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
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
What Has Changed?
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