Last week, the Library of Congress announced a collaborative project with the California Digital Library, the University of North Texas Libraries, the Internet Archive, and the U.S. Government Printing Office to provide permanent public access to and preserve public government web sites at the end of President Bush’s term in January 2009. According to the announcement, “This harvest is intended to document federal agencies’ online archive during the transition of government and to enhance the existing collections of the five partner institutions.” This exciting project will provide the American public with an important record of what the government looked like at this time.
While AALL is extremely pleased with this new collaboration and applauds these partner institutions, we continue to be disappointed that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will not conduct its own web harvests of federal agency web sites at the end of this presidential administration. As we wrote in the April Edition of the Washington E-Bulletin, NARA released a memorandum to agencies in March indicating that it would not harvest these web sites as it had done in the past, pointing to agencies’ responsibility to preserve their electronic records under the Federal Records Act. However, as we noted at the time, the preservation of records is not the same as a capture of agency web sites, since the latter provides the public with an image and understanding of the government during a specific period of time.
In April, AALL signed on to a letter to Allen Weinstein, the Archivist of the United States, urging him to rescind the decision and continue NARA’s web harvesting program. Unfortunately, NARA’s decision stands, making the new collaboration between the Library of Congress, the California Digital Library, the University of North Texas Libraries, the Internet Archive, and the U.S. Government Printing Office essential to providing permanent public access to and preserving the federal government’s digital information. We thank all of the partners for their strong commitment to digital preservation.
[Posted by Emily Feldman]