Home » Posts tagged 'CRS Reports'
Tag Archives: CRS Reports
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.
I’m still giddy that CRS reports will soon be made public! The Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) of the American Library Association just wrote a letter to the Congressional Transparency Caucus thanking them for their ongoing efforts to make Congressional Research Service reports publicly available.
This comes at an especially opportune time because critics worry that Library of Congress isn’t delivering on the goods. My hope is that this public letter from a large library association, because it’s cc’d to Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden among others, will put a public spotlight on LC and maybe get them to fully deliver all CRS reports in a timely and cost-effective manner.
On behalf of the American Library Association (ALA)’s Government Documents Round Table (GODORT), I am writing to express our gratitude for the Congressional Transparency Caucus’s leadership in ensuring the public availability of Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports; and to encourage the Caucus’s continued leadership in ensuring these reports are made available in a timely fashion.
The Congressional Research Service, informally known as the “think tank” of Congress, was founded in 1914. But until now, there has been no systematic, comprehensive, official source that provides all Americans equal access to their reports, even though they have been routinely released to the public by Members of Congress, made available through non-profit websites like EveryCRSReport.com and the Federation of American Scientists, and sold by commercial publishers.
Reports from the CRS are well researched and balanced documents, addressing a wide variety of current issues of importance to the American public. As such, the American Library Association-along with many other library- and open government organizations, grassroots efforts, and individual citizens-has long advocated that they be made public and distributed
through libraries in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), administered by the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO).
The first bills regarding public online access to CRS reports arose in the 105th Congress (1997-1998): S. 1578 was introduced by Sens. McCain (R-AZ) and Leahy (D-VT) in the Senate, and H.R. 3131 was introduced by Reps. Chris Shays (R-CT) and David Price (D-NC) in the House. Though these efforts were unsuccessful, the determination to make CRS reports public never wavered. With the passage of the 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act, CRS reports will now be accessible to the American public. The Library of Congress will begin publishing nonconfidential, non-partisan reports on a publicly accessible Congressional website starting in September 2018. Once these reports are fully available, this achievement will positively contribute to the democratic process and inform citizens of the wide variety of issues before Congress.
GODORT would like to sincerely thank you and your staff for over two decades of hard work and dedication to making public access to CRS reports a reality.
Chair, Government Documents Round Table
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden
CRS Director Mary Mazanec
Steven Aftergood, American Federation of Scientists
Daniel Schuman, DemandProgress
Kevin Kosar, R Street Institute
Josh Tauberer, GovTrack.US
Many were thrilled earlier this spring when the FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Law included the “public access to all non-confidential CRS reports.”
Well, not so fast it seems. Daniel Schuman, Kevin Kosar, and Josh Tauberer (3 folks doing great work over the last several years on the CRS reports issue) have found that the “Library plan to publish CRS reports falls short of the law, and is unduly expensive.” LOC plan “does not comport with the law or best practices for creating websites and is unusually expensive,” they wrote. By contrast, their own collection of 14,000 reports on everyCRSreport.com cost about $20,000. Another point of criticism is that the the library’s plans to publish the reports only as PDF files — rather than in both HTML and PDF formats — making them harder to access on mobile devices and potentially inaccessible to people with visual impairments. The plan also apparently ignores a directive to publish a separate index of all the reports published by CRS, they said, which would make it easier for laypeople to see all available documents at once.
the group makes several important recommendations. To comply with the law, the Library should:
- Update its implementation plan to ensure that it publishes all CRS reports — we believe there are many more than the 2,900 the Implementation Plan says will be published by Spring 2019 — by the statutory deadline of September 19 of this year. We request it aim for September 17th, which is Constitution Day. The Library’s implementation extends beyond April of next year;
- Update its implementation plan to include all CRS Reports, including insights, infographics, sidebars/legal sidebars, in focus, and testimony;
- Revise its implementation plan to ensure that HTML versions of the reports are available to the public just as they are already available to Congressional staff — this would help the visually impaired read the reports as well as allow reports to be read on mobile devices;
- Revise its implementation plan to include an index of CRS reports, in accordance with the law’s requirements; and
- Review the code we published to see whether it would help the Library meet its obligations, in particular our automated author information redaction functionality, or whether the Library could develop an automated tool that would enable it to comply with the timeline.
With respect to the website design, the Library should:
- Consult with the Government Publishing Office and the public on how best to implement bulk access;
- Develop a plan to respond to any initial heavy loads on the website;
- Implement a robust website search capability and develop a plan to do so;
- Create predictable URLs for CRS reports and a landing page for a report series, and set forth a plan to do so;
- Keep down costs by examining our approach to see whether it can use some of our techniques to save money; and
- Consider engaging an entity like the General Services Administration’s 18F to help keep down costs and ensure a quality product.
So far, attempts to communicate with the Library of Congress have fallen on deaf ears. So if any of our readers have connections to Carla Hayden’s office, please forward this on to her.
Steven Aftergood reports that the Congressional Research Service (CRS) will begin publishing some of its non-confidential reports on a publicly accessible congressional website by September 18, 2018.
- CRS Previews Public Release of its Reports by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News (Jun.22, 2018).
- Public Release of CRS Reports: FAQ for Congressional Staff
“For the initial public release, the Library will make available in PDF format all of CRS’s R-series of ‘active’ reports that were published since the enactment date, as well as the Appropriations Status Table,” CRS said in a new memorandum for congressional staff. The “R-series” refers to the primary CRS reports that have a report number beginning with R. It does not include CRS Insights, Legal Sidebars, or In Focus reports. Over time, older R-series reports as well as some other product lines will be added to the public collection, CRS said.
Kian Flynn and Cass Hartnett have just published a solid article in Reference & User Services Quarterly, 57(3) called “Cutting through the Fog: Government Information, Librarians, and the Forty-Fifth Presidency” (full citation below!). In it, they broadly highlight the current govt information landscape — kindly mention several projects including LOCKSS-USDOCS! — and then come to a very positive conclusion:
Going forward, librarians must face the present—and the future—state of government information in order to cut through this fog. We need to work together to pursue collaborative partnerships to safeguard past, present, and future government information for the public’s long-term access and consumption, and to promote services that encourage our users to critically evaluate and interrogate all information. Our collaborations must move in two directions at once: (1) We need to ensure that official legal processes are in place to best manage government information (the hoped-for outcome of Title 44 reform). And (2) we need to create nongovernmental solutions to preserve secondary “use copies” of government information as well (read: backups), holding the information in trust together. The solutions we create today need to be adaptable for the government information landscape of the future.
One thing I thought I should mention. In their section on highlighting collections, they helpfully point the reader to publications from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and Congressional Research Service (CRS) as particularly valuable and relevant for their “dispassionate, scholarly, ‘just the facts’ approach.” I think it should be noted that none of these are hosted on GPO’s govinfo.gov platform, only the GAO has a partnership in place w GPO to permanently preserve their documents, the CBO has been under an unprecedented attack on its legitimacy by the GOP, and CRS reports, until recently — and after a 20 year grassroots effort! — were never made publicly available or distributed via the FDLP. It takes a village of libraries to assure permanent public access!
Please read and forward to others who may be interested. Thanks Kian and Cass!
Flynn, K., & Hartnett, C. (2018). Cutting through the Fog: Government Information, Librarians, and the Forty-Fifth Presidency. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 57(3), 208-216. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/rusq.57.3.6608