The purpose of this study was to research what, if anything, state governments are doing to meet the enormous challenges of ensuring permanent public access to state electronic government information. A comprehensive survey was created and distributed to AALL authors in each of the fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. State authors completed the survey by December 2002 and, in addition, submitted a short executive summary based on their survey results.

The survey reveals that only one state—Colorado—has enacted legislation that explicitly addresses permanent public access (effective August 15, 2003). No state, including Colorado, comprehensively addresses the challenges of permanent public access to and preservation of electronic government information. State records boards, state archives and state libraries are often aware of permanent public access issues and have often taken steps to preserve electronic information. They have sometimes taken steps to provide continuous public access or have developed guidelines for state agencies to provide such access. These efforts of state records boards, state archives and state libraries are often ineffective, however, because they lack a solid statutory foundation. Without comprehensive statutes supporting a system to coordinate and centralize permanent public access, state agencies thwart the positive efforts of state records boards, state archives and state libraries. The agencies fail to appreciate the need to ensure the full lifecycle of electronic government information, particularly Web-based publications and records. And any guidelines for permanent public access that target them do not solve the problem of agencies’ lack the expertise, personnel and funding.

We envisioned that this project would be the first step in the advocacy process necessary to enact state laws that will prevent the loss of important state government information in electronic format. Toward this end, we sought to create a document that could be provided to legislators and other policymakers to educate them about the responsibility of state governments to ensure permanent public access to electronic information. An additional objective was to strengthen the GRC and WAO’s ties to AALL members at the local level, thereby forming a base of activists who could advocate for improved laws mandating permanent public access to state government information. Because AALL and other library organizations lack the manpower to tackle the problem of disappearing electronic government information in all states simultaneously, the Grant Team has identified key states to target for legislative activity.