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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 to the People!

Now that a new administration will be coming into office soon, it is more important than ever to encourage our Government to make Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports publicly accessible online. Here at FGI, the topic of CRS Reports has been written about often, but I was inspired to create this blog post and take action after seeing Starr Hoffman’s DLC conference presentation last week (click on “Search Document” and enter “Starr Hoffman”. Her PowerPoint, “Encouraging An Informed Citizenry” will come up as a PDF to download).

Starr is responsible for maintaining University of North Texas’s Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports Archive. In her presentation, she gives tips for writing to Congressmen and lists some past legislative efforts (Bills that never passed both houses of Congress) to make CRS Reports publicly accessible. I have gathered some other Bills, as well as all the contact information for the sponsoring Congressmen and have included them in my Delicious.com “CRS” tag as well as in this list:

1998 H.R. 3131, S. 1578
1999 H.R. 654, S. 393
2000 H.R. 4582
2001 S. Res. 21
2003 H.R. 3630, S. Res. 54
2007 H.R. 2545, S. Res. 401

Senator John McCain
Introduced S. 1578, S. 393, S.Res. 21, S. Res. 54, & co-sponsored S. Res. 401
Senator Mike Enzi
Co-sponsored S. 393
Senator Leahy
Co-sponsored S. 393, S. Res. 21, S. Res. 54, and S. Res. 401.
Senator Tom Coburn
H.R. 4582 co-sponsor when he was in the House.
Senator Jim DeMint
Introduced H.R. 4582 when he was in the House.
Senator Joe Lieberman
Introduced S. Res. 401 and co-sponsored S. Res. 21 and S. Res. 54
Senator Tom Harkin
Co-sponsored S. Res. 54 and S. Res. 401
Senator Susan M. Collins
Co-sponsored S. Res. 401
Senator John Cornyn
Co-sponsored S. Res. 401

Congressman David Price
Co-sponsor for H.R. 3131, H.R. 654, H.R. 3630, and H.R. 2545
Congressman John Campbell
Co-sponsored H.R. 654
Congressman Jay Inslee
Co-sponsored H.R. 3630 and H.R. 2545

And you can find and contact your local Senator and your Representatives too.

James A. Jacobs did a Google search this past June for “Received through the CRS Web” OR “CRS Report for Congress” combined with site:house.gov and then again for site:senate.gov and got around 600 hits with each. For example, here are some domains he found that you can search within for CRS Reports or to search for those in Congress who may support public access to CRS Reports: bartlett.house.gov, holt.house.gov, radanovich.house.gov, weldon.house.gov, bennelson.senate.gov, carper.senate.gov, lugar.senate.gov, murray.senate.gov, etc.

For more information on CRS Report legislation efforts, visit this site which contains a “Campaign for Online Access” section.

Spread the word about this post and good luck in writing to your Congressmen! If you have other ideas, please share them in the comments.

UNT Creates 400K Library Users with Wikipedia

In a new discussion over at the Library 2.0 Government Documents group, librarian Dreanna Belden comments on how the University of North Texas libraries have ramped up usage of their locally housed digital document and photograph collections by adding relevant links to Wikipedia. For example, they added a link to Congressional Research Reports about Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to her Wikipedia entry.

What has been the result of adding article-appropriate library links to over 600 Wikipedia articles? Dreanna says (emphasis mine):

Since adding links back to our collections into over 600 Wikipedia articles, we have experience dramatically increased usage of our online collections. In the past year over 400,000 unique users have clicked through Wikipedia into our digital collections.

Way to go UNT! If there other libraries doing this sort of thing, let Dreanna know what kind of response you’re getting. Or leave a comment here and we’ll send it her way.

If you’re not up for adding your collection links to Wikipedia, or if you don’t have a local digital collection to link to, consider blogging your reference questions and watch what you found on average tarrif levels rise to the top of Google.

CRS Updates

On ResourceShelf, our co-senior editor, Shirl Kennedy, has posted some thoughts and recent memos about general public access to CRS content.

Said CRS Director Daniel P. Mulholland, in a memo (PDF; 132 KB) dated 20 March 2007, “(T)o avoid inconsistencies and to increase accountability, CRS policy requires prior approval at the division level before products can be disseminated to non-congressionals.”

We also link to a blog post by Steven Aftergood at FAS.