HJR 6: Joint Subcommittee Studying Electronic Records and their impact
on the VA Public Records Act and the State Publications Depository Program
The joint subcommittee
studying the Virginia Public Records Act and electronic records held its
final meeting on November 28 in Richmond. Over the course of the two-year
study, the joint subcommittee has reviewed the Public Records Act and
the State Publications Depository Program administered by the Library
of Virginia, in light of the new challenges posed by electronic records
and electronic publications.
The joint subcommittee
had previously adopted recommendations to amend the State Publications
Depository Program. These changes will allow the Library of Virginia to
establish a means to receive and collect state agency publications that
only exist in electronic format. Currently, the statutory language authorizing
the Depository Program only contemplates the inclusion of printed publications.
Over the last several
months, workgroups were held with parties interested in revisions to the
Virginia Public Records Act. The public input and suggestions culminated
in a final proposal that was adopted by the joint subcommittee on November
28. In addition to making numerous technical changes, the bill creates
several new definitions, such as "electronic records," "lifecycle,"
metadata," "conversion," and "migration." The
bill introduces new language that requires an agency to manage records
over their complete lifecycle?from creation to destruction or archiving?which
includes a duty to convert and migrate records whenever necessary to ensure
continuing access to that record. When dealing with electronic records,
correct lifecycle management is essential to ensure that an archived electronic
record will continue to be readable and accessible. In addition, the proposal
will provide the State Library Board with general authority to promulgate
regulations and guidelines related to lifecycle management.
During the course
of the workgroups, it became apparent that enforcement of the current
Public Records Act is often problematic. Due to policy and resource considerations,
the joint subcommittee did not want to impart enforcement responsibilities
to the Library, and thus turn the Library into the "records police."
However, discussions indicated that for those agencies that do not fully
comply with the Public Records Act or cooperate with the Library of Virginia,
a lack of education might be at the root of the problem.
VA PUBLIC RECORDS ACT
As a result of discussion,
the joint subcommittee recommended that all elected and appointed officials
receive a copy of the Public Records Act, which mirrors a similar provision
in the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. Agencies must notify the Library
of Virginia of the name and contact information for that agency's records
administrator, and the Library must provided educational and training
opportunities related to the Public Records Act -- a provision that will
reflect current practice. Finally, the proposal would allow, but not require,
the Library to conduct a records practices audit of any agency that it
felt was not complying with the Public Records Act, and the results of
the audit would be forwarded to the Governor and the General Assembly.
This meeting concluded
the work of the joint subcommittee, and a final report will be filed.
Copies of the proposed legislation are available for review on the joint
The Hon. M. Kirkland
and Patrick Cushing