Another Way to Look at the Congressional Record

I’m going to start this Tech Tips post by assuming that, unlike me, most people don’t love reading the Congressional Record. But newsrooms often like to know what’s in it, and when their elected representatives said it.

The tried and true route for answering such questions is to search via Thomas, the Library of Congress legislative site, or you might try C-SPAN’s Congressional Chronicle. Now there’s another way to see what members of the House and Senate say in the Record from the folks at the Sunlight Foundation, called Capitol Words.
Capitol Words is a search engine for the Record with some nice extras built-in. For example, you can find out the popularity of particular words or phrases over time, or popular words or phrases. The site allows you to narrow the focus to lawmakers from a particular state or party, too. For example, here’s what a comparison of the terms “bailout” and “big banks” looks like.
The site also allows you to browse by date, where you can see popular words and phrases month by month or even day by day. Individual terms have their own pages, so you can see the history and popularity of words such as “preexisting“, for example.
Sunlight gets the text of the Record straight from the Government Printing Office, so it’s the official version. Capitol Words just applies a bit of structure to it by attempting to definitively identify every speaker and index every word. See what you can learn about your state’s delegation by exploring it.
And by the way, if you haven’t checked out that C-SPAN site I referenced, it’s a great way to isolate video or find recordings of a particular speaker – not just in Congress but of any C-SPAN appearance.

Notes from the Chair: Preoccupations for 2012

It has certainly been a very intense year in media: sometimes I wonder if it is the nature of the topics, our times or that there is so much more coverage and awareness. At present I think it is all of these.

As you read this post, massive, visible struggles continue all over the world, most recently this past weekend in Russia, where voters disenchanted with their leadership adopted the slogan: “We Exist.” And since January, countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa have just as fervently been demanding freedom. This Arab Spring movement has some success stories to report, but how these developments will take shape is still unclear. Americans, Canadians and other nations joined the “Occupy” movement to protest economic inequality, some literally occupying the streets and public spaces of their cities, starting their own libraries and newspapers, perhaps feeling that the only way they could achieve change was to establish these societal pillars anew and sit with others under rain-spattered tarps, as many more of their fellow citizens shrugged or sympathized.

Some say the news depresses them. Though this has been a very challenging year in many ways, I am still very hopeful. And as far as all of this outward discontent: it’s hard to imagine people would be so angry, if they didn’t feel hopeful too.

“Person of the Year: The Protester,” TIME magazine cover, announced December 14, 2011

As we wrap up the year, and my term as News Division Chair, I have very much appreciated these tests and lessons learned. I took on this position as it is a good leadership opportunity, and in the process was shown its challenges. Some of the most provocative moments came from hearing directly from members seeking suggestions on, among other issues: advice on keeping a team motivated and guidance on careers. Speaking of teams, we’re fortunate to have one of the finest I’ve worked with in our board and volunteers who have in turn been working for you — in addition to all of us observing and experiencing firsthand the changes in the information ecology and media business.

As I mentioned in this column back in June, it is almost pointless to try and predict the future. So here are three important lessons for any news librarian. These are largely common sense, but I’ve tried to live by these lessons this year and carry them forward into the next, and I thought they would be good for the information / knowledge professional — or anyone.

1. Get on the team(s).

Leadership is about building and continuing relationships, as well as constructing and working in teams. The innovative, successful company is flexible, always learning and doing work within these teams. This should include media entities and their information professionals. If these last two are absent, then I would be very worried. As a potential team member, it’s important to be visible and demonstrate your abilities and knowledge base. We have all heard about developing that “Elevator Speech.” It turns out you need several of these to call up, depending on what needs to be done. But overall, being part of any team will give you good experience in project management – and leadership.

2. Be part of the “pipeline.”

Our managing editor coached me that the library should be as “close to the pipeline as possible.” We worked very hard on that. Clearly for an editor that means: writing and creating content for posting and publication. That’s something we’re doing much more of.

Certainly the development of new ways of thinking and opportunities for archival content as to additional editorial use, context and revenue sources is essential. News librarians should be involved in this process. (I have to give Lany McDonald credit for encouraging me in this area; she’s a terrific leader, team builder and news professional who received the News Division’s highest honor.)

