The Constitution Annotated: The Pursuit of App-iness

September 17, 2013

follow-the-founding-fathers-david-bowman_computerIn preparing for this Constitution Day blog post, not only did I retake the civics quiz from last year’s Constitution Day post (see Quiz: Are you smarter than an 8th grade Civics student?), I also scrolled through my tablet last night, reading the Preamble to the Constitution and looking up related quotes. Then it occurred to me: if Founding Father George Washington had been alive today, would he have been a PC or an Apple guy? I’m betting our pragmatic First President would be a PC guy. I’m pretty sure innovator Thomas Jefferson would have been a stylish iPad man, and Benjamin Franklin, inventor of the bifocals, would probably be sporting Google Glasses now and tinkering with them.

Image: Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington. Original Illustration by David Bowman from his book “What Would the Founding Fathers Think?”

constitution-annotated-printWhat is clear is that our Founding Fathers were strategic thinkers who realized that a fully functioning republic needed a clear but flexible code of law that evolved with the Nation. Thus, they wrote the Constitution of the United States, which has stood the test of time with over two centuries of amendments and interpretations by all branches of the U.S. Federal Government.

CONAN for the Librarian (and Lawyers)

Since 1913, the Senate has directed that a publication be issued summarizing the current state of the Constitution to date, with all the amendments and the official interpretations, with the analysis today provided by the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service. This publication is called The Constitution of the United States of America, Analysis and Interpretation, popularly known as the Constitution Annotated or “CONAN” among the real insiders.

Constitution-of-the-US-Pocket-GuideIn addition, many Americans, including Members of Congress, buy a pocket print edition of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence to carry around with them at all times. (Click on image to the left.)

Constitution Goes Mobile and Online

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Constitution Annotated publication, and to celebrate it and Constitution Day, the Government Printing Office (GPO) not only issued the Centennial Edition in print, but has also worked with the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the Library of Congress to develop and launch both a new mobile app as well as a web publication that make analysis and interpretation of constitutional case law by Library experts accessible for free to anyone with a computer or mobile device.

The new resources, which include analysis of Supreme Court cases through June 26, 2013, will be updated multiple times each year as new court decisions are issued.  Legal professionals, teachers, students and anyone researching the constitutional implications of a particular topic can easily locate constitutional amendments, federal and state laws that were held unconstitutional, and tables of recent cases with corresponding topics and constitutional implications.

The new app and improved web publication will make the nearly 3,000-page “Constitution Annotated” more accessible to more people and enable updates of new case analysis three or four times each year.

Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks said,

“Through this collaborative project, the Library of Congress and GPO are providing the public with timely access to an enhanced, authenticated version of the “Constitution Annotated” through GPO’s Federal Digital System. This is another example of how GPO works with Congress, the Library and other agencies to meet the information needs of the American people in the digital age.”

Keeping our “Complex Machinery” in Working Order

On May 19, 1821, years after the Constitution was adopted, John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson that:

“A free government is a complicated piece of machinery, the nice and exact adjustment of whose springs, wheels, and weights, is not yet well comprehended by the artists of the age, and still less by the people.”

Even though our Founding Fathers could not have envisioned a digital future complete with the Internet and smartphones, the framework they put in place has been able to roll with the times. Americans know that our system is indeed a “complicated piece of machinery,” with our laws serving as the user manual, but tools like the Constitution Annotated– in print or now online or on your mobile device– now exist to help keep our machinery of democracy well oiled.

George-Washingtons-Annotated-Copy-of-a-Draft-of-the-U.S.-ConstitutionImage: Even George Washington annotated his copy of the Constitution! (seen left). Source: National Archives

How can I obtain The Constitution Annotated?

1) Buy the Print Edition of The Constitution of the United States of America, Analysis and Interpretation, Centennial Edition

2) Mobile app version of the Constitution Annotated

  • For Apple iOS Devices: Download the new Constitution Annotated app for iOS devices for free from Apple’s iTunes Store or via this direct link: http://beta.congress.gov/constitution-annotated/.
  • ·        For Android Devices: An Android version of this app is under development.

