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A Congress.gov Interview with Rich Larson, Information Technology Specialist

This week’s interview is with Rich Larson, an Information Technology Specialist within Information Technology Services (ITS).  This is the second in the new series of interviews that focus on Library of Congress staff who contributed to Congress.gov.  The first interview was with Meg.

Describe your background.

I am from Takoma Park, MD.  I went to Macalester College in St. Paul, MN and majored in Fine Art with a minor in Computer Science.  I loved both painting and programming but it’s a bit harder to support oneself with painting and drawing so I focused on programming after college.

I stayed in Minnesota for several years working in a variety of high tech jobs after college until 2001 when I came back to Maryland and joined the Library of Congress full time in 2002 as an Information Technology Specialist in ITS.

How would you describe your job to other people?

When people ask me what I do I generally tell them that I work as a programmer at the Library of Congress, working mainly on the THOMAS website and its Congressional counterpart doing back-end data programming and manipulation.   It is basically a lot of problem solving, learning new technologies and looking through lots of old code for solutions to bugs, as well as creating new sites using new and existing data sets.

What was your role in the development of Congress.gov?

For the new Congress.gov I was part of the team that did analysis on the existing data from the older legacy systems to design the new database. I helped to write the data transformation routines (Extract Transform Load (ETL)) that put the data into our new database that is then used to display the information to the users.

What is your favorite feature of Congress.gov?

I’m a fan of the filtering/refining of searches to both narrow and find relevant legislation, as well as to explore other legislation via subjects or sponsors.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the legislative process while working on Congress.gov?

I think the most interesting thing is how amendments can amend not only bills or other amendments but can also be just out there in anticipation of legislation, which makes the data model interesting.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

I suppose most people are surprised to learn that I was an art major.

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