Artifacts Acquisition:

Smithsonian Institution and Library of Congress Should Not Compete

GGD-92-104: Published: Jul 6, 1992. Publicly Released: Aug 8, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed whether the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress (LOC), the National Park Service (NPS), and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) bid competitively against one another for historic artifacts acquisition to determine if: (1) the agencies guard against competing; and (2) mechanisms are needed to prevent competition.

GAO found that: (1) in the past 5 years, LOC and the Smithsonian competed for historic artifacts four times; (2) the competition occurred when collection programs overlapped and the agencies' roles were unclear, in the area of jazz music in three cases and architectural drawings in the other case; (3) in three cases, the purchasing agency paid more for the artifact than the amount that was being negotiated by the other agency, and in the other case the nonacquiring agency was raising funds to offer the same amount as the acquiring agency; (4) NPS and NARA said they had not competed with each other or the Smithsonian in the past 5 years; and (5) the potential for competitive bidding by NPS and NARA is minimal due to their more clearly defined mandates and limited financial resources.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Smithsonian met with Library officials and they have clarified their respective collecting roles and the Smithsonian has issued a policy on coordination.

    Recommendation: To help prevent interagency competition in future artifact acquisitions, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and the Librarian of Congress should clarify their institutions' collecting roles to prevent duplicated effort.

    Agency Affected: Smithsonian Institution

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Library of Congress has met with the Smithsonian to discuss clarifying collecting roles. The Library of Congress and Smithsonian have met periodically to clarify their collecting roles and prevent duplication.

    Recommendation: To help prevent interagency competition in future artifact acquisitions, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and the Librarian of Congress should clarify their institutions' collecting roles to prevent duplicated effort.

    Agency Affected: Library of Congress

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Smithsonian has formulated and issued a policy to discourage competition.

    Recommendation: To help prevent interagency competition in future artifact acquisition, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and the Librarian of Congress should formulate acquisition policies to discourage competition against other agencies.

    Agency Affected: Smithsonian Institution

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Library of Congress has met with the Smithsonian to discuss the problem of competition. They have not yet indicated that they will formulate a policy to discourage competition. The Library of Congress does not think a policy statement is necessary.

    Recommendation: To help prevent interagency competition in future artifact acquisition, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and the Librarian of Congress should formulate acquisition policies to discourage competition against other agencies.

    Agency Affected: Library of Congress

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Smithsonian has had discussions with the Library of Congress about coordinating acquisitions in overlapping areas and issued a policy to discourage competition with other agencies. In cases where staff cannot reach agreement, matters will be referred to the Secretary of the Smithsonian for resolution.

    Recommendation: To help prevent interagency competition in future artifact acquisitions, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and the Librarian of Congress should reach agreement and establish more specific guidelines as to which agency will take the lead in acquiring artifacts for areas that overlap.

    Agency Affected: Smithsonian Institution

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Library of Congress has had discussions with the Smithsonian on coordinating acquisitions in overlapping areas. The Smithsonian and Library of Congress have met periodically to determine which agency should take the lead in overlapping areas.

    Recommendation: To help prevent interagency competition in future artifact acquisitions, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and the Librarian of Congress should reach agreement and establish more specific guidelines as to which agency will take the lead in acquiring artifacts for areas that overlap.

    Agency Affected: Library of Congress

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Smithsonian has agreed to coordinate acquisitions in overlapping areas on a case-by-case basis.

    Recommendation: To help prevent interagency competition in future artifact acquisitions, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and the Librarian of Congress should instruct their staffs to inform agency counterparts when potentially overlapping collections become available.

    Agency Affected: Smithsonian Institution

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Library of Congress has met with the Smithsonian to discuss coordinating acquisitions on a case-by-case basis. Staff from the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress have met periodically to inform counterparts about overlapping collections.

    Recommendation: To help prevent interagency competition in future artifact acquisitions, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and the Librarian of Congress should instruct their staffs to inform agency counterparts when potentially overlapping collections become available.

    Agency Affected: Library of Congress

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Smithsonian has met with the Library of Congress and has agreed that cognizant officials would work out disagreements as they arise. If disputes cannot be resolved at this level, the Secretary will resolve the issue.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Smithsonian and the Librarian of Congress may wish to establish a mechanism in which joint ad hoc committees composed of cognizant officials from both agencies would be formed to determine which institution should negotiate for disputed artifacts.

    Agency Affected: Smithsonian Institution

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Library of Congress has met with the Smithsonian to discuss who would work out these disagreements. The Library of Congress and Smithsonian have agreed to meet as needed to work out disputes over artifacts.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Smithsonian and the Librarian of Congress may wish to establish a mechanism in which joint ad hoc committees composed of cognizant officials from both agencies would be formed to determine which institution should negotiate for disputed artifacts.

    Agency Affected: Library of Congress

 

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