Government Relations Committee and Washington Affairs Office American Association of Law Libraries June 2003
One of the most significant developments related to the growth of the Internet during the 1990's was the pace at which governments at all levels--Federal, state and local--embraced its use to provide the public with unparalleled access to government information and E-Government services. Unfortunately, however, while government entities today make enormous amounts of information available to the public through the Internet, most fail to recognize the need to manage the entire lifecycle of electronic government information from its creation to its preservation, ensuring permanent public access all along the way. We define permanent public access
as the process by which applicable government information is preserved for current, continuous and future public access.
The need to provide permanent public access to and preserve electronic government information is challenging and as yet unmet in any comprehensive manner at any level of government. Technical obsolescence and the failure to create a centralized and coordinated system to ensure permanent public access have resulted in the loss of huge amounts of electronic government information during the past decade. Titles that are born digital and have not been retained for preservation and permanent public access upon removal from a government agency Web site are likely to be lost forever.
The purpose of this study, generously funded by a grant from Aspen Legal Publishers, was to assess the level of permanent public access to electronic government information across all state governments. Members of the American Association of Law Libraries in each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico completed a comprehensive survey. The survey results reveal that no state is comprehensively addressing these challenges. Very few states have updated their statutes to explicitly incorporate electronic government information into their public access, Freedom of Information or depository laws. Nonetheless, the survey results reveal a growing awareness, greater in some states than others, of the necessity to ensure that valuable electronic government information remains available to the public for their continuous and future use. We hope that the findings of this report will encourage state governments to work with law librarians and the broader library and public access communities to enact legislation in order to ensure that permanent public access to electronic government information will become a reality all across our Nation.
State-by-State Report on Permanent Public Access to Electronic Government Information
Appendix A -- State Government Web Sites
Appendix B -- State Contacts
Appendix C -- State Survey Results