Joint statement from the Law Librarians of Puget Sound and the American Association of Law Libraries Washington State Working Group To Ensure Access to Electronic Legal Information:
Although we understand that severe state budget cuts and increased publishing costs factor into the decision to eliminate print publications, we believe without appropriate safeguards, discontinuing the print versions of the Washington Session Laws and Administrative Code will have a negative impact on the ability to access and utilize these very important government publications. Such changes present serious concerns to the law libraries in the state of Washington, library users, and the preservation of the history of our state.
The Statute Law Committee must consider the long term implications of eliminating official print publications. Digital copies of government documents, as the U.S. Government Printing Office is learning, must be capable of permanency and authentication to ensure validity and integrity. GPO is aiming to provide to the public free access to authentic digital government information that also serves to preserve the information through changes in technology. These are goals that we as law librarians support. However, as many states like Washington face difficult decisions due to budget issues, some states see eliminating print publications as a way to save money.
This issue is not only alarming to law librarians, but also to members of the greater legal community. It is of such great concern that in July 2009, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) Executive Committee unanimously approved the recommendation by the Study Committee on Online Authentication of Legal Materials to create a uniform law requiring state online legal materials to be official, authenticated and preserved. This month (July 2010), the draft Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials Act was accepted by the Conference and will have its second reading next summer. The uniform law will require that official digital publications must also be authenticated, preserved and permanent public access must be ensured. The state of Washington should move forward and take steps to provide what will soon be expected in the legal community.
As legal information professionals, we seek to provide access to relevant, trustworthy information to our patrons. We hope that we will be able to continue to provide the WAC and the Session Laws as an official, authenticated publication that will be preserved for permanent public access for generations to come.