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Century of Federal Documents Offered Online via UA Library
The UA is marking 100 years as a federal document depository.
The University of Arizona and other land-grant institutions across the country have been celebrating a milestone: the centennial anniversary of the federal government's decision to make them depositories for government documents.
These institutions became federally designated depositories in 1907, taking on the responsibility of storing government documents.At the UA, there's even more reason to celebrate. In 2003, the UA – in collaboration with the U.S. Government Printing Office, which manages the depository program – became the pilot site for a virtual depository model, a Web-based collection of documents produced by federal agencies.
Called “The Arizona Project,” the library has about 95 percent of the documents it is responsible for up on the Web, said Atifa Rawan, the documents librarian who oversees the depository.
“The importance of this is that government publications have been available to us for free all these years. It’s an enormous amount of information,” said Rawan, who added that the library is “the nation’s first virtual depository.”
The University community will be celebrating the milestone Feb. 22.
The 5-7 p.m. event will be held at the main library, featuring speakers that include UA President Robert N. Shelton and representatives from the Government Printing Office and Arizona State Library, among others.
Fewer than 70 depositories were named in 1907, but more than 1,200 exist today at public libraries and higher education institutions.
A number of depositories have begun to offer more information online, as there is more of a push for more virtual information, Rawan said.
“In 2003 and since then, the government’s movement has been toward providing some materials electronically,” Rawan said. “We do have some of the most historical documents because of the fact that we were initiated so early.”
The UA’s depository has a reservoir of information dating back to the late 18th century and covers topics that include congressional materials, international affairs, tribal nations, military history, water, health, agriculture, economics and industry – just about any issue that warrants the attention of the federal government.
Interested in learning about pest management in the nation’s agricultural industry?
Want to take a historical look at public debt with monthly reports?
What about information on the international trade of edible nuts, furniture, cured fish, motor vehicle seats, newsprint, sugar, fabrics and other items?
The project’s purpose is to preserve documents that have traditionally been held in print, an increasingly fragile format, and to improve public access to government information.
The alternative is that such documents might remain in Washington, D.C., or elsewhere, requiring a lengthy drive or a plane ride for those who want to take a look.
The project at the UA exists to make such documents easy to reach, said Gabrielle Sykes-Casavant, special assistant to the UA Libraries dean.
“The great thing about the program is that people can read what our government officials are doing. As a public, people have a right to receive this information,” Sykes-Casavant said.
With local and national elections coming quickly, access to such information becomes even more important, she added.
“You can trace the history of bills, read about border issues and water rights – things that are not only relevant now but in the future,” Sykes-Casavant said. “Decisions are made every day, and they are valuable.”