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It’s tempting to label IGS website ‘Total Recall’
The moniker is surely warranted — everything you want to know about the upcoming election (and very little that you don’t) is explained or linked to there

| 27 August 2003

There’s no shortage of things to read about the upcoming recall election, certainly. But it’s hard to find what’s truly useful among the daily torrent of hand-wringing op-eds and celebrity puff pieces. Fortunately, the librarians at the Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) have waded through all that sludge to find the worthwhile resources that are in fact out there, and they are posting relevant texts and links to a “Hot Topic” web page at www.igs.berkeley.edu/library/htRecall2003.html.

The result of their labors is one-stop access to all that a seriously curious voter might want to know:

• the history of the recall in California;
• the legal basis for it (with links to the relevant sections of the state constitution and elections code);
• a chronology of the current recall effort, including a summary of legal challenges that have been mounted;
• links to recall-related websites that major media have established;
• selected newspaper and journal articles that include informed analysis and commentary, only rarely mentioning Larry Flynt, Gary Coleman, or Todd “Bum Hunter” Lewis.

The IGS library’s website has been developing these kinds of Hot Topics pages since late last year, says library director Ron Heckart, applying the same one-stop-shopping approach to such issues of current concern as congressional reapportionment, state finance and budgets, vehicle license fees, and medical marijuana. “We decided that one way we could advance the mission of the IGS, with its focus on California public policy and politics, was to begin to provide information online from a variety of outside sources,” explains Heckart.

The recall page is the Hot Topics team’s “splashiest and most visible public effort to date,” says Heckart, though it didn’t start out that way. “We started to build this page when the gubernatorial recall was first broached earlier in the year. It was very bare-bones: just the language about recall mechanics from the state constitution and elections code.” Library assistant Ben Burch created the first edition of the website.

A citizen’s perspective
Things got more complex when Rep. Darrell Issa put up money to finance a larger recall effort. “We started revising the site almost daily,” says Heckart. “Now it’s unique in terms of being a comprehensive entry point for people wanting to learn about the politics of the ongoing recall effort. That’s one reason we’re sensitive to the need to be nonpartisan in our postings: we’re looking at the issue from the citizen’s perspective, as well as the student and scholar’s.”

Three of five library employees devote time to updating the site daily: Heckart, librarian Terry Dean, and library assistant Paul King. “We are living, breathing, and sleeping recall,” says Dean. “News outlets are monitored hourly, daily, constantly. We monitor SFGate [the San Francisco Chronicle website], the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee websites, and a very good site called Election Law that’s maintained by Rick Hasen, a law professor at Loyola University. We listen to NPR and find transcripts of appropriate stories using Lexis-Nexis.”

How long will the recall remain a Hot Topic? “We’ll stay with it as long as it continues to be topical,” says Heckart, “then move it to an archive portion of the website. It will no longer be updated, but it will remain available for researchers to use.”

The IGS Library home page provides access to the full range of current and archived Hot Topics pages, at www.igs.berkeley.edu/library.