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Getting to the Heart of Data

Diane Smith digs into LN's Congressional Hearings Records for some local Chicago history.

Diane Smith digs into LN's Congressional Hearings for some local Chicago history.

You’d be amazed at what documents are included in the congressional hearings. During a recent briefing on LexisNexis’ new search solutions tools, Diane Smith, senior director of editorial products, tapped in the name of Chicago legend “Al Capone” into the Congressional Hearings Digital Collection search box. “I always like to search a bit of local history wherever I go,” says Smith. “And look at what I found.” She displayed a list of documents about organized crime in Chicago, including a floor map of Capone’s Montmartre (Greyhound) Restaurant & Club. Want to see even more granular documents? Smith found a document with a block-by-block map showing which kingpin controlled which sector of Chicago during Prohibition.

But there are plenty of academic applications here too. “For students, instructors, and social or business historians, the Congressional Hearings Digital Collection takes users into the depths of public policy through documents in the congressional committee hearings,” says Smith. Users can search original sources via any one of three search options: basic, advanced, or search by number. Search can get as granular as needed, whether by bill number, public law number, or witness and affiliation.

Smith says the LexisNexis product development team worked with an advisory group of academic librarians to fine-tune the Congressional Hearings Digital Collection for ease of use, no matter how what the search. Likewise, the Statistical Datasets, which is expected to launch in 2010, is now being redesigned for easier access to statistics produced by federal agencies, states, as well as business and research institutions.

Last but not least, the LexisNexis’ Serial Set Digital Collection Part II, which includes nearly 4,000 titles, has also been released, capturing key aspects of American life dating from 1970, including such documents as Heroin and Heroin Paraphernalia (history of drug abuse and addiction in the U.S. including smuggling and distribution) to antitrust lawsuits to the Iran-Contra depositions. “All of the published House and Senate documents and reports are valuable because they explain the legislative intent of bills under consideration,” says Smith.

In other LN news, the chiefs at LexisNexis paid top honors to a few outstanding librarians during the 39th Annual LexisNexis Annual Breakfast for Documents and Reference Librarians on Monday. Daniel Cornwall from the Alaska State Library (hey, he gets big applause … I lived in Anchorage for almost seven years) won the GODORT ALA “Documents to the People” award;  Abby Clobridge and David Willson Del Testa from Bucknell University won the ACRL/IS award.  Once the awards presentations were completed, the ballroom brunchers received a crash course on economics from American economist Steven D. Levitt (OK, he threw in a lot of humor). The co-author of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything provided a captivating twist on gathering statistics about drug lords, prostitution, gambling, and more. No wonder the book topped The New York Times Bestseller List, climbing over the 3-million mark worldwide. The latest edition has just been revised, expanded, and released. Working with statistics has never been more fun.

Barbara Brynko
Information Today

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