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Photo of Mike Queen with two dogs on the National Mall with the Washington Monument in the background
Mike Queen on the National Mall with Connor and Susie Q. Photo by Sarah Terrill.

A Congress.gov Interview with Mike Queen, Legislative Data Specialist

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Today’s Congress.gov interview is with Mike Queen. Mike is a legislative data specialist in the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Describe your background.

I have worked in libraries for over twenty years, most recently as a reference librarian with the Library of Congress Serial and Government Publications Division. Before coming to the Library, I spent 10 years with the U.S. House of Representatives Library conducting legislative research and maintaining that library’s website. I gained valuable legal research experience as a circulation manager at the George Mason University Law Library. I began my library career at the Arlington (Virginia) Public Library in the lowly, yet essential, position of student aide.

I am Vietnamese American and my hometown is Washington, D.C. I was born here but grew up overseas, due to my father’s job as a U.S. diplomat. My wife, Sarah, and I are devoted pet parents to Connor, a pug-Pekinese and Susie Q, a beagle. Our idea of the perfect vacation is a trip to Vegas.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I am member of the CRS Congress.gov team that helps maintain Congress.gov, ensuring that members of Congress, congressional staff, and the public can find the legislative information they need. My official, rather boring, title is Legislative Data Analyst. My team is responsible for making sure that the data received from Congress, the Government Publishing Office (GPO), and other sources are accessible, discoverable, and searchable on Congress.gov. We oversee the CRS Congress.gov Help Desk, fielding queries from congressional staff and CRS users. Experience conducting legislative research and familiarity with the intricacies of information technology is essential. In short, I get to see how the proverbial sausage gets made, because I am one of the sausage makers.

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

I perform quality assurance of incoming data and work with developers, the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, and other data partners to make sure that content on Congress.gov is accurate and up to date. I work on projects, such as enhancing access to the committee collections and automating bill title changes. I also provide instruction on how to use Congress.gov, which includes demonstrating new features.

What is your favorite feature of Congress.gov?

The Congressional Record is similar to a daily newspaper. Each issue, published each day Congress is in session, contains a verbatim transcript of proceedings on the chamber floor of both the House and Senate. Every speech, debate, and word uttered on the floor, as well as some remarks not spoken, yet inserted for the record, appear in the Congressional Record. The Daily Digest section is the schedule for that particular day, including bills or measures under consideration and committee meetings held.

Essentially, the Congressional Record is a detailed account of the day-to-day activities of Congress. So, if you missed the President’s State of the Union address, for example, you can read the transcript in the Congressional Record, because the speech was delivered on the House floor. Oh, and did I mention that the Congressional Record is available as far back as 1873?

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

The process is very convoluted with numerous documents produced throughout the process. So, where do you begin your research? The bill text may seem like a logical place to start, but I would not recommend it, because it is difficult to digest. I have learned over the years that the vast majority of the legislative work, the drafting of bills, takes place within congressional committees.

When a committee completes work on a measure, a report, referred to as a House Report or Senate Report, is published detailing their findings. Committee reports provide two key pieces of information: 1. an explanation of what the bill is about and 2. reasons the bill should be enacted. In addition, these reports often include a section-by-section analysis of the bill, committee amendments (changes) to the bill, and dissenting viewpoints. The best part is that, unlike bills, committee reports are written in plain English. Therefore, I usually begin my research with committee reports and move on from there.

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

I’m a big fan of comic books. As a kid, I did not have much access to TV, so comic books were my entertainment. Sadly, my parents made me give away my comic book collection when I was in junior high as part of one of our many moves. However, in my last position, I got the opportunity to work with the Library of Congress’ comic book collection, one of the largest in the United States with over 165,000 original issues from the 1930s through to the present. Many of them are rare like Sensation Comics no. 1 (1942), the first cover appearance of Wonder Woman and my favorite comic book, Amazing Fantasy no. 15 (1962), the first appearance of Spider-Man. In other words, I got paid to read and research comic books. I have even written a few articles for the Library’s Headlines and Heroes Blog: Newspapers, Comics & More Fine Print.  By the way, Steve Ditko’s original Spider-Man artwork for Amazing Fantasy no. 15 can be found in the Prints and Photographs Division.

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