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Blue Book goes online for first time

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One of West Virginia's most iconic and historic stalwarts is going digital.

The West Virginia Blue Book, for the first time since its inception in 1916, is now online.

The navy, hardback book full of essential information about current officials in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government along with federal officers and political leaders is in its 92nd edition.

And according to Assistant Senate Clerk Lee Cassis, getting the information online is probably the easiest part.

"Getting all that information compiled and as accurate as possible is a big ordeal," Cassis said. "Getting it online is pretty simple, actually."

The Clerk of the Senate is responsible for publishing the book, but it takes a village. Senate Clerk Joseph M. Minard relies on Cassis, now-retired Senate Clerk Darrell E. Holmes and the Legislative Services' staff, as well as Karl Lilly, who is retired as assistant clerk of the Senate but is senior consultant for the Senate.

Lilly was associate editor of the Blue Book for more than 30 years. 

"Everyone involved in putting together this book takes great pride in its publishing, both in print and now online," Minard said.

What's inside

The book lists officers and employees of all state, county and municipal governments, the West Virginia Legislature and courts, the state's congressional delegation, federal agencies in the state and all major institutions.

As if that weren't enough, it includes pictures and the biographies of the officials in the three branches in government, the U.S. president and federal district judges, and in odd-numbered years the state chairmen and officers of the political parties are included, too.

And there's more. The Blue Book includes directories of newspapers and television stations within the state, ZIP codes, place names that aren't in the postal directory, election results, historical data about the counties and municipalities, officers of clubs and organizations and also a section dedicated to departmental, statistical and general information.

The book is used as a reference manual for some and a history book for others. It's free of cost, and language in the state budget each year requires each member of the Legislature receive 75 copies of each Blue Book, each high school and junior high school in the state receive two copies and each elementary school in the state receive one.

"For 92 years, the West Virginia Blue Book has been an essential guide for students and researchers on the latest state government information and statistics," Senate President Jeff Kessler said in a news release. "I am pleased that the same detailed information is now available to everyone through the Legislature's website."

Still in print

Cassis said he had heard the suggestions to go online with the Blue Book for years, but there was a fear that if the information was online, the book wouldn't be printed anymore.

"That's not the case," he said. "Right now, there's still the same amount of books.

"We might in the future take that number down a little bit, but for right now, we have it in both formats."

The book was first called the "West Virginia Legislative Hand Book and Manual and Official Register" until the more common nickname was designated in 1933 by Clerk Charles Lively who hailed from Lewis County.

Cassis said the process of putting the book never ends. The 2012 book just came out, and as soon as an edition goes to the printer, Cassis said the bid process for the next one begins.

"I almost have section one compiled and ready for the printer," Cassis said about the 2013 Sesquicentennial edition that's currently in the works.

He said he tries to put the pieces together to send to the printer in order, but there's not a specific process in place.

Yearlong process

"We all just know what needs to be done, and we get to it," Cassis said. "But Alice Shafer, she's got one of the toughest parts, the municipalities and counties; she's doing that for me as we speak.

"I think there's about 255 municipalities listed in the book. She's in charge of getting all that information, and that's a bear."

Cassis said a lot of staff members help bring the Blue Book together, and it takes a lot of dedication to juggle it with the other regular duties.

The goal for the Sesquicentennial edition is to have it out by the spring of next year, and Cassis said it will have a special cover for the occasion.