3) Constitution Annotated web publication on FDsys.gov

The Constitution Annotated web publication will be available on GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) www.fdsys.gov as a digitally-signed, searchable PDF that includes a linked table of contents, a linked table of cases, a linked index and GPO’s Seal of Authenticity on every page.

The new Constitution Annotated and a suite of constitutional resources can be viewed at http://beta.congress.gov/constitution-annotated/. The page features links to the app stores, an interactive table listing recent cases of high interest, a bibliography of Constitution-related primary documents in American history and tips for searching the Constitution Annotated on GPO’s website at www.gpo.gov/constitutionannotated.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Congressional Pictorial Directory: A Great Memory Jogger

September 10, 2013

Do you ever have a problem putting a name to a face (or vice-versa)? The older I get, the more challenging the fast recall of names becomes.  For people who work on Capitol Hill, such as lobbyists and Congressional staffers, knowing who that person coming down the hall is can be pretty important.

2013 Congressional Pictorial Directory for the 113th Congress. Avasilable from http://bookstore.gpo.govA handy tool to help solve this conundrum is the Congressional Pictorial Directory. The directory provides a color photograph of each Member of the House of Representatives and the Senate and details each Member’s length of service, political party affiliation, and congressional district. The Pictorial Directory also contains pictures of the President, Vice President, and House and Senate officers and officials.  Senators and Representatives also are listed alphabetically, and are included in a separate listing of state delegations.

One of the nicer features of this publication is the size. It measures 4-1/2” by 6-1/4”, and can conveniently slip into a suit jacket pocket, purse or handbag. It is also available in both hardcover and paperback editions.

The U.S. Government Printing Office also makes the information from the Congressional Pictorial Directory– together with data from the Guide to the House and Senate Members– available as a free mobile site. This provides even more convenience by permitting the photo and other Member information to be accessed and displayed on a laptop, smartphone or other web-enabled mobile device.  The Mobile Member Guide mobile site for the 113th Congress provides the public with quick, easy access to information on Members of the 113th Congress. The app allows users to browse for Members of Congress by last name, state, chamber, or party. The public can take advantage of this free mobile Web site on major mobile device platforms.

How Do I Get a Copy of the Congressional Pictorial Directory or the Mobile Member Guide?

1) Buy Print Editions of the Congressional Pictorial Directory:

  • Shop Online: Print Editions of the Congressional Pictorial Directory may be ordered from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore under the Congressional Directories collection under Government Forms & Phone Directories.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. Washington, DC area or International customers should call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy copies of the print edition at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except US Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Find it in a Library: Find this publication in a federal depository library.

2) Visit the FREE “Mobile Member Guide for the 113th Congress” mobile site from GPO: http://m.gpo.gov/memberguide/

  • This mobile site contains each Member’s picture, party affiliation, hometown, home state, and length of service. Users may use the app to search Members of Congress by name, state, chamber and party. (Read more…)
  • For more information on all GPO’s mobile apps and sites, visit http://www.gpo.gov/mobile/.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Guest Blogger Jeff Turner is Director of Sales and Marketing for GPO’s Publications and Information Sales Program.


Over 1 Billion Served: GPO’s Pueblo Distribution Center Hits Historic Milestone Today

May 7, 2013

GPO_Pueblo_1_Billion-Shipped1 Billion.  One thousand million. Any way you count it, that’s a bundle! And at the US Government Printing Office Document Distribution Center in Pueblo, Colorado, we have reached that magic number. As of today, our Pueblo facility has shipped over 1 billion consumer publications, making it a bundle of bundles sent out to the American people!

GPO’s Western Expansion

Growing up, I always heard or read public service announcements from the Federal Government offering helpful advice on everything from how mortgages work to getting vaccinations. Each time, the commercial or ad would end with the same tag line: “To order this helpful free publication, contact us in Pueblo, Colorado” and an address and phone number (and today, a website address) would be given with ordering information.  I thought it amazing that all this great consumer information was available from one Colorado town.

Although unbeknownst to me at the time, it turns out this famous Pueblo location is actually one of two distribution facilities operated by the Government Printing Office’s Agency Distribution Services that stores and ships out Government publications on behalf of our Federal agency clients to the public –the other being in Laurel, Maryland.

