I have spent the last five months moving out of Washington DC and back to Milwaukee WI. That’s where I met Simon Fodden many years ago. We later reconnected when he asked me to start blogging for SLAW. These transition moving months have been very chaotic both personally and nationally. The trauma of viewing the insurrection on January 6th continues to linger. Watching the subsequent hearings of the United States Select Committee on the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol has been riveting and eye opening. The videos are available on the Committee’s website. More hearings should be held soon and the Justice Department’s investigation has begun.
My law librarian colleagues back in DC have continued to make U.S. legal information readily available online. On September 6th, the Law Library of Congress announced the debut of their new Congress.gov API. “Congress.gov is a fantastic source of legislative information, and a marvelous source for investigating specific legislation and exploring the legislative history of a bill. Congress.gov also contains large amounts of data and various users have expressed interest in having additional access to download this data. Certain entities or persons have “scraped” the website over the years and the Government Publishing Office (GPO) has also offered bulk data downloads for some collections, but these have all been somewhat imperfect measures.
However, today we are introducing the beta Congress.gov API which will provide access to accurate and structured congressional data. We are very excited about this release and a great deal of hard work has gone on behind the scenes this year to make this happen.
So what is an API? It is a method by which structured data can be shared when an application submits a request and receives the data back. The Congress.gov API is a REST API and presents data in a hierarchical browse format with responses provided in XML or JSON. The XML format is the default for the API. The Congress.gov API will cover many of the Congress.gov collections out of the gate, including bills, amendments, summaries, Congress, members, the Congressional Record, committee reports, nominations, treaties, and House Communications. Over time we will be adding other Congress.gov collection endpoints, such as hearing transcripts and Senate Communications.”
Back in July and August there were also new announcements about upgrades to Congress.gov reported in the August New, Tip, and Top blog post.
The Law Library of Congress also has made their Global Legal Monitor more accessible. “In an effort to ensure the Global Legal Monitor (GLM) is accessible to all of our patrons, we have added ReadSpeaker to each article. After you select an article, just click “listen to this page” at the top, left-hand side of the screen to have the article read aloud to you. You can also click on the downward facing arrow to download an MP3 audio file of the article that you can play on your phone or other audio device.
Just recently the Agricultural Law Information Partnership at the USDA National Agricultural Library announced that the USDA Office of the General Counsel Legislative Histories Collection is now available on the National Agricultural Library Digital Collections (NALDC). The Legislative Histories Collection, originally compiled by the USDA Office of the General Counsel, includes over 1500 key federal agricultural legislative histories spanning 1921-1971. The newly digitized collection covers a range of agricultural laws and topics, including farm bills, nutrition and food aid programs, rural development, and price supports.
I will continue to report from my purple state on advancements in online access to US legal information and other developments. This has been and continues to be a very interesting cliff hanging year.