Magazine article Information Outlook

Collaborating to Preserve Federal Government Websites: The Library of Congress Is Working with Other Libraries and Information Organizations to Capture and Archive Content from Government Websites before New Presidents Take Office

Magazine article Information Outlook

Collaborating to Preserve Federal Government Websites: The Library of Congress Is Working with Other Libraries and Information Organizations to Capture and Archive Content from Government Websites before New Presidents Take Office

Article excerpt

The Library of Congress began archiving the web in 2000 with a pilot program, collecting content related to the 2000 U.S. election, including sites associated with the presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial elections. Since then, more than a petabyte of web content has been preserved in 90-plus collections covering a variety of topics and different types of websites. Many of these collections are available for researching through the library's website: others are not yet accessible, as they are in various states of processing. All content archived by the library is embargoed for one year.

Through its web archiving, the library builds collections for members of Congress, researchers, and the public and preserves born digital content for long-term research use. Unlike some of our partners and colleagues at other national libraries around the world, we have no easily defined U.S. domain, so we take a selective approach to web archiving. While many of our partners and colleagues at other national libraries around the world can collect their country's domain comprehensively, the U.S. domain is too extensive to permit us to collect everything. We focus on events and thematic web archives covering a variety of topics selected by recommending officers (the subject specialists who select content for the library's collections) according to collection development policies and other guiding documents.

Federal websites have figured prominently in the library's web archives since the program's inception, but it was not until 2015 that a systematic approach to harvesting federal sites was adopted, in addition to comprehensively collecting legislative websites since 2003, the library's web archiving program now seeks to broadly archive websites from all branches of government. We comprehensively harvest all judicial branch websites quarterly; we collect only selectively from the executive branch due to the large number and size of its websites and the commitments by other agencies (GPO, NARA, etc.) to archive them. As a result, the library focuses its archiving efforts on cabinet-level agencies and the affiliated programs that complement the library's judicial and legislative collections, as well as a few smaller agencies. We do not archive national labs or the majority of .mil sites.

The End of Term Archive

Since the library began web archiving in 2000, we have had a strong history of collaborating with other organizations on everything from developing tools to discussing and formulating policies and approaches to collaborative collections building. In 2003, we became a founding member of the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC) and have worked closely with members of the IIPC throughout the years. We are also founding members of the Federal Government Web Archiving Working Group, which is a collection of federal agencies working together to ensure long-term access to historical U.S. government resources through web archiving.

In addition to what the Library of Congress harvests for its own archives, since 2008 we have collaborated to document the changes to U.S. federal websites during presidential transitions through a project known as the End of Term Archive (EOT). EOT seeks to document federal websites prior to a change in administration.

For many years, IIPC members in the United States have been preserving portions of the federal web, depending on their own collection policies. Other than early efforts by the National Archives to preserve .gov content in 2004, no one institution in the United States has attempted to preserve the entire .gov domain comprehensively due to the scale of the effort Simply identifying all government content on the web is a huge challenge. There is no one list of all .gov domains available for easy reference, and there is much web content produced by the federal government that is published outside the .gov domain, including social media content posted on third-party sites and websites produced by federal agencies on . …

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