Researchers Fight for Gov't. Reading Room

In a situation that illustrates the shortcomings of computerized research and Freedom of Information Act requests, those who use an especially good government reading room in Washington, D.C. are fighting to retain the privilege.

A plan announced last year to “archive, discard or otherwise send off-site” historical National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents alarmed lawyers and other researchers who use the agency’s public reading room. That’s because the hard-copy materials “are key to building a legal case, updating an old rule or crafting an accurate comment on a regulatory proposal,” reports the Washington Post today.

The 20-million-page reading room, which has been open since 1970, is better at document retrieval and has more resources than those at most other government agencies, according to Erika Z. Jones, a partner in Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw’s D.C. office.

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