State proposes public ‘digital repository’

From the Spokesman-Review

Official documents would be stored online

Betsy Z. Russell
Staff writer
February 24, 2008

BOISE – Despite a 1972 law that requires them all to be saved, official Idaho state publications have been vanishing left and right.

The reason: Idaho’s state repository system is so out of date that few agencies comply with its requirement to send 20 copies of every publication to the state librarian for placement in a series of libraries around the state.

These days, that requirement is expensive, unwieldy and not suited for publications that in many cases only exist in cyberspace, officials say. So state lawmakers are considering legislation to set up a new “digital repository” for state publications, which would collect all state publications and make them easily available on the Internet.

“We have been aware for quite some time that the current system is not effective,” said State Librarian Ann Joslin.

An example cropped up in 2006 when then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne headed to Washington, D.C., to become the new secretary of the Interior, and Lt. Gov. Jim Risch took over as governor. Overnight, Kempthorne’s Web site and everything on it vanished, replaced by Risch’s.

“The Kempthorne Web site was gone. You couldn’t access it,” Joslin said.

Some agencies archive publications on their Web sites. Many simply overwrite one publication such as a newsletter or manual when a new one comes out.

Joslin said it’s not uncommon for her office to get calls from agencies looking for something they published 20 years prior, hoping someone, somewhere, has a copy. Often, no one does.

Under the digital repository system, one electronic copy of every state publication would go to the state Commission for Libraries, which would preserve it in the new digital repository. If the publication is available in print, agencies would send two print copies – one to the Idaho Historical Society and the other to archives at the University of Idaho.

“It’s much more efficient for them to store the documents digitally,” said state Sen. Kate Kelly, D-Boise, who spoke in favor of the bill in the Senate. “And it also provides for much better public access.”

There’s a financial reason for a digital repository, too: Agencies are producing more and more publications, and printing, storing and shipping copies of those – and making them available to the public years later – would cost far more than putting them all online.

“There’s a small amount of capital investment in the technology that’s required to kind of make this conversion, but there’s a huge cost savings in duplication fees and storage fees,” Kelly said. “And then, of course, the greater public access – you can’t put a price on it, but that’s going to be one of the great benefits of this. A lot more information will be available.”

State publications contain information aimed at the general public, as opposed to regulatory documents or forms.

The old repository has everything from past state highway maps to an Idaho Arthritis Resource Guide from 2003. There are statistical reports on arrest rates by police agencies, reports from state fish hatcheries dating back decades, and a series of publications about sensitive plant species.

The repository would cost $202,000 next year to set up, then $132,000 a year to operate and maintain.

State Historical Society Director Janet Gallimore said, “Those collections will be far more complete for current and future users.”

After the digital repository is up and running, Joslin said, old print publications will eventually be digitized and added.

From the Spokesman-Review

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