In an effort led by House Appropriations Committee member Congressman Frank Evans, the GPO distribution facility was proposed and then approved on October 8, 1970, by the Joint Committee on Printing and the 15th Public Printer of the United States, Adolphus Nichol (Nick) Spence. The Pueblo Public Documents Distribution Center (PuDDC) was dedicated on October 8, 1971, and opened on October 11, 1971, to provide support for the expanding dissemination needs of Federal agencies, from books to posters to other products.

GPO_Pueblo_Congressman-Frank-Evans-Distribution-CenterLast year, President Barack Obama signed an act of the 111th Congress to rename the center the “Congressman Frank Evans US Government Printing Office Pueblo Document Distribution Center” after the former Congressman who passed away in June of 2010. It was re-dedicated on October 11, 2011, for the fortieth anniversary of the Pueblo facility.

Image: Renaming ceremony of the GPO Pueblo facility on October 11, 2011.

Today, GPO’s Pueblo Document Distribution Center provides distribution services to 10 federal agencies and other entities including: The Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Health and Human Service (HHS – Women’s Health), Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), Federal Drug Administration (FDA), Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and three programs within the Department of Homeland Security  that produce items such as Transportation Security Administration (TSA) posters, bookmarks and baggage inserts.

Ruehlen-at-Pueblo-PuDDCImage: Jimmy Ruehlen has worked for Pueblo’s Government Printing Office Distribution Center since it began operations 40 years ago. Photo credit: The Pueblo Chieftain / Mike Sweeney (Photographer)

The Pueblo Distribution Center has processed over 105 million customer orders from the day it opened its doors through the end of April 2013, and as of today, May 2, 2013, the Center has distributed over 1 billion publications on behalf of its various Federal clients.

GPO Gets a “CIC” out of Distributing Consumer Publications

The Pueblo facility really got a kick-start when it signed an inter-agency agreement with the General Services Administration (GSA) in January of 1973 to take over the warehousing and distribution of the millions of printed consumer publications being provided through GSA’s then-new Consumer Information Center (or CIC), which itself has provided service to the GSA’s Federal Citizen Information Center (or FCIC), the U.S. Postal Service and the Department of Education.

Consumer-Info-Catalog-Winter-Spring-2013_coverThe gem in the FCIC’s crown is the Consumer Information Catalog, printed by GPO, which lists the latest and most popular of the many thousands of consumer publications available by topic and is updated several times a year.

Most of the print publications–the majority printed by GPO– in the Consumer Information Catalog are FREE for U.S. delivery if ordered online; the rest require only a nominal fee. Plus, a number of the publications are offered for FREE in electronic format for immediate download on the Publications.USA.gov website.

Some of the many categories of helpful consumer pamphlets and publications include: Education; Employment; Family including Pets; Federal Programs and Benefits, Food; Health including Drugs and Exercise & Diet (even information on braces, tattoos, and tanning!); Housing including Financing and Home Maintenance; the ever-popular Money category including Fraud, Credit Cards, Living Trusts, and Retirement Planning; even Small Business and Travel, and more.

Consumer-Info-Catalog-Winter-Spring-2013_Page_11

Image: Page from the Consumer Information Catalog Winter/ Spring 2013 Edition.

How can I get a copy of the Consumer Information Catalog and order publications?

Find the latest Consumer Information Catalog in PDF format online, or you can also order FREE print copies to be mailed to you at the same Publications.USA.gov website.

Consumer-Action-Handbook-2013The most popular document distributed by Pueblo remains the annual Consumer Action Handbook, a free trouble-shooting guide to help Americans solve all sorts of consumer problems. I’ve ordered five to share with family and friends!

In addition to ordering from GSA’s Publications.USA.gov website, you can find a number of these consumer publications on GPO’s US Government Online Bookstore.

Below are some of the more popular publications in the Consumer Information Catalog that are also available on GPO’s online bookstore:

You can also browse our Consumer, Home & Family category on our online bookstore.

With so many useful consumer publications available from the Federal Government, I’m sure it won’t be long until we distribute another billion items to help American consumers!

About the Author:

Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


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