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An Interview with Mark Strattner, Chief of Collection Services Division

Today’s post is the second interview in our continuing series on staff in the Law Library.  This week’s subject is Mark Strattner, Chief of our Collection Services Division.

Describe your background

Mark Strattner, Chief, Collections Services Division

I was born in Norfolk Virginia, and lived in the same house in Virginia Beach, until I left for college.  My parents were both from Dayton, Ohio, and I spent most of my summers there visiting grandparents, aunts, uncles, and many cousins.  Dayton is the place where I learned to pronounce Washington with an “r” and where I believe my work ethic was molded.

I moved to Washington, DC, in August 1980, and have spent the last thirty years living in various parts of the District.  Since 1987 I have lived in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of the city.

I claim to be proficient in English (discounting how I pronounce Washington), and am almost understandable in American Sign Language.

What is your academic/professional history?

I am a graduate of the College of William and Mary (BA in History and Government), the Marshall Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary (JD), and The Catholic University of America (Masters of Library Science).  I am admitted to the Virginia Bar.

I was very fortunate to have moved to Washington in 1980, as the federal government at that time had what was known as the “1040” position.  It was a GS-5 half-time position for students going to library school.  You worked half time and went to school part time.  I interviewed for jobs at the Department of Justice Main Library and at the Department of the Interior Library.  I worked as a GS-5 “1040” employee at the Department of Justice until January 1981, when I became a full time contract employee at DOJ in their acquisition unit.  In November 1983, I became a government worker at DOJ as their collection officer.

I began working in the Law Library of Congress on July 1, 1987, when I accepted a reference position in the Reading Room.  In September 1991, I returned more to my roots when I became the Legal Collection Development Specialist at the Law Library.  I became Chief of Collection Services on May 1, 2005.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I start by saying that I have one of the best jobs in the world.  The Collection Services Division is responsible for acquiring, processing, providing access to, maintaining, and preserving the global collection of law held at the Library of Congress.  The collection contains the laws from over 240 jurisdictions.  As of September 30, 2010, the collection contains 2,784,000 volumes; 2,676,000 microfiche; 89,000 microfilm; and 17,000 computer disks.  The Division must decide how to best preserve this corpus of legal knowledge in the world of today as we adapt to the technology developments of the present and of the future.

Besides making sure that the law collection is as current as possible, the Division staff attempt to make sure that the collection is as complete as possible, and as accessible as possible.  We attempt to provide the best service to all of our clientele, from the United States Congress to the general public.

Why did you want to work at the Law Library?

I felt the Law Library presented me the best chance to move into the field of legal reference librarianship.  The move really led me to the perfect job, that of helping to shape the collections of the largest law library in the world for future generations.  As Roberta Shaffer stated in her interview, “The Library of Congress is a wonder of the world.”  I think it is very difficult for an outsider to understand the true treasure the Library is; I often still catch my breath over something that the Library has in the collection.  I must admit that I did not fully understand the uniqueness of the Library when I accepted my first job here.  I do know that I will end my working career here at the Law Library.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library?

The most interesting fact is the fact that I will never stop learning something new about the Law Library, its staff, and its collection.  I learn something new about either the collection or the staff almost every day I am on the job.  Counting myself, the Division has a staff of twenty-six federal workers and twenty-four contractors; the staff comes from all over the world with a variety of language skills.  There are five professional staff, and forty-four technicians.  All work on a variety of tasks, and all are quite flexible to ensure that the most pressing work is accomplished in a timely manner.

I have also learned that one needs to enjoy working on problems while working here, as there are many.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

Read more »

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