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New Enhancements including Advanced Search

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 06/15/2016 - 5:29pm

New Advanced Search Guided Form for Legislation with Agriculture Example

Today continues to be enhanced with the addition of a new Advanced Search Guided Form, a more web-friendly version of the Congressional Record Daily Digest, new and updated browse reports, and more. Since announcing the July 5 retirement of THOMAS, we have added several new RSS feeds and email alerts including saved search email alerts. These enhancements are in addition to the April update where Quick Search was expanded.

To get a clear sense of the power of the new Advanced Search, I asked Kimberly Ferguson for a research scenario to share. In her scenario the researcher knows:

  1. Every few years you know that Congress passes a “farm bill” into law.  You do not know which congresses [so you select “All Congresses”] and you do not know the bill number [so skip that box].
  2. You are relatively certain that a variation of the word “agriculture” will be in the title of the bill [so you check “Titles” in the “Words and Phrases” area, and leave “Word Variants” selected].
  3. You know that you are only interested in examining bills that became law [so you could check the box for “Check only legislation that can become law”. However, you can go down a bit further and select “Laws” from the “Actions/Status” area].
  4. You could also select the “Agriculture and Food” Policy Area.
  5. Finally, you know that this “farm bill” always goes to conference and in order to become law, the conference report has to be agreed to in both the House and Senate [so check both of those boxes from the “Full List” of Actions].
  6. Hit “Search” and find your results list of 38 bills. Then you remember that you only want measures that originated in the House – so you use the “Chamber of Origin” facet to reduce the list down to 28.  Now sort the list by “Newest to Oldest” and start reading.

What else is new with this release?

There are new Browse lists for nominations by PN Number Ascending and Descending.  There are also updated House Reports, Senate Reports, and Executive Reports browse lists.

Speaking of new items to browse, you can now browse the Congressional Record from 1989-1994 (101st to 103rd Congresses) in the Congressional Record Archive.

Margaret and Robert make it easier to see what is new on the Appropriations Chart with a Latest Update section at the top of the page.  The Latest Update is also feeding a new RSS feed that you can find on the growing list of items now found on the RSS and Email Alerts page.

Latest Update on Appropriations

The Daily Digest of the Congressional Record has been given a web-friendly makeover.  Rather than retro text like on the right in the example below, it is now stylized.

Congressional Record Daily Digest
New Web-Friendly Version on the Left, Previous Version on the Right

Robert has a run-down on our Enhancements page of all the things that are new and improved in this set of changes.

June 2016

New feature – Advanced Search Guided Form:

  • Advanced Search is now a guided form with help specific to legislative research
  • Query Builder is the new name for the old Advanced Search
  • New Advanced Search provides links to Query Builder and Command Line search

Enhancement – Legislation:

  • Roll Call Votes total of House and Senate votes on bill overviews
  • Roll Call Votes facet on the Actions tab
  • Public Laws browse report includes TXT | PDF links

Enhancement – Congressional Record: 

  • Web-friendly Daily Digest
  • Congressional Record archive for 1989-1994 (101-103rd Congresses) added

Enhancement – Highlighting: 

  • Amendments, bill texts, related bills, subjects, and titles have highlighting
  • Phrase highlighting is supported

Enhancement – Saved Search:
o    Quick Search forms include Save Search links

Enhancement – Browse: 

  • House, Senate, and executive committee reports browse lists
  • New “Nominations by Number” browse lists

New feature – Command Line Search:

  • No stem and case variants are supported for the allBillTitles field

Enhancement – Treaties and Nominations:

  •  “All Information” pages have been added

New Historic data – Senate Executive Communications:

  • Senate Executive Communications for 1979-1986 (96-99th Congresses)

New Feature – RSS Feed:

  • An RSS Feed is now available that will update subscribers each time the most current appropriation table is updated.

This will be the last major release before THOMAS retires on July 5th.

For those interested in learning more about and other legislative branch projects, next Tuesday, June 21, there will be the fifth annual Legislative Data and Transparency Conference (#LDTC16) in the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium. The event is hosted by the Committee on House Administration. During it I will provide an overview of the recent enhancements to

Remember to keep sending us feedback on

Categories: Research & Litigation

Happy 241st Birthday, United States Army!

