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The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act, referred to as UELMA, is ready for introduction into state legislatures.  It has undergone its final proofing and formatting process by the National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL, or ULC) and has been posted on NCCUSL’s archival Website at the University of Pennsylvania, and is soon to come to NCCUSL’s official site.  The Act will be sent to the American Bar Association’s (ABA's) House of Delegates for approval at the ABA Midyear Meeting in February, 2012 in New Orleans.

The UELMA addresses important issues in information management, providing sound guidance to states that are transitioning legal publications to digital formats.   The Act is citizen-oriented, and leaves all issues concerning commercial publishing to state policy and contract law.   Most importantly, the Act is outcomes-based, keeping it flexible in the face of changing technologies and evolving state practice.  A brief account of UELMA’s development and its main provisions is included in this posting.

The UELMA was drafted in response to a request from the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), following the AALL’s 2007 National Summit on Authentication of Digital Legal Information. The purpose of the Summit was to bring national attention to the issues surrounding the rapid rise in the number of states publishing primary legal information resources electronically and, in some cases, cancelling print resources and publishing legal information only in electronic format.  Foremost among the issues were ensuring the trustworthiness of online legal resources  and preserving the electronic publications to provide for continuing accessibility.   The drafting of a uniform act on these topics was one of the top recommendations of the Summit’s attendees.

The ULC agreed to consider the development of a uniform law and appointed a Study Committee for that purpose.  The Study Committee recommended that a law be developed and a Drafting Committee was charged with the task.  After two years of consideration, including several face-to-face meetings, conference calls, and circulation of numerous drafts by email, the UELMA was read to and debated for the second time at the Annual Meeting of NCCUSL in July 2011.  After more than six hours of floor consideration, the NCCUSL Committee of the Whole passed the draft act, sending it to a Vote of the States.  UELMA passed its final hurdle with a positive Vote of the States, gaining approval by a vote of 45-0 (with 1 abstention and 7 jurisdictions not voting).

The UELMA, as it passed the Conference, requires a state that publishes official versions of its legal information in electronic format to do three things:

1.  Authenticate the information, by providing a method to determine that the legal material is unaltered from the version published by the state officer or employee that publishes the material;
2.  Preserve the information; and
3.  Ensure public accessibility on a permanent basis.

At a minimum, legal material that is covered by the Act includes the most basic of state-level legal information resources, including the state constitution, session laws, codified laws or statutes, and state agency rules with the effect of law.  In recognition of potential separation of powers issues, the UELMA does not automatically include judicial or executive materials, leaving it to the enacting state to decide whether and how to include those resources.  States may choose to include court rules and decisions, state administrative agency decisions, executive official documents, or almost any other information resources they designate as legal material.

For each type of legal material, the state must name a state agency or official as the “official publisher.”  The official publisher has the responsibility to authenticate, preserve, and provide access to the legal material. If legal material defined by the Act is published only electronically, that material must be designated “official” and meet the requirements of the Act.  If there is a print version of the legal material, an official publisher may designate the online version “official,” but the requirements of the Act to authenticate, preserve, and provide access must be met for the electronic version.

The requirements of the Act are not ended if the official electronic legal material is superseded, overruled, or otherwise ceases to be current law.   Legal material does not lose its value even if it is no longer in effect.  Accordingly, once a source is designated as official, it continues to be covered by the provisions of the UELMA.  Historical sources must be preserved and made available.

The Act does not affect any relationships between an official state publisher and a commercial publisher, leaving those relationships to contract law.  Copyright laws are unaffected by the Act. The Act does not affect the rules of evidence; judges continue to make decisions about the admissibility of electronic evidence in their courtrooms.

The comments to the UELMA provide a great deal of background on the decisions and intent of the Drafting Committee.  In many instances, the comments offer guidance to legislators who will be asked to consider the UELMA for passage.  The comments are included with the Act on the University of Pennsylvania’s Biddle Law Library Website.

Some issues specific to one of the three parts of the Act (authentication, preservation, and public access) are as follows.  More information on these points can be found in the comments to the Act.

Authentication (Sections 5 and 6) :

The Drafting Committee considered a wide range of approaches to authentication before settling on a policy of presenting a technology-neutral, outcomes-based document, leaving the choice of method used to authenticate legal material up to the states.  This approach also leaves it to each state’s discretion to change methods, as necessary or desirable.  What is required is that the official publisher provides a method for the user to determine that the electronic record is unaltered from the one published by the official publisher.

