The Law Library of Congress has decided to provide a little outlet for my genius personality to shine through in the form of a blog. I have sat and pondered what to write about for the past few days now, after conveniently unfortunately being out of town on vacation during the launch week. Whilst there are near limitless items that I could write about, expressing my personality too much may result in a pink slip so, after determining that I really do love my job and want to keep it, I am implementing some self-censorship. It is tough, but must be done.
With that in mind, I decided to write about one of the UK government web services that makes my day to day life here at work so much easier, and it also happens to nicely coincide with the release of a new version – legislation.gov.uk. This database is somewhat similar to THOMAS, and it merges two existing legislative services together – information from the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI), which held versions of legislation ‘as enacted’, and the Statute Law Database, which contained the revised versions of legislation, taking into account amendments and repeals.
The new legislative service includes both the original and a revised version of the laws of the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), complete with explanatory notes where available and, rather impressively, dates back to 1267.
In the early days of online legislation I remember being limited to Acts from 1988 onwards and eagerly awaiting the launch of the Statute Law Database. During that time I always seemed to be cursed and taunted by constantly needing Acts from 1987 – so close to that cut off date. Squinting to change the date to 1988 did not work.
When the Statute Law Database went live, I was a happy camper. However, the National Archives apparently decided they had not improved my life enough with the information available there and introduced the new site, eliminating the need for two windows to be open, and not only included the ‘as enacted’ and revised version of the legislation a click apart, but also information on all the commencement orders and a time line of changes relating to the Acts. To me this is an overwhelming achievement and if I weren’t British and thus had my tear ducts removed at birth, I may very well have cried when this new screen popped up on my monitor. There is also mention of bringing Codes of Practice (authoritative guidance) relating to the legislation onto the site as well. If this happens, well, I may have to go and have reconstructive surgery so that I can shed a tear.
The National Archives notes that the revised legislation is complete on almost all items up to 2002, and around half are completely up to date to the present time. Information on the dates the legislation is revised up to is provided in a prominent red informational bar. For legislation that is not up to date, the names of the amending or repealing provisions are provided, as well as a very convenient link to them.
I do have to play around a little more with this database, but so far everything looks great – the content is nice and clean, and relatively intuitive. The only negative aspect that I can think of at the moment is that I may not have to get up out of my chair as often to retrieve old Acts and legislative citators from the Law Library Stacks. I will have to work out the calories I burned during these jaunts so I can make up for the loss in other ways. In the meantime, I will keep calm and carry on.