July Issue of Washington E-Bulletin

July 31, 2012

The July issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is now available on AALLNET.

IN THIS ISSUE

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

  • New Advocacy Resources from the Government Relations Office

STAY INFORMED/GET INVOLVED: News and Action Alerts

  • Action Alert: Tell Your Representative to Support Public Access to CRS Reports
  • Highlights from the 2012 Annual Meeting
  • Legislative Progress Report

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: Chapter News

  • Chapter Government Relations Roundtable Report

FREE TIME WELL SPENT: Further Reading and Resources for the Info Policy Junkie

  • GPO Launches New Training Modules
  • Building the 2008 End of Term Web Archive
  • AALL Members Make Fastcase 50
  • Statue of Law in the Library of Congress’s Main Reading Room

AALL Action Alert: Tell Your Representative to Support Public Access to CRS Reports

July 18, 2012

On Tuesday July 10, Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ-07) and Mike Quigley (D-Ill-05) introduced H. Res. 727, the Public Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Resolution of 2012. The resolution would require the Congressional Research Service (CRS) to make their reports publicly available. CRS is a division of the Library of Congress which provides policy and legal analysis for use by members of Congress and their staff. American taxpayers spend more than $100 million a year supporting the work of the CRS.

Similar to reports by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Congressional Budget Office (CBO), CRS reports offer in-depth information and analysis across the entire legislative process and are governed by requirements for accuracy, objectivity, and non-partisanship. While the GAO and CBO have made their work publicly available, the CRS has not.

Websites such as Open CRS and the University of North Texas Libraries already provide a public service by making thousands of reports freely available online, and commercial third-party services offer the reports for a fee. Members of the public can request a particular report from their Congressional representatives, but only if they are already aware of the existence of the report.

The Lance-Quigley measure would direct the Clerk of the House to make CRS reports available for search and download on a publicly accessible website. Confidential and copyrighted information would be redacted, along with the names and contact information for the report’s author and confidential memoranda between CRS and individual members of Congress.

CRS reports play a critical role in our democratic process by providing key historical context and options for further action. When made publicly available, CRS reports inform the public debate about our nation’s most urgent policy priorities. AALL has long advocated for the public availability of these reports. We believe the public has a strong interest in accessing these valuable, taxpayer-funded reports and a right to do so.

Contact your Representative today and ask him/her to support H. Res. 727. You can use our Legislative Action Center to customize and send a sample message, or follow tips from the newly redesigned Advocacy Toolkit to call or meet with your member of Congress. Whichever method you choose, it is crucial to speak out in support of this important bill.

Thank you for all the work that you do!


Using Print Legal Materials? Share Your Story!

July 16, 2012

Hopefully by now you’ve seen—and used— AALL’s new Print Resource Usage Log. This new tool was developed by the Government Relations Office, in consultation with the Government Relations Committee, in response to the increasing threat of the elimination of print legal materials and reference publications. The log is a quick and easy way to record evidence of the continued need for legal materials in print and other tangible formats.

We’ve already received some great entries to the log. Here are some highlights:

  • Pamela Kaufman, Law Librarian at the Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Library at Stamford, recently logged the use of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and U.S. Code. She wrote, “An attorney was researching the eligibility requirements for the Stafford Loan Forgiveness Program for Teachers. Using the public law number, we found where the law was codified in the United States Code Service. After reviewing the annotations to the statute he wanted to look at any related regulations in the CFR.” Why was she using the print? “The attorney wanted to read the annotated version of the United States Code, something our library does not have electronically.”
  • A librarian at a private firm noted how much more accessible print resources can be when attorneys use multiple titles of the CFR every day.  She prefers the print “to be able to look at multiple provisions simultaneously without having to continually expand the table of contents at FDsys to find other provisions, or hav[ing] to bear the search expense of looking in Westlaw or Lexis.”
  • Deborah Darin, Reference Librarian & Legal Research Adjunct Professor at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, uses print resources as a teaching tool in her role as an instructor.  She introduces her students to the print version in class, then has them find things in it while she assists. She believes her students get a much better idea of what is in these sources of primary law if they can first examine them in print: “Many of them have said the light bulb stayed on after [using the print], and when they got to their summer jobs, they were confident in their ability to search and use the material in any format, after having seen it in print”
  • Maria Willmer, Legal Research Specialist at DePaul College of Law Library, shared the story of how the print not only ruled, but it saved the day!  She wrote,” During a rush request from a Professor for his class, I needed to find a Proposed Rule and track it through to when it became a Final Rule and then find where it was codified in the CFR.  Using the print issues and volume were the best way to track this down.  I pulled a 2010 FR issue in paper – found a proposed rule – pulled the CFR volume where this potential rule would be codified and then back tracked to find the final rule.  I honestly believe having the print volumes in front of me, helped me quickly navigate and find all three documents in a short [amount] of time …print rules (pun intended)!”

Whether chosen for their accessibility, availability, reliability or simply personal preference, print materials are being used in all types of law libraries by many different users . Please help us build the case for print by logging each time you use, or help someone to use, a federal legal resource in print. Your stories will make a difference!

Note:  All statements were printed with the permission of the authors. Your answers to the log will only be recorded and viewed by the AALL Government Relations Office staff, though we will make public an overview of the responses.  


Happy Birthday, FOIA!

July 5, 2012

The fourth of July gives us more than one reason to celebrate— yesterday marked the 46th birthday of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). President Lyndon Johnson signed the historic law on July 4, 1966, and since then, FOIA has become a cornerstone of democracy in America.

In celebration of the anniversary of FOIA, the National Security Archive has posted a compilation of 46 news headlines made possible by FOIA this year.  Drawn from hundreds of FOIA stories in newspapers, blogs, and broadcasts, the sampling includes the FOIA requests that revealed everything from the theft of a bottle of Jack Daniels by TSA agents to the $1.2 trillion of secret Federal Reserve loans to banks.

AALL works to support strong open government laws and has long advocated for improvements to FOIA. Recently, we advocated for the passage of the OPEN Government Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-175), which established the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) as the FOIA Ombudsman. We have also encouraged the development of the recently-previewed FOIA portal to create a uniform, centralized location to make and manage information requests.

There is no doubt that there is room to improve FOIA and, with your help, we will continue to speak out about the need for reform. As President Johnson stated 46 years ago, the historic law has built a foundation for open government on which to expand:

This legislation springs from one of our most essential principles: a democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the Nation permits. No one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions which can be revealed without injury to the public interest…I signed this measure with a deep sense of pride that the United States is an open society in which the people’s right to know is cherished and guarded.

So as you celebrate Independence Day this year, don’t forget to light a candle (or firecracker) for FOIA, too.


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