The world's largest library and the country's oldest federal cultural institution is increasingly relying on IT as it continues to carry its collection mission in the Digital Age, but it's struggling to effectively administer and protect new systems.
Two years after it launched, Congress.gov has moved out of the beta phase. The successor to the two-decade-old THOMAS system for finding legislative information features several new enhancements
House of Representatives bill summaries are now available in XML format for bulk data download through the Government Printing Office's Federal Digital System, or FDsys. While the bill summaries are prepared by the Congressional Research Service, within the Library of Congress, the GPO will add them to FDsys' Bulk Data repository, says a Feb. 4 announcement.
A congressional beta website for tracking legislation more than a year in the making will soon become the default source of bill data, the Library of Congress announced earlier this month.
As Congress.gov closes in on the one year mark it still hasn't dropped the "beta" but it has added new functionality such as committee reports, standing committee information and a "search within results" feature. Committee report detail pages display single and multi-part reports with sidebars that include links to related reports and other bills referenced in the report, writes Andrew Weber, legislative information systems manager at the Law Library of Congress.
Congress should continue making XML and bulk access to legislative data a priority recommends the Legislative Branch Bulk Data Task Force. In a task force report, dated Dec. 31, 2012 but only recently made public as part of the Legislative Branch appropriations bill (.pdf), the group requests authorization to continue overseeing congressional open data efforts.
The Library of Congress is challenging the public to help identify barriers to using open, legislative data formats in the hopes of increasing accessibility to the legislative record and creating opportunities for international standards. XML and Akoma Ntoso--an open framework used worldwide to annotate parliamentary, legislative and judiciary documents--are at the heart of the data challenge.
Working with Twitter, the Library of Congress has created an archive of approximately 170 billion tweets organized by date, says an LOC report released this month. Now, the technological challenge is how to make the archive accessible to researchers and policymakers in a comprehensive and useful way.
The Library of Congress unveiled beta.congress.gov Sept. 19, in a much-anticipated website redesign that will eventually replace the 17-year-old THOMAS.gov website and the congressional legislative information system. The site's upgrades include improved search, URLs that are compatible with page titles, mobile-friendly design, easier identification of bill status, links to members' legislative history and biographical profiles, and the ability to share and save bill searches.
The Sunlight Foundation campaigns against draft House Appropriations Committee language that would indefinitely postpone public bulk downloads of legislative information in XML.