GPO seems to have forgotten the ‘p’ in ‘purl’

This URL appears in a bib record, reporting to be an FBI report on the Grateful Dead, which sounds kind of interesting, no?

It doens’t work. Isn’t the ‘p’ supposed to stand for ‘persistent’?

At least it does result in a 404 (after two 302 redirects), so its shuffling off of this mortal coil could be caught by automated link checking software (so long as it’s hopefully smart enough to follow a couple redirects).

Record has OCLC number 237046088, I haven’t checked to see if it’s been fixed in worldcat, but, come on, if you can’t even trust a long lasting federal government to take their identifier duties seriously, not even when they’ve advertised a commitment to persistence… it is somewhat disheartening.


5 thoughts on “GPO seems to have forgotten the ‘p’ in ‘purl’”

  1. I was just talking about this with our gov docs librarian, and we said precisely the same thing. “Isn’t the ‘p’ supposed to be for ‘persistent’?!”


  2. Just checked in worldcat, the OCLC record has the same no-longer-persisting purl:

    And this seems _likely_ (although I can’t be sure) to be the document the purl originally pointed to:

    If anyone has contacts or feels like spending time to ask GPO to fix their purl, feel free. And/or to change the URL in the OCLC cataloging record… but change it to the non-purl direct URL? I dunno. If it’s still got a PURL, it’s not displayed on the page so I don’t know how one would discover it.

    [The document ends up not being all that interesting, it’s like 80% blacked out. Which makes me doubt whether I’ve found the document originally pointed to by that purl or not ; why would a library have created a marc worldcat record for such an uninteresting document? Unless it just comes in bulk load from GPO?]

  3. Helpful hint: If you are stuck with a dead GPO PURL, you can look up the bibliographic data for the PURL in the GPO catalog:

    1. Go to
    2. Click “Advanced Search”
    3. Search for word in “URL/PURL”, enter the PURL
    4. Click “Go”
    5. The original URL at the time of cataloging should appear in a
    note in the record.
    6. Copy the original URL and paste into your browser.

    This was very helpful back in August 2009 when the GPO PURL server went down for a few weeks.

  4. Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m thinking, Keith.

    Are there any benefits to GPO using PURL instead of just promulgating the actual current non-redirected-through-purl-server URL of the resource, if they aren’t going to maintain the persistence?

    Does anyone know of any examples of GPO resources that changed their end-point URL and the PURL _was_ updated? Perhaps it’s been succesfully updated for many thousands, and only a small percentage have been lost. Which I guess is better than not using PURL at all.

    I also think it’s a cautionary tale for complicated linked data type plans which _rely_ on persistently resolvable URLs. I usually think, gee, the company behind that might go out of business, will it still persist? Or something like that. But obviously neither the federal government nor the GPO has gone out of business. It’s just that _actually_ persisting persistent URLs is, well, sometimes tricky, complicated, and expensive. I think it’s better not to absolutely count on it. (Which has something to do with how I’ve always been FINE with non-resolvable URI’s like info: or urn:. I think you ought not to be depending on persistent resolvability anyway.)

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