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An Update on the Law Library of Congress Reading Room Collection

The following is a guest post by Margaret Wood, Legal Reference Specialist in our Public Services Division.  She has previously posted on Law Day, the start of a new Congress, the debt ceiling legislation, and the relocation of state collections.

Since our posts in March on the relocation of some general and state collections, we have completed additional work in anticipation of our Reading Room remodeling.  The plan is to reduce the Law Library Reading Room’s collection of approximately 64,000 by half.  To date we have removed about 79% of the designated material.  The Public Services staff, along with Law Library managers, collaborated on what material should be removed using various criteria, including the availability of material in microfiche or online.  But this review is not a one way process.  Broadly speaking, the entire Reading Room collection is a reference collection and our review is allowing for a systematic assessment of the collection to make sure the most important as well as the most recent editions of the reference materials for state, federal, comparative and international law remain in the Reading Room.  The majority of our collection, however, has always been in our closed stacks where it can be browsed through our online catalog and requested via an Automated Call Slip (ACS) system.

Since March, we have relocated the Federal and regional court reporters.  Federal and state court opinions are available through a wide variety of online sources.  Since the 1990s, most courts have posted copies of their opinions on their court websites.  Other sites have been putting up court opinions as well, such as JustiaCornell Law School, and Findlaw, all of which provide access to U.S. Supreme Court decisions as well as selected opinions from other Federal district and appellate courts.  In addition to these free online services, the Federal district, bankruptcy and appellate courts have been using the PACER system to post opinions and other court documents during the same time frame.

For visitors to the Law Library Reading Room, we also offer access to LexisNexis Express and Westlaw Public Patron, which are subscription databases with Federal and state statutory materials and case law.

We have also completed the relocation of many of the state statutory and administrative codes from the Reading Room as well as doing an in-depth review of state practice materials and treatises.  Public Services Division staff are currently conducting a review of the U.S. treatises materials in the Reading Room.  Although new material is regularly routed to the Reading Room, this review offers us a rare opportunity to assess the collection as a whole and to work with staff in Collection Services to identify new materials we might want to acquire as well.

Completing this work involves not just the Public Services staff but also most of the staff in the Collection Services Division: Mark Strattner (who has been leading the way), Kurt CarrollBetty LupinacciBrian KuhagenAgnieszka Pukniel, Wei Wang, Eric Brooks, Ken Sigmund, Cliff Brown, and Elizabeth Moore (with whom we coordinated the redesignation of material to the Global Legal Resource Room).  Megan Lulofs, now with Public Services, helped with this project while she was with Collections Services.  We have also been helped by staff from our Global Legal Research Center, including Clare Feikert and Stephen Clarke, in our review of the  English and Canadian material in the Reading Room. And of course this work has been overseen during this time by Roberta I. Shaffer, the Law Librarian of Congress and Robert Newlen, the Assistant Law Librarian for Collections, Outreach and Services.

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