CRS Reports Now Publicly Available from Library of Congress

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On September 17, 2018, the Library of Congress announced the launch of a new website, sending librarians, open-government activists, and countless others into paroxysms of frenzied excitement. Why, you might ask?

Let one of those librarians explain.

About the Congressional Research Service

For more than one hundred years, an office within the Library of Congress known as the Congressional Research Service (CRS), originally Legislative Reference Service, has met the research needs of Members of the U.S. Congress. Brought into being with the passage of 38 Stat. 997, 1005 or PL 63-290, the office’s mission has expanded through the years (see 60 Stat. 812, 836 or PL 79-601 from 1946 and finally 84 Stat. 1181 or PL 91-510). A current definition of the role of the Congressional Research Service can be found at 2 U.S.C. § 166, but basically, the office researches and writes reports in response to questions from Members of Congress. These reports are generally known as CRS Reports, and are on topics as varied as the areas that Congress oversees or legislates upon. They are also extremely helpful to legal researchers.

What Has Changed?

Section 154 of PL 115-141, passed earlier in 2018 and now codified at 2 U.S.C. § 166a, mandates that many common types of CRS Reports must be published for free on a publicly accessible website.

Before this law was passed, Members of Congress needed to choose to release reports on an individual basis for them to become public. There was no comprehensive, publicly available, official location for accessing CRS Reports. Reports that did become public were collected on non-profit websites maintained by open-government advocates or were sold to customers by legal information vendors. It was weird, and usually pretty confusing, even for experienced researchers. But now that is all changing!

Dr. Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, introduced the new website in a blog post on September 17, 2018: Trending: Congressional Research Service Reports Now Available Online. You can learn more about the scope of the project on its FAQ page. For an idea of the work product of the hundreds of CRS employees, in the last fiscal year, the CRS created more than 11,000 “new products” including reports according to the CRS Annual Report for FY2017, but not all types of reports will be available on the new public site. Still, a lot of information, produced by one part of our elected government for our elected representatives, will now be much easier to get.

Getting CRS Reports

The Official CRS Reports site, available at the link, is now live and contains 628 reports as of the time of this writing.

According the the Library of Congress FAQ page, “the full inventory of reports appearing on CRS public website [will be added] as soon as is practicable (with a full migration targeted for completion by spring 2019).”

For now, then, you can continue to access previously published CRS reports at either of the following sites, which have been lovingly maintained by open-government advocates for many years:

Oh, and for the curious, you can learn more about the role and history of the CRS, which is, of course, in a CRS Report entitled The Congressional Research Service and the American Legislative Process. The irony is that this report is not currently available on the new public website, as it has not yet been added.

Posted by Aaron S. Kirschenfeld on Tue. September 18, 2018 5:04 PM
Categories: Uncategorized

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