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Behind the Scenes at the Swearing-in of the 14th Librarian of Congress

This is a guest post by Roberta I. Shaffer, Law Librarian of Congress, whose posts include 2016 New Year’s Greetings from the Law Librarian of Congress and An Interview with Roberta Shaffer, Law Librarian of Congress.

Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. swears in Carla Hayden as 14th Librarian of Congress, along with Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan and Mrs. Colleen Hayden, September 14, 2016. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. swears in Carla Hayden as the 14th Librarian of Congress, along with Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan and Mrs. Colleen Hayden, September 14, 2016. Photo by Shawn Miller.

For so many people, including me, the swearing in ceremony of Carla Hayden as the 14th Librarian of Congress was an experience of a lifetime.  I had the added  thrill of having a small task behind the scenes. I was to greet the Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts, as he entered the Library of Congress building to administer the oath of office to the new Librarian.

The route that the Chief Justice took brought him through the Main Reading Room of the Jefferson Building, which was closed to the public for the duration of the ceremony.  As he entered the room, the Chief Justice commented, “This is my second most favorite building in Washington – the Supreme Court is first, of course.”  While I have long admired this Chief, it is not the first time that our opinions have differed.  I naturally replied, “Oh really, this is my favorite! It just is so American.”  And his reply, with a huge smile on his face, was “Yes, it is.”

One other thing that happened in the course of that short walk that also struck me as “so American” was the fact that the Chief Justice of the United States made sure to have eye contact and a greeting for each of the Library staff standing at their work stations waiting for the Library patrons that would shortly be allowed to re-enter the Main Reading Room and to resume the semblance of a normal day on this really most extraordinary of days.  The Chief made himself so “real” that I believed for those few seconds he became the human representation of grace, accessibility, and openness. These American values are hallmarks of our judiciary but are also portrayed in nearly every nook and cranny of the Main Reading Room, and throughout the walls and halls of the entire Jefferson Building.  These are, indeed, the enduring values of a democracy.

For me, the “so American” theme became my real memory of the ceremony.  I had the great fortune to have an almost “front row” (6 rows back) seat from which to witness the actual event.  After a number of inspiring speeches, the Chief Justice administered the oath of office and then he shook the new Librarian’s hand. It may be more accurate to say that they took each other’s hands. I noticed they both held on for a few seconds longer and looked directly at each other. I could not help but think, with Speaker Paul Ryan behind the two and standing next to Carla Hayden’s proud mother, that the handshake was delivering a message from everyone in the Great Hall and the countless others watching remotely from around the world. “We embrace you as you embark on this noble service to our nation. You are now part of the critical leadership of our country. We are all glad that you are here.” In those few seconds, I felt so empowered to be an American and by the role that all libraries, not just the Library of Congress, play in defining what “American” means. It was a “swearing-in” for us all.

European Minimum Wage – Towards an Ever Closer Union?

This is a guest post by Molly O’Casey, foreign law intern in the Global Legal Research Directorate, Law Library of Congress. Molly has recently graduated from a dual law degree (civil law/common law) program between University College Dublin, in Ireland, and Université Paris II Pantheon-Assas, in France. According to statistics published by Eurostat, the European […]

On Describing the Law Library’s Hispanic Legal Documents Collection

This is a guest post by Patience Tyne. Patience is working in the Collection Services Division of the Law Library of Congress as part of the Library of Congress’s Junior Fellows Program. The program’s focus is to increase access to our collections for our various patron groups. The project that I am working on in […]

Global Anti-Doping Rules – an Overview

The following is a guest post by Felix Beulke, a summer intern currently working with Jenny Gesley on research related to the laws of German-speaking jurisdictions at the Global Legal Research Directorate, Law Library of Congress. Felix has previously written on Brexit – What Happens Next?. The preparations for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio […]

Laws Behind the Rio Olympics

The following is a guest post by Eduardo Soares, a foreign law specialist from Brazil who covers Portuguese-speaking jurisdictions. Eduardo has previously written posts on the Brazilian law collection, capoeira and the law, a Law Library report on citizenship pathways and border protection, highlights of the Law Library’s collection of materials related to the development […]

Brexit – What Happens Next?

The following is a guest post by Felix Beulke, summer intern at the Global Legal Research Directorate, Law Library of Congress. It follows a blog post by Clare Feikert-Ahalt, FALQs: Brexit Referendum. On June 23, 2016 the United Kingdom held a referendum on whether to leave or to remain in the European Union (so called […]

The Crime of Desertion in Roman Law

The following is a guest post by Dante Figueroa, a senior legal information analyst at the Law Library of Congress. Dante has contributed a number of In Custodia Legis blog posts, including on The Rehabilitation of Dante Alighieri, Seven Centuries Later, Resources and Treasures of the Italian Parliamentary Libraries,  Legislation Protecting Italian Cultural Heritage, and Proposed Anti-Sect […]