New Database: First Street

It’s been a little slow on the blog front this week.

September is busy season for librarians at AU, what with the rise in in-class instruction sessions and requests for early semester research help. Certainly my on-campus schedule has taken a turn for the hectic — so you can imagine it takes a pretty awesome database to bring me back to the world of the virtual, pre-October.

First Street is, indeed, an awesome new addition to our library’s list of online databases — particularly for COMM faculty and students who are interested in public communication, political communication, or data visualization. It is, in sum, a “political intelligence platform,” or interactive tool for visualizing the many types of relationships that shape U.S. policy.

Users of First Street can literally “connect the dots” between various entities surrounding a piece of legislation, including  but not limited to:

  • 240,000 congressional and federal staffers;
  • 43,000 registered lobbyists;
  • 31,000 FEC PACs;
  • 7,000 registered lobbying organizations and their 33,0000 clients; and
  • 18,000 congressional and federal organizations.

With over 10,000 pieces of legislation entered to date, this makes First Street home to a map of over 2 million direct connections — most of which it renders quite beautifully in its “Coalition Builder” sub-tool.

While this Builder takes some getting used to — it can be slow to render, and quickly gets mind-bogglingly complex (rather like policy research itself) — it’s still a fascinating feature, and well worth exploring with the help of FirstStreet’s video tutorials.

For those less interested in FirstStreet’s visual tools — the database also facilitates traditional text searches, and includes FEC data and filings from 1993 to present.

Check out FirstStreet by visiting the Library’s Databases A-Z page, or by clicking here (AU authentication required).

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