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Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced today that reports from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) are now online at crsreports.congress.gov. This is HUGE news indeed because many librarians and open government advocates have been asking for this for at least 25 years.
The site is a good first step, and hopefully will only get better over time — eg I’d love to see CRS reports in multiple formats (not just PDF) and in bulk start to be distributed to FDLP libraries and LoC provide MARC records so that libraries could download the metadata and add to their local catalogs like DOE’s Office of Scientific and technical Information (OSTI) has been doing for years.
However, Daniel Schuman, one of the co-founders of everyCRSreport.com and a long-time advocate for public access to CRS reports, points out that the site has much to be desired so far:
I messed up my thread on the new CRS reports website. Bottom lines:
-They are missing THOUSANDS of reports
-They're disclosing author names
-Faceted searching appears decent (but slow)
-They have some archival reports with stable URLs, but possible implementation problem
— Daniel Schuman (@danielschuman) September 18, 2018
Many of us are hopeful that the site will continue to improve over time and that the Library of Congress will reach out to the library- and open government communities for ideas on how to make the site better for public access. Rome, and CRS reports database, were not built in a day 😉
I’m pleased to announce that, for the first time, the Library of Congress is providing Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports to the public. The reports are available online at crsreports.congress.gov. Created by experts in CRS, the reports present a legislative perspective on topics such as agriculture policy, counterterrorism operations, banking regulation, veteran’s issues and much more.
Founded over a century ago, CRS provides authoritative and confidential research and analysis for Congress’ deliberative use.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 directs the Library to also make CRS reports publicly available online. We worked closely with Congress to make sure that we had a mutual understanding of the law’s requirements and Congress’ expectations in our approach to this project.
The result is a new public website for CRS reports based on the same search functionality that Congress uses – designed to be as user friendly as possible – that allows reports to be found by common keywords. We believe the site will be intuitive for the public to use and will also be easily updated with enhancements made to the congressional site in the future.
[UPDATE 1:30pm 09122018: The bill going forward in the Senate is S. 2944, NOT 2673. And S.2944 includes reference to the depository library program! I’ve updated the link below to the correct Senate bill. JRJ]
Heads up! There’s a bill at the beginning of the legislative process called “Preventing Additional Printing of Electronic Records Act of 2018″ or the PAPER Act of 2018. Don’t you just love how Congress has to acronymize their bill titles?! This bill seeks to limit the printing of the Congressional Record, one of our most important Congressional publications, the official record of the proceedings and debates of the US Congress. It’s important to the Federal Depository Library Program to keep publishing the CR in paper for research utility and preservation purposes.
The House version mentions the FDLP, but the Senate version does not:
(d) Depository libraries
The Director of the Government Publishing Office shall furnish to the Superintendent of Documents as many daily and bound copies of the Congressional Record as may be required for distribution to depository libraries.
This bill is at the very beginning of the process, so it’s not time to get nervous. But the depository community ought to keep an eye on this bill in case it gathers momentum in the House and/or Senate.
ArsTechnica just posted these wild posters from the NSA’s security education program. They were released because of the diligence and FOIA request of our friends at the Government Attic where you can see all of the posters.
In February of 2016, the people behind the website Government Attic made an unusual Freedom of Information Act request to the National Security Agency: “A digital/electronic copy of the NSA’s old security posters from the 1950s and 1960s.” It took more than two years, but the NSA finally got around to honoring the request—providing digital images of more than 100 posters from NSA’s Security Education Program, spanning from the agency’s early days in the 1950s up to the 1970s (with some minor redactions, of course).
The posters are a time capsule of Cold War era government secrecy culture, and they use every possible approach in the propaganda and advertising book to hammer home the need for security awareness. Posters from the 1950s heavily played on the threat of the Soviets to life, liberty, and religion—with a heavy emphasis on the role of Christianity in the lives of good, God-fearing Americans of the time. Others focused on patriotism and on the need to protect the American way of life.
But with the cultural changes of the 1960s and 1970s, things got a little… looser, as pop culture references started to seep into the security propaganda materials—along with occasional warnings about the counter-culture (such as “Don’t Blow Your Clearance on Drugs”). A Saturday Night Fever-themed poster, with an illustration of John Travolta that looks a bit more like a young Mitt Romney, is perhaps the high-water mark of the trend. While perhaps not as iconic as the World War II operational security poster “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships,” the “Security Fever—Catch It” poster is a lost classic.
Good on GPO for cataloging this important declassified CAESAR series of 54 online titles from the CIA. These working papers are a collection of “declassified analytic monographs and reference aids, designated within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Directorate of Intelligence (DI) as the CAESAR, ESAU, and POLO series, highlights the CIA’s efforts from the 1950s through the mid-1970s to pursue in-depth research on Soviet and Chinese internal politics and Sino-Soviet relations.”
And what’s even better is that the Permanent url or PURL in their Catalog of Govt Publications (CGP) (https://purl.fdlp.gov/GPO/LPS87177) points not to the CIA’s site but to GPO’s permanent.access.gpo.gov server — which means that GPO actually captured a copy for local storage and control. And I just confirmed with Marcive that the bibliographic records will soon be pushed out through their Documents without shelves service! Now if GPO would just move all the content they have on permanent.access.gpo.gov into their govinfo.gov digital repository — which, unlike permanent.access, is going through the Trustworthy Digital Repository Audit and Certification — then all would be right with the world 🙂
Series summary: GPO has cataloged 54 online titles from a declassified CIA numbered series known as the CAESAR series. The Director of the CIA established Project CAESAR in 1952; and this series of working papers was published from 1953-1972. The purpose of Project CAESAR was to study the members of, and events affecting the Soviet leadership hierarchy. The collection focuses on internal policies and politics.
I’ve been exploring the Constituency-Level Elections Archive (CLEA) and have been impressed by their historical lower house election data coverage from countries around the world, not just the US Congress.
Things are really starting to shape up (pun intended!) in having access to historical election results! And through the work of Jeffrey B. Lewis et al., you can get data describing the historical boundaries of each congressional district via their United States Congressional District Shapefiles site. In a Scientific Data article published last year, quantitative geographer Levi John Wolf presented a dataset that brings the two types of information together, so that all congressional election results from 1896 to 2014 are “explicitly linked to the geospatial data about the districts themselves.”
The Constituency-Level Elections Archive (CLEA) is a repository of detailed election results at the constituency level for lower house legislative elections from around the world. Our motivation is to preserve and consolidate these valuable data in one comprehensive and reliable resource that is ready for analysis and publicly available at no cost. This public good is expected to be of use to a range of audiences for research, education, and policy-making.
HT Daniel Schuman!