By the terms of the Act, the authenticated electronic legal material will receive a presumption of accuracy, the same presumption that is created by publication of legal material in print form.  The burden of proving inaccuracy shifts to the party that disputes the accuracy of the electronic legal material.   Electronic legal material from other states with substantially similar laws will receive the same presumption of accuracy.

Preservation (Section 7):

The Drafting Committee spent considerable time debating the preservation provisions.   The biggest issues were finding a way to describe what legal material would be covered by a preservation requirement, and how legal material should be preserved.

The Drafting Committee decided that, ultimately, all legal material covered by the Act’s authentication provisions should also be subject to its preservation requirements.  This was stated simply as requiring preservation of legal material “that is or was designated as official” under the Act.  This language requires that states preserve superseded or amended legal material, which retains importance despite its no longer being currently effective.  The comments to Section 7 make clear that the Drafting Committee intended the Act to cover not only the text of the law, but also the materials commonly published with the legal material.  This would mean that the lists of legislators and state officials typically published with session laws would be preserved, as would proposed or final state constitutional amendments, legislative resolutions, and any other type of information published with a legal material source.

The Drafting Committee decided to use an outcomes-based approach for the preservation requirements, similar to its approach to authentication.   The ultimate outcome of preservation is that legal material may be preserved in an electronic format, in print, or by whatever method the state may choose in the future; consistent with an outcomes-based approach, state policy and preference dictate the preservation method.

If legal material is preserved electronically, the UELMA requires that the integrity of the record be ensured, including through backup and disaster recovery preparations, and that the continuing usability of the legal material is ensured.  Recent natural disasters in the U.S. have highlighted the importance of disaster recovery preparations.  Further, information that is preserved in an unusable format is of no value.  The comments make clear that migration to new formats or storage media will be required from time to time.

The comments also note that the Drafting Committee intended that legally significant formatting be preserved.  The complexity of presentation of some legal materials -- evident in indentations, italicization, and numbering of internal subdivisions, for example -- may indicate or explain legislative or regulatory intent.  Preservation should not change the meaning of the legal material, but rather should ensure that the legal material is capable of being authenticated.

The Act recognizes that states have decades, and in some instances centuries, of expertise in preserving print materials, and does not specify preservation requirements or outcomes if the state chooses to preserve legal material in print.  Nor does the Act impose a duty on an enacting state to retrospectively convert its print material to an electronic format.  If, however, the state chooses to digitize previously non-electronic legal material, and if that newly electronic legal material is designated as official, then the requirements of the Act must be met.  Publication of legal material in an official electronic version subsequent to the adoption of the UELMA, even if the same legal material was published previously in print, triggers the requirements of the Act.

Permanent Access (Section 8):

Citizens must be informed as to government actions if they are to participate effectively in their government.  Legal material is an essential information source for citizens to access to become informed.   The UELMA recognizes this in requiring reasonable availability, on a permanent basis, of legal material, even that which is amended, repealed, or superseded.

The Drafting Committee debated conditions of access over several meetings, finally concluding that states already have long-term, relevant experience in making other materials available through archives, libraries, and state offices.  The enacting state has discretion to decide where, when, and how to provide access, including whether to charge fees for access.  Section 8’s requirement of permanent access does not require a state to provide unlimited access to its preserved legal information.  This drafting decision is consistent with the rest of the UELMA, which defers to state policy and practice in its other provisions.  Eventually, the Committee decided that the individual states could set their own requirements for access to legal material preserved under the Act, as long as the access is reasonable and in perpetuity.  For this reason, the Act does not address whether states can charge fees for access to preserved electronic legal material.

The Standards section of the Act (Section 9) directs official publishers of electronic legal material to consider developing standards and best practices as they choose and to implement methods for the authentication, preservation, and permanent access of electronic records.  The “Guiding Principles to Be Considered in Developing a Future Instrument,” the best practices document of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, were important guidelines that were repeatedly consulted in the drafting process.

Throughout its deliberations, the Drafting Committee was advised and informed by a large number of advisors and observers who came from federal and state governments, commercial legal publishers and software vendors, and a number of interested organizations.  Two American Bar Association advisors brought knowledge of and experience with technologies to the drafting process.  The observers were very helpful in assisting the Committee in its understanding of the possible impacts of proposed sections of the Act.  In some instances, the observers were able to explain existing and emerging technologies that might be used to accomplish the Act’s specified outcomes.  The Committee watched technology demonstrations and investigated various authentication processes already in effect.  The drafting process was strengthened by the level of support and expertise the advisors and observers brought, but, in the end, the Act was entirely the Committee’s work.

