Collection Services was fortunate enough to get four summer interns as part of the Library of Congress Junior Fellows Program. For the Law Library, this meant dedicating ten weeks to processing two donated collections: books from the State Department and legal gazettes formerly housed in the United Nation’s Dag Hammarskjöld Library. While both projects were too big to be completed in a summer, the interns were able to put a significant dent in them.
The State Department collection contained approximately 15,000 books while the UN collection contained over 20,000 2,000,000 legal gazettes. Usually when another institution offers a large surplus or soon-to-be-discarded collection, we have to say yes or no to taking the entire offering. There is no picking and choosing. The offers for these collections were no different.
Both projects in their most base form are inventory projects. That is, do we have this material? If we do, is the donated copy in better condition than what we have in the stacks? Believe it or not, our books wear out sometimes.
The State Department collection is rather complex covering many legal subjects, having a publishing range from the early 19th to the mid 20th century, and mostly in foreign languages.
The legal gazettes is an especially huge collection — over 2,300 boxes from the UN. While we were able to specify which countries’ gazettes we wanted, we were not able to designate specific issues or years. Gazettes really are the backbone of the Law Library’s collection so we had to accept. However, the sheer volume of this donation made me fear we would not finish processing it for years.
Today was “exhibit day” for the Junior Fellows program and our interns joined those assigned to other divisions of the Library to present highlights of their work. Some real gems were unearthed including a speech by Nikita Khrushchev during his first visit to the United States in 1959.
The Law Library’s exhibit of old documents was cleverly enhanced with a video screen showing highlights of their work and a multiple choice quiz based on items presented. I think the piece that garnered the most attention was a pamphlet from 1886 urging Congress to pass International Copyright Law. It is signed by prominent authors of the time including, Louisa May Alcott, Samuel Clemens (he signed Mark Twain in parentheses), Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Walt Whitman.
While I am sorry to see the interns go, I look forward to next year’s program and the treasures it will unearth.