You Can’t Get There From Where You Told Me You Got There

Subtitle: Adventures in Persistent Linking For GPO Access and Thomas

The following scenario has probably happened to all of us at least once: You were researching in the Code of Federal Regulations on GPO Access and found the regulation you needed. You dutifully copy the URL from your web browser and paste it into an email to the student/faculty member/attorney who needed the regulation.

Pleased with yourself, you got about your busy day, handling the next reference question. And then you get the email telling you the link you sent doesn’t work. Your first thought is that these people obviously don’t know how to click hyperlinks and the error must be theirs. You check the link you just sent and then you get a knot in your stomach–they were right, you were wrong: the link does not work.

The problem, as we discovered, was that the links we copy and paste from sites such as GPO Access and Thomas are not persistent links. For those of you who need a quick reminder of
where you can go to get the permanent links you need for these services, this post is for you.

Between Thomas and GPO Access, the former had a somewhat easier way of going about creating persistent links through Legislative Handles. Thomas provides a how-to guide on creating Legislative Handles. Legislative Handles requires you to formulate a URL based on a predesigned and intuitive syntax, but this process of creating a persistent URL still takes a minute.

But life just got a little bit easier with tinyThomas.as. tinyThomas works with the following types of information on Thomas:

  • Bill Summary and Status
  • Bill Text
  • Nominations
  • Congressional Record Pages
  • Some Committee Reports (not all due to inconsistent formatting of reports)
  • Congressional Record Daily Digest

tinyThomas also interacts with OpenCongress and GovTrack (both sites were discussed in an earlier post about legislative tracking resources).

As for persistent linking to documents on GPO Access, GPO creates a template which allows you to choose which part of GPO for which you need to create a persistent link. Persistent linking is available for “big” resources like:

  • Congressional Hearings and Reports
  • Congressional Record (daily and bound)
  • Congressional Documents
  • Public and Private Laws
  • Federal Register
  • List of CFR Sections Affected (LSA)
  • Statutes at Large
  • United States Government Manual
  • United States Code
  • Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents

A note of caution–different documents require different information to create a persistent link. I have had the most luck getting this information from the text/ASCII version of the document, not the PDF version of the document. Also, regarding public laws, the drop-down box ends with the 109th Congress. Not to worry–it will still work. All you have to do is allow the program to generate the persistent link, then manually alter it with the appropriate session of Congress. Although a little clunky, the GPO linking template has worked for me every time.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone and happy persistent linking!

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One Response to You Can’t Get There From Where You Told Me You Got There

  1. Pingback: You keep using that link…I do not think it goes where you think it goes. | RIPS Law Librarian Blog

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