“Engagement” with citizens means listening, employing their ideas, following up on their suggestions and direct conversation and contributions. This has emerged over the past year as a top priority in media. News organizations need help with this. How are you fitting into this (two-way) pipeline?

A company getting some buzz as being an evolving news entity is the Journal Register Company. This past month one of their properties, the New Haven Register, announced a reorganization around investigative and local journalism, as well as an emphasis on engagement. Angel Diggs, the news librarian, was cited as being part of the Engagement Team. I called Angel to ask her about this new direction. This had just been announced, and it isn’t clear how this will work yet, but she said that there’s plans for a physical move, as well as direct engagement — face to face — with citizens in person, quite possibly in conjunction with the public library.

This is a continuation of a digital first, “open newsroom” strategy, within this chain that launched at the Torrington, (CT) Citizen. This paper, that welcomes the public into the building, utilizes open news meetings, crowdsourcing of factchecking and other forms of transparency and inclusion.

3. Own the idea. And do it.

If you attended the SLA Conference in Philadelphia this past year, or followed along online, you may have heard about Tom Friedman‘s keynote address. It is always great to have a journalist headlining this forum, and he spoke engagingly about the many changes in society — including media — and offered some strong and thought-provoking recommendations. He said: anything that can be done, will be done. If you don’t do it, someone else will. The question is: will it be done by you, or to you?

I watched this commencement speech given by inventor Dean Kamen a few years ago. In it he emphasized how everyone is looking for new, applicable ideas and energy. While there’s more receptivity after what hasn’t worked — to the point where companies and industries in business for over a century suddenly no longer exist — there’s also been a corresponding pragmatism and reliance on analytics to aid in decision making. Bottom line: keep the ideas flowing, but be prepared to say “I would support this,” test it, and provide results. If it doesn’t seem worth it, move on. But be sure to follow up, and steward it.

It has been a great privilege to lead our group of dedicated, versatile professionals perservering in a very challenging environment. Thanks to everyone for your friendship, hard work — often for years at a time — by our fantastic board and volunteers, and ALL of those ideas. I look forward to continuing our conversation together in the new year.

I hope your holidays are merry and bright, and all best wishes for a fulfilling 2012.

–Leigh Montgomery
2011 Chair, SLA News Division

Aside Bar – From the Editor

Is it November already? I am already feeling left behind by whirls of activity and the holidays are not yet upon us.

And I don’t just mean in my personal life. Professionally, I’m feeling as if the rest of the world is moving on without me while I’m putting out the fire of the day (or fires, on some days) and not making any headway on the pile of archiving on my desk and other tasks on my to-do list.

Are the days moving faster? Am I moving slower?

How do I push my way back out front of the rush? I don’t like to say no to a reasonable request because that just discourages reporters and editors from asking the next time. Plus, as a colleague on our online staff said the other day: no one has free time for anything anymore.

Am I less thorough in my work? Sorry, but this is a definite no.

Do I hand off work to a colleague? As I mentioned earlier, no one else has free time either — and we all have backlogs. I am doing more push back, as in getting a reporter to a certain point and having him or her make the phone calls. Plus, when I’m the only one who knows the best ways to soothe a savage archive, I have no choice but to pull the burr from the tiger’s paw myself. But having unique skills has its own rewards.

Lately, I’ve been trying to embrace the backlog. I can’t change the nature of the work or the daily addition to the pile, so I focus on what I can do at that moment. I climb it, bit by bit. Some days there are lulls and I make headway, and others where I slip down the rocks a bit. But I will still get there eventually.

What are you doing to make headway as you make do with less? Leave your ideas in the comments.

–Julie Domel

Washington Post ombudsman lauds paper’s researcher

In his blog, Omblog, Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton corrects a previous post where he neglected to mention the work of Post researcher Alice Crites in the debunking of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s embellished past. Personally, I was impressed that the reporter himself took Pexton to task for the omission.

Pexton then goes on to praise the work of the entire Post research team: “Without them, Post stories, particularly investigative ones, would not reach the quality that they often do.”

So true!

–Julie Domel

2011 News Division Candidates

Votes for the 2001 election for News Division candidates can be cast using SurveyMonkey. The link to the ballot is URL:

The slate of candidates is listed below.

