Public Access Assessments (PAA)

  • Last Updated: January 14, 2022
  • Published: October 15, 2012

What is a Public Access Assessment (PAA)?

A Public Access Assessment (PAA) is a review by GPO staff of an individual library’s Federal depository operations and services. GPO has the responsibility, pursuant to 44 U.S.C. §1909, to ensure that the resources it distributes to Federal depository libraries are properly maintained and made accessible to the general public.

GPO intends for the review to be supportive; it involves the sharing of best practices and recognition of notable achievements to help libraries enhance operations and services. GPO and the FDLP benefit from the assessment program through a direct exchange of ideas with depository library personnel. Through this process, both GPO and depository libraries reinforce our mutual commitment to provide library users with easy access to U.S. Government information.

GPO reviews depository operations within the context of 44 U.S.C. 19 and the Legal Requirements and Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program. During the course of a PAA, a GPO outreach librarian examines the library's depository operation in these areas:

  • Basics
  • Collection Development
  • Bibliographic Control
  • Physical Facilities and Maintenance of the Collection
  • Staffing
  • Public Service
  • Cooperative Efforts
  • Regional Services (for regional libraries only)

General Overview of a PAA

  • GPO outreach librarian(s) is assigned a state or region.
  • GPO outreach librarian contacts the regional depository coordinator to discuss upcoming PAAs and to gather information regarding depository operations in the state or region.
    • Regional depository coordinators complete short questionnaires about selectives depositories in their state or region.
    • Regional depository coordinators are asked to communicate with selectives in their state or region to inform the libraries about upcoming contact from GPO about scheduling PAAs.
  • Three randomly chosen selective depository library coordinators from the state or region are asked to complete a short questionnaire about the regional depository library.
  • GPO outreach librarian contacts depository coordinators to schedule the PAA phone calls. Typically depository coordinators are given between 2-4 weeks’ notice of the PAA date.
  • PAA phone call takes place and follow-up may be required.
  • PAA report is issued to the depository coordinator, depository director, and regional depository coordinator. After the report is issued, additional follow-up may be required to address noncompliance issues before the PAA is closed.

What happens in a PAA?

The PAA may have the following steps:

  • Remote Review and PAA Phone Call
  • Follow-up
  • Onsite review
  • PAA report

These are described in greater detail below:

Remote Review and PAA Phone Call

A GPO outreach librarian will conduct a remote review of the library by examining the library’s responses to the most recent Biennial Survey of Depository Libraries, the library’s official file at GPO, library Web page content, responses to the PAA questionnaire by the regional depository coordinator, any documentation submitted by the library, and other resources.

A GPO outreach librarian will arrange a conference call, typically with the depository coordinator and the GPO outreach librarian. The library must participate in the PAA phone call and respond to scheduling and follow-up requests in a timely manner. The regional depository coordinator may also participate in the call. Since the call includes a discussion of administrative and technical issues, the depository coordinator should consider inviting the library director or any other staff involved in the depository operation to join the call. If questions cannot be answered during the initial phone call, an additional call may need to be scheduled.


Follow-up may be requested by GPO based on the findings of the remote review and PAA phone call. If the GPO outreach librarian determines the library is not in compliance, depending on the nature of the issue(s), GPO may ask the library to take action. The library will either be directed to resolve the issue, or develop a plan to address the issue(s), in order to bring the library into compliance. The PAA cannot be concluded until the action requested by GPO is reported.

The GPO outreach librarian will provide instructions on how to appropriately respond to follow-up requests. Remember that GPO outreach librarians have conducted many PAAs and can be consulted for additional options and solutions to noncompliance issues, should the library need assistance.

Onsite Review

An onsite review may be prompted by the following conditions including, but not limited to:

  • There is an unresolved public access complaint.
  • Free, public access is denied, and there are no arrangements to accommodate library users requiring access.
  • There is an unresolved PAA follow-up requirement after the specified time frame.
  • The library requests an onsite review.
  • The library has been placed on probation.

A GPO outreach librarian may contact the depository coordinator to schedule an onsite review. The findings of the PAA will be reviewed; however, special attention will focus on those areas that were not fully compliant during the prior phases. The GPO librarian may meet with the depository coordinator, other library staff involved with the depository operations and services, and the library administrator. The depository coordinator is expected to make arrangements for appropriate personnel to be available.

The onsite visit may take anywhere from a few hours up to a full day, depending upon the size of the library, the complexity of the issues to be covered, and any selective housing sites or offsite housing facilities to be visited. Typically, an onsite visit includes a tour of depository operations, review of any new policies or other documentation, a discussion about any areas of concern, as well as the library's plans for the depository.

