AALL Program Review: Peeping Thomas: A Little Look at a Big System

By Pat Behles
Gov. Docs. & Reference Librarian
University of Baltimore Law Library 

This program on Thomas was organized and presented by staff of the Law Library of Congress, including speakers Tammie Nelson and Andrew Weber.

Thomas, an online portal for legislative information, was launched at the direction of Congress to make federal legislative information freely available to the public.  Full-text coverage begins with the 101st Congress (1989-90) and bill summaries from 1973 and congressional reports from 1995. Roll call votes, House Floor This Week, House Now, calendars, Congressional Record, treaties, presidential nominations and daily digests are all features. Searching for legislation across one or multiple congresses is also possible.

Among the new updated features covered in the program were: top 5 bills, contact information, feedback options, inclusion of years with the session numbers (Yea!), more search and browse options, better headers and navigation, and links to equivalents in the states (if they exist).

The speakers also addressed what is planned for the future, including direct links to congressional legislators and legislation and archives of congressional websites.

There will be a new system in 2014 for which suggestions are being sought. The backfile will eventually become part of the Century of Lawmaking.  (Both are maintained by the Library of Congress).  The Library of Congress is working with GPO to digitize the permanent edition of the Congressional Record. To facilitate the archiving of committee websites, clerks have been directed to standardize formats.

The presenters will be updating information as it becomes available about the plans.