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Interview with Janice Hyde, Director of the Global Legal Collection

This week’s interview is with Janice Hyde, recently appointed as the first director of the Global Legal Collection Directorate.

 Describe your background.

Photograph taken by Charles Dove

Photograph taken by Charles Dove

I was born in the same town (Catskill, N.Y.) and delivered by the same doctor as my mother. I was raised in Owego, New York, which is so remote from the “Big Apple” that I never set foot in New York City until I was in college.

What is your academic/professional history?

I endured brutal winters to complete my college education at SUNY Cortland (NY) and graduate school at Syracuse University. I was completely smitten by my first college course in anthropology and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and Ph.D. in anthropology. For my doctoral dissertation I conducted field research in rural India, studying how socio-cultural factors impact the effectiveness of development programs for women.  Alas, upon earning my Ph.D. I discovered that teaching jobs were scarce and accompanied my husband to the Washington, D.C. area when he received a job offer here.

In 1989, I responded to an ad in the Washington Post for a job at the Library of Congress. I had to take a typing test which I feared since I am not particularly adept at keyboarding.  Had I not passed, I would not be where I am today. I have been fortunate to have worked in various service units at the Library including the Congressional Research Service,  the Federal Research Division, and the Law Library.

My first job in the Law Library was as a stack technician where I was struck by the sheer enormity of the collection and the Sisyphean task of keeping everything in its place. I then worked on a variety of law collection maintenance tasks such as loose-leaf filing, serials check-in, and inserting metal strips into books to deter theft. I was given a special project to help dispose of a collection of foreign official gazettes no longer wanted by the law library of another government agency and this kindled my long-standing interest in legal gazettes. I thus jumped at the chance to work with the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN), and devoted nearly 18 years to working with legislatures around the world to build a digital repository of official gazettes and complementary legal materials. When the central administration of GLIN transitioned from the Law Library, I was offered an opportunity to coordinate the work of the nascent Digital Resources Division, a unit devoted to maximizing access to the Law Library’s collection, products, and services.  And I look forward to the challenges and opportunities presented in my newest role as the Director of the Global Legal Collection.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I have the privilege of managing an incredible group of individuals who are responsible for maintaining and making accessible the world’s largest legal collection. While digital items present some unique challenges, I prefer to view the law collection holistically and not draw distinctions based on format.  I look forward to working with colleagues within the Law Library and across the institution to figure out how to integrate the analog and digital materials in our collection.

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

Given my background, I was drawn by the multinational nature of the collection and the Law Library’s unique mission to provide research and reference services in foreign, comparative, and international law.

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

 Even though others have mentioned it, I still find it interesting that more than half of our collection is in languages other than English.

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

It’s embarrassing, but I’m a terrible cook. I dread being asked to attend a potluck and I’ve been known to place food purchased from a store into my own container and pass it off as homemade.

2 Comments

  1. Martha Goldman
    December 11, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Janice, I am also a CSU grad (class of ’73) and law librarian! There aren’t too many of alums who are law librarians. I know of one other. Red Dragon regards, Martha Goldman

  2. Sandra Sawicki
    December 11, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Congratulations, Janice, on your new accomplishment. I wish you much luck with the endeavor, and I enjoyed reading your interview.

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