memory. Consider additional hard drive space (160GB) for online video use, to increase the number of CDs that can be installed or to allow for electronic files to be stored.

  • FOR CARTOGRAPHIC DATA USE: 200 GB or greater capacity, or network connectivity that provides the same.

Removable/External Storage

Do not assume that new computers have 1.44 MB drives for 3.5" floppy disks. Many manufactures do not provide these drives unless specifically ordered. GPO still distributes this format and many library patrons still use these disks.

See "Related Issues and Considerations" below for more information.

DVD Drive

8x minimum, 16x speed recommended. Ensure compatibility with CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-ROM, DVD-Rs. Alternatively, a DVD-CD combo: 16x DVD/48x CD ROM.

  • FOR CARTOGRAPHIC DATA USE: 16x DVD. Single platter or changer design. Should support all available standard CD formats. Avoid proprietary I/O designs.

CD-RW Drive

Most new systems now come equipped with a CD-RW drive. Look for rotational speeds of 24x10x40 (write/rewrite/read). Needed for downloading files too large to fit on a regular floppy or for larger scale backup. The average user is more likely to have a CD reader than a Zip or Jaz drive. Make sure the drive comes with some sort of MPEG-2 encoding software.

See "Related Issues and Considerations" below for more information.




17" Super VGA (SVGA) Multimedia monitor with a range between .22 to .27 mm dot pitch. Look for a high refresh rate of at least 60MHz. Consider flat panel (15" or larger) for staff or in public areas with limited space. With LCD monitors, look for a viewing angle of at least 140 degrees.

  • FOR CARTOGRAPHIC DATA USE: 21" monitor, Super VGA (SVGA), with at least 85 MHz vertical refresh rate at 1024x768 resolution non-interlaced, 0.28 mm or smaller dot pitch; display card which supports 1024x768 resolution at 70 MHz or faster.


Ink Jet or laser printer. Must support PostScript. 16MB of memory, minimum. More is recommended if the printer is not host-based or if using color. Consider purchasing a color printer for clearer output of color maps and graphical representations. If the printer is shared among workstations look for a minimum of 32MB of memory.

  • FOR CARTOGRAPHIC DATA USE: Color ink jet printer, 36", 600 dpi, 80 MB or more memory, or access to a comparable networked printer

Keyboard and Pointing Device

Microsoft-compatible keyboard, plus mouse or other compatible device. Strongly recommend ergonomically-designed products.

Internet Connectivity

Local Area Network with TCP/IP. 10/100 MB Ethernet network interface card (Strongly Recommended)


Broadband connections such as Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) or Cable


Operating System

Most new computers with a Windows-based operating system come preinstalled with either Windows NT, 2000 or Windows XP. XP Home and XP Professional have security and virus protection features well suited for public access workstations.

Client Software

World Wide Web graphical browser with forms support. Java-enabled browsers such as Internet Explorer 4 or Netscape Navigator 4 or greater are required for use of some online databases. IE 5.5 or Netscape 6.2 are recommended.

It is recommended that workstations have virus protection software installed and regular updates scheduled.


WWW graphical browser (see above) that handles both GIF and JPEG graphics. Viewers for other formats such as tiff, wpd, doc, xls, dbf, mdb, and pdf should also be available. Later versions of pdf viewers have a search capability. Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0 supports assistive screen readers and older census files. Multimedia player(s) to access rm, mpeg, avi and mov formats.

  • FOR CARTOGRAPHIC DATA USE: GEOTIFF file viewer. DLGv32 Pro Version 5.10. Viewing software for raster data, such as Photo Shop Pro, Print Shop or MrSid Viewer.

Applications Software

If the library offers services that require applications software, consider an integrated "office suite" product such as Microsoft Office, Corel WordPerfect Office or Lotus SmartSuite. Otherwise:


dBASE file format compatible or dBASE and ASCII comma delimited file importing database management software; useful to have fixed field format (SDF) importability.


Lotus .WK1 file format compatible software; support for other formats such as Excel and Quattro Pro.

Word Processing

Software (Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, WordPro, etc.) capable of importing major text file formats, e.g., ASCII text and RTF files.

Mapping Software

    • FOR CARTOGRAPHIC DATA USE: Data manipulation package, such as ArcView 3.1 or higher, Landview, MapInfo 4.5 or higher, or other similar package.

Related Issues and Considerations

These specifications are intended to assist depository staff in making informed purchases that will best achieve the goal of providing public access to Federal Government information in a variety of electronic formats.

