We’ve been going back one legislative session (two years) each year and scanning local acts. We’ve to date not posted public laws from 1959 through 1982 to reduce the expense of the project (all laws since 1983 are online because that was the year we began saving all acts in an electronic format at the time of enactment). With a half-century of laws now online, we’ll be exploring a different way of adding to our digital holdings — we might try to fill in the missing public acts or go back farther in time — or both. Here’s an abstract of a session I attended at the National Conference of State Legislature’s Annual Summit in New Orleans that gave us an idea of a potentially cheaper and faster way to add more laws:
“How can researchers get access to old and fragile legislative books and records without jeopardizing venerable materials? Learn about the collaborative project between the Internet Archive and the Ontario Legislative Assembly, in which journals are scanned and made available to the public through the Internet Archive.”
Good news for those desiring better public access to public records: The North Carolina State Library recently announced a $124,693 grant to the ECU library under the Library Services and Technology Act program for year one of two for an “Ensuring Democracy Through Digital Access” project that will digitize and publish an enormous volume of North Carolina public records. ECU will partner with UNC libraries, the State Library, and the Legislative Library in this important project. This will include all North Carolina public, private, and session laws from the eighteenth century through 2000, as well as House and Senate journals, all in text searchable format.
Joyner Library at ECU publicized the grant approval last month:
A two-year grant will fund the creation of a digital collection of core North Carolina governmental documents by J.Y. Joyner Library at East Carolina University and two other state libraries. The “Ensuring Democracy through Digital Access” grant will allow Joyner Library, the State Library of North Carolina (SLNC), and the University of North Carolina Library at Chapel Hill to digitize state documents along with printed volumes from the three partner libraries, the N.C. Supreme Court Library and the N.C. Legislative Library. When the project is completed, computer users worldwide will have access to complete runs of session laws, legislative journals, and reports of such important agencies as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Public Instruction.
A total of 775,000 pages (approximately 2,300 volumes) will be digitized over the course of two years by UNC-CH in cooperation with the Open Content Alliance, a collaborative digital library of more than 1.2 million digitized volumes and other multimedia from around the world, all freely available through the Internet Archive. In the second year, J.Y. Joyner Library will lead a workshop in which area educators will use the North Carolina Standard Course of Study to develop educational activities that will further enhance classroom learning. These materials will then be added to the collection website in a special educator portal. In addition, ECU will promote the finished product at several conferences … The grant, “Ensuring Democracy through Digital Access,”is made possible by funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources. For more information about the grant or JY Joyner Library, please contact Dawn Wainwright at (252) 328-4090.
A draft narrative I obtained of the project adds:
“This collection includes a broad sampling of state publications with a focus on the 19th and early 20th centuries. These publications, which range from reports from the tax research department to reports of public charities to the Public Documents of the State of North Carolina, offer a rich historical perspective of the development of state government, especially when they are combined with their digital counterpart, recent session laws, vital statistics, and House & Senate Journals already available on the internet. … Because legislative material is so important in understanding North Carolina history, many historical legal titles from as early as the mid-eighteenth century were included in this project and the Session Laws and the House & Senate Journals were included in their entire runs and brought up to the point where they are currently available on the internet. In addition, annual/biennial reports to the general assembly from various state agencies were included in extended runs from their beginnings in the Public Documents set up until the mid-to-late twentieth century which gives an interesting picture of how these agencies have evolved over time. … Other types of publications included in this project are statistical works, public papers of the governors, publications of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, railroad reports, and commission/board reports …To help users contextualize this information, the partners will develop a collection website at a neutral domain name that will provide a gateway to the materials within the … repository. This website will use a suite of Web 2.0 tools to offer users a means to interact with the data in the repository in powerful and creative ways. For example, one tool may take subject headings assigned to records for these books and display them in a “tag cloud” style configuration, where terms that are used more frequently appear larger than terms used less frequently… The Ensuring Democracy collection will consist of the fully digitized collection of approximately 2,500 volumes available through the project website with the suite of tools and other contextual elements described above. The project will also include an educational/promotional component with the goal of creating classroom activities related to the materials for the use of educators and exposing the new collection to this audience. … In addition, 40-50 classroom activities created by master teachers will be available.
The project partners will purchase a neutral domain name for the website so as to avoid confusion about the scope or ownership of the collection … In addition, a small number of non-governmental resources will be digitized to add context and scope to the collection. The documents have been chosen from across all branches of government and offer a well-rounded picture of the development of the state through this crucial period. …Of the approximately 2,500 volumes selected for digitization, 37% are in the public domain because they were published before 1923. The remaining 63% of the volumes selected for digitization are state agency publications that were published after 1923. There is a lot more information in a July 2009 post on the UNC libraries digital collections blog:
“The UNC University Library is honored to serve as a partner on the recently awarded Ensuring Democracy through Digital Access NC ECHO grant. We look forward to working with the lead institution, East Carolina University, and the State Library of North Carolina, on this project. In addition, the North Carolina Supreme Court Library and the Legislative Library (State Agency Libraries) will participate as contributing partners. In addition to the existing UNC Scribe digitization program, this project will produce the most comprehensive digital collection to date of core North Carolina state government documents, offering researchers a historical view of the development of the state’s government and infrastructure in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It will enrich the lives of citizens of the State of North Carolina by providing online, 24/7 access to vast offerings of historical, geographic, social, and political information using digitization technology developed by the Internet Archive. Housed in the Digital Production Center of the Carolina Digital Library and Archives, the UNC Library’s Scribe digitization program has contributed over 4,000 titles to the Internet Archive since December 2007. As a result of the Ensuring Democracy through Digital Accessgrant, a second Scribe scanning station will be added to the Library’s digitization program in July 2009.”