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 06/14/2016 - 3:00pm

The following is a guest post by Fernando O. González, who has previously had his photos featured on several blogs. Fernando is a 13-year Army Veteran currently serving as an Army Reserve Career Counselor, providing guidance and support to Army Reserve Soldiers and their families.

June 14th is recognized as Flag Day in the United States. While it is not a federal holiday, this observance commemorates the June 14, 1777 adoption of the American flag by the Second Continental Congress. 36 U.S. Code § 110 designates June 14th as Flag Day and requests that the President make a proclamation of observance every year. Margaret covered the history of Flag Day in greater detail in a blog post from 2012. Did you know that this date is also recognized as the United States Army’s birthday?

On June 14, 1775, the Second Continental Congress voted to form ten companies of riflemen from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland, also allocating $2,000,000 to support this newly-formed Continental Army. One day later, George Washington was selected commander-in-chief. He received his commission on June 19 and formally assumed command in Cambridge, Massachusetts on July 3, 1775.

Over the past 241 years, the U.S. Army has expanded to include a variety of specialized skills and tasks required to carry out its missions, both operational (i.e., those carrying out operations around the world) and institutional (i.e., those providing logistical support). Every soldier in the Army belongs to a branch. A soldier could be an infantryman or perhaps a logistician serving in the Quartermaster Corps. Each branch has its own distinct history while also playing a key role in ensuring the Army as a whole operates as it should. This diagram provides a visual on how the Army is organized.

I want you for U.S. Army : nearest recruiting station / James Montgomery Flagg.

The Army consists of its Active Duty component, which serves full-time, and its Reserve and National Guard components, made up primarily of soldiers serving part-time while always being ready to provide full-time support as directed. According to the 2015 Army Posture Statement, a document produced annually by the Department of the Army and presented to the United States Senate, the current target size for the Army is 980,000 soldiers – 450,000 Regular Army (i.e., Active Component), 335,000 Army National Guard, and 195,000 Army Reserve.

The Army offers a variety of events to celebrate its birthday. The Army website also offers resources and documents as well as frequently asked questions pages for more information. The Library of Congress supports all Armed Forces veterans especially through the Veterans History Project.


The opinions expressed here are the author’s, and they do not necessarily represent the official position of the United States Army.

Categories: Research & Litigation

How Do You Say “Law” in…?

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 9:12am

I work in an amazing place. We sometimes refer to it as a mini United Nations because we have staff from around the globe.  Our Global Legal Research Directorate provides a wealth of foreign, international, and comparative reports for Congress.  You can access our foreign law reference collection in the Global Legal Resource Room. There is also a series of posts, Global Legal Collection Highlights, which feature resources in our collection for a specific jurisdiction.

As we are the Law Library of Congress, I thought it would be nice to ask staff to say the word in their native language.

How do you say “Law” in…?

  • Prawo in Polish by Agata and Aga
  • Direito in Portuguese by Eduardo
  • Droit in French by Nicolas
  • قانون (Qanoun) in Arabic by George
  • قانون (Kanoon) in Urdu by Tariq
  • Recht in German by Jenny
  • право in Russian by Peter
  • ሕጊ (hgi) in Tigrinya by Hanibal
  • 法律 (Fa Lü) in Chinese by Laney
  • Derecho in Spanish by Francisco
  • আইন (Ā’ina) in Bengali by Shameema
  • משפט (Mishpat) in Hebrew by Ruth

If your native language is different from any of the ones listed here (and there are a lot of them), please share the word for law and the language below.

Categories: Research & Litigation

New Saved Search Email Alerts on

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 06/09/2016 - 9:26am

After announcing legislation, Members of Congress, and the Congressional Record email alerts last year, I began to see requests for saved search email alerts.  This is a feature that was not available on THOMAS that we are excited to now offer on

How do you get the new Saved Search Alerts?

