Cracking Open the CRS

This week, I want to point our readers over to a recent post by Joe Hodnicki at the Law Librarian Blog. Joe notes a letter sent recently to the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, requesting that Dr. Billington appoint a Director of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) to assist in the release of unclassified and non-confidential CRS Reports. Among others, the American Association of Law Libraries, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Free Government Information, Public Citizen and the Sunlight Foundation signed the letter. (A full list appears in the blog post.)

The letter speaks to the accessibility of these valuable public policy (and public domain) documents, which are prepared by the Congressional Research Service for the members and staff of the U.S. Congress. While U.S. taxpayers spend nearly $100 million to fund the CRS, Congress does not disseminate the reports in any systematic way, and no comprehensive list of these reports is even publicly available from which to request reports.

I know it’s not lost on most of you that this is a movie we’ve seen before (or, rather, we see time and time again). It’s time to remove the barriers to access and paywalls we see that surround all public domain legal and government materials.

Resources

Several libraries and other open government organizations are committed to providing free and open access to CRS Reports. Below are a few to check out if you’re interested in reviewing these reports or, if you have actually obtained a report as a result of a request to a member of Congress, you can upload them as well.

opencrs – Access and upload CRS reports here.

University of North Texas Digital Library – CRS Reports Collection

National Council for Science and the Environment – Access to CRS Reports related to the environment and other related topics.

U.S. Department of State – CRS Reports and issues briefs.

Thurgood Marshall Law Library (University of Maryland College of Law) – CRS Reports on homeland security/terrorism and health law & policy.

Federation of American Scientists – CRS Reports on national security, foreign policy and related topics.

Update: @freegovinfo also made note of the following source (thanks!):

CRS Reports “Uber” Archive from Archive-It