By designating the Committee’s product a uniform law, the ULC recognized the importance of the topic and urged wide adoption of the Act.  The final step in the UELMA’s development will be its introduction into state legislatures.   Bill sponsors are being identified, and the ULC anticipates the UELMA will be introduced in at least 8 states in January 2012, with the possibility of introduction in as many as 12.

The ULC has appointed an Enactment Committee for the UELMA to assist the larger ULC Legislative Committee with its charge to “endeavor to secure the enactment of [uniform] legislation.”   The Enactment Committee prepares “talking points” and summaries of the legislation, and works with individual legislatures, on occasion, to answer questions and further the introduction and approval of the Act.  Volunteers from several interested associations are also preparing to work towards the Act’s approval.  With strong support from the ULC and volunteers working on its behalf, by next summer the Uniform Act may itself become “legal material” in one or more states.

Barbara Bintliff
Barbara Bintliff is the Joseph C. Hutcheson Professor in Law at The University of Texas School of Law, and Director of Research at the School’s Tarlton Law Library and Jamail Center for Legal Research. She is The Reporter for The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act.

VoxPopuLII is edited by Judith Pratt. Editor-in-Chief is Robert Richards, to whom queries should be directed. The statements above are not legal advice or legal representation. If you require legal advice, consult a lawyer. Find a lawyer in the Cornell LII Lawyer Directory.

Printing pressIt’s tempting to begin any discussion of digital preservation and law libraries with a mind-blowing statistic. Something to drive home the fact that the clearly-defined world of information we’ve known since the invention of movable type has evolved into an ephemeral world of bits and bytes, that it’s expanding at a rate that makes it nearly impossible to contain, and that now is the time to invest in digital preservation efforts.

But, at this point, that’s an argument that you and I have already heard. As we begin the second decade of the 21st century, we know with certainty that the digital world is ubiquitous because we ourselves are part of it. Ours is a world where items posted on blogs are cited in landmark court decisions, a former governor and vice-presidential candidate posts her resignation speech and policy positions to Facebook, and a busy 21st-century president is attached at the thumb to his Blackberry.

Medieval imageWe have experienced an exhilarating renaissance in information, which, as many have asserted for more than a decade, is threatening to become a digital dark age due to technology obsolescence and other factors. There is no denying the urgent need for libraries to take on the task of preserving our digital heritage. Law libraries specifically have a critically important role to play in this undertaking. Access to legal and law-related information is a core underpinning of our democratic society. Every law librarian knows this to be true. (I believe it’s what drew us to the profession in the first place.)

Frankly speaking, our current digital preservation strategies and systems are imperfect – and they most likely will never be perfected. That’s because digital preservation is a field that will be in a constant state of change and flux for as long as technology continues to progress. Yet, tremendous strides have been made over the past decade to stave off the dreaded digital dark age, and libraries today have a number of viable tools, services, and best practices at our disposal for the preservation of digital content.

Law libraries and the preservation of born-digital content

In 2008, Dana Neacsu, a law librarian at Columbia University Law School, and I decided to explore the extent to which law libraries were actively involved in the preservation of born-digital legal materials. So, we conducted a survey of digital preservation activity and attitudes among state and academic law libraries.

We found an interesting incongruity among our respondent population of library directors who represented 21 law libraries: less than 7 percent of the digital preservation projects being planned or underway at our respondents’ libraries involved the preservation of born-digital materials. The remaining 93 percent involved the preservation of digital files created through the digitization of print or tangible originals. Yet, by a margin of 2 to 1, our respondents expressed that they believed born-digital materials to be in more urgent need of preservation than print materials.

This finding raises an interesting question: If law librarians (at least those represented among our respondents) believe born-digital materials to be in more urgent need of preservation, why were the majority of digital preservation resources being invested in the preservation of files resulting from digitization projects?

Start/finish lineI speculate that part of the problem is that we often don’t know where to start when it comes to preserving born-digital content. What needs to be preserved? What systems and formats should we use? How will we pay for it?

What needs to be preserved? A few thoughts…

PreservesDetermining what needs to be preserved is not as complicated as it may seem. The mechanisms for content selection and collection development that are already in place at most law libraries lend themselves nicely to prioritizing materials for digital preservation, as I have learned through the Georgetown Law Library’s involvement in The Chesapeake Project Legal Information Archive. A collaborative effort between Georgetown and partners at the State Law Libraries of Maryland and Virginia, The Chesapeake Project was established to preserve born-digital legal information published online and available via open-access URLs (as opposed to within subscription databases).

