Friday, February 3, 2012

Pocket Constitutions: Democracy in Action

Do you miss the pocket-sized U.S. Constitutions which used to be free for the taking at the Goodson Law Library’s service desk? You're not alone: the handy text of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence proved popular with 1Ls in constitutional law classes, new international scholars, and even Duke Law faculty, who handed them out in some courses at the Law School's Summer Institutes in Hong Kong and Geneva. But the U.S. Government Printing Office, which supplied the pocket Constitutions free to federal depository libraries, has not had them in stock since late 2011 -- and as disappointed recent visitors know, the library's supplies have dwindled down to nothing.

There’s hope on the horizon, though - Congress misses them, too. House Concurrent Resolution 90, Authorizing the Printing of the 25th Edition of the Pocket Version of the United States Constitution, was introduced in November and just this Thursday moved to a Senate committee for consideration after passing the House without objection. The resolution would provide for the printing of “235,500 copies of the document, of which 220,500 copies shall be for the use of the House of Representatives, 10,000 copies shall be for the use of the Senate, and 5,000 copies shall be for the use of the Joint Committee on Printing,” or as many copies as a budget of $114,849 will produce. This is about half the budget which was allotted to the last printing in 2009 (S. Con. Res. 111-35), so it’s possible that the reprint still won’t result in an avalanche of freebies on our service desk. But it's a good reminder of the usefulness of THOMAS, the Library of Congress’s free federal legislation service, which provides bill text and status back to 1989. (Other free and premium bill tracking resources can be found in a prior blog post).

In the meantime, the 2009 printing can still be found online with its official citation, S. Doc. 111-4 (here’s a printable PDF version courtesy of the GPO’s FDsys site - be careful to choose “booklet” format when printing!). And of course, there are handy online transcripts from reputable sites like the National Archives. But if you’d still prefer to have a pocket copy of your very own, keep an eye on the resolution’s status page and Ask a Librarian once the printing is official.