Publication Date

December 1, 1995

Congress to Hold Hearing on Library of Congress

The Joint Committee on the Library, chaired by Senator Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.), will hold hearings in November to consider several troubling matters at the Library of Congress. The committee has not yet determined the agenda for the hearing. However, some problems at the Library of Congress that have surfaced in Roll Call and other publications in recent months and that may be on the hearing agenda are (1) use of psychiatric exams for fitness reports, (2) continuing security problems with loss and mutilation of books, and (3) review of fiscal management.

The library's use of psychiatric tests to determine job fitness has been a concern for some time of the library union, Local 2477 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which represents nonprofessional workers and police officers at the library. In 1988 the executive branch restricted the use of psychiatric fitness-for duty tests; however, the Library of Congress as a legislative branch agency does not fan under these restrictions. Roll Call reported that a number of workers at the Library of Congress have charged “that the institution uses the largely outdated practice of psychiatric ‘fitness-for-duty’ exams as a means of retaliation.” Senator Connie Mack (R-Fla), who chairs the subcommittee with responsibility for appropriations for the legislative branch, has expressed concern about the use of psychiatric fitness exams and indicated a desire to review the library’s practices on this matter.

Reports of increased theft and vandalism in the collection are also a concern to Congress. Part of the recent concern focuses on reports of former Library of Congress police detective Deborah Maceda. Since 1992 she had reportedly been documenting mutilation and loss of significant numbers of valuable books. Maceda, who was recently demoted, has claimed that her demotion was an attempt by managers to thwart her efforts and to downplay theft problems for fear of negative publicity for the library. Because researchers are no longer allowed in the stacks, indications are that this destruction has come from Library of Congress employees. After failing to engage the library management in the problems she saw, Maceda took her concerns to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office are now investigating the reports of thefts and mutilation of books.

Fiscal management of the Library of Congress is another matter about which members of Congress have questions. A representative of Senator Mack's office said that there has not been a thorough audit of the library's financial accounts since 1988. A General Accounting Office investigation of the library's fiscal and personnel management systems is under way and will be completed next March.

The Librarian of Congress, James Billington has responded to recent developments by taking a number of steps, which include launching an internal investigation, suspending the adverse actions against Maceda until the results of the investigation are completed, and requesting the Department of Defense to supply a security expert to review independently the entire security system.

Funding for Fulbright Programs in Fiscal 1996

There are two programs of concern to historians that have Fulbright in their names. One is the Fulbright program of international scholarly exchanges. This program, which will mark its 50th anniversary next year, is part of the United States Information Agency. Its budget is addressed in the Commerce, Justice, Stale, Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. The House in its appropriations bill has recommended $112 million for the Fulbright program of international scholarly exchanges; however, the Senate bill allots only $100 million. The conference committee that will work out differences between these two appropriations bills has not yet met. The fiscal 1995 appropriation for the Fulbright international scholarly exchanges was $118 million.

The Fulbright-Hays Program is located in the Department of Education and focuses on area studies and language training. It funds doctoral dissertation research abroad, faculty research abroad, group projects abroad, and seminars abroad. The fiscal 1995 budget for the Fulbright-Hays Program was $5.79 million. The House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill includes $4 million, while the Senate version of this bill includes $5.5 million for the program.

Restructuring of the NEH

In October Sheldon Hackney, the chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, announced a restructuring plan that will go into effect in December. He stated that the endowment will be focusing on four areas: supporting original scholarship, preserving the American cultural heritage, providing learning opportunities for the nation's teachers, and engaging the American public in the humanities. The leaner structure has three divisions, down from six a year ago, and seven programs, down from the current number of thirty-one. The Division of Preservation will have one program that will include preservation and access projects, stabilization of material culture collections, and the United States Newspaper Initiative. The Division of Public Programs and Enterprise will have two programs—public programs and enterprise. Enterprise is defined as "special initiatives, partnerships with other agencies and the private sector, transdivisional projects, and other activities."

The third division, the Division of Research and Education, will include four programs: fellowships and stipends, collaborative research, education development and demonstration, and seminars and institutes. The Office of Federal-State Partnerships, which focuses on the state humanities councils, is also being restructured and will play less of a regulatory role and more of a service role.

Government Publishes Implementing Directive for Declassification

On October 13 the Information Security Oversight Office published in the Federal Register (pages 53492-53502) the implementing directive for Executive Order 12958, relating to classified national security information. This executive order provides federal agencies with a grace period of five years to declassify all their material over twenty-five years old, with provisions that during this period agency heads may use nine criteria, given in the order, to exempt specific information. To exempt information from automatic declassification, agencies must prepare a written justification explaining why this information must remainclassified for a longer period.

There are two major concerns about the language of the implementing directive. First, the use of vague and imprecise language may well impede the declassification process. And second, the implementing directive states that "classified information records that have not been scheduled for disposal or retention by the National Archives and Records Administration is not subject to section 3.4 (the automatic declassification section) of this order, "Not only does this offer a loophole for some agencies with large quantities of older classified but unscheduled records, but this policy also may set as an incentive in the future for agencies to postpone scheduling records, which will complicate the work of the National Archives.

Heritage Areas Legislation

Legislation to establish a Heritage Partnership Program, HR. 1280, has run into opposition from "property rights" advocates. This legislation would provide a means of designating and providing technical assistance to heritage areas. Although the legislation was marked up in September by the National Parks, Forests, and Lands Subcommittee, no date has been set for it to come before the full Resources Committee. Proponents of property rights are seeking provisions in the bill for "owner consent" from 100 percent of owners before the partnerships could move forward. Many supporters of the bill believe that the provision would have the effect of immobilizing the effort and that previous experience with heritage areas has indicated that such a measure is not necessary. Some supporters of the measure have saidthat if an owner-consent provision is added, they would oppose the bill.

Since the broad Heritage Areas legislation to establish a new partnership program has stalled, it appears that individual bills dealing with specific heritage areas may move forward independently. Separate bills deal with heritage partnerships for the following areas: the Blackstone River Valley in Massachusetts and Rhode Island; the Cache La Poudre River in Colorado; the National Coal Heritage Area in West Virginia; the Dayton Aviation Area in Ohio; the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor; the Tennessee Civil War Heritage Area; the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area in Georgia; the Vancouver National Historic Reserve in Washington; and the Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor in Ohio.

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