volume 14, number 2
Electronic Issues Working Group
Meeting held July 18, 1999
Marylin J. Raisch
University of Toronto Law Library
Convener: Marylin J. Raisch, Diamond Law
(This is a more detailed written version
of an oral report made to the FCIL-SIS at its business meeting held July
The meeting opened with the convener suggesting
four possible topics for discussion:
The discussion began with the first topic,
archiving electronic legal materials, and the group seemed to stay with
this topic and so by consensus, this was the subject which was explored
Archiving electronic formats: CD Rom lacks
archival standards. Future computers may have bigger and better memory,
but among this and other unknowns- who will actually ensure archiving of
Impact on budgets: is it safe to cancel some
subscriptions, and are the savings lost when some of the best databases
are not free?
Internet knowledge management has been overwhelming;
is it getting better?
How does being a web page editor or manager
fit in with other tasks in the professional librarian's daily round of
tasks and with the library's mission?
Kathie Price indicated that at a recent
RLG meeting, librarians discussed individual library policies on refreshment
of electronic information and archiving standards. There is a proposal
being prepared which would advocate legislation to put responsibility for
the archiving of U.S. government material under the Superintendent of Documents
instead of the National Archives. Many kinds of electronic documents are
going public with no archival standards in place.
Maria Smolka-Day suggested that the group
make a list of important areas for attention. Among Intergovernmental Organizations
(IGOs), many are making information available on a very timely basis and
in a useful way, but, taking the International Labour Organization (ILO)
as an example, treaties and legislation at the site incorporate amendments,
but what about the previous versions of the text?
The group considered the underlying issue,
not unknown in print since the rise of loose-leaf services, of the tension
between capturing the law in time versus capturing the law in force. One
goal would be to "raise the consciousness" of the library and information
community about this issue. It was suggested that we might pick IGO and
NGO (non-governmental organization) sites which have started with good
practices for archiving and to get a kind of model practice or model archiving
Related to this topic of archiving would
be areas of information which are not being preserved and may just be neglected
or too readily considered ephemeral. Virginia Wise mentioned drafting a
position paper with an "endangered species" list of such materials and
solicited suggestions from the group. Barbara Rainwater called the attention
of the group to the various levels of documentation, beginning with primary
legal materials such as statutes and cases on down to newsletters and that
these levels in print are now the same in the electronic world but all
are equally tenuous on the web.
It was suggested that the group, on behalf
of the FCIL-SIS, might draft a master form letter as a questionnaire to
be put to the managers of important web sites, particularly good IGO or
NGO sites asking, "what is your current archiving practice, if any?" and
perhaps a model code and even a kind of template form for the management
and location of archived material on a site could be arrived at and promulgated
as a standard.
Kathie Price asked if anyone in the group
might want to persuade his or her institution to consider "partnering"
with an institution or organization to help with archiving that organization's
Finally, it was suggested that these efforts
be coordinated with efforts which might be underway in other organizations,
such as the ALA International Documents Task Force (IDTF) and the Government
Documents SIS of AALL. The group agreed to bring back these issues to their
libraries and to keep the topic alive in the building and maintaining of
electronic legal information.
Those recorded as attending the meeting
are as follows: Kathie Price, NYU; Virginia Wise, Harvard; Maria Smolka-Day,
UPEND; Tracy Thompson, Yale; Vicki Szymczak, Brooklyn; Barbara Rainwater,
Covington & Burling; Ken Rudolf, Yale; Stefanie Weigmann, Boston U.;
Daniel Boyer, McGill; Mila Rush, UMinn; Jonathan Franklin, MICH; and Stephen
to the next article, "New Interest Group Web Site"
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