Saturday, February 19, 2011
Although many people aren't even aware of what the CRS is, Sawyer Library is very happy to have a new fulltext database containing their materials. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) serves as shared staff to congressional committees and Members of Congress. One of their key charges is to produce research reports on " major policy issues." They approach their "complex topics from a variety of perspectives and examine all sides of an issue. Staff members analyze current policies and present the impact of proposed policy alternatives."
CRS reports are very valuable documents, but it has always been difficult to find their research brought together in one place. However, individual libraries, social action groups and corporate sites have always done part of the job. For example, the Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) has a nice searchable collection of CRS Reports on environmental and related topics. And the Law Library at the University of Maryland has attempted to organize CRS Reports related to Homeland Security/Terrorism and Health Law & Policy. But everything is here and there, throughout the web, with frustrating gaps aplenty!
That's why this database, on the familiar EbscoHost interface is potentially so useful. GalleryWatch CRS Reports contains the largest and most up-to-date collection of CRS Reports available online. The GalleryWatch CRS Reports database includes abstracts and PDF full text for more than 35,000 CRS reports and is updated daily, "enabling researchers to keep track of issues as they are presented and discussed in the ever-changing environment of Capitol Hill." Content spans 1993-present and covers a host of subject areas. Current and archived versions of each report are included, providing comprehensive coverage of edits and amendments.
Subjects covered by the reports include hot-button policy issues like immigration, health care financing and terrorism, but many other topics from taxation to medicine to environmental challenges are also covered. All records should include a searchable abstract as well as a PDF fulltext document. There aren't a lot of subject headings (controlled vocabulary) here, so you might want to keep your search broad (like hospitals) to start with, and also stay very flexible, searching your topic in multiple ways. If you know the name of a particular piece of legislation (like PATRIOT Act or TARP), you can search that. If you want to search for a bill number, just remember to use the periods in the title and put it in quotation marks (e.g., "H.R. 1424"). Otherwise, you will either get too many false drops....or nothing at all.
I hope that Ebsco is able to improve the indexing of this database as it moves forward. But even, as is, it will help people from many disciplines and departments find useful and supposedly "impartial" research related to American government and life.
[Find GalleryWatch CRS Reports on our Business, Social Sciences and Sciences database lists.]