This week, the Library of Congress, in collaboration with the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and the Government Printing Office (GPO), unveiled Congress.gov, a new public beta site for accessing free, fact-based legislative information. Congress.gov, at beta.congress.gov, eventually will replace the public THOMAS system and the congressional Legislative Information System (LIS).
Congress.gov features platform mobility, comprehensive information retrieval and user-friendly presentation.
THOMAS, named for Jefferson, was launched by the Library in 1995 as a bipartisan initiative of Congress and averages 10 million visits each year. The system has been updated over the years, but the foundation can no longer support the capabilities that today’s Internet users have come to expect, including access on mobile devices.
Using best practices for retrieving and displaying information, the refined, user-friendly system also will make finding and using legislative information more intuitive, comprehensive and accessible than the existing system. Congress.gov connects the information with a title and URL more readily identified by all constituencies.
The Congress.gov site includes bill status and summary, bill text and member profiles and the following new features:
- Effective display on mobile devices;
- Ability to narrow and refine search results;
- Ability to simultaneously search all content across all available years, with some files dating from the 93rd congress;
- Easier identification of current bill status;
- Members’ legislative history and biographical profiles;
- Maintenance of existing features such as links to video of the House and Senate floor, top searched bills and the save/share feature.
Data for the information system is provided by multiple legislative branch partners in this effort, including the Office of the Secretary of the Senate, the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms, the Office of the Chief Administrative Office of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Government Printing Office.
The project was chaired by Deputy Librarian of Congress Robert Dizard Jr. Development of the new site was a collaborative effort drawing from expertise across the Library, including technical experts from the Office of Strategic Initiatives and congressional protocol and subject matter experts from the Congressional Research Service and the Law Library of Congress.
The Library is releasing Congress.gov as a beta site to enable a period of time for collecting user feedback and refining functionality while other content is incorporated. Other data, such as the Congressional Record, committee reports, nominations, treaties and communications, will be incorporated over time in a planned, prioritized order. The Library anticipates Congress.gov will operate as a beta site for approximately one year as this work is completed. During that time, both THOMAS and LIS will continue to operate as usual.