Reports Detail ‘Management Weaknesses’ in Library of Congress Technology

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted April 2, 2015 at 5:00am

Two Government Accountability Office reports released Tuesday revealed “management weaknesses” in the Library of Congress’ information technology divisions as the Library is working to bolster its digital collection and cataloging processes.  

The Library’s acting chief information officer, Elizabeth R. Scheffler, testified at a March 17 Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee hearing that the Library is adjusting to a dramatic growth in digital materials. “My primary focus right now as per the overall library, IT strategic planning that I’m leading, is planning for the long term storage needs on the technology side,” Scheffler said. “Last year was triple what we had expected, and we do not expect that to end, as far as the growth levels go, of receiving the digital materials.”  

But the recent reports call into question how the Library’s technology infrastructure can effectively manage and secure that digital material.  

The first report, focusing squarely on the Library of Congress, found several problems revolving around IT management and security. Those issues have trickled down to other areas of the Library, including the U.S. Copyright Office, which the second report revealed has also been mismanaging IT upgrades and investments. The LOC report came at the request of the House Appropriations Committee, while the Senate Appropriations Committee requested the Copyright Office report.  

The GAO found weaknesses at the LOC in four major areas: strategic planning, investment management, information security and privacy, service management and leadership. The report found the LOC is “not effectively managing” the $119 million it allocated for IT in 2014 and does not have an effective process for taking inventory of materials. For example, Library officials stated the Library has roughly 6,500 computers in use, but an inventory revealed there are actually 18,000.  

“The Library is not in a position to ensure that they are meeting cost, schedule and performance goals and delivering the capabilities the agency needs to carry out its mission,” wrote the report’s authors.  

The authors found that the IT systems are also at risk of infiltration, because the Library did not always test security, assess risks or carry out training. “Such deficiencies also contributed to weaknesses in technical security controls, putting the Library’s systems and information at risk of compromise,” they wrote.  

Among the GAO’s 30 recommendations to improve IT management at the Library were to hire a permanent chief information officer and bolster the CIO’s authority. The report noted the LOC has not had a permanent CIO since 2012, and five people have served in the position in the interim.  

“The Library appreciates the work of the GAO and believes the report ultimately will be helpful,” LOC spokesperson Gayle Osterberg wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call. “Several recommendations are already underway, such as developing a new IT strategic plan, finalizing an enterprise architecture plan and updating regulations and governance regarding IT.”  

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington agreed with many of the recommendations in a March 16 letter to the GAO, and he pledged to develop a strategic plan by April. Billington also said he expected the Library would hire a permanent CIO by September.  

But the Library’s technology issues appear to be affecting other offices under the LOC umbrella, including the U.S. Copyright Office. The second report, focusing on the copyright office, found that it did also did not have a strategic IT plan and did not justify investments in technology. The GAO recommended that the office present initiatives to the Library’s IT investment review board and develop an overall IT plan.  

Maria Pallante, the U.S. Register of Copyrights, wrote in a March 18 letter to the GAO that it is necessary for the office to transition to digital technology.  

“As we move further into the twenty-first century, it has become clear to everyone who comes in contact with the copyright law that the Copyright Office must evolve from a small department of public record to a digitally-savvy administrator of intellectual property rights, remedies, and commercial information,” she wrote.  

But, as the GAO noted in its report, she did not indicate whether she agreed or disagreed with the specific recommendations. Instead, Pallante wrote that she would need further guidance from Congress, since members of Congress have questioned whether the copyright office should remain under the LOC umbrella.  

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