Collecting and Access to Government Information: the Scottish Perspective

Fiona Laing

Curator of Official Publications, National Library of Scotland Chair of the Scottish Working Forum on Official Publications

There is no doubt that the political landscape in Scotland has changed after the 2015 General Election: the way that government information is created and delivered in Scotland has been changing for many years; and the 2014 Referendum on Scottish independence has created a greater public interest in Scottish politics as never before. By increasing the use of digital technology government departments can make their publications more widely available in various formats and of course reduce their expenditure.

The Scottish Government back in early 2012 was the first UK Government administration to make an official publication available in digital download format for devices such as iPad and Kindle with the publication of Your Scotland, Your Referendum as an e-book.

These changing formats have put pressure on the Legal Deposit Libraries who aim to collect, preserve and make accessible this information.

As the Scottish Government was producing e-only publications well before the Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations came into force in April 2013 the National Library of Scotland, under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Scottish Government, worked closely with its Digital Team to ensure that all of its e -publications were collected and accessible through the National Library of Scotland’s Online Public Access Catalogue.

The Scottish Parliament, as part of its current Digital Parliament Project, will be aiming for all its business publications to be published in digital format only from mid 2015. These will all be archived and made available via the National Library of Scotland as well as being available on the live Scottish Parliament website.

As the Curator responsible for ensuring that all of this material is collected comprehensively by the NLS, my experience is that it is crucial to liaise with the bodies involved at an early stage in their transition from print to electronic. This ensures that the process of receiving this material can be as automated and seamless as possible. Once collected we can then make this material available to the other legal deposit libraries throughout the UK.

As well as collecting individual digital publications we are harvesting web sites as part of the UK Web Archive project, which has unrestricted access as well as the Legal Deposit Web Archive which is accessible in any of the Legal Deposit Libraries.

Due to the disparate nature of official publishing these days, there is more of a need than ever before for networking groups for information professional working with government information. The Scottish Working Forum on Official Publications (SWOP) and the CILIP ISG Standing Committee On Official Publications work to ensure dissemination of information amongst the profession, respond to consultations and provide training and support across libraries in the UK.

SWOP was formed in 1989 to produce a directory of holdings of official publications in Scotland. The Directory still exists in an updated format and is available on the SWOP website. Our SWOP Blog provides a mechanism for sharing a diverse range of news items connected with government information. We also hope to produce short training guides to assist those working with government information which we intend adding to our website in the future.

As well as our website we have a twitter account, a closed discussion group on the Knowledge Hub and a JISCmail email account in order to connect with a wide range of audiences. Membership of SWOP is open to anyone who has an interest in official publications. It provides a great opportunity for professional development or portfolio work for Chartership. Please do contact SWOP if you would like more information about the group or get involved in any of the work that we are engaged in.

Refer 31 (2) Summer 2015

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