Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Test-Drive Two New Legislative Research Databases

“Try before you buy” isn’t just good advice for car shopping – the Duke University Libraries share that motto when purchasing shiny new research toys, too. The Duke community has always been able to test-drive Trial Databases at, but this summer offers two trials which are particularly interesting to the Duke Law community, since both can help a great deal with federal legislative research.

First, there’s the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1981-1994. The Serial Set is an essential resource for legislative history research, as it reprints House and Senate committee reports and other congressional documents. The Duke University Libraries already subscribe to the online serial set from 1817-1980, and the additional years featured in this trial could help fill gaps in our online access through other sources to congressional reports and documents (outlined in our Federal Legislative History research guide). This trial of 1981-1994 runs through August 6. If you have a legislative history research need this summer, be sure to try it out and leave your comments for the purchasing committee at

The University Libraries have also set up a trial with CQ First Street. First Street aggregates legislative and policymaking data (lobbyist disclosures, congressional staff directory information and biographies, legislative information from THOMAS, and Federal Election Commission disclosures) into nifty visualizations, which make it easy to identify relationships between members of Congress, federal staff, lobbyists, and PACs. (We don’t see Stephen Colbert’s recently-approved Super PAC yet, but we’re sure it’s coming soon.) This trial ends on August 12, and comments left at will be considered in the libraries’ decision whether to purchase a subscription.

If you have questions about using these databases, or about legislative research generally, be sure to Ask a Librarian.