As the Web Turns

Although many states have made progress in formulating policies to address

electronic records management issues related to new systems, legacy systems

and e-mail, most consider records generated on World Wide Web sites to be

the most difficult to master. Web sites often beam dynamic information that

may change every second. In addition, many government sites display documents

that never exist in paper form.

"Once you start dealing with something like Web sites — which are so

dynamic — you're dealing with something that becomes impossible to manage

with the tools we have," says Roy Turnbaugh, Oregon's state archivist. "If

it requires too much effort for compliance, people are just going to ignore

it. It's just too much work for people to try and manage their Web sites

to preserve them as records."

Alan S. Kowlowitz, manager of electronic records services with New York's

Archives and Records Administration, says that although there is a tendency

to think government Web sites generate records, most of that data is captured

behind an agency firewall in a database or other storage system.

"A government Web site represents a branch office," he said. "Records

are only created if there is a transaction occurring. It's likely those

records are going to be captured on the back end."

— Heather Harreld is a free-lance writer based in Cary, N.C.

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