CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last week's column about cutting non-core state government programs and services sparked some thoughtful calls and emails.
In that column I asked why the state continues to publish the Blue Book -- the guide to government employees, agencies and other state information. I suggested the information could be posted online, where it could be easily updated, and that the printed publication could be put out to bid to see if any private companies would publish it at no cost to the taxpayers.
David Schau, reference librarian for the Kanawha County Public Library, wrote to say the library has a long run of Blue Books. He said they are used to find historical information about state government, and they are accessible.
"My concern is whether the 2012 Blue Book will be available in 2021," he wrote. "Online data can disappear. It could be controlled. Do you trust the state to make a decade of information accessible? Could the data be changed?"
Schau said books are easier to use, are portable, and will be with us a long time. "Will electronic data be?" he asked.
Freelance writer Jim Casto also defended the printed Blue Book.
"I have to tell you that I always keep the latest copy within arm's reach of my computer and regularly consult it," Casto wrote. "I suspect that in most instances I can find the information I need between its covers far faster than tracking down by computer. And what, pray tell, about the many, many West Virginians who aren't online?"
Last week's column also asked why the state Division of Natural Resources publishes Wonderful West Virginia magazine and asked, "Couldn't a private publishing company do this?"
Hoy Murphy, communications leader in the state Department of Commerce, wrote to say the DNR has published the magazine in one form or another since 1937.
"For longer than I've been here, and that's coming up on 20 years, the magazine has been self-supporting through subscriptions, newsstand sales and sponsorships," Murphy wrote. "Not a penny of public money goes toward its publication. I understand that's not what you said in the column, but that's the inference readers are likely to make.
"As far as a private publishing company doing it, that's a matter of speculation and skepticism, given the current status of print publications, including newspapers," Murphy wrote. "DNR does contract with Cannon Graphics Inc. of Charleston to produce the editorial content but within the goals of DNR to promote state parks, fishing, wildlife and other outdoors attractions and activities for the state."
Casto, whose freelance articles sometimes appear in Wonderful West Virginia, also defended the magazine.
"I feel obliged to point out that the magazine is in fact already done by a private publishing company -- Cannon Graphics of Charleston, which edits and designs it under contract to DNR," he wrote. "And, of course, the magazine is printed by another private company -- Chapman Printing."
Reach George Hohmann at busin...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.