Chair Elect: Debra Bade
Debra Bade is currently beginning work as a part-time consultant on product development and user needs for Image Fortress and looking for a full-time job after being part of a reduction in force at the Chicago Tribune in July. She had been at the Tribune for almost 10 years and was the Editor of News Research and Archives. In that role, Debra led research, text and photo archiving efforts and most notably was involved with moving forward plans to digitize the Tribune’s historic photo collection and developing new revenue streams based on the collection’s print and digital assets.

Prior to joining the Tribune, Debra held a number of positions with CNN in Atlanta from 1989 – 2001 including Director of Online Training and Development, Director of News Research, Manager of News Research, and Researcher. During those years her focus was on improving research services, developing end-user research tools and overseeing training for both library and newsroom employees. She also worked as a researcher with the Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis, getting her first taste of news research there from 1981-1988.

Debra holds a Master’s degree in Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1988 and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She considers her service as a Peace Corps volunteer in a health education program in Gambia, West Africa, to be a big part of her real-world education and something that still influences her in many ways.

She has been a member of the American Library Association, Special Libraries Association, Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Society for American Archivists. Debra was a Snowbird Leadership Institute honoree in 1992 and wrote a chapter on news research published in 1999 in “Information Sources for the Press and Broadcast Media.” She joined SLA and the News Division in 1988 and has been active in a variety of positions. She helped to create a special interest group for broadcast librarians, served on the Education Committee, and as chair of the Nominations Committee. She was Director of Education in 1994-1995, bringing Roger Fidler, Howard Rheingold and Kare Anderson in as notable News Division conference presenters. She was News Division Chair in 2000-2001 (making this an encore of sorts) and Past Chair in 2001-2002. Debra received the Ralph J. Shoemaker Award of Merit Award in 2001 and the Agnes Henebry Roll of Honor Award in 2007. She has been a contributor to News Library News and a presenter at SLA conferences, SLA Illinois Chapter meeting events, and at the Online Information conference in the UK. She also served as a member of the Advisory Board for the School of Information Studies at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville from 2006-2009.

Director – Education/Professional Development: Nina Johnson
Nina has been in news librarianship since 1992; first as a solo librarian at the Columbia Daily Tribune and since 1997 at the Columbia Missourian. The Missourian is the only city newspaper produced by journalism students. The Missouri School of Journalism provides real-world training for journalism students in its various “labs” such as the newspaper, KOMU-TV and KBIA radio. It is now also home to the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. Nina has been a member (non-continuously) of SLA since 1990 and served as board secretary for 2010-2011.

She earned her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science in 1990 at the University of Missouri.

She is interested in possible collaboration with the Reynolds Journalism Institute in developing some non-conference workshops, especially in the area of archiving online news sites and digital preservation.

She finds News Division members an incredibly talented and interesting group and looks forward to continued involvement with the Division.

Treasurer: Catherine Kitchell
Work Experience
Bureau of National Affairs, Washington, DC
Editor, BNA’s Directory of State and Federal Courts, Judges, and Clerks, since 2001
Reference Librarian, December 1990 – Present
Marin Independent Journal, Novato, CA
Head Librarian, August 1989 – August 1990
USA TODAY/Gannett Co., Arlington, VA
1983- July 1989

MLS, University of Maryland, May 1986
BA, Art History, University of Virginia, May 1982

SLA: SLA member since 1991. Managing Editor of News Library News, 1996-1998. Treasurer, Washington Chapter, 1999–2002. Received DC/SLA Board of Directors Award 2001-2002. Treasurer, News Division, 2001-2003, Director of Publications, 2008-2010, Currently Treaurer, News Division, 2010-present.

Director – Publications: Julie Domel
After a year as a business and science librarian at the Houston Public Library, Julie Domel joined the news research staff at the San Antonio Express-News, her hometown paper, in 2000. When not doing research, she serves as the super-user for the NICA photo archive and works on entries for her blog, “From the Vault.” She has a long history of contributing online content to, the paper’s website, including a defunct online column and blog. She currently contributes to “The Potato Report,” the Express-News’ blog for TV watchers, and tweets via @askresearcher. Julie won the Express-News‘ 2010 Philip True Journalism Award for Researcher/Copy Editor of the Year.

