Friday, September 21, 2018

A New Source for CRS Reports

As reported earlier this week by the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports are now available at the new federal website CRS is a nonpartisan legislative research staff office within the Library of Congress that prepares research reports for legislative committees and individual members of Congress. Researchers have long prized CRS reports for their expert analysis on a variety of topics, but for many years the reports were difficult to obtain. Appropriations legislation expressly prevented CRS from making its research public, and researchers beyond the Hill needed to obtain copies from an insider.

By the 1990s, a CRS cottage industry had sprung up in the form of Penny Hill Press, a tiny family-run publisher in Maryland that obtained the reports and sold them for $20 apiece on its now-defunct website. As Penny Hill owner Walt Seager told the New York Times in 2009, "We wear out a lot of shoe leather and get cauliflower ear on the phone and use e-mail and every other trick we can, and we manage to get virtually all of the new C.R.S. documents."

Over the years, as fiscal watchdogs and government information advocates expressed dismay at the inaccessibility of this federally-funded office's important work, free sites were created to archive obtained CRS reports, including the University of North Texas Libraries' CRS Digital Library and EveryCRSReport. Commercial databases like ProQuest Congressional also developed and sold large backfiles of CRS reports to subscribing institutions.

Finally, after many failed legislative attempts to open CRS reports to the public, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 directed the Library of Congress to make CRS reports publicly available online. The new website at currently includes more than 600 reports from the past year, but plans are in the works to fill in a retrospective backfile as well. The library's research guide to Federal Legislative History will be updated soon to reflect the new option for CRS reports. In the meantime, for help with locating CRS reports or other federal publications, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Safety First

The Goodson Blogson usually focuses on legal research-related news and resources. But the impending arrival of Hurricane Florence on the Carolina coast later this week has us thinking about the safety of our community. Many new law students may never have experienced a hurricane, and even some longer-term residents haven’t seen a storm of this predicted magnitude hit the Triangle region in more than twenty years. Here are some resources to help you prepare for whatever comes at the end of this week.

Follow the forecast. The News & Observer is suspending its usual paywall in order to provide readers with full access to storm coverage. Other sources for updated local forecast information are WRAL and Spectrum News. Keep up to date with the latest forecasts and adjust your planning accordingly.

Prepare a supply kit. Bottled water is already disappearing from local store shelves. The federal government's supply kit checklist at recommends stocking up on water, non-perishable food, medications, and other supplies to last your household at least 72 hours; local sites are recommending a plan to be potentially without power for at least one week. It’s a good idea to fill gas tanks, and to charge mobile devices/laptops/backup power banks before Thursday. Please remember to stock up on supplies for your pets, as well.

Stay informed. If you haven’t already, sign up for the DukeALERT emergency text messaging service to receive notifications to your phone about University closures and campus conditions. Updates are also posted to for those with working internet connections. If the University invokes its Severe Weather Policy, the Law School will be closed and Law classes canceled as well. (Law community retains 24-hour DukeCard access, but use extreme caution if traveling to campus due to risk of downed trees, power lines, flooded roads, etc.)

Take precautions now to weather the storm safely!