  • Do you have a account? If not, create an account.
  • Do you have any Saved Searches? If so, click “Get alerts” next to the title and when the results set changes, you will get an email.

    Sign In

That is a quick way to get Saved Search Alerts if you already have Saved Searches.  I have tested alerts and have some suggested steps to share if you are starting without Saved Searches.

  • To save time, first, make sure you are signed in (top right of the site).

Execute your search, refine with facets, and select “Save this Search.”

Name the search and click Save.

  • Set up a relatively well defined search.  I find it helpful to have a smaller results set.  This helps make it easier to see what changed since the last time you ran the search.  The facets are great to narrow to a manageable results set.
  • To get started, let’s create a Saved Search Alert for when proposed legislation becomes a law.  Do a blank search of Current Legislation and select “Became Law.”  When I ran this, there were 156 items in the results list.
  • Select “Save this Search” from the upper left.
  • In the pop up add a Title and Description. Click Save.
  • Then click “Get alerts” after it has been saved.


Click “Get alerts” and confirm.

This Saved Search Alert leverages the legislation search.

The Saved Search Alerts also work well for the Congressional Record.  You can set up an alert to let you know when a specific word or phrase is mentioned in the Congressional Record.  For example, I helped George set up a Saved Search Alert for mentions of Egypt in the Congressional Record.  My personal favorite is one I set one up to send me an email any time “Library of Congress” is mentioned (which you can replace with a name or phrase of your choice).

A big tip is to make sure you set the Sort to Newest to Oldest.  That way when you get the email alert and click the link, you can see what is new at the top of the list.  When you do a normal search on, the default is Relevancy.  I try to avoid saving a search sorted by Relevancy because it is much harder to determine what is new to the list when you receive the email than Newest to Oldest.

Sample Saved Search Alert Email

This is the first iteration of our Saved Search Alerts and one more to add to our growing RSS and Email Alerts page.  Please let us know what you think!

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Julie McVey, Metadata Technician

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 06/08/2016 - 4:22pm

Today’s interview is with Julie McVey, a metadata technician working with the Digital Resources Division this summer on our digitization projects.

Describe your background.

I’m from a small town in Arkansas near Little Rock and moved to the D.C. area with my husband in fall 2014 for graduate school. I’ve always been passionate about history and culture, and was thrilled to move to America’s cultural and political center. I have been here for almost two years and will complete my graduate studies next spring.

What is your academic/professional history?

Photo by Andrew Weber

I have a bachelor’s degree in history and after graduating in 2011 I worked in a museum in Little Rock for three years. The museum, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, focuses on Arkansas’s African American history and culture. I worked in the collections and exhibitions department, first as assistant registrar and then as collections manager. During my time there I helped research and develop several wonderful exhibitions, including a large exhibit about the African American experience during the Civil War. I decided to attend graduate school to advance my career in cultural institutions, and I am currently a student at the University of Maryland in College Park, in the history and library science dual-master’s program.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I work with a team of volunteers to create and apply descriptive metadata (data about data) to Supreme Court decisions. Our work will render these records text-searchable and give users browsing capabilities, making them openly accessible to the public.

Why did you want to work at the Library of Congress?

Aside from being an amazing cultural institution that preserves history and culture from all over the world, the Library serves countless people in so many different ways every day. The Law Library itself has an amazing span of services. From digital projects like the ones I work on to serving scholars across the globe, this institution impacts people on every level, from the local to the international. I’m excited to be a part of an organization that serves an important purpose and to work with a diverse range of interesting and talented people.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library of Congress?

I’m amazed by all the diverse projects and people that work in the Law Library. I’m continually awed by the amount of information and expertise about any subject related to law that I can imagine (and even some I couldn’t!). The sheer amount of resources is also astounding; knowing that the shelf space for the Law Library covers nearly the equivalent of two football fields is very cool.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

I love being outside and exploring the many beautiful landscapes around the D.C. area. Most recently I backpacked and camped in West Virginia along the North Fork Mountain ridgeline. My favorite part of the trip was Chimney Top, a rock formation along the cliffs, which has spectacular views of the West Virginia mountains!

Categories: Research & Litigation


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