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Minnesota Edocs: State Government Publications

With the help of a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, awarded through the Minnesota State Library Services division of the Minnesota Department of Education, the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library (LRL) has solved many issues related to the archiving of full text digital state publications and linking to them through the online catalog. The creation of the Minnesota Edocs database will help the Library increase access to state publications to all citizens through the Library's catalog and MNLINK.

In the spring of 2003, LRL began a pilot project to make digital copies of legislatively mandated reports and link to the copies through the Library's catalog. Many state agency publications are required by law, and each year the Minnesota Legislature requests additional studies and documentation of state government functions. LRL either acquires electronic copies of mandated reports, or scans and archives reports not published electronically, to archive on our own server.

With the demise of the State Depository program microfiche distribution, this project become even more important and in 2004 was extended to all digital publications meeting the definition of a Minnesota state document. In addition to legislatively required reports, the Library acquires other state agency publications extensively and archives copies of those we receive in electronic format. Links to LRL's archived versions are added to the records in MNPALS, the Library catalog. Links to the agency URLs are included as well, but those links are deleted when agencies no longer maintain the reports on their sites.

Online archiving soon posed several issues for the LRL. Adding multiple links on the bibliographic record for an online document in several parts, or for successive issues of a serial, made the catalog record cluttered and confusing. Frequently there was not a one-to-one relationship between the paper document and the digital document as published by the agency, which could be online in formats not amenable to archiving. The static link on the bibliographic record to the Library's archive file meant that the files could not be migrated to another server without breaking over 1,000 links in the Library's catalog. Finally, no preservation metadata for the electronic files was being recorded.

In 2004 the Library received an LSTA grant to research and develop solutions to these issues.

We researched institutional repository software products and the document management systems other states used to manage digital state publications, comparing them to a list of criteria, such as cost, functionality, etc. It soon became obvious that most of the systems mentioned were too large, complicated, and—most importantly—far too expensive for LRL. The nature of many software products also conflicted with LRL's goal of using the catalog and MNLINK to provide access to the documents, since they created a separate collection with a separate catalog. In the end, we concluded that the best system possible, the one most suited to our needs, would be one we built ourselves.

We developed our own simple and inexpensive yet still robust electronic document management system. The database did not create a new catalog from scratch, but harnessed LRL's robust catalog of MARC bibliographic metadata. Descriptive metadata remains in the catalog record; the Edocs database is used to record preservation and administrative metadata and to create links between separate URLs (as in the case of serial issues). We solved the cataloging issues our growing archive had presented.

The resulting display of the formerly "cluttered and confusing" record.

Database details

The Library's Edocs database was developed using commercially available software that includes Microsoft Windows 2000 Server, Microsoft IIS Web server, and Microsoft Access 2000. This system could also be implemented using a variety of open source operating systems, web server software, and database software (one example combination could be Linux, Apache, and MySQL). It is our hope that this system could be emulated and adapted by other libraries considering similar archives of electronic files.

The data tables and data entry application were created using Microsoft Access 2000. Access 2000 will continue to be used for data entry purposes. The data tables will be converted to Microsoft SQL tables for more efficient delivery via the Web server, and for more robust backup capabilities.

Please direct questions regarding the project to Elizabeth Lincoln, Director, Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. For more details on the project, see the materials included in Minnesota Edocs: Documentation for the LSTA Grant Project, October 2004 – September 2005.