Posted by: on Jul 31, 2008 | No Comments

First, I have a creative and motivated staff at the Legislative Reference
Library, and great colleagues in other offices at the Legislature. To a
great extent I feel like I hardly do anything and I get to bask in
recognition. (Please visit us!) I share your strong journalistic beliefs
in transparency and accountability in government, and the importance of an
informed electorate. At our Library we are committed to providing the
best possible information services to the Legislature in order to have
informed legislators, and to ensuring that citizens have access to
legislative information. I´ve been at the Legislative Library for over
twenty years, as I usually say, back in the time when I had to walk to the
Capitol next door to get a copy of a bill. All that time we have worked
to document statistics on the Legislature, track down all of those reports
required by the Legislature, and distribute state documents. Of course
during that time technology exploded, creating even more opportunities.
Since 1994 legislative staff worked to put all of the information
available to people who CAME to the Capitol online. That was accomplished
in about four years, and since then the amount of legislative information
and the ways to access it have never stopped improving. We feel strongly
about making information available today, and also 15 or 40 years from
now. In the Library we started a program to archive electronic copies of
state documents, especially those the Legislature requires. Because even
though a report may exist on an agency website now, the office might not
even exist in the future. We have created databases we know will have
wide interest. We have a database with biographical information on all
legislators who have ever served. We unveiled a database just this week
of scanned executive orders back to 1968. But I know that technology does
not equal transparency. For example, we are thrilled with the volume of
information that is provided by state and federal agencies. But the
information agencies choose to put online isn´t always the information you
need, and Web sites don´t always help you identify the agency staff person
who will have the answers. I am a board member of the Minnesota Coalition
on Government information (or MNCOGI), and we have a strong emphasis on
working towards open government information at all levels of government.
For over twenty years our group has given an annual Freedom of Information
Award, named after John Finnegan, on Freedom of Information Day. Recently
MNCOGI established formal nonprofit status. I hope you will check out the
website, at mncogi.org, attend upcoming educational forums, and
participate in the group. Thank you again!