April 27, 2001
The Honorable Ernest J. Istook
Chairman, Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service and General Government
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
B-307 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6028
BY FAX: 202.225.5895
Dear Representative Istook:
On behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries, I write to you and to the members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service and General Government to urge your full support for the FY 2002 budget request of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). An especially important component of NARA's request is the $20 million increase that is necessary to build an Electronic Records Archives (ERA). NARA's electronic preservation program is critically important to ensure that the Government's electronic records, those hundreds of thousands of "born digital" records that agencies create on a daily basis by taking optimum advantage of the latest electronic technologies, are preserved and remain permanently accessible to the American public.
Founded in 1906, the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is a non-profit professional organization with over 5000 members nationwide that exists to promote and enhance the value of law libraries to the public, the legal community, and the world; to foster the profession of law librarianship; and to provide leadership and advocacy in the field of legal information and information policy. Today, with over 5,000 members, the Association represents law librarians and related professionals who are affiliated with a wide range of institutions: law firms; law schools; corporate legal departments; courts; and local, state and federal government agencies.
AALL is committed to the principle that the availability of Government and legal information to all people is a necessary requirement for a just and democratic society. As entities in all three branches of Government move increasingly towards new electronic technologies to create Government records, it is the obligation of Government to ensure the entire life cycle of these electronic records, from their creation to their preservation in an easily accessible and professionally maintained environment. We strongly believe that the responsibility of our Government to provide permanent public access to and preservation of electronic records is necessary in order to ensure the important citizen needs for public oversight of our Government, for public accountability and for the public's trust and confidence in our Government.
We commend NARA for its commitment to engaging in many collaborative research efforts with other Government agencies and academic research institutions that have led to the development of their vision, goals and plans to establish the Electronic Records Archives. As today's technologies quickly become obsolete and the preservation of electronic records remains an ever-moving target, it is vital that NARA be given adequate funding to establish the ERA and begin immediately to build the infrastructure that will ensure the preservation of electronic Government records. AALL strongly believes that given the necessary level of funding, NARA will successfully implement the ERA with the end result that the electronic records created today will be continuously available for current and future use by our nations' citizens.
Mr. Chairman, the work of NARA is critically important in our digital age as agencies across all three branches of Government rely increasingly on creating electronic records rather than publishing them in print. The project that NARA has envisioned to preserve electronic Government records is important and very challenging. We in the law library community witness the growing number of electronic records that are lost because the Government does not have in place today the necessary program to preserve them. The Electronic Records Archives that NARA seeks to create will achieve this essential goal.
We therefore strongly urge you and the members of the Subcommittee to support NARA's full budget request and to fund fully the Electronic Records Archives, including 11 new staff positions, in FY 2002 to set up the necessary infrastructure for this critically important endeavor. Please include this letter as part of the public record of your hearing. Thank you very much for your prompt consideration of this matter, and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Mary Alice Baish
American Association of Law Libraries
Acting Washington Affairs Representative
Members, House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service and General Government