From The Editor Retool Your Business
In the nine months since taking office as the 24th U.S. Public Printer, Bruce James says that, in his visits with the many dedicated workers on GPO's staff, he has been surprised to encounter a few who view the current falloff in printing volume as but a temporary setback. Deep down, they feel printing is sure to return to its previous volume once the economy revives.
This is precisely the attitude Mr. James has been trying to change as he works to retool and digitize the 142-year-old in-plant for survival in the 21st century.
I had the privilege of spending a few days with our Public Printer at the recent National State Publishing Association conference in Des Moines, Iowa, and hearing him give the keynote address.
Mr. James has clearly thought long and hard about GPO's future in his quest to turn the country's largest in-plant into an electronic information distribution organization. But moving government information from paper to digital formats does not come without challenges, as Mr. James pointed out. After all, how can government documents downloaded from GPO's Web site be authenticated when their content can be altered after downloading? And what constitutes a "version" now that updates can be done immediately? GPO is wrestling with these issues even as it moves quickly toward a future where the majority of government information is available only in digital format.
Mr. James is also questioning other traditional ways of thinking at GPO. For instance, throughout GPO's history, the Congressional Record has always looked the same, whether type was set by hand, linotype or computer. He is challenging this, and asking "what are the possibilities?" Why couldn't video and sound be incorporated, offering a broader, more informative record of Congress' proceedings?
Such innovative thinking and fresh observations can be a lesson to us all. After all, how many of you also harbor a secret hope that printing will eventually return to previous levels? Forget it. Follow the Public Printer's lead and shed this notion. Start thinking about how to retool and digitize your in-plant for a future where printing is not the only means of communication.