New Website for State Online Legal Information

April 9, 2013

 By Elizabeth

The Digital Access to Legal Information Committee (DALIC) has created a new website to host information about the status of online legal materials in every state with respect to authentication, official status, preservation, permanent public access, copyright, and universal citation.

The new website brings together information from AALL’s National Inventory of Legal Materials and updates AALL’s Preliminary Analysis of AALL’s State Legal Inventories2007 State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources, and 2009-2010 State Summary Updates. State pages will be updated as information changes. DALIC members will monitor the site and periodically check in with AALL’s state working groups to ensure the accuracy of the information.

DALIC also welcomes your additions or updates to information about legal materials in your state. If you have information to offer, please fill out our online form. A member of DALIC will contact you to verify the information you provide.

New White House Digital Government Strategy Offers Promise, Raises Concerns

June 4, 2012

On May 23, the White House launched its new Digital Government Strategy, an initiative aimed at improving the way government agencies utilize new tools and technologies to serve the public. The plan lays out clear-cut procedures for making public information open and machine readable within one year, allowing Americans to engage with their government more easily.

In a memorandum introducing the new strategy developed by the Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO), Steven VanRoekel, President Obama directs each major federal agency to make two of their key services available on mobile devices within the next 12 months and to make “applicable” government information open and machine-readable by default. The strategy intends to “ensure that agencies use emerging technologies to serve the public as effectively as possible” and will require agencies “to adopt new standards for making applicable Government information open and machine-readable by default.” The memo calls on agencies to publicly report on their progress.

Further, the strategy promises to “transform into a data and API (application programming interfaces) catalog that in real time pulls directly from agency websites,” as summarized in a blog post by VanRoekel. An excerpt from the report explains:

Rather than thinking primarily about the final presentation—publishing web pages, mobile applications or brochures—an information-centric approach focuses on ensuring our data and content are accurate, available, and secure. We need to treat all content as data—turning any unstructured content into structured data—then ensure all structured data are associated with valid metadata. Providing this information through web APIs helps us architect for interoperability and openness, and makes data assets freely available for use within agencies, between agencies, in the private sector, or by citizens.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will formulate a government-wide policy pertaining to API and systems will be required to support access to high-value open data. The report also outlines plans to set up a Digital Services Innovation Center to be carried out by the General Services Administration through a centralized effort to help agencies build out shared solutions for a “citizen-centric” approach to the web.

The scope of this new digital government strategy is laudable. The White House has put forth an ambitious and progressive strategy that has the potential to improve government transparency and accessibility. However, there are several omissions from the report that are cause for concern. Though leaders in producing, disseminating and preserving electronic information, the Government Printing Office and the Library of Congress are never mentioned in the report, and the National Archives and Records Administration is mentioned only once. NARA is charged with working with the Federal CIO Council and National Institute of Standards and Technology to “develop guidelines for standardized implementation of digital privacy controls and educate agency privacy and legal officials on options for addressing digital privacy, records retention, and security issues.”

Most troubling, the report puts forth a strategy for access to “high-quality digital government data” but does not address the need to ensure that the information is trustworthy, accurate, preserved and permanently accessible to the public, with explicit procedures to do so.

In all, the Digital Government Strategy is an important commitment by the White House to greater government transparency and more accessible information. However, to adequately create a digital government, the White House must take into account issues of the lifecycle of electronic information before it can offer a truly comprehensive solution.

Federal Agencies Join Together to Define Digitization Guidelines

October 6, 2008

The Library of Congress announced last week that it is among a dozen federal agencies launching the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative to establish a common set of guidelines for digitizing historical materials. This collaborative effort initially formed under the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP).

The Initiative includes two working groups:

  • The Federal Agencies Still Image Digitization Working Group, which will focus its efforts on content such as books, manuscripts, maps, and photographic prints and negatives. Participating agencies include the Library of Congress, the National Agricultural Library, the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Gallery of Art, the National Library of Medicine, the National Technical Information Service, the National Transportation Library, the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Government Printing Office.
  • The Federal Agencies Audio-Visual Working Group, which will address standards and practices for sound, video, and motion picture film. Participating agencies include the Defense Visual Information Directorate of the Department of Defense, the Library of Congress, the National Agricultural Library, the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Library of Medicine, the Smithsonian Institution, the Government Printing Office and the Voice of America.

The Initiative’s newly launched Web site currently includes two documents developed by the Still Image Digitization Working Group that are open for comment until mid-November. The Web site also provides a glossary of digitization terms and concepts, digitization-related news and events, and background information on the Initiative.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

Partners Join Together to Preserve Government Web Sites

August 19, 2008

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]

Patent Office Digitizes Procedure Manual Microfilm

February 22, 2008

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced earlier this month that it has posted archival editions and revisions of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) in PDF format on its website. Previously, users had to request paper copies of the MPEP from previous years from the USPTO Certification Branch or access the microfilm at the USPTO Public Search Facility. The recently posted archival copies cover the years 1948 to 2006. The decision to convert the microfilm to PDF came in response to a request by Government Relations Committee (GRC) member Larry Meyer and others to make the MPEP electronically available.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

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