These guidelines are aimed at providing reasonably robust workstations that should provide years of service before they become obsolete, but GPO encourages the purchase of equipment that exceeds these specifications if at all economically feasible. The speed at which computer capabilities are evolving indicates that the higher the initial outlay, the longer the useful life for the equipment. If a higher end system is not affordable, look for flexibility and expandability in the system that will allow for enhancements and upgrades at a later date. As these guidelines address minimums, ensure compatibility among chosen components before purchasing.

Depository libraries must have computer equipment sufficient to allow timely and equitable public access to Government electronic information products and should allow printing or downloading information selected by the user.

Please note the addition this year of a USB port on the computerís front panel. This is to accommodate the increasing number of library patrons who use removable storage devices instead of floppy disks or CDs.

3.5 and 5.25 floppy drives: If your library still has depository materials on 3.5" and 5.25" floppy disks, you must have the equipment for patrons to access these products. Alternatively, depository libraries may "substitute" floppies in their collection for online editions located at the CIC Government Publications Task Force Floppy Disk Project (FDP), hosted by Indiana University Library in partnership with GPO. The site is located at: <http://www.indiana.edu/~libgpd/mforms/floppy/floppy.html>. Check online holdings prior to substituting. If the FDP does not have the title you wish to substitute, you must provide access to the product by maintaining older equipment or converting these products to a new platform.

GPO works with the Cartographic Users Advisory Council (CUAC) to develop any additional specifications that support GIS applications. These are included in the recommendations with the indicator:


All depositories are not required to meet the cartographic specifications. They are meant to assist with planning purchases for those libraries that support and provide data services using spatial data and GIS applications. The "regular" specifications will allow for basic mapping applications. Census maps will be available in multiple formats, including PDF, so large-scale equipment will not be necessary, though consideration should be given to purchasing a color printer.

Viewers versus full working versions of applications software: If viewers are available on computers to allow access to Government information in the various formats this is acceptable and the library will meet the minimum technical requirements. While providing applications software and/or staff support to help patrons manipulate data or create reports is desirable, it is optional. This position is consistent with Depository Library Public Service Guidelines For Government Information in Electronic Formats at:



The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (August 7, 1998) amended ß508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require "individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal department or agency, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities." Federal depository libraries must provide hardware and software to allow this or accommodate users in some other manner. Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards; Final Rule was published in the December 21, 2000 (pp. 80499-80528) issue of the Federal Register and became effective June 21, 2001. Further guidance on these issues is available from:





CD-RW drives can be purchased as either internal or external drives. With a CD-RW the discs can be reused, unlike those of the CD-R that can only be used once. The other major difference between CD-Rs and CD-RWs is that CDs created from a CD-R can sometimes be read in older CD-ROM drives while those created from a CD-RW can only be read from MultiRead drives. This is something to consider particularly if you are creating circulating copies and want to meet the needs of most of your users. Be sure to check compatibility with your operating system.

GPO cannot anticipate or address every possible depository library computer scenario, and depository libraries are encouraged to adapt this menu of specifications to fit their local situations. Depositories may require multi-purpose single workstations, electronic access in networked environments, or a combination of both. Given the large variation in the size of Federal depository libraries and the numbers of users served, GPO cannot recommend a universal standard for the number of public access workstations in any given library. However, when assessing workstation needs, librarians should consider such local factors as:

  • the amount of information provided over the Internet compared with the amount from CD-ROM
  • whether and how the workstations are networked
  • to what extent users are permitted to perform additional information processing at the public access workstations
  • whether users are experiencing extended waiting times at library peak service hours, etc.

When configuring workstations bear in mind that some government CD-ROM products link to the web to update information on the CD-ROM. This means that for the user to get the newer information and the full benefit of the product at least one workstation must have both CD-ROM capability and Internet accessibility with a graphical browser.

Additional or different capabilities may be desirable for workstations used by library staff. Some libraries may elect to add applications software, such as spreadsheet, word processing, or database software, to their public access workstations, but this is a local resource management decision.

Many depository libraries have existing computer equipment that is no longer "state of the art." These specifications should not be applied retrospectively to existing equipment, although they may assist in determining the appropriate time for replacement or upgrading. Libraries should also consider keeping this equipment in order to access electronic products that cannot be read with newer hardware and software.

For additional information, or if you have any questions about these specifications, please contact Cynthia Etkin, Program Analyst, at cetkin@gpo.gov or by voice at 202.512.1114.

Related guidelines: