Access to Congressional Research Service reports is important but not guaranteed

I’ve talked here before about CRS reports and how even though they’re created on the public’s dime, there’s no easy and simple way to search for and actually access them without requesting them one by one via your congresspeople. This is frustrating. Apparently, it’s not even widely known that this is not the case. Secrecy News Blog, from the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, reports that the Librarian of Congress isn’t even quite clear on this.

Members of the public enjoy unrestricted access to all reports of the Congressional Research Service, according to the Librarian of Congress, Dr. James H. Billington.

Though CRS has no direct public mission, at present the public has unfettered access to the full inventory of CRS Reports for the Congress at no cost through the office of any Member or committee,” he wrote in an April 4 letter (pdf) to Amy Bennett of Openthegovernment.org.

Unfortunately, that assertion is quite wrong. The public does not have access to the full inventory of CRS Reports. There is not even a public index of CRS reports that would enable people to request specific reports by title.

If you find this sort of thing totally fascinating, please familiarize yourself with the work that OpenCRS is doing and see if there is a way you can help them. Just look at all this good stuff. [freegovinfo]

Open CRS and USAPA

I read a mailing list called Secrecy News via RSS. One of the things they frequently link to are Congressional Research Service reports. These produce some of the best research out there on various important topics. They are public domain content and are free as in beer. However it’s often easier to find these documents via fee-based services than out on the open web despite web sites like Open CRS. There is a newish report that should be required reading for all librarians: Libraries and the USA PATRIOT Act, originally published in February 2003 now updated for July 2005.