Julie has served as managing editor of the News Division’s News Library News since 2008, and maintains the division’s LinkedIn group. She is also the treasurer of the Texas Chapter. Julie earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance and an MLS from the University of Texas at Austin. In her spare time, she keeps plants alive in a drought, watches way too much TV and would rather bake than cook.

Meet Deb Hunt: Candidate for SLA President-Elect 2012

The candidates for 2012 SLA President-elect, David Cappoli and Deb Hunt, were interviewed by e-mail for NEWS LIBRARY NEWS, so members can get to know them as voting takes place September 7 – 28, 2011. Deb Hunt’s responses follow in their entirety.

Deb Hunt

1. Why are you running for president of SLA?

I bring proven leadership skills to this position. I have prior experience as a Director on the SLA Board of Directors, as Chapter President and in many other leadership positions in the San Francisco Bay Region Chapter and in SLA divisions. I’m an innovator as the creator and team leader of SLA’s 23 Things. The 23 Things contributed to a mindset change for SLA members and enables us to embrace new technologies, new tools, get ahead of our users and to lead rather than follow. For this effort, I was awarded an SLA Presidential Citation by Stephen Abram.

I know how to get things done, grow new leaders, and create and strengthen programs for our members.

I’ve demonstrated my adaptability and flexibility as my career has taken many turns. A few years ago, I was laid off from my job at the Exploratorium after 14 years of working there. I was able to ramp up my consulting firm, but it was still a big adjustment. Over the years, my consulting work has evolved in a way that I think mirrors what I see happening in the job market for us as information professionals. When I started consulting many years ago, I mostly did value-added research and library design and automation. Soon my library automation clients asked me how they could organize their internally created content so it would be as easily accessible as the library collection. That is how I added document and enterprise content management to the services I offer. Most of my clients are not libraries.

2. You are elected the leader and the public face of SLA, and you’ve been invited to a regional roundtable forum of C-suite executives, nonprofit heads, and other leaders. This is a chance to introduce the organization and members. What do you tell them?

What keeps you awake at night?

In today’s fast-paced world, the need for information is an invaluable commodity. Information, both internally- and externally-produced, is the lifeblood of an organization and essential for innovation and survival. Information sharing, finding and reuse are also essential for any organization that is attempting to understand and manage its intellectual capital and thrive in these trying economic times.

Information professionals play a unique role in gathering, organizing and coordinating access to the best information sources for the organization, understanding the critical need of turning that information into usable knowledge.

A study conducted by SLA found that eighty-five percent of the companies ranked in the top 100 on the Fortune 500 list employed information professionals, compared to less than fifty percent of the companies ranked in the bottom 100. SLA is a global professional association of 9,500 innovative information professionals and their strategic partners who are ready to put your organization over the top. What steps are you taking to differentiate your business from the next and maintain your company’s sustainability?

3. The News Division: what are your impressions? What would you like to see us address?

Over the years, I’ve been most acquainted with my News Division colleagues at the San Francisco Chronicle and have been saddened to see them go from some 18 staff down to 2. I know the News Division has experienced a drop in membership, but I believe that those who are left form the new core of this division, which will be the community for info pros in any of the news-related industries and organizations.

There are two things I’d like to see the News Division address:

  1. An updated division website. As a web project manager at the Exploratorium in San Francisco for 12 years, with our team winning 4 Webby awards, I know that an engaging and up-to-date website can keep members engaged and encourage new members to join. Daniel Lee and his WordPress team can work with the News Division to make a new site a reality. I encourage you to consider this as a marketing, retention and community tool for division and potential members.
  2. A more difficult issue that I see the News Division (46% decline in membership since 1994) and all SLA members facing, and I’m sure you are all aware of this, is the downturn in organizations feeling the need to hire and retain librarians and information professionals.

