As the state enjoys daylight savings time and gradually warmer weather, the week of March 13 seems like a particularly appropriate time for National Sunshine Week, “a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.” The Government and Heritage Library, part of the State Library of North Carolina, actively engages in this dialogue with its mission of preserving and facilitating public access to state government information.
The Government and Heritage Library (GHL) strives to keep government information freely and openly accessible to the citizens of North Carolina. Paper publications from state agencies are collected in the State Documents Clearinghouse, which contains thousands of documents collected since the beginning of North Carolina as a state and is kept up-to-date and available through the GHL catalog. As more publications have moved to digital format, the GHL has kept up the pace by collecting and preserving these documents, making them freely accessible through the North Carolina Digital Collections (http://digital.ncdcr.gov).
Through two grant-funded initiatives, the GHL is working to digitize those print state publications for use online. The Ensuring Democracy through Digital Access program (a partnership with East Carolina University Joyner Library and the Carolina Digital Library and Archives at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill) has targeted some of the earliest and most heavily used state publications, like the Executive and Legislative Documents of the General Assembly (otherwise known as “Public Documents”) dating back to 1831, Public and Private Laws of North Carolina dating back to 1751, as well as annual reports of the Bureau of Vital Statistics and several North Carolina railways. The Access to State Government Information Initiative supports digitization of newer state publications recommended by agency employees and GHL staff. Several themes have been prominent so far, including urban development, public health, and the North Carolina State Fair. This ongoing project will be wrapping up in 2012, so more publications will be added over the next year.
All week the GHL will be tweeting about Sunshine Week at @ncpedia, describing different resources that North Carolinians can use to examine, understand, and influence their state government. This year’s National Sunshine Week is an opportunity to keep the dialogue going, the access open, and the information alight here at home.