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Oregon Law Librarian Wins National Award for 1953-1993 Oregon Revised Statutes Digitization Project


The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) awarded their 2017 Public Access to Government Information (PAGI) Award to Laura Orr, the former Washington County Law Librarian (2002-2015).

AALL Press Release, excerpt:


This Year’s Honoree Oversaw the Digitization of Oregon Statutes Dating Back to 1953

Orr created and managed the Superseded Oregon Revised Statutes 1953-1993 Digitization Project while working as director of the Washington County Law Library in Hillsboro, Oregon. The project began in 2011, when the library began scanning the 1953-1993 editions of the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS). Only two complete copies of the ORS existed in the country; neither was publicly accessible, let alone scannable, so library staff members spent years tracking down missing volumes and pages, to provide a publicly accessible, free legal resource for Oregon law researchers….” [See full press release.]

Previous winners of the PAGI Award include, among others: U.S. Superintendent of Documents, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School, The Sunlight Foundation, National Indian Law Library, Federation of American Scientists, and the Library of Congress.

More about Washington County Law Library’s 1953-1993 ORS (aka Gutbuster) Digitization Project:

1) Oregon Legal Research (OLR) Blog posts on this project:

Gutbuster photo
Gutbuster blog tag
Last update: Superseded Oregon Revised Statutes 1953-1993: Update

2) From Laura:Superseded state and federal statutes are required legal research resources for lawyers and judges. Oregon’s pre-1993 Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) had never been digitized, let alone posted on a publicly accessible database. After months of inquiry, I finally accepted the fact that neither the Legislature nor the Secretary of State Archives Division had any plan in place to digitize these invaluable official documents.

I had some experience digitizing Oregon Appellate Court Briefs, so I did some back of the envelope cost calculations on digitizing the ORS, called on my intrepid law library staff and colleagues to develop project scope and budget projections, and then drafted a project plan.

We consulted with Fastcase, Lexis, Westlaw, and others in the business of digitizing legal information, but all required clean and complete sets of original source documents for scanning. Such ORS sets didn’t exist so we set about the laborious process of compiling these – ORS page, replacement page, chapter, title, volume, and session by ORS page, replacement page, chapter, title volume, and session.

We all still had a public law library to run, legal research training programs to present, budgets to prepare, websites to update, but carving out a little money from each year’s budget for labor and materials seemed a worthy cause.

I truly could not have managed let alone completed this project without Christi Pingel. Her standards of digitization quality and database integrity exceeded my own when faced with nearly insurmountable budget, time, and source document adversity. Christi and I also thank Dexter Johnson, Oregon Legislative Counsel, whose valiant and successful effort to host the data on their publicly accessible website made it possible to complete the project.

It’s not easy managing a digitization project when you have time, money, and full-time research and technical staff; doing so when you are a small public law library with none of those was a daunting prospect, but we were determined to see the project through to the end and might even say we found the challenge exhilarating.

My gratitude also extends to the Washington County Commissioners who gave us valuable server space not to mention budget authority and moral support, the Oregon Supreme Court Justices and the Multnomah Law Librarian who allowed us to mine their ORS sets for missing pages, my Oregon law librarian colleagues, and last but not least, my Washington County Law Library colleagues, Holly Gerber, Chrystal Seager, Paula Simon, and Sue Ludington.

Winning the PAGI award left me speechless. I probably felt not unlike the way Art Cullen at Iowa’s Storm Lake Times must have felt when he learned he won the Pulitzer Prize. It’s a reminder that our AALL professional association looks out for and supports the little guys and the big guys.


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