The following is a guest post by Mark Strattner, Chief of Collection Services Division. Mark, along with Stephen Clarke and Alvin Wallace, is retiring this month after a long and productive service to the Law Library of Congress (LLC). Mark has previously written a guest post on Thirty Years Ago – The Big Move.
After twenty eight years and three months of government service, I retire on November 3, 2011. My government career started at the Department of Justice Main Library as an acquisition contract employee, and then as a collection development specialist.
I moved to the Law Library of Congress on June 30, 1987 as a reference librarian in the Reading Room. At that time, before the computer age, the Reading Room was full of patrons. This was especially true during the holiday season. I changed jobs in the middle of the week so that I could be at the Library to work the July 4th holiday period.
Looking back over the past twenty four years much has changed. The computer era has changed every aspect of the work. In clearing out my files, I found a typed memorandum dated January 29, 1990, announcing the arrival of the first personal computer in the division. It was made very clear that all staff were required to spend two hours a week learning to operate this equipment. “In the beginning it may seem awkward, however, it will eventually contribute to the improvement of the work flow within the Division…” On July 1, 1990, staff could start taking leave in increments of fifteen minutes instead of the previous half hour requirement.
The advent of an Integrated Library System (ILS) on August 17, 1999, was the true sea change in how processing of incoming material occurred. The ability to see what the Library ordered, received, and paid in one place changed collection development forever. The ability for all to see serial issues received and the date of receipt has become critical. The Collection Services Division is inventorying the pre-August 17, 1999, collection at the rate of approximately 100,000 volumes a year.
The last major change is the growth of the collection. On July 1, 1987, most of the shelves in the sub-basement stacks had growth space for the next ten years. Now, even after sending over 315,000 volumes to the state of the art preservation modules at Fort Meade, the stacks are again nearing gridlock. Shelving space will run out in less than two years.
Some things have not changed. The amount of paper items received in the Law Library has remained constant over the past five years and shows no sign of declining over the next three.
Since I became Chief of the Division on May 2, 2005, my job has become much more management oriented. It has always been about problem resolution. And trying to figure out where a requested item might be if it is not where it should be.
It has been an absolute honor to work at the Law Library of Congress and to mold the development, maintenance, and preservation of the largest law collection over the past twenty years. The staff of the division is first class and extremely hard working. I retire knowing that the law collections are in very good hands.