ACCESS: gopher://mudhoney.micro.umn.edu
comments/questions legislate@mudhoney.micro.umn.edu

LEGI-SLATE Gopher is a prototype of a planned commercial database. The database will offer substantially enhanced access to House and Senate legislative instruments and the daily _Federal Register_. Legislate-Gopher is directed toward an academic market and will be of great interest to colleges and universities with user communities in need of timely and authoritative information about governmental activities.

The database is produced by Legislate, Inc., a subsidiary of the Washington Post Co., in conjunction with the Academic Computing Center of the Universtiy of Minnesota. At present, the database is static, containing a selection of files from the 103rd Congress and the _Federal Register_. The vendor plans a full commercial release of information about all bills and resolutions from the 103rd Congress and the 1993-94 _Federal Register_, with daily updates, in Summer 1994. There are no immediate plans for retrospective coverage.

The information is extracted from G.P.O. electronic tapes. The staff of Legislate provides extensive value-added services, including indexing to bills, content analysis, and information synthesis. Examples of the bill coverage include: CRS bill digests, legislative histories, committee actions, and comments by legislators. Laws which would be affected by the pending legislation are noted. An intersting and useful feature is a listing of relevant articles from _CQ_, the _National Journal_ and the _Washington Post_. The _Federal Register_will be searchable by keyword, date, section, agency or _CFR_ title and part.

The scope of the enhancements is substantial and may be evaluated buy selecting a bill from the prototype and following easy-to-use, menu-driven screens. The search optons for locating bills are displayed. Online help is available. Users should note that the information is under copyright protection.

Portions of the legislative information contained in Legislate-Gopher are available through a mix of print and electronic sources. A sub-file of the Library of Congress catalog, available at no charge over the Internet, contains detailed infromation about current and retrospective legislative instruments. Librarians are familiar with other sources of access to bill digests, histories and articles. The uniqueness and value of the Legislate-Gopher is in the extensive scope of information, the comprehensiveness of the information package, the ease of use and currenecy. Legislate-Gopher cracks the code of the often impenetrable _Federal Register_. According to the very helpful Legislate, Inc. staff, pricing for the commercial product is not yet finalized. It will be a site-licensing arrangement with fees based on the full time student enrollment of the subscriber. Portions of the database will remain available at no charge over the Internet, although the amount of free information is as yet undetermined.

As the "fee vs. free" controversy, especially that surrounding governmental information, moves to the Internet, librarians should evaluate both commercial and non-commercial resources. Ultimately, each academic institution must determine the real value of value-added services.

Lorrie Knight
Online Services Librarian
Connecticut College, New London, CT

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