September 19, 2012 Congress.gov Unveiled Today
Public Beta Site Provides Free, Fact-Based Legislative Information
The Library of Congress, in collaboration with the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and the Government Printing Office (GPO), today unveiled Congress.gov, a new public beta site for accessing free, fact-based legislative information. Congress.gov features platform mobility, comprehensive information retrieval and user-friendly presentation. Congress.gov, at beta.congress.gov, eventually will replace the public THOMAS system and the congressional Legislative Information System (LIS).
“The new, more robust platform reaffirms for the 21st century Congress’s vision of a vital legislative information resource for all Americans,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “It is fitting that we announce this new resource within days of Constitution Day, celebrating the establishment of our representative democracy. Continual enhancements to and now reinvention of this resource reflect the Library’s commitment to Congress’s goal to open the legislative process to the American people and promote an informed democracy.”
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and the Joint Committee on the Library, said, “The Congress.gov website heralds a new era in presenting congressional information online, with tools and infrastructure unimaginable 17 years ago. Congress.gov will allow people at all levels of experience and expertise to follow legislative developments, access and compare policy proposals, and connect with their senators and representatives.”
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), chairman of the Committee on House Administration, said, “Congress.gov will enhance transparency, increase savings for the Library, and provide Congress and the nation the vital legislative information we need to deliberate about our collective public policies.”
Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on the Library, said, “I offer my congratulations to the Library on the new Congress.gov website. Since the launch of THOMAS in 1995, Congress has relied on the Library to make the work of Congress available to the public in a coherent, comprehensive way. The Library staff has a strong working relationship with the House, Senate and GPO, which will enable the Library to successfully develop the next generation legislative information website.”
THOMAS, named for Jefferson, was launched by the Library in 1995 as a bipartisan initiative of Congress and averages 10 million visits each year. The system has been updated over the years, but the foundation can no longer support the capabilities that today’s Internet users have come to expect, including access on mobile devices.
Using best practices for retrieving and displaying information, the refined, user-friendly system also will make finding and using legislative information more intuitive, comprehensive and accessible than the existing system. Congress.gov connects the information with a title and URL more readily identified by all constituencies.
The Congress.gov site includes bill status and summary, bill text and member profiles and the following new features:
- Effective display on mobile devices;
- Ability to narrow and refine search results;
- Ability to simultaneously search all content across all available years, with some files dating from the 93rd congress;
- Easier identification of current bill status;
- Members’ legislative history and biographical profiles;
- Maintenance of existing features such as links to video of the House and Senate floor, top searched bills and the save/share feature.
Data for the information system is provided by multiple legislative branch partners in this effort, including the Office of the Secretary of the Senate, the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms, the Office of the Chief Administrative Office of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Government Printing Office.
The project was chaired by Deputy Librarian of Congress Robert Dizard Jr. Development of the new site was a collaborative effort drawing from expertise across the Library, including technical experts from the Office of Strategic Initiatives and congressional protocol and subject matter experts from the Congressional Research Service and the Law Library of Congress.
The Library is releasing Congress.gov as a beta site to enable a period of time for collecting user feedback and refining functionality while other content is incorporated. Other data, such as the Congressional Record, committee reports, nominations, treaties and communications, will be incorporated over time in a planned, prioritized order. The Library anticipates Congress.gov will operate as a beta site for approximately one year as this work is completed. During that time, both THOMAS and LIS will continue to operate as usual.
The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 151 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.