So, how did we approach selection for the digital archive? Within a broad, shared project collection scope (limited to materials that were law- or policy-related, digitally born, and published to the “free Web” per our Collection Plan) each library simply established its own digital archive selection priorities, based on its unique institutional mandates and the research needs of its users. Libraries have historically developed their various print collections in a similar manner.

The Maryland State Library focused on collecting documents relating to public-policy and legal issues affecting Maryland citizens. The Virginia State Library collected the online publications of the Supreme Court of Virginia and other entities within Virginia’s judicial branch of government. As an academic library, the Georgetown Law Library developed topical and thematic collection priorities based on research and educational areas of interest at the Georgetown University Law Center. (Previously, online materials selected for the Georgetown Law Library’s collection had been printed from the Web on acid-free paper, bound, cataloged, and shelved. Digital preservation offered an attractive alternative to this system.)

To build our topical digital archive collections, the Georgetown Law Library assembled a team of staff subject specialists to select content (akin to our collection development selection committee), and, to make things as simple as possible, submissions were made and managed using a Delicious bookmark account, which allowed our busy subject specialists to submit online content for preservation with only a few clicks.

Fair use has a posseAs a research library, we preserved information published to the free Web under a claim of fair use. Permission from copyright holders was sought only for items published either outside of the U.S. or by for-profit entities. Taking our cues from the Internet Archive, we determined to respect the robots.txt protocol in our Web harvesting activities and provide rights holders with instructions for requesting the removal of their content from the archive.

Fear of duplicating efforts

We have, on occasion, knowingly added digital materials to our archive collection that were already within the purview of other digital preservation programs. There is a fear of duplicating efforts when it comes to digital preservation, but there is also a strong argument to be made for multiple, geographically dispersed entities maintaining duplicate preserved copies of important digital resources.

Repetitive dataThis philosophy, especially as relates to duplicating the digital-preservation efforts of the Government Printing Office, is currently being echoed among several Federal Depository Libraries (and prominently by librarians who contribute to the Free Government Information blog) who are supporting the concept of digital deposit to maintain a truly distributed Federal Depository Library Program. Should there ever be a catastrophic failure at GPO, or even a temporary loss of access (such as that caused by the PURL server crash last August), user access to government documents would remain uninterrupted, thanks to this distributed preservation network. Currently there are 156 academic law libraries listed as selective depositories on the Federal Depository Library Directory; each of these would be candidates for digital deposit should the program come to fruition.

Libraries with perpetual access or post-cancellation access agreements with publishers may also find it worthwhile to invest in digital preservation activities that may be redundant. Some publishers offer easy post-cancellation access to purchased digital content via nonprofit initiatives such as Portico and LOCKSS, both of which function as digital preservation systems. Other publishers, however, may simply provide subscribers with a set of CDs or DVDs containing their purchased subscription content. In these cases, it is worthwhile to actively preserve these files within a locally managed digital archive to ensure long-term accessibility for library patrons, rather than relegating these valuable digital files, stored on an unstable optical medium, to languishing on a shelf.

Law reviews and legal scholarship

Legal scholar paintingIt has been suggested that academic law libraries take responsibility for the preservation of digital content cited within their institutions’ law reviews to ensure that future researchers will able to reference source materials even if they are no longer available at the cited URLs. While there aren’t specific figures relating to the problem of citation link rot in law reviews, research on Web citations appearing in scientific journals has shown that roughly 10 percent of these citations become inactive within 15 months of the citing article’s publication. When it comes to Web-published law and policy information, our own Chesapeake Project evaluation efforts have found that about 14 percent, or 1 out of every 7, Web-based items had disappeared from their original URLs within two years of being archived.

In the near future, we may find ourselves in the position of taking responsibility for the digital preservation of our law reviews themselves, given the call to action in the Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship. After all, if law schools end print publication of journals and commit “to keep the electronic versions available in stable, open, digital formats” within open-access online repositories, there is an implicit mandate to ensure that those repositories offer digital preservation functionality, or that a separate dark digital preservation system be used in conjunction with the repository, to ensure long-term access to the digital journal content. (It is important to note that digital repository software and services do not necessarily feature standard digital preservation functionality.)

Law student/law review editorSpeaking of digital repositories, the responsibility for establishing and maintaining institutional repositories most certainly falls to the law library, as does the responsibility for preserving the digital intellectual output of their law schools’ faculty, institutes, centers, and students (many of whom go on to impressive heights).

