This week’s interview is with Amy Swantner, specialist in legislative information systems management within the Congressional Research Service (CRS) of the Library of Congress. Our Congress.gov interview series highlights some of the people who have contributed to the legislative information system (including Meg, Rich, Barry, Rohit, Andy, Val, and Stephen).
I am an information professional with many years of experience developing online information products for professional users. Prior to coming to the Congressional Research Service in 2010, I worked for a publishing company serving legal, tax and accounting professionals. I also worked for a government contractor while pursuing my master’s degree in library and information science (MSLIS) at The Catholic University of America.
How would you describe your job to other people?
As a specialist in legislative information systems management, I help ensure our users can find what they need whether it’s the text of a recently introduced bill or a list of public laws from a past Congress. I do this not only by supporting individual researchers directly with search tips and other research guidance, but also by proposing enhancements to the site to benefit all users.
What is your role in the development of Congress.gov?
I’m an advocate for end users, helping to articulate why a particular feature or functionality is important enough to spend limited resources on developing. I do a lot of user acceptance testing (UAT) for each new release of the site, and I help to troubleshoot issues we discover during our testing. I also create help pages and other user-support and training materials.
What is your favorite feature of Congress.gov?
Good question. Congress.gov has several notable improvements over THOMAS and our internal legacy system, such as the ability to search across all document types and congresses at once, to refine search results using facets or search within, and to sort results in different ways. I also really appreciate the durable, predictable URLs for every page on the site.
But if I have to pick a favorite, it is the committee profile pages. Committees are at the heart of the legislative process and this new feature makes it easy to find in one place everything you need to know about the activity of a particular committee.
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the legislative process while working on Congress.gov?
I’ve learned that while there is a natural inclination to talk about the legislative process in hard and fast terms, it is important to not forget there are many ways the process can vary. It makes it a little difficult to establish what are known as business rules for the software that ingests, stores and retrieves the bits of data that come to us from multiple sources. We are fortunate to have developers who are very good at programming around the quirks of the legislative process.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
I love to dance and have taken classes in ballet and tap since I was 3 years old. My current passion is Egyptian belly dancing.
I also once worked as a florist, and I can still make a mean corsage!