Last week, the Library of Congress launched Congress.gov (http://beta.congress.gov/), a new website that is in the process of integrating all of the information currently in Thomas (and more)! I am excited about this new website. Although I have so appreciated the information on Thomas (especially the fact that it has made Congressional material freely available to the public), it is often confusing to use and it can be hard to find information.
Some of the changes I notice already are the user-friendly search features that allow for searching across many fields at once. Additionally, the results are easier to understand. For example, bills can now be more easily identified (I found Thomas to be most useful if I already knew the bill number which was rarely the case). The interface is cleaner. For example, once a bill or a piece of legislation is identified, it is clearly identified where the bill currently stands in the legislative process, and one can look at the actions, amendments, and other features of the bill through clearly marked tabs.
Look at the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as an example. I found it with typing in a few keywords. It manages to take a complicated piece of legislation and break it down so the researcher can see every aspect of the law without trying to cobble it together. There is even a pull-down menu for the different bill summaries. I worked with a professor on research about this bill when it first became law, and we had a lot of trouble breaking down this information. I wish we had this handy information then!
The new site has other features such as profiles of members of Congress dating back to 1973. It is unclear what the coverage will be for legislative documents, but that information will be posted soon. I am hoping there will be clear links to the authenticated documents on FDsys.
Take a look at Congress.gov. It is already looking like it’s going to be a fantastic resource and a vast improvement over Thomas. If you have thoughts or comments on Congress.gov, contact Emily Feltren, AALL’s Director of Government Relations. She is currently compiling librarian feedback. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.