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Our pals over at MuckRock have been working not only on FOIA at the federal level (MuckRock co-founder Michael Morisy is a colleague of mine on NARA’s FOIA Advisory Committee and was highlighted last month on the FOIA Ombudsman’s blog!). They’ve also been working on FOIA/open records at the state and local levels. Check out their new 4-part series “What’s the state of state public records law?” written by Jessie Gomez.
Over the last nine months, our FOIA Fellow Jessie Gomez has been looking at public records law across the nation through our State of State Public Records Law project. Today, we’ll be exploring the major takeaways from her reporting.
Primarily, our coverage has dealt with ambiguities within records law, barriers to access, legislative efforts to reform state records law, and the notable players that have made transparency a reality. Our series will take a look at all of these components and their contributions to your state’s law…
…Public records law has become an integral part of keeping our government accountable. Although it can oftentimes be difficult to navigate, its effect on democracy has been worth the battle.
A new administration has led the public to begin asking questions about their government and know more about its role in their daily lives. With a growing interest to keep those in power under close watch, FOIA and the public records system will remain a powerful tool.
As for the actual system, it’s no surprise that records law continues to face challenges in unlocking information for the pubic. However, ongoing conversations to reform both FOIA and state public records law have led to changes at the local level and reforms in states like California, Massachusetts, and New York.
Although it can seem like the state of public records law isn’t getting any better, so long as that conversation is ongoing, requesters can rest assured that it is headed in the right direction and will continue to evolve.
Here’s a heads-up and a hat tip: Juri Statford from UC Davis has just published an Index to Reports Published in the Appendices to the Journals of the California Legislature 1905-1970. Congratulations Juri. This is a significant piece of work and will help librarians and the public get better access to historic California reports.
The California Legislature published reports in the Appendices to the Journals from 1849 to 1970. The Appendices include reports produced by California executive agencies as well as the California Legislature. In a few instances, the reports include work by the United States federal government or the University of California.
This index provides references to over eighteen hundred reports published in the Appendices between 1905-1970. The reports cover a number of subjects including agriculture, state budget, banking, insurance, labor, education, social welfare, taxation, and water and natural resources.
Bibliographic access to earlier reports from 1849 to 1904 is provided by the Index of Economic Material in Documents of the States of the United States, California 1849-1905 by Adelaide R. Hasse. (editor’s note: the early CA and other state indexes are available in Hathitust)
Stratford, Juri. (2012). Index to Reports Published in the Appendices to the Journals of the California Legislature 1905-1970 University Library, University of California, Davis.
[posted with permission from Juri]
The State of Kentucky has developed a best-practices manual for publishing — and depositing — government documents digitally.
- Kentucky State Government Publications Handbook, Kentucky Department for Libraries & Archives. Frankfort, KY (June 2008) Edition 1.0
The Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA) has been the official repository for Kentucky state agency publications since 1958
…Kentucky state agencies are required to send their publications to KDLA. The Public Records Division (PRD) and State Library Services (SLS) at KDLA work together not only to provide access to the valuable information contained in state agency publications, but also to preserve the publications for future generations.
The handbook says that “Electronic publications should be forwarded in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF).” We would love to see all U.S. government publications in PDF format deposited in FDLP libraries. It would be a great first step toward digital deposit of all government information.
New Web site makes NH govt publications available, Associated Press, January 23, 2009.
The service was designed to provide access to the growing number of State of New Hampshire agency publications that are available in digital format. It serves as a permanent archive of publications that would otherwise become unavailable when state agencies update their Web sites.
The New Hampshire State Publications Digital Library is a database that provides easy and permanent access to born-digital publications created by agencies of the State of New Hampshire. All publications are in the public domain unless otherwise noted.
In the Summer 2008 issue of Dttp: Documents to the People, Kris Kasianovitz has a thoughtful overview of copyright of state and local documents and how that interacts with efforts to digitize such documents.
Why Care About Copyright? by Chris Kasianovitz. Dttp, v.36, no. 2, Summer 2008, p. 12
Gives a history of state/local copyright and argues that for history’s sake and on the principle of free access to government information, copyright law ought to be amended to give state and local gov’t documents the same public domain status as federal documents. We at FGI are in hearty agreement with that!
As far as I can tell, Kris’ article is not freely available on line, but some of the history she covers is also available on our government copyright page at http://freegovinfo.info/copyright.
The whole Summer 2008 Dttp is well worth the read. There is also a freely available web supplement that you should check out at http://wikis.ala.org/godort/index.php/DttP_Supplements_v36_n2 if for no other reason than that FGI’s own James Jacobs has an article on using del.icio.us for government documents.