Friday, March 7, 2008

State of Records

Senate Bill No. 1271 was signed into law by Governor Otter on the 21st of February with only two nay votes. Two nay votes in the House, none in the Senate. The legislation went mostly unnoticed with the exception of two reports from Randy Stapilus at Ridenbaugh Press and Betsy Russell at the Spokesman Review.

The legislation essentially rid the state of a provision requiring the Idaho State Law Library to be kept either in the State Capitol or the Supreme Court and Law Library building.

With the capitol renovation and the growing need for court space, neither building could accommodate the massive library. What now? Well, they are boxing up the law library, storing it away, and will "reassemble" the library once a permanent location can be found.

This says so much about the state of records in Idaho. First, the law library will never be returning to either of the places it is most needed and most accessible to those who use the records regularly. Second, this isn't the first library to completely vanish. As Randy Stapilus noted, the Idaho State Library ceased to exist, too.

We are abandoning one of this state's greatest resources--its records. The law library legislation is also interesting given the mission of the state law library:
The primary mission of the Idaho State Law Library is to assist the Idaho Supreme Court in carrying out its responsibility for the administration of justice in the state and to help increase the public's access to and understanding of the court system. This mission is accomplished by acquiring and maintaining appropriate legal resources; promulgating policies and rules for the use of these materials; and regularly reviewing the programs, policies and services of the library to ensure that they meet the current and future needs of the Court and other library patrons.
Maybe I am the only one who thinks that bureaucracies find individual components of that bureaucracy meaningful and worth keeping if they are successfully addressing and meeting their individual missions.

There is a new push in the legislature and across the state for a digital repository, but Idaho is not there yet, budget-wise or logistically. The current system requires agencies to submit twenty copies of all publications to the state librarian for distribution around the state. Most agencies ignore this "requirement" and even the state library has ceased to distribute some materials around the state (this I learned the hard way when I assumed that the state library was continuing to send compiled microfilm of the state newspapers to the state universities).

A digital repository in Idaho would require the agencies to submit materials completely electronically. From Betsy Russell's February 24 article:
"[O]ne 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."
My first question being why the University of Idaho? Idaho State University is becoming the premier research institution in the state. Obviously, Boise State University is within close proximity of the state agencies and the state library as it exists today, so they would be out of the running. It seems quite obvious to me that the state law library either needs a new home in Boise or should be relocated to Moscow and the hard copies of the materials submitted to the Commission for Libraries should end up at the state historical society and ISU.

Accessibility being my number one concern, this relocating of the law library needs to happen sooner rather than later. Take it from somebody dealing with papers that have been boxed up in a basement for fifteen years, once you box records up it is easy for them to never resurface or mysteriously disappear.

In my humble opinion, once the legislature moves back into the capitol, with the old Ada County Courthouse now renovate it would be the ideal location for the law library and would house it and the computers they will need to buy for the digital repository nicely.

1 comment :

slfisher said...

There was actually a fair amount of discussion of putting the Law Library in the Courthouse after the Capitol renovation is finished.

As far as the repository, they don't need computers so much as they need storage, and hopefully they'll have a mirrored backup somewhere as far away from Boise as possible.