At the Georgetown Law Library, we’ve also taken on the task of preserving the intellectual output published to the Law Center’s Web sites.

The Preserv project has compiled an impressive bibliography on digital preservation aimed specifically at preservation services for institutional repositories (but also covering many of the larger issues in digital preservation), which is worth reviewing.

What systems and formats should we use?

FrustrationDid I mention that our current digital preservation strategies and systems are imperfect? Well, it’s true. That’s the bad news. No matter which system or service you chose, you will surely encounter occasional glitches, endure system updates and migrations, and be forced to revise your processes and workflows from time to time. This is a fledgling, evolving field, and it’s up to us to grow and evolve along with it.

But, take heart! The good news is that there are standards and best practices established to guide us in developing strategies and selecting digital preservation systems, and we have multiple options to choose from. The key to embarking on a digital preservation project is to be versed in the language and standards of digital preservation, and to know what your options are.

The language and standards of digital preservation

I have heard a very convincing argument against standards in digital preservation: Because digital preservation is a new, evolving field, complying with rigid standards can be detrimental to systems that require a certain amount of adaptability in the face of emerging technological challenges. While I agree with this argument, I also believe that it is tremendously useful for those of us who are librarians, as opposed to programmers or IT specialists, to have standards as a starting point from which to identify and evaluate our options in digital preservation software and services.

There are a number of standards to be aware of in digital preservation. Chief among these is the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) Reference Model, which provides the central framework for most work in digital preservation. A basic question to ask when evaluating a digital preservation system or service is, “Does this system conform to the OAIS model?” If not, consider that a red flag.

AwardsThe Trustworthy Repositories Audit & Certification Criteria and Checklist, or TRAC, is a digital repository evaluation tool currently being incorporated into an international standard for auditing and certifying digital archives. A small number of large repositories have undergone (or are undergoing) TRAC audits, including E-Depot at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands), LOCKSS, Portico, and HathiTrust. This number can be expected to increase in the coming years.

The TRAC checklist is also a helpful resource to consult in conducting your own independent evaluations. Last year, for example, the libraries participating in The Chesapeake Project commissioned the Center for Research Libraries to conduct an assessment (as opposed to a formal audit) of our OCLC digital archive system based on TRAC criteria, which provided useful information to strengthen the project.

The PREMIS Data Dictionary provides a core set of preservation metadata elements to support the long-term preservation and future renderability of digital objects stored within a preservation system. The PREMIS working group has created resources and tools to support PREMIS implementation, available via the Library of Congress’s Web site. It is useful to consult the data dictionary when establishing local policy, and to ask about PREMIS compatibility when evaluating digital preservation options.

SilosWhile we’re on the exciting topic of metadata, the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH, not to be confused with OAIS), is another protocol to watch for, especially if discovery and access are key components of your preservation initiative. OAI-PMH is a framework for sharing metadata between various “silos” of content. Essentially, the metadata of an OAI-PMH compliant system could be shared with and made discoverable via a single, federated search interface, allowing users to search the contents of multiple, distributed digital archives at the same time.

For an easy-to-read overview of digital preservation practices and standards, I recommend Priscilla Caplan’s The Preservation of Digital Materials, which appeared in the Feb./March 2008 issue of Library Technology Reports. There are also a few good online glossaries available to help decipher digital preservation jargon: the California Digital Library Glossary, the Internet Archives’ Glossary of Web Archiving Terms, and the Digital Preservation Coalition's Definitions and Concepts.

Open source formats and software

Open sourceOpen source and open standard formats and software play a vital role in the lifecycle management of digital content. In the context of digital preservation, open-source formats, which make their source code and specifications freely available, facilitate the future development of tools that can assist in the migration of files to new formats as technology progresses and older formats become obsolete. PDF, for example, although developed originally as a proprietary format by Adobe Systems, became a published open standard in 2008, meaning that developers will have a foundation for making these files accessible in the future.

Other open source formats commonly used in digital preservation include the TIFF format for digital images, the ARC or WARC file for Web archiving, and the Extensible Markup Language (XML) text format for encoding data or document structure information. Microsoft formats, such as Word Documents, do not comply with open standards; the proprietary nature of these formats will inhibit future access to these documents when these formats become obsolete. The Library of Congress has a useful Web site devoted to digital formats and sustainability (including moving image and sound formats), which is worth reviewing.

Open source is good for meOpen source software is also looked upon favorably in digital preservation because, similar to open source formats, the software development and design process is made transparent, allowing current and future developers to develop new interfaces to or updates to the software over time.

