SOME PEOPLE IT'S EBAY OR AMAZON.COM, but for Michael McGuire, UNT
assistant professor of public administration, one of the best web
sites on the Internet is UNT’s cybercemetery.
which is the first of its kind, is sponsored by the university and
the federal government and provides electronic access to anyone
seeking information generated or collected by certain U.S. government
agencies that are no longer operational.
the electronic records of the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental
Relations were the first to be placed on the web site. The agency,
which among other activities tracked the flow of U.S. tax dollars,
had closed down the year before.
the records’ move to UNT, McGuire had to comb the UNT library as
well as other libraries across the country and hound old professors
to obtain the ACIR’s published research.
holdings of the ACIR had been available online when I began my search,
it would’ve saved me a lot of time,” he says.
has assisted in the project to store ACIR’s electronic and paper
documents online for others. And it has benefited his counterparts
around the world.
cybercemetery was first developed, McGuire received an e-mail from
a Swedish professor who was searching for the remaining records
of the closed-down ACIR.
information about defunct agencies is “analogous to finding a book
that’s out of print — just because it’s out of print doesn’t mean
it isn’t worthwhile,” says McGuire.
storage place in cyberspace
UNT has been designated a U.S. federal depository library. It’s
one of 1,300 libraries nationwide that provide the public with free
access to government information. The creation of the cybercemetery
is an electronic extension of the program.
there are institutions that archive material for functioning agencies,
there was no place to keep the information of defunct agencies before
UNT created the cybercemetery.
the federal government about storing the electronic records of the
defunct ACIR, says George Barnum, electronic collection manager
with the U.S. Government Printing Office.
information was safely archived at UNT, we realized that agencies
go away all the time and that this could be a really important role
for the federal depository libraries,” Barnum says. “So, we broadened
our original agreement with UNT for the ACIR to include other closed
agencies, as needed.”
has come to mean five agencies with thousands of files, and the
number keeps growing.
A 1997 Memorandum
of Understanding between the university and the U.S. Government
Printing Office created the cybercemetery as the prototype digital
depository for accumulated information from defunct agencies. UNT
ensures that the documents have come from the actual agencies and
provides a free, public web site with a consistent address.
seeks out other federal departments and agencies nearing their end
to make arrangements to archive their documents in the cybercemetery.
the UNT cybercemetery, important information would just disappear
when an agency passed out of existence,” says Melody Kelly, UNT
documents librarian. “It’s so easy to hit the delete button with
electronic documents, but that would cheat the public of the historic
record and research of these agencies.” UNT will soon maintain the
same type of web access for the Texas Register, a record of changes
in state regulations and legislative action.
sees the growth of the cybercemetery as a sign of the times ahead.
remember the hoops I had to jump through to find the ACIR before
it came to UNT,” he says. “So it’s a blessing to see something like
this. The information isn’t just being put on a library shelf somewhere
to collect dust — it’s all online for everybody to use, and that’s
Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (1959-1996)
— studied the relationship among local, state and national
levels of government
on Structural Alternatives for the Federal Court of Appeals
(1997-1999) — addressed the massive backlog of appeals court
Competition Policy Advisory Committee (1997-2000) — focused
on global antitrust problems
National Civil Aviation Review Commission (1996-1997) —
studied aviation safety and funding of civil aviation programs
Office of Technology Applications’ Highway TechNet in the
Federal Highway Administration (1990-1999) — collected information
on all areas of highway technology and standards for construction
cybercemetery is at www.library.unt.edu/govinfo/research/research.html.
Additional information can be found on the government documents
home page at www.library.unt.edu/govinfo.