Library of Congress making ‘good progress’ on IT management recommendations

The Library of Congress' main reading room. (Wikimedia)

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The Library of Congress is making good strides toward improved IT management, agency leaders said Thursday in a hearing before the Committee on House Administration.

The hearing focused on a March 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office that detailed “significant weaknesses” in the way the Library has historically managed IT resources. At the time, the report noted six broad areas in need of improvement and issued 31 specific recommendations. Chief among these was the recommendation that the Library hire a CIO after going without one since 2012. That issue has since been resolved: Bernard A. Barton Jr. took office in September 2015 and testified at Thursday’s hearing.

Beyond the CIO hire, the Library has fully implemented four other recommendations: the creation of an IT strategic plan; the development of an inventory of Library information services; a policy for accounting for IT expenditures; and a policy on assessments of the utility of IT investments.

Since Librarian Carla Hayden took her post in July 2016, LOC tech activities have been centralized within the office of the CIO in the hopes that this will “maximize value from the Library’s investment in technology,” Hayden said. In keeping with the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, which requires CIOs to report directly to the head of an agency, Barton reports directly to Hayden.

All in all, it’s relatively modest progress, but the Library plans to accelerate work. Leaders have committed to implementing 22 of the remaining 26 recommendations by the end of the calendar year, committee Chairman Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., said. “A very ambitious goal,” Harper noted, wryly.

Barton, however, has faith. The Library’s deputy CIO meets weekly with the GAO to discuss progress, he said. “We are confident that the target dates we have set we will meet.”

IT management isn’t a one-and-done kind of situation though, he acknowledged. “The primary goal from my perspective is not just to close the recommendations,” Barton said. “My intention is that we take those recommendations and view them as an opportunity to get ahead of future issues. This is not a check the box, you know, get the recommendations closed issue that I’m trying to address, it really is setting the Library up for success in the future.”

The LOC has asked for a fiscal 2018 budget of $123 million for the Office of the CIO and its future ambitions, a 13.8 percent increase over fiscal 2017’s numbers.

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Bernard Barton, Carla Hayden, Committee on House Administration, Library of Congress
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