Open source does not necessarily mean free-of-charge, and in fact, many service providers utilize open source software and open standards in developing fee-based or subscription digital preservation solutions.

Digital preservation solutions

There are many factors to consider in selecting a digital preservation solution. What is the nature of the content being preserved, and can the system accommodate it? Is preservation the sole purpose of the system -- so that the system need include only a dark archive -- or is a user access interface also necessary? How much does the system cost, and what are the expected ongoing maintenance costs, both in terms of budget and staff time? Is the system scalable, and can it accommodate a growing amount of content over time? This list could go on…

Keep in mind that no system will perfectly accommodate your needs. (Have I mentioned that digital preservation systems will always be imperfect?) And there is no use in waiting for the “perfect system” to be developed. We must use what’s available today. In selecting a system, consider its adherence to digital preservation standards, the stability of the institution or organization providing the solution, and the extent to which the digital preservation system has been accepted and adopted by institutions and user communities.

Tech workersIn a perfect world, perhaps every law library would implement a free, build-it-yourself, OAIS-compliant, open-source digital preservation solution with a large and supportive user community, such as DSpace or Fedora. These systems put full control in the hands of the libraries, which are the true custodians of the preserved digital content. But, in practice, our law libraries often do not have the staff and technological expertise to build and maintain an in-house digital preservation system.

As a result, several reputable library vendors and nonprofit organizations have developed fee-based digital preservation solutions, often built using open-source software. The Internet Archive offers the Archive-It service for the preservation of Web sites. The Stanford University-based LOCKSS program provides a decentralized preservation infrastructure for Web-based and other types of digital content, and the MetaArchive Cooperative provides a preservation repository service using the open-source LOCKSS software. The Ex Libris Digital Preservation System and the collaborative HathiTrust repository both support the preservation of digital objects.

For The Chesapeake Project, the Georgetown, Maryland State, and Virginia State Law Libraries use OCLC systems: the Digital Archive for preservation, coupled with a hosted instance of CONTENTdm as an access interface.

SalesmanIn our experience, working with a vendor that hosted our content at a secure offsite location and managed system updates and migrations allowed us to focus our energies on the administrative and organizational aspects of the project, rather than the ongoing management of the system itself. We were able to develop shared project documentation, including preferred file format and metadata policies, and conduct regular project evaluations. Moreover, because our project was collaborative, it worked to our advantage to enlist a third party to store all three libraries’ content, rather than place the burden of hosting the project’s content upon one single institution. In short, working with a vendor can actually benefit your project.

The ultimate question: How will we pay for it?

We still seem to be in the midst of a global economic recession that has impacted university and library budgets. Yet, despite budget stagnation, there has been a steady increase in the production of digital content.

SkydiversDigital preservation can be expensive, and law library staff members with digital preservation expertise are few. The logical solution to these issues of budget and staff limitations is to seek out opportunities for collaboration, which would allow for the sharing of costs, resources, and expertise among participating institutions.

LIPA logoCollaborative opportunities exist with the Library of Congress, which has created a network of more than 130 preservation partners throughout the U.S., and the law library community is also in the process of establishing its own collaborative digital archive, the Legal Information Archive, to be offered through the Legal Information Preservation Alliance, or LIPA.

During the 2009 AALL annual meeting, LIPA’s executive director announced that The Chesapeake Project had become a LIPA-sanctioned project under the umbrella of the new Legal Information Archive. As a collaborative project with expenses shared by three law libraries, The Chesapeake Project’s costs are currently quite low compared to other annual library expenditures, such as those for subscription databases. These annual costs will decrease as more law libraries join this initiative.

Retro librariansI firmly believe that law libraries must invest in digital preservation if we are to remain relevant and true to our purpose in the 21st century. The core reason libraries exist is to build collections, to make those collections accessible, to assist patrons in using our collections, and to preserve our collections forever. No other institution has been created to take on this responsibility. Digital preservation represents an opportunity in the digital age for law libraries to reclaim their traditional roles as stewards of information, and to ensure that our digital legal heritage will be available to legal scholars and the public well into the future.

Sarah RhodesSarah Rhodes is the digital collections librarian at the Georgetown Law Library in Washington, D.C., and a project coordinator for The Chesapeake Project Legal Information Archive, a digital preservation initiative of the Georgetown Law Library in collaboration with the State Law Libraries of Maryland and Virginia.

VoxPopuLII is edited by Judith Pratt.  Editor in Chief is Rob Richards.