"Can you mention," Teresa Nasif reminds a reporter for the fourth or fifth time, "that it's the 'Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, Colo., 81009.'?"
With unabashed exuberance, Nasif is the government's premier promoter of consumer publications.
With a staff of 19 and control over a Government Printing Office distribution center in Pueblo, she works to get federal agencies to offer quality consumer-oriented publications through her quarterly catalog, which goes to 4.5 million subscribers, libraries, consumer groups, congressional offices, national parks and others. Last year, more than 14 million government booklets were distributed through the center.
But there's been a change in the center's listings since the Reagan administration took office. Seventy percent of the approximately 200 publications listed in the catalog for Spring, 1981, were distributed free. Now 40 percent are free.
The offerings range from a Securities and Exchange Commission handbook called "What Every Investor Should Know" to "Family Folklore" from the Smithsonian Institution's Office of American and Folklife Studies to "House Bat Management" from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"We really aren't needed if the consumer is knowledgeable enough to know which agency to write to to get a publication he or she knows exists," Nasif said. "Since that just isn't the case, we were created to provide a more cost-effective way for the government to distribute information."
At Nasif's side, in a modern office in the bowels of an old federal building, are stacks of the publications she reviews to make sure they are current, informative and put together in attractive form. Before an agency prints a publication that is destined for the center's catalog, Nasif and her staff must approve its text and format.
Nasif said that the Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments traditionally have had the best publications but that the USDA recently pulled out of the distribution program because of budgetary constraints.
Recently, Nasif held up some publications of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Institutes of Health because they were not written in language that could be understood easily.
"At some agencies the people who are working to create the publications are too close to the program and can't explain it well," she said. "So, we will often make suggestions on how to make the booklets more usable."
Because of the Reagan administration's determination to have readers pay for publications whenever possible, Nasif said the center's distribution will fall from 14 million copies in 1982 to less than 10 million this year. Most of that is attributable to the loss of 25 free publications that the USDA said it can no longer afford to distribute.
"In those cases, there is nothing we can do," Nasif said. "We can only distribute what agencies create and will pay to have reproduced."
Nasif, 37, was named director of the center, which is part of the General Services Administration, last December after nine years on its staff. She took control amid efforts by the Office of Management and Budget to curtail unneeded government publications.
The OMB "encouraged agencies to scrutinize more carefully what publications they create and served to pressure agency officials to cut publication budgets," Nasif said. But she is concerned that some best-selling publications, such as the USDA's pamphlets on food and nutrition, have borne the brunt of the cuts.
In an effort to make sure that some of the best consumer information isn't lost because of government pricing policies, Nasif has developed a pilot program in which certain publications that are now sold at the GPO's minimum price of $1.75 will be offered for 50 cents.
In addition to the pilot program, the center is asking consumers to pay $1 if they want two or more free titles. The publications are still sent even if the fee is not paid, Nasif said.
"Our job is to help the agencies promote and distribute information to the people," Nasif said. "We're not policy makers, we don't decide what programs are important and which ones aren't.
"Our job is to be a promoter," she added, "to try to make sure that what the agencies create is not tucked away in a cobweb-covered pile in a government warehouse."