Happy new year 2023! We hope all our readers had a relaxing holiday break and are ready to get back to the important work of preserving government information and assuring its long-term access!
In the latest First Branch Forecast — you really should subscribe to this important newsletter if you haven’t already! — a side comment about the findings of the January 6th Committee caught our attention. In discussing the release of the COmmittee’s final reports, as well as the many witness transcripts, Daniel Schuman noted “We’re linking to the PDF on the Wayback Machine because the Committee’s website will be toast in early January.”
This is the troubling reality we find ourselves in. Digital government information turns out to be extremely fragile and reliant on the political winds of Washington DC. The Government Publishing Office (GPO) captured the committee’s final report and various hearings (though NOT the various witness testimony transcripts that the committee has released to its website (of which I’m also linking to the Wayback Machine!)), the final report has already been published by a private company (in this case the New Yorker and Celadon Books), and the report will no doubt be be saved by Library of Congress, NARA, and various libraries around the country. But each of those will have their own URL rather than the official URL from the actual committee that did the work. It would be amazing if there were a system of permanent URLs (called PIDs) that stay permanent and point to all the copies in the same way that DOIs work for journal articles. I and many of my depository library colleagues are working hard on putting a system like this in place for US government information. It was one of FGI’s resolutions for 2020 and I’ve been busy working on the Depository Library Council (DLC) Working Group Exploring the Durability of PURLs and Their Alternatives (charge). The working group is finishing up its work and will soon release its final report and recommendations.
Let’s hope that 2023 is the year that electronic government information is collected, preserved, and made easily accessible for the public!
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And just like that, the January 6 committee site is gone