Government Information Issues and Legislation

Broad Public Access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports

The American Library Association endorses the Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act of 2016 (S.2639H.R.4702), which directs the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) to establish and maintain a public website that provides access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports that are searchable, sortable, and downloadable without charge.

CRS reports play a vital role in informing Congressional debate and lawmaking. Thus, this legislation will provide the public with both a window into the legislative process and substantive information critical to its involvement in that process. Once enacted, it also will provide valuable, taxpayer-funded resources to educators, librarians, researchers, journalists and millions of private individuals across the country. ALA believes that passage of the bill is essential to ending the inequity of access for those who cannot afford to commercially purchase CRS-generated information compiled with their tax dollars, as is now often the case when access is available at all. Currently, CRS publications are primarily disseminated by individual Congressional offices or available comprehensively through paid services. Although some of the reports also find their way onto a handful of nonprofit and library websites, such incomplete collections do not guarantee the ease of access and broad use that providing them through the GPO will offer, and which the public has a right to expect.

  • S.2639: Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act of 2016 (Introduced 03/03/2016)
  • H.R.4702: Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act of 2016 (Introduced 03/03/2016)

FOIA Improvement Act of 2016: Public Law No 114-185

The American Library Association thanks Congress and President Obama for the FOIA Improvement Act of 2015.  This law codifies the “presumption of openness” for government documents for future administrations; harnesses technology to improve the FOIA process; limits, to a period of 25 years, the period of time that agencies may keep records of their internal deliberations confidential; and Increases the effectiveness of the FOIA by strengthening the Office of Government Information Services (created in the last FOIA reform bill, the OPEN Government Act of 2007)

The Government Publishing Office (GPO) helps to ensure permanent public access to Federal Government information at no additional charge to the public. The Federal Digital System (www.fdsys.gov) and GPO’s partnerships with approximately 1,200 libraries around the country participating in the Federal Depository Library Program allow the public access to both current and past information.