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“What’s that?” I bet you are asking. The Electronic Shipping List is the tool the Library of Virginia uses to let other libraries in Virginia know what digital government publications various state agencies have recently issued, and which are permanently stored for access and preservation at the Library of Virginia. The Electronic Shipping Lists allows any library to add cataloging and permanent links to their own library catalogs for remote government information resources deposited and stored in Library of Virginia servers.

State agencies in the executive branch have deposited more than 12,200 government publications meant to inform citizens about the work the government does to benefit the commonwealth. From the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service’s “Dairy Pipeline” to the Dept. of Economic Development’s “Fast Facts,” state publications mirror the varied needs and interests of Virginia’s citizens.

The Virginia Depository Library Program was established in 1981 as part of the Virginia Public Records Act. The Library of Virginia, as well as fifteen other geographically diverse Virginia libraries and the Library of Congress, were designated to receive state publications from the program. State agencies would send the Library 20 paper copies of each publication, and the Library of Virginia would distribute them with a “shipping list” so that each library would know what they should receive. In 2006, the General Assembly revised the Virginia Public Records Act, and the Virginia State Publications Depository Program gained its own section in the Code of Virginia. One highlight of the revision included a new definition of a publication. The Code of Virginia §42.1-93 now states that any work by a state agency created for the public, “regardless of physical form or characteristic,” must be included in the State Publications Depository Program. Translation: born-digital documents would be eligible for the program as well, not just paper ones. The Library of Virginia immediately began making plans to include born-digital government publications in the State Publications Depository Program. The first electronic publications were submitted to the Library’s digital repository in April 2007.

As it turned out, the revision of the definition of a publication happened just in time. A FOIA request in late 2008 by Del. Scott Lingamfelter, seeking the cost of government spending on publications with print runs of more than 100 copies, found that spending was much higher than anyone imagined. Gov. Tim Kaine’s chief of staff, Wayne Turnage, issued the following guidance on government printing to cabinet secretaries on 5 January 2009:

“As a result of a FOIA request from Delegate Lingamfelter on Commonwealth printing costs we have learned that Executive branch agencies are spending nearly $8 million annually to publish various sundry documents. In these tight economic times this expense is uncomfortably large. Moreover, with the wonders of technology much of this expense is unnecessary.
Accordingly, please inform your agencies that effective 1-6-09, there shall be no further use of State Resources (general and nongeneral fund) to pay for the printing of documents. Agencies are allowed to request business case exceptions for documents which must be printed in support of the organization’s mission (e.g. brochures and maps for Tourism, certain DMV driving manuals). However, all other documents should be made available electronically, and this includes all annual reports.”

Consider the savings. By eliminating print distribution to just seventeen depositories, more than 240,000 books, pamphlets, and brochures were never printed. To extrapolate from Chief of Staff Wayne Turnage, savings statewide could now exceed 80 million dollars. A single digital version of publications from state websites is now deposited, cataloged, shared, and permanently stored at the Library of Virginia.

All digital state publications are searchable in full text through the Virginia Memory website. They can also be browsed by issuing agency, title, and date of deposit. We are grateful to our partners in Virginia state agencies for embracing digital deposit and helping us preserve and make available state publications in one convenient place.

The Library of Virginia still distributes some publications in printed form to twelve Virginia libraries and the Library of Congress, but the vast majority of publications are born digital and represented by the monthly Electronic Shipping List.
So, Happy 125th Electronic Shipping List, Virginia.

-Mary S. Clark, Acquisitions & Access Management Director

Mary Clark

Acquisitions & Access Management Director

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