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Interview with Robert Brammer, Legal Reference Librarian

This week’s interview is with Robert Brammer, a Legal Reference Librarian in the Public Services Division of the Law Library of Congress.  Robert recently co-authored the post, The Electoral College – What Is It and How Does It Function?  Look for more posts by Robert going forward as he joins the In Custodia Legis blog team.  Welcome Robert! 

Describe your background.

I am originally from Florida.  As an undergrad, I majored in political science, with a special emphasis on the politics of the judiciary. Like most political science majors, I followed the well worn path to law school, and shortly thereafter, I earned an M.L.S. and became a law librarian. I have worked at a county law library and an academic law library, so I am experienced in working with patrons from all walks of life.  My legal research interests include legal history, employment law, and constitutional law.

 What is your academic/professional history?

I earned a B.A. from the University of Kentucky, a J.D. from Wayne State, and an M.L.S. from Florida State. Though I became a member of the Florida Bar, and gained experience in practice at the Allison M. Perry Law Office in Tampa, Fla., I was convinced by the third year of law school that I wanted to become a law librarian. To that end, I worked as a reference librarian at the Rupert Smith County Law Library in St. Lucie County, Fla. I then moved to the Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla., where I served as a reference, electronic services, and circulation librarian.

 How would you describe your job to other people?

My work consists of different roles that vary depending upon the needs of a particular patron. In some instances, I work as a legal researcher, fielding questions from a patron who has already conducted a great deal of research, but has arrived at a dead end. These patrons typically want us to comb through our vast holdings to locate a resource that addresses their concerns.  At other times, I am a legal educator, providing a patron with foundational information about the organization of our legal system and the availability of legal resources.

 Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?

I was initially attracted to the Law Library because it has an unparalleled collection, both in terms of size and scope. Still, after only working here for a short time, I have come to realize that the core of the library is ultimately found in the expertise of its staff. My colleagues are experts in their field, and I am very fortunate to be able to learn new skills from them each and every day. In addition, I was very fortunate to arrive at the Library just in time for the launch of Congress.gov.

What is the most interesting fact that you have learned about the Law Library of Congress?

We have an incredible collection of approximately 60,000 rare books and bound manuscripts. 25,000 of those items are housed in a climate controlled vault. To be considered rare, an item must have been published prior to 1801. The items in our collection include a petition for a writ signed by Abraham Lincoln during the period he practiced law, William Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Laws of England” published in Philadelphia during the late 18th century, and a Dutch translation of the U.S. Constitution that was intended to promote ratification.

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

When I am not at work, I like to spend most of my time doing things outdoors. I enjoy restoring antique cars and motorcycles, exploring Appalachia, running, kayaking, and hiking.

I haven’t had much time to work on antique vehicles in a while, but I have owned a wide array of vehicles in various states of disrepair.  I have owned a V.W. Squareback, a Nash Rambler, and an old Vespa.  If Maryland were more permissive, I would probably put cars up on blocks outside of my apartment. My neighbors should probably be thankful for the existence of municipal codes that frustrate my ambitions.

 

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