Like most, when teaching in my Advanced Legal Research courses, I always like to stress reliable free sites for legal research, along with subscription resources, and two of my favorite sites to show are govinfo.gov and congress.gov. As I prepare upcoming lectures for this semester, I thought I’d share with you some of the most recent releases and updates to these two excellent, research-friendly government sites.
GovInfo made several improvements and enhancements in its latest release (see full details here), but a few of particular note include:
- Public Papers of the Presidents: Barack Obama (2014, vol. II) – this volume covers July 1 – December 31, 2014
- U.S. Government Manual (Nov. 2020 ed.)
- Opinions of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon
- An embeddable search box, to help your patrons quickly dive in to government document research on GovInfo
- An additional 10 years (2003-2012) of bill status bulk data
A couple of other features of note: If you haven’t read the articles available on GovInfo (I’ll admit, I hadn’t taken notice of them until recently), you should give them a read in the Features section of the website; recent topics have included how to research Presidential inaugural addresses and an historical piece on the first live televised Presidential news conference. The U.S. GPO has also been making great strides recently to improve their publishing process, incorporating a new, XML-based system, called XPub. In the December 2020 release notes, they highlight a document published with XPub, H. Rpt. 116-562, The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress – Final Report; to see how XPub improves GPO publishing and makes it more user-friendly, make sure to give that document a glance.
Congress.gov issues monthly release notes, so I’ll highlight a few features added in the last few releases.
- Fresh out of the (digital) oven, an alert service for tracking your favorite congressional committee! If you create a (free!) congress.gov account, you can sign up to get alerts from any congressional committee’s profile page. Alerts would include any time a measure is referred to the committee; whenever the committee holds a hearing or publishes a report; and in the Senate, any time a nomination is referred to a committee. Refer to the two images here to see where the alert link is on the committee profile pages and what alert options are available.
- Also in the February 2021 release, public law text was added to legislation from the 93rd to 103rd Congresses (1973-1994).
- For all my fellow advanced search nerds out there (you know who you are!), in the January 2021 release, they added some handy search fields to search amendments to any bills, resolutions, or amendments. amendsBill: and amendsAmendment: These can be used in conjunction with other search criteria to limit by keyword or sponsor.
- In December (when they added so many enhancements they had two separate releases!), they added the bound edition of the Congressional Record from the 85th to 93rd Congresses (1957 to 1974).
I could keep going, but I’ll rein my excitement in. Suffice it say that congress.gov and govinfo.gov are constantly receiving enhancements and additions to improve the user experience and make more authenticated government materials available to the public for free. If you haven’t made regular use of these sites in the past, I highly recommend you give them a look. You might be surprised at what you find.