On September 10, 2020, the Library held its first ever Congress.gov Public Forum to update the public on the work the Library of Congress and its data partners are doing to improve access to legislative information, and more importantly, to listen to your suggestions on how we can better serve your legislative information needs.
The Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, and the Library’s chief information officer, Bud Barton, provided welcoming remarks. Robert Brammer provided an overview of Congress.gov updates for the past year, and Congress.gov product owner, Andrew Weber, provided an update on upcoming Congress.gov features. This presentation was followed by a 20-minute question and answer period moderated by the digital strategy director for the Library of Congress, Kate Zwaard.
Congress.gov aggregates legislative data, so the development of new features depends on the hard work of our data partners, particularly the House, the Senate, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Government Publishing Office (GPO). For our next presentation, the forum featured a panel that discussed data modernization efforts that was moderated by Kimberly Ferguson from the Library’s Congress.gov team. Matt Landgraf, a lead program manager for the GPO XPub initiative, and Lisa LaPlant, the program manager for the GPO site GovInfo, discussed GPO’s data modernization initiatives, including XPub, USLM (United States Legislative Markup), and updates to GovInfo. Kirsten Gullickson, a principal analyst for legislative computer systems at the Office of Clerk of the United States House of Representatives, discussed legacy data modernization efforts, how the Clerk of the House exchanges data with Congress.gov, and how that exchange of data also supplies the Clerk’s new homepage. The panel, including Arin Shapiro, a webmaster and director of web technology from the Office of the Secretary for the United States Senate, then answered questions concerning data modernization for 30 minutes. The Data Modernization panel’s consistent message is that implementing data standards and tools to help clerks support data standards are critical to increased efficiency, transparency, and interoperability for Congressional documents (see Adopting Standardized Formats for Legislative Documents for more information).
The final round of presentations consisted of lightning talks. Erin Hromada, from the Office of the Historian for the United States House of Representatives, discussed the work to improve the Congressional Bioguide. Jeanne Dennis, the acting assistant director of the American Law Division of the Congressional Research Service, provided an update on the Constitution Annotated. Jennifer Gonzalez, a legal information specialist in the Law Library of Congress Digital Resources Division, discussed the Law Library’s work to digitize and describe the United States Statutes at Large, along with her coordination of remote metadata interns located across the country who have made this effort possible. Jay Sweany, the chief of the Law Library of Congress Digital Resources Division, provided an update on the Law Library’s effort to digitize the United States Serial Set.
After the lightning talks concluded, we held a listening session for 60 minutes where we answered questions and listened to suggestions from the audience. Jim Karamanis, the Director of I.T. Design and Development at the Library of Congress Office of the Chief Information Officer, provided closing remarks.
We would like to thank everyone who participated in the public forum or who submitted feedback through the feedback form on Congress.gov. User feedback has driven many of the enhancements to Congress.gov, so please keep your suggestions coming through the survey form. Also, since mobile devices now account for half of all Congress.gov traffic, we would appreciate it if you would share your thoughts on mobile use of the site.
Suggestions received from the audience during the forum included enhancing existing Congress.gov data collections with new features, adding new collections to Congress.gov, and linking existing collections of data together. You can watch a video of the public forum here: