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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Providing access to CONAN online

From the Government Documents department...

Last month, Senator Russell Feingold, who currently sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the Government Printing Office (GPO) requesting that the publication of an important legal research tool undergo a revision. That tool is The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation.

CONAN, as it’s called, is published every ten years as a single volume, with biennial supplements published in the interim. It’s a cumbersome tome with incomplete coverage, due to the lag time between publication of the supplements. It is available in PDF via GPO Access, but the files are quite large, making navigation of the text impracticable. Furthermore, the electronic version is simply a reproduction of the static print version, without any updates or changes to the material over time. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) does update the material regularly, but does not make the new information available to the public until the next biennial supplement is published. Only members of Congress are privy to the updated content; CRS makes it available to them via the Congressional intranet in XML format. In his letter, Senator Feingold urges the GPO to make the updated content available to the general public as well, thereby granting equal access to everyone easily and inexpensively.

We spotlighted CONAN in this blog in September, just after we received the 2008 biennial supplement in print. Unfortunately, it is already out-of-date, and we won’t receive the next supplement until 2011. If Congress has access to the most current information in a format that is easily searchable, why shouldn’t we?