(The following is an article in the November/December 2014 issue of LCM, the Library of Congress Magazine. The issue can be read in its entirety here.)
Law Librarian of Congress David Mao discusses his career path to the world’s largest law library.
What are your responsibilities as Law Librarian of Congress?
I see the position as having three very broad responsibilities. I am part law librarian to Congress, part steward for the law collections at the Library of Congress and part ambassador to the world’s legal and library communities. As Law Librarian, I manage the operation and policy administration of the world’s largest collection of legal materials and of the leading research center for foreign, comparative and international law.
Can you describe the career path that led you to this position at the Library?
During my second and third years of law school, I worked as a student aide in the library. I really enjoyed working in the library. When graduation neared, I consulted with two of the librarians about a possible career in law librarianship. I was advised that I would need to complete a library degree. Deciding to be fiscally prudent, I took a slight detour–for the next several years, I toiled for a large law firm, working on commercial litigation matters.
A chance encounter presented me with the opportunity to work in an academic law library again. I took the opportunity and thereafter applied to library school. A year later, I applied for and was given a position as legislative librarian in the D.C. office of an international law firm. I tracked and monitored current federal legislation, provided in-depth research on historical legislation, and also compiled and prepared legislative histories. I also continued my studies and received a library science degree. After almost eight years at the firm in various positions, including managing research and conflicts, I moved to the Library’s Congressional Research Service. In 2010, I joined the Law Library