I’m back in DC after a lovely summer in Wisconsin and am catching up on the latest developments here. Our amazing U.S. election is finally over. Last spring I described the election as a circus. Actually it was not fun at all, but always surprising and often appalling to watch.
I have returned to my post as a volunteer at the Library of Congress, which has changed a lot over the summer. On September 14th Dr. Carla Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress. On October 21st she removed Maria Pallante from her position as Register of Copyright. This is viewed by some as a move to keep The U.S. Copyright Office as a division of the Library of Congress where the office has been since its start. Dr. Hayden has stated her intent to continue improving the information technology within the Copyright Office. And I’m sure she will continue to shake things up at this large and venerable institution.
Earlier in November, an In Custodia Legis blog post summarized the improvements that the Library of Congress made to Congress.gov this year. These include a powerful new advanced search for legislation and “enhancements to quick search, enhancements to accounts and alerts, normalization of search results (across our global, quick, and advanced searches), several improvements to the user experience, and a variety of small enhancements and fixes.” A new alert for nominations was added which should make it easier to track the many changes that will occur when the new administration begins. Additionally Thomas.gov, which was the predecessor to Congress.gov, was finally retired last July.
On October 19th, public access to current Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports became easier thanks to EveryCRSreport.com. CRS is a division of the Library of Congress that serves the research needs of the U.S. Congress. But only congress members are allowed to release these reports. A coalition of people, including several congress members, was formed to put these reports up on the web. Daniel Schuman, one of the founders, describes “Why I came to believe CRS reports should be publically available”. We librarians have been convinced of this for a very long time and are delighted to see over 8,000 reports available on the website.
Additionally while I was away, the New Columbia Statehood Commission drafted a Constitution for DC and put a referendum on the November 8th ballot. DC voters approved the referendum by an overwhelming 86% majority. The success of this ongoing campaign to gain statehood status and to end DC residents’ “taxation without representation” depends on the approval of Congress. But there were not enough changes in the composition of that body to break the deadlocks we have been experiencing. So we the citizens of this federal district must continue to wait until a more favorable administration is elected.