The first session of the morning was a plenary council session dealing with the authenticity of online versions, particularly in the area of legal information. Mike Wash from GPO first addressed the group. He reviewed GPO’s mission, emphasizing the ideas of providing access to authentic information immediately, along with the capability of preserving the information. GPO is currently providing some authentication signatures manually and is working toward an automated process.
Mary Alice Baish presented an overview of a recent AALL (American Association of Law Libraries) State-by-State Report on Authentication of State Online Legal Resources. Key findings:
- States are discontinuing print official resources and substituting online official resources.
- Ten states & DC have designated as official one or more of their online primary legal resources.
- Eight states have “official traits,” but evidence as the the actual status of the resources is conflicting.
- States have not been sufficiently deliberate in their policies ad practices.
- No state’s online primary legal resources are authenticated or afford ready authentication by standard methods.
- Since AALL’s 2003 report, nine states have proveded for permanent public access for one or more of their online primary legal resources.
Conclusions from the report include:
- Online legal resources are increasingly the sole official published source.
- Official status requires authentication procedures (encryption, digital signatures, PKI, “chain of custody” informati0n).
- The goal is that online legal resources will be as trustworthy as print.
Sally Holterhoff then gave a brief overview of the AALL National Summit on Authentication of Online Legal Resources that brought together various stakeholders to discuss the issues and brainstorm on ways to move forward.
Frank Wagner, Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court, addressed the group in his capacity as a representative of the Association of Reporters of Official Judicial Decisions (ARJD). Mr. Wagner reported that his group believes that there should only be one official version of judicial decisions and that, for now, that should be the print publication. When the paradigm does shift, the electronic version should be both authenticated and permanently available for public access.
The final speaker at this session was Peter Lefevre, Law Revision Counsel, U.S. House of Representatives. His group is a non-partisan office that reports to the Speaker of the House and is in charge of reviewing slip laws and Statues at Large publications and compiling the appropriate sections of law into the US Code. His office is concerned about authentication because they rely on the electronic version of the slip laws from GPO for their review. Mr. Lefevre made the point that even small errors can be significant: Supreme Court decisions have been based on the placement of punctuation in laws. His group deals with a lot of information. For example, an average session of Congress generates between 5,000 to 7,500 pages of laws that must be reviewed. Since 1975 they have used the GPO electronic database as their source of information. At the moment they are producing print a virtual versions of the Code. The online version differs from the print in that the formatting in the print is closer to the original laws; the print also goes through more checks than the electronic version. As a result, the electronic version of the Code carries a disclaimer that users should double-check the print version.
The second morning session I attended was an update from Library Technical Services. Director Laurie Hall reviewed approximately 40 – 50 projects that are underway, in addition to their day-to-day operations in acquisitions, shipping list preparation, cataloging, etc. Although this was an informative session for me, both for our library and for my position as GODORT Cataloging Committee Chair, I don’t know that anyone not involved in documents processing would have any interest in this information.
Since the afternoon sessions are devoted to a program concerning Regional depositories and Council working sessions, I am off to explore.