Mobile App Reviews: Congressional Record Mobile App

Reviewed by Ashley Evans (June 2014):

Keeping updated on congressional happenings gets really simple thanks to the Library of Congress’ Congressional Record mobile app. Although the Congressional Record certainly isn’t new, the mobile app platform for it is. The Library of Congress launched the Congressional Record mobile app in January of 2012 and instantly provided a simple and effective way for the public to remain updated on what happens in the United States Congress.

The app has a sleek and well-designed layout that’s relatively easy to use. Upon opening the app, users instantly see a date tag which correlates to the volume of the record and the number for the specific day within the volume. The app also informs the user of which congress the date presides. For example, Wednesday, June 18, 2014 has Vol. 160, No. 95, and the statement: “Proceedings and debates of the 113th Congress” displayed. This base line information gives users an idea of which government documents are connected to the app.

There are seven total sections. Five of the sections are related to the individual date. First, there is the Daily Digest at the top of the list. Naturally, the Daily Digest link sends users to the Congressional Daily Digest for that day which is a summary of all that happened in Congress that day. The app also breaks down the other parts of the record for the Senate, House, and Extensions of Remarks and presents them as three separate links.  The final option related to the day is the link to the entire issue of the Congressional Record. 

The app also has two links at the bottom of the home screen app that keeps track of what happens on the day the users actually use the app in both the House and the Senate. These sections continually update as different things happen in Congress and that will roll into the Congressional Record the next day. 

The app functions very well for someone looking to keep tabs on what happens in Congress and really well for anyone that might desire to get up to the minute details about what decisions the Congress makes. The app falls short a little in a few ways. First, the app links to the Daily Digest, Senate, House, Extension of Remarks, and entire issue send users to the document as it looks in print and in digital forms from the Library of Congress with two or three columns of text and individual pages. Although it’s nice to view the document as it will stand, it’s rather inconvenient to view on a mobile phone. For a mobile app, it would be better to have the text converted into a more reader friendly format that would allow the user to scroll through the text without having to zoom in and move the page around before moving on to the next page. 

Second, the two House and Senate links at the bottom of the home screen for the day send the user to a list of actions. If users select one of the actions to investigate further it kicks them off the app and to THOMAS. Third, if I select one of the five main sections and read through the document and want to go back to the home screen to look at another, I frequently found myself reading a message that said there was no Congressional Record for the day. These are three fatal flaws in the design of the app that could really use some work. If these three problems get fixed, the mobile app will be much more effective and useful for the general public.

Ashley Evans is an MLS student at the University of Maryland iSchool enrolled in the eGovernment specialization. Ashley is a recipient of a Laura Bush 21st Century scholarship funded by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.