Library of Congress Virtual Public Forum: September 13, 2023

The Library of Congress held its Virtual Public Forum on on September 13, 2023. Video of the proceedings is available here.

Unfortunately, the annual meeting between civil society and Library of Congress stakeholders about last week was a missed opportunity.

It started off well, with a welcome from the CIO, Judith Conklin, that set a positive tone. We were pleased to see her engage, as well as Jim Karamanis, the Library’s Director of IT Design & Development. Key leaders at the Library made presentations that addressed the top 10 enhancements to, how CRS generates bill summaries, the Constitution Annotated, ongoing work by the Law Library of Congress, and the API. It was also clear that many Library of Congress representatives were in the room. (We may publish a more in-depth recap on our blog.)

The good news. We were glad to see an official announcement that the API is no longer in beta. This is a significant milestone. The creation of a public-facing API was a longstanding public request and it was great to see it come to fruition. Similarly, we were pleased to see that millions of people were going to the Constitution Annotated website, which the public had urged the Library to create for more than a decade.

In addition, the meeting covered improved access to member statements in the Congressional Record, the inclusion of the Senate amendment text on, and ongoing significant digitization efforts, including back dates for the Congressional Record and the serial set (i.e., committee reports).

There were productive conversations on some issues as well. This included how to make the Congressional Record, which is published as a gigantic PDF, available in a more digestible format. It also addressed how to improve availability of Senate amendments, where the Library is working to make it possible to download a bunch of amendments at once.

We must give kudos to the Senate, which is now providing links to videos of its committee proceedings to It appears hopeful that we will soon have video from Senate committee proceedings integrated into We also may have more transcripts of Senate proceedings available in near-real time, which will be helpful for persons with disabilities.

In addition, an important problem was raised by the public. The feedback form can only be submitted once, which is a problem that many of us have noticed but was not known to the Library. They will work to address it. In addition, one can always provide feedback on their Github account.

We also had a useful discussion on whether the Library could help track information expected to be on but not yet available. There are instances where the text of bills are expected, the summary of bills are expected, but not yet available. Having a dashboard that helps us see the backlog would be helpful.

We note, however, that getting a productive answer depended on which stakeholder answered. The CIO, the Law Library, the Senate, and others were forthcoming and willing to engage. That was not the case with matters that touched upon CRS.

Running into roadblocks. Participants, including us, asked for updates on matters of importance to the public. Many of these issues concerned matters well known in advance to the Library and often discussed at prior meetings. Among the questions were:

* Would the Library consider publishing brief summaries of Senate amendments along with their amendment numbers to prevent users from having to click each one to see what they contain? (Summaries already are published in the Congressional Record.)

* Would the Library consult with stakeholders as requested by Congress in the FY 2023 appropriations package regarding improving tracking related legislation on, such as identical bills from the same Congress or reintroduced from prior Congresses? (Demand Progress Education Fund built a tool, called BillMap, that does exactly this.)

* Whether Rules Committee amendments could be integrated into

* Whether the Library would incorporate floor proceeding info into its calendar page that already publishes announcements of committee proceeding? Did it submit a report on this topic to appropriators as requested?

* What is the status of a report requested in the FY 2024 Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations report on the various options and challenges for providing appropriations information as a spreadsheet? The report was due Aug. 27.

* Would CRS publish all non-confidential CRS reports online and would it publish current reports online as HTML?

* Whether the Library has had further discussions with GAO about publishing links to GAO reports that GAO has identified as relating to upcoming congressional hearings?

* Would the Library consider using AI to summarize legislation?

Many times, representatives of the Library looked to CRS to provide an answer, which was almost always a sentence at most and contained little to no information. (There were one or two exceptions.) This made it very hard to have a conversation, as the representatives from CRS did not appear empowered to have a conversation Perhaps that was not what happend, but that perception was widespread among attendees.

This contrasted with views of other stakeholders at the Library, who seemed willing and eager to engage.

We note the recent departure of CRS’s director in less than favorable circumstances. Perhaps this is institutional drag from that leadership or waiting for guidance from the interim director? We cannot tell.

With the Congressional Research Service serving as the data owner for key pieces of information, for modernization to take place inside the Library and across the Legislative Branch, we need them to be an active and willing and engaged participant.

Prior Meetings for which we’ve published a summary

2023: March 2023 CDTF Meeting | June CDTF Meeting | September LC Virtual Public Forum | September Hackathon 5.0 | December CDTF Meeting (scheduled)

2022: December 2022 | September CDTF Meeting | September LC Virtual Public Forum | June CDTF | March BDTF | April Hackathon

2021: July BDTF | September LC Virtual Public Forum

2020: September LC Virtual Public Forum

2019: July BDTF | October BDTF |

2018: February 2018 (available upon request) | June LDTC | November BDTF |

2017: April BDTF (available upon request) | June BDTF (available upon request) | December Hackathon

2016: May BDTF | June LDTC (and this)

2015: May LDTC | October Hackathon

2014: February BDTF | June LDTC | December BDTF

2013: February BDTF | May LDTC |

2012: April LDTC |