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My Trip to the Future

The following is a guest post by Roberta Shaffer, Law Librarian of Congress. Roberta has posted to the blog on multiple occasions including: Greetings from the Law Librarian of Congress, Happy Old Year, and The Law Library of Congress Strategic Plan Released.

Roberta talking to Dr. Jaeil Yoo, Chief Librarian, National Assembly Library

From the moment that I arrived in Seoul, Korea until the day I left one week later, I could not disabuse myself of the feeling that I had not simply traveled 14 hours by airplane, but had somehow time traveled 5 years into the future.  And in terms of the easy access to technology and the fact that everyone, young and old, seemed to be so comfortably “connected,”  the future seemed very promising.

But the purpose of my trip was not to experience the future per se, but rather to visit with colleagues at the National Assembly Library to share the story of the how America’s Law Library of Congress was established, developed, and functions today.  This was done at the request of our Korean colleagues who feel that the time is right to establish a law library within the existing structure of their National Assembly Library.

Roberta and Rep. Moo Sung Kim, Chair of House Steering Committee

As Korea assumes an increasingly central role as a world economic and diplomatic power, noted by Korea’s position in the G20 and in the OECD, the National Assembly recognizes the need to create specialized legal collections and develop legal staff expertise.  Like the U.S. Congress, the ability to draw upon comprehensive vernacular collections of laws from outside of one’s own legal system is critical to developing relationships on several levels and to be able to benchmark for solutions to domestic challenges based on the legal experiences of peer nations.

In the course of my one week visit, I had the chance to meet with Korean legislators; tour the Supreme Court of Korea whose architecture epitomizes a sense of equal and open access to justice; lecture at a leading library school; meet law faculty and eminent Korean legal scholars; and take a behind the scenes tour of the National Library of Korea and its sibling digital library where I was really sure that I had, indeed, time traveled a decade forward!

Roberta conferring with the National Assembly Library staff

But lest anyone think the knowledge transfer was one way (the U.S. model to Korea), let me return to my awe of Korean technology.  Everywhere I turned, technology was being used in a positive and efficient way, and housed in containers that were clearly designed to serve the end-user, not to create frustration or confusion.  The technology was also beautifully designed — keeping with a Korean cultural value that man must co-exist within nature’s boundaries and must not seek to conform, or even “deform” the natural to the man-made.  By the end of the week, I was filled with inspiration and ideas of ways that I could use what I had seen and learned to improve our projects and programs — our dreams — for the Law Library of Congress.  I hope I will be invited back!

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