One of our News Division colleagues was recently profiled in a two-part professional development workshop which I co-presented to SLA colleagues in the San Francisco Bay Area. We named a group of our colleagues “Famous Front Runners” who have successfully navigated the job upheavals going on all around us. That Front Runner is Leigh Montgomery, whose personas include:

  • Artful Dodger
  • Chameleon
  • Future Ready
  • Shape Shifter
  • Survivor

Leigh was able to survive and even thrive by deploying a combination of strategies:

  • Finding new revenue streams for her employer
  • Applying new technologies to improve productivity
  • Reinventing and repositioning herself
  • Demonstrating and increasing her core value to the organization

We can build on our past, but we must look ahead to the future. I see my colleagues struggling with layoffs and job insecurity. Yet there are vast opportunities for information professionals and I want to see us benefit from those opportunities. We must think outside the box, continually honing our skillset so we can go wherever there is opportunity to ply our trade.

Photo courtesy SLA

Meet David Cappoli: Candidate for SLA President-Elect 2012

The 2012 candidates for SLA President-elect, David Cappoli and Deb Hunt, were both interviewed by e-mail for NEWS LIBRARY NEWS so members can get to know them in advance of voting, which takes place September 7 – 28, 2011. David Cappoli’s responses follow in their entirety.

David Cappoli

1. Why are you running for President of SLA?

I am running for President of SLA because I can lead this association into its somewhat uncertain near future with my consensus-building skills, experience with students, knowledge of the continuing education needs of information professionals, and a strong willingness to confront the changes that SLA must consider, such as the conference revenue model. I continue to be excited about information professionals and feel strongly that I can work to advance SLA’s reach within the profession.

2. You are elected the leader and public face of SLA, and you’ve been invited to a regional roundtable forum of C-suite executives, non-profit heads, and other leaders. This is a chance to introduce their organization and members. What do you say?

Besides giving an overview of SLA and our members, I would showcase real-world examples of how our members have directly contributed to the success of their organizations. I would also tie their contributions to the leadership and professional development opportunities that SLA has provided to them. For example, if one of our members acquired knowledge via SLA, e.g., at conference, in a virtual seminar, etc., and integrated it into his/her work to the significant benefit of the organization, I would emphasize this connection and compare what the state of the organization would be without the member’s contributions.

3. The News Division: what are your impressions? What would you like us to address?

During my time as a member of the News Division and working at the L.A. Times, and at the L.A. Herald-Examiner prior to the Times, division members discussed and implemented initiatives focused on better integrating their work into the success of their organizations well before other units did so. By participating in editorial board meetings, members have been able to feature the resources and expertise of their libraries and information centers. News librarians have been embedded within specific news departments well before the issue of embedded librarianship became an important topic; and, they have been at the forefront in the development of full-text and image archiving systems. I have also been impressed by how news librarians employ their network in times of disasters. I see news librarians continuing to be leaders in these areas, as well as in the burgeoning field of digital archiving, the reuse of organizational assets and how to succeed while enduring staff and budget cutbacks.

Photo courtesy SLA

New 2010 Census Data Project from IRE

We all know that the 2010 Census data has started to come out, giving newsrooms updated demographic information from the once-every-10-years count of the American population. The Census Bureau website has detailed information and a schedule of new releases. But what if you just want to quickly download population figures and do some simple comparisons?

A new project by Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri offers quick access to 2010 Census data in a variety of formats and ranges. The project, built by volunteers from the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, USA Today, CNN, Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.) and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, allows users to browse data from states, counties, places and even individual tracts, providing 2000 Census data for comparison.

For example, data from Alachua County, Fla., shows that the total population grew some 13.48 percent from 2000 to 2010 (the project helpfully includes raw numbers and the percentage change). And each page can be downloaded as a CSV file that can be opened in Excel or another spreadsheet program for analysis, although you’d be best-served to have a reference to Census data headers handy. Luckily, the IRE Census project provides one.

Developers who want to use Census data directly in Intranet or Internet applications can also get their fix via the project’s JSONP files, which make it easy to read the data programmatically. You can even download a shapefile of geographic data, and the project allows you to compare multiple geographies (such as a five-county area) if you want to.

The Census Bureau is still your source for reports and in-depth releases based on the 2010 Census data, but if you want to play with the data yourself and don’t want to download the entire set (which can be very large and hard to manage), IRE’s project is a great way to dip your toes in the Census pool.

–Derek Willis