Saturday, October 23, 2010

Catching up: Haiti, metadata, New York State Archives

Sorry for the light posting as of late. On 13 October, I confidently predicted that a flurry of posts would be forthcoming. Well, it didn't happen. That 13 October post went live during a long layover at CLT, and during the flight from CLT to ALB I started feeling . . . bad. I had come down with a cold several days earlier, but it seemed to be a peaceable, mild sort of virus, and I figured it would go away after a couple of days. However, the cold kicked into high gear during the flight to ALB, and it stayed that way for more than a week. Now that I've recovered, you should see some more activity around here.

Here are a few things that may interest you:
  • People before records: as you probably know, there is an outbreak of cholera in Haiti, which is still reeling from the devastation caused by the 12 January 2010 earthquake. At the time of this writing, over 200 people have died and over 2,600 people have been sickened. Health workers on the ground are increasingly afraid that the disease, which can result in rapid, agonizing death, will spread to the capital of Port au Prince; if it does, an already horrific situation will become truly calamitous. Doctors Without Borders and Partners in Health have seasoned personnel on the ground in Haiti, and on the right-hand side of this page you'll find links that make it easy for you to donate to these organizations. Please consider giving whatever you can to Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health, or other reputable groups working to help Haiti recover from the earthquake and its aftermath.
  • Earlier this month, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the metadata associated with e-mail is a public record subject to disclosure under the state's Public Records Act. The majority opinion also contains some other interesting tidbits. First, the plaintiff's initial request, which centered upon the message itself, did not, in and of itself, constitute a request for the accompanying metadata; however, the opinion notes that the case at hand marks the first time that the issue of metadata has arisen in litigation relating to the state's public records law. Second, the local government being sued has the right and the obligation to inspect the hard drive of the home computer of the official who received the message at the center of the request. This official opened the message while at home, printed a copy, and then deleted the message from the local government's e-mail system. Finally, the court cited as precedent a recent decision (Irwin v. Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency) handed down by the 4th Department of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court -- which, despite its name, is not New York State's high court. (Thanks to my colleague Linda for this tip!)
  • As of 16 October, the New York State Archives and the New York State Library are open Monday-Saturday. I helped to staff our reference desk today and had a surprisingly good time -- we got some great researchers, and having a workday devoid of meetings and urgent e-mails was a really pleasant change of pace. Please visit the State Archives or State Library on Saturdays -- lots of eager reference personnel will be waiting to help you! And be sure to check out the superb New York State Museum, which is located in the same building.

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