Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2009




Even before the conception of electronic-only documents, providing permanent public access to government information was challenging. Since 1813, federal depository libraries have acquired and maintained tangible items to ensure continued access for the public. Fugitive documents, or government-produced information which escapes distribution through the Federal Depository Library System (FDLP), have always been a major concern. In our current environment, where the vast majority of government information is distributed electronic-only, this problem has only worsened. That, coupled with the ability to completely destroy electronic documents with the click of a mouse, has made the task of finding and ensuring permanent public access to this information even more daunting.

Agencies remove information for a variety of reasons—fear of the release of sensitive material, web site restructuring, or a lack of understanding of the historical significance of some materials. In 1998, an audit of the National Institute of Health found that 78% of material suitable for inclusion in the FDLP was not submitted by government agencies. Former Public Printer Bruce James noted that agency self-publication which bypasses standard government distribution “deprives future generations from having an accurate record of the work of our government.” In this day and age, how permanent is electronic government information? This paper will explore the permanency of selected electronic government information over a twelve-month period to determine its stability and accessibility.


Article published by E-JASL: The Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship, v. 10, no. 2 (Summer 2009)

Original Publication Information

Sproles, Claudene and Clemons, Angel, "Permanent Electronic Access to Government Information: A Study of Federal, State, and Local Documents" (2009). Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship