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a headshot photo of William Blackerby
William Blackerby. Photo by Jerry Almonte.

A Congress.gov Interview with William Blackerby, Legislative Data Specialist

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

Describe your background.

Before joining the Congressional Research Service, I taught Latin and Greek for several years at a small independent school outside Birmingham, Alabama. I have a B.A. in classical languages from Sewanee and an M.L.I.S. from the University of Alabama.

In library school, I spent a semester as a remote metadata intern in the Law Library of Congress, an opportunity that allowed me to explore my longstanding interest in the use of technology for organizing and processing large volumes of textual data, which I now get to do every day!

How would you describe your job to other people?

I and my CRS Congress.gov teammates monitor the timeliness, accuracy, and completeness of legislative data that is ingested into and displayed on Congress.gov. We also translate user feedback into actionable enhancement requests that Congress.gov developers implement, and we provide training and support for Congress.gov users.

What is your role in the development of Congress.gov

Currently, I am primarily focusing on maintaining and enhancing automated testing and reporting of our data quality monitoring processes and on improving the Congress.gov search experience. These are interesting problems that align really well with my interests and, though challenging, are a lot of fun to work on.

What is your favorite feature of Congress.gov?

I really like the member activity section of the member profile pages. Having all of a member’s legislative activity collected in one place and both browsable by facets like sponsorship, legislation status, and bill type and sortable by several different criteria makes understanding members’ interests and activity much easier.

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

The interplay between the two chambers as they work to resolve differences on proposed amendments to bills they have exchanged is fascinating and complex. Congress.gov is a useful tool for exploring and understanding what is in different versions of bill texts!

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

I enjoy listening to and, especially, playing old time fiddle music. Being the parent of a young child means I do not have as much time to do that as I used to, but I still enjoy scratching out a few tunes from time to time.

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