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The Library of Congress > Digital Preservation > News Archive > MN White Papers Address Digital Legislative Data

August 11, 2009 -- Preserving legislative information is vexing government leaders as drafting bills, laws and reports moves to modern digital legislative information systems.

The Model Technological and Social Architecture for the Preservation of State Government Digital Information Project, led by the Minnesota Historical Society and supported by the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program, is addressing this issue. The project is working on XML metadata schema for legislative data and has recently published a series of white papers to share early project findings.

The XML schema is designed to describe documents such as bills, resolutions, and acts as well as to facilitate the interchange, use, and preservation of these documents. In most cases, the metadata elements can be automatically populated from information already in government bill drafting systems. A draft version of the schema should be available for public comment in early 2010.

The project has also been exploring other issues surrounding digital legislative data by examining how the changing information landscape affects efforts to preserve and provide access to these materials.

While NDIIPP does not provide funding support for efforts to digitize analog materials, the Minnesota project has rightly acknowledged that many governments, especially state governments, are desperate for guidance on how to digitize their older materials for preservation and enhanced access. The project’s white paper on this subject, "Retrospective Digitization of Government Records (external link)," is a comprehensive look at the digitization issues facing libraries and archives, including information on legal requirements, cost justifications, resolution requirements, preservation strategies and other digitization issues.

The project has also held a series of discussions with researchers who are exploring ways to make government data more usable. Many researchers are using the government data as input for "mashups," the practice of combining two or more sets of publically available electronic data to enhance or create new knowledge. The project’s white paper, "Mashups Using Government Data (external link)," examines why government entities may want to make public data available in forms suitable for mashups and how government data may be improved as a result.

A third white paper summarizes the important issues facing archives and libraries as they work with legislative digital audio and video. Most states provide public access to digital audio and video recordings of legislative floor sessions and committee meetings. These sessions are often streamed live as well as archived for later access. This white paper, "Digital Audio and Video (external link)," explores multimedia quality issues, as well as best practices and standards; delivery methods; and preservation, storage and access concerns surrounding multimedia data. A section of the report summarizes state government use of multimedia in the legislature, highlighting technologies individual states are using to share digital audio and video files with constituents.

A final recent white paper, "Options for Improving Access to Legislative Records (external link)" (PDF), discusses a variety of technical approaches that can guide state governments in making decisions on how to make their records more accessible.

The Minnesota work is still at a preliminary stage, but the publication of these white papers should help other state governments as they explore their own responsibilities for preserving and providing enhanced access to digital legislative data, either now or in the near future.