Law Library Reading Room

The Law Library of Congress contains approximately 75,000 volumes of printed Congressional Hearings. Committees hold hearings for a variety of purposes. Testimony is received from members of Congress, officials of the executive branch, policy experts, interest groups and sometimes the general public on legislative proposals, the functioning of government programs, subjects of controversy, and matters under investigation. The Law Library’s hearing collection is a rich resource for anyone interested in the history of issues that still face our country today.

As part of the Law Library’s transition to the digital future, a collaborative pilot project was undertaken with Google, Inc., to digitize the entire collection and make it freely available to Congress and the world.  Three collections have been selectively compiled to provide users with a test experience:

These selected Hearings, presented as Adobe Acrobat PDF files, are samples of a larger group that will be digitized and made available as a result of this project.  Ultimately, both the Library and Google will provide full-text access to the larger group of Hearings. 

The digital copies of the Hearings resulting from this project reflect the primary objectives of the digitization project—to produce text-readable versions of the Hearings and to make them available as quickly as possible.  There will be occasional duplicate or missing pages, and there are some instances in which the text is blurry or partially cut off.  In general, however, the resulting text is clean, the pages bright, and the content complete and highly readable.  In fact, as has been noted by many involved in the review process, the digital versions of the Hearings are often more legible than the original paper copies.  For each Hearing, all of the text is searchable within the PDF – either using an Adobe product or any application that can index or search text within a PDF.

Going into the pilot, the Library recognized that quality limitations could result from the high-speed scanning process, but considered that an acceptable trade-off when weighed against access to the rich and vast legislative material contained within these volumes. We hope you’ll agree as you have the opportunity to search and read the content, but we would like to hear your comments – positive or negative.  You’ll note a short form associated with each volume where you can rate the quality of the image, value of the digital copy, and record any general comments you may have.

Last Updated: 02/28/2014