PAA Report

The depository coordinator, library director, and regional depository coordinator will receive an official report after the PAA phone call, summarizing findings. The report will detail the following, as applicable:

  • Recommendation(s)- suggestions to improve depository operations and management; to be implemented at the library’s discretion
  • Notable achievement(s)- areas noted by the GPO outreach librarian where the library is exceeding the requirements of the FDLP
  • Noncompliance issue(s)- problems noted where the depository operations or management, do not comply with the Legal Requirements & Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program, that may require additional follow-up or action by library

Any problems resulting in noncompliance issues will be addressed in the phone call and in the report. The PAA report will include a detailed description of the noncompliance issue(s). For issues requiring follow-up, the report will describe the outcome needed for compliance to be achieved, and time frame requirements for the library to respond to GPO.

The PAA is complete when noncompliance issue(s) are satisfactorily addressed and GPO issues a closing letter or issues another report.

Note: Expedited PAAs

Sometimes a GPO outreach librarian is in the area. An expedited PAA may be scheduled with nearby depository libraries. GPO outreach librarians may also expedite PAA reviews upon request of the library. In an expedited PAA, the onsite review will take the place of the PAA phone call.

Preparing for a Public Access Assessment

One of the most important things you can do to prepare for your PAA is to review the Legal Requirements and Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program.

Some additional ways to prepare for your PAA include:

  • Review your most recent Biennial Survey of Depository Libraries.
  • Read past inspection reports or self-study evaluations (if applicable).
  • Review any selective housing agreement(s) (SHA) and be prepared to report on condition and status of depository material in the alternate site(s) (if applicable).
  • Be able to describe the processing of, procedures for, and maintenance of the depository collection.
  • Consider watching the 15 minute archived webcast on Public Access Assessments.

You will want to identify and gather documentation that includes information about your library’s Federal depository operation and services. If not readily available on your library's Web site, the GPO outreach librarian may request further documentation, including:

  • Access policies (covering topics such as: age, visitor, and/or computer/Internet access)
  • Collection development policy, which may be specifically about or including depository resources
  • Collection maintenance policy or procedures
  • Conduct or user behavior policy
  • Cooperative efforts with other depository libraries or non-depository libraries for government information
  • Depository processing or procedures manual
  • Disaster recovery policy or procedures
  • Library user studies
  • List of promotional activities
  • Official selective housing site agreements
  • Policies or procedures specific to the depository operation
  • Preservation policy or procedures

Please note that your library may not have all of the above documents. If so, a library is only expected to provide what it has, or what’s relevant.

I'm concerned that my library will not do well in a PAA. What can I do?

Contact GPO and your regional librarian if you have questions, or you wish to discuss your library's individual situation. Please remember that a PAA does not evaluate individual library staff members. It is an evaluation of the library's Federal depository operations and services for which the library administrator has ultimate responsibility.

Individual depository libraries make local determinations about how to apply the FDLP legal and program requirements, and GPO evaluates libraries within this context. GPO outreach librarians assess the conditions at an individual library on the day of the review to provide a snapshot of the depository operation and services. The outreach librarians also acknowledge work in progress or plans the library has to enhance or improve depository operations or services. They are aware that unavoidable changes in the library environment may have an impact on Federal depository operations or services.

If a depository coordinator finds a library is not meeting all requirements and regulations, he or she may identify new strategies to pursue that will bring the library into compliance. Some activities, such as cataloging a large collection, take time. GPO notes ongoing efforts in the PAA report.

Please note that there are many ways to fulfil requirements and regulations in the FDLP. GPO personnel and your regional depository librarian(s) are available to discuss options and best practices with you. Take advantage of the FDLP network of expertise that is available to you.

What Are the Benefits of a PAA?

The PAA is an outside review that documents the current status of the library's depository operations and services. This review helps identify depository strengths as well as areas in need of improvement.

The PAA offers an opportunity for the depository coordinator and staff to remind library administration and colleagues of the unique value, services, and challenges participation in the FDLP brings to the library. The process also provides an opportunity for library staff to consult with GPO outreach librarians about depository processes, best practices, and depository management topics.

A library’s regional depository librarian(s) may also participate in the PAA process and give additional feedback and continuing support.

Understanding depository library practices also helps GPO envision the future direction of the FDLP. Successful library initiatives are likely to be shared with others to promote best practices within the FDLP. A library may also be highlighted through Depository Library Spotlights, webinars, social media, and more.

Note for Regional Depository Coordinator(s): Regional depository coordinator(s) should participate in PAAs of the selective depositories within the state or region by submitting a complete response to the questionnaire about each selective depository library. GPO also requests that the regional depository coordinator participate in any onsite or expedited PAAs.

GPO sends a copy of each selective depository library’s assessment report to the regional depository coordinator. Please keep copies of these reports to aid with ongoing consultation to the staff at the selective depository libraries.

LSCM GPO Contact Information

fdlpoutreach@ gpo. gov