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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

CRS reports set to become public!

I can’t believe it’s finally happened, but today the House Appropriations Committee voted to “allow public access to all non-confidential CRS reports” as part of the FY 2018 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill. We’re one step closer to having public access to CRS reports! A bipartisan group of 40 nonprofit organizations (including FGI!) and 25 former CRS employees have been banging on Congress to do this, and the House today finally listened!

The issue of public access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports has been something for which librarians have advocated for at least 20 years. It’s been an uphill battle because some in Congress and the Library of Congress have long viewed CRS reports — which provide non-partisan analysis of important policy issues before Congress — as “privileged communication” between Congress and the CRS. And because of this narrow thinking about *public domain* government information, Libraries and the public have been forced to pay for these reports from private publishers, subscribe to expensive databases for access or find them serendipitously on the web.

Here is the appropriations report language:

“Public Access to CRS Reports: The Committee directs the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service (CRS) to make available to the public, all non-confidential reports. The Committee has debated this issue for several years, and after considering debate and testimony from entities inside the legislative branch and beyond the Committee believes the publishing of CRS reports will not impede CRS’s core mission in any impactful way and is in keeping with the Committee’s priority of full transparency to the American people. Within 90 days of enactment of this act CRS is directed to submit a plan to its oversight committees detailing its recommendations for implementing this effort as well as any associated cost estimates. Where practicable, CRS is encouraged to consult with the Government Publishing Office (GPO) in developing their plan; the Committee believes GPO could be of assistance in this effort.”

Read DemandProgress’ press release for more background.

GPO releases digital Congressional Record for the 1960s

Bound Congressional RecordThe Government Publishing Office (GPO) just announced that GPO in concert with Library of Congress have released another decade of historic bound Congressional Record, this time covering 1961 – 1970. The CR is now available on govinfo.gov for 1961 – 2006.

This release covers debates and proceedings of the 87th through the 91st Congresses. Spanning approximately 380,000 Congressional Record pages, this era covers historical topics such as:

  • The Administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and the first two years of the Administration of President Richard M. Nixon
  • The Civil Rights Era
  • The Vietnam War
  • The Space Program and Moon Landing
  • Legislation of the Great Society and the War on Poverty, including:
    • Civil Rights Act of 1964
    • Voting Rights Act of 1965
    • Fair Housing Act of 1968
    • Medicare and Medicaid
    • Economic Opportunity Act of 1964
    • Immigration Act of 1965
    • Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
    • Endangered Species Act of 1966
    • Public Broadcasting Act of 1967

via GPO Issues Digital Release of Historical Congressional Record for the 1960s.

GPO releases digital Congressional Record for the 1970s

The Government Publishing Office just announced that they’ve released another decade of historic bound Congressional Record, this time covering 1971 – 1980.

The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) partners with the Library of Congress to release the digital version of the bound Congressional Record from 1971-1980 on GPO’s govinfo system.

This release covers debates and proceedings of the 92nd through the 96th Congresses. This era of Congress covers historical topics such as:

  • The Administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter
  • Passage/ratification of the 26th Amendment (allowing 18-year-olds to vote)
  • Watergate
  • The end of the Vietnam War
  • The Bicentennial
  • Civil Service Reform Act of 1978
  • The Iran Hostage Crisis
  • OPEC and the Oil Crises of the 1970s
  • Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act

via GPO Issues Digital Release of Historical Congressional Record for the 1970s.

GPO releases digital Congressional Record for the 1980s

Back in September, 2016, we posted about the project undertaken by the Government Publishing Office and Library of Congress to digitize the Congressional Record in its entirety back to 1873. At that time, GPO released volumes from 1991 – 1998 (covering the 102nd – 105th Congresses). Today, GPO issued a press release about the next segment of the Congressional Record publicly available online, this time from 1981 – 1990. All digital volumes 1981 – 2001 are now available on GPO’s GOVINFO site.

The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) partners with the Library of Congress (LC) to release the digital version of the bound Congressional Record from 1981-1990 on GPO’s govinfo. This release covers debates and proceedings of the 98th thru the 101st Congresses. This era of Congress covers historical topics such as:

  • Ronald Reagan’s Presidency and the first two years of George H.W. Bush’s Presidency
  • The Strategic Defense Initiative
  • The Space Shuttle program
  • The Iran-Contra Affair
  • The end of the Berlin Wall and the Cold War
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act

GPO and LC released the digital version of the historical Congressional Record for the 1990s in September and will continue to collaborate on this important project and release digital versions of the bound Congressional Record back to the first one published by GPO on March 5, 1873. GPO publishes the Congressional Record in print and digitally on govinfo every day Congress is in session.

via GPO Issues Digital Release of Historical Congressional Record for the 1980s.

EveryCRSReport.com launches. Public cheers. Congressional privilege intact

OMG I am so excited. This morning, Daniel Schuman and the fine folks at DemandProgress announced the launch of EveryCRSReport.com, a new website with 8,200 CRS reports from the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service (CRS), and more coming.

This is so awesome because CRS reports, written by experts in “Congress’ Think Tank,” have long been NOT available to the public unless a person contacted her member of Congress and *asked* for a report. See the problem here? Government reports — which are legally in the PUBLIC DOMAIN! — NOT available to the public, and one would need to know about the existence of a report in order to ask for the report. CRAZY!

This has been a long time in coming. Librarians and open government groups have been advocating for the public release of CRS reports for at least as long as I’ve been a librarian (15+ years) and likely longer. Change *does* come, but sometimes it happens in a geological timeframe.

For more, see Daniel’s post “Why I Came To Believe CRS Reports Should be Publicly Available (and Built a Website to Make it….” Congratulations and THANK YOU Daniel!

Here are the highlights:

On the website:

  • 8,200 reports
  • Search + the ability to filter reports by topic
  • Automatic updates through RSS feeds
  • Freshness ratings, which say how much a report changed when it was updated
  • The ability to view reports on your mobile device
  • Bulk download of all the reports
  • All the code behind the site (build your own!)
  • For each report, we:
    • Redacted the author’s name, email, and phone number, except in a tiny subset of reports
    • Explained the report is not copyrighted and its purpose is to inform Congress

oday my organization, in concert with others, is published 8,200 CRS reports on a new
website, EveryCRSReport.com. We are not the first organization to publish CRS reports. Many others have done so. Nor are we the first to advocate for public access. We’re part of a huge coalition including other former CRS employees. But I think we are the first to publish just about all the (non-confidential) reports currently available to members of Congress, in concert with a bipartisan pair of members who are providing the reports to us, and with a method to keep on doing so.We have tried to address CRS’s concerns. We redacted the contact information for the people who wrote the reports. We added information about why the reports are written and that they’re not subject to copyright. And we added a few nice bells and whistles to the website, such as letting you know how much a report has changed when it’s been revised.We think Congress as an institution should publish the reports. We support bicameral, bipartisan legislation to do so. And we hope that our website will help show the way forward.

via Why I Came To Believe CRS Reports Should be Publicly Available (and Built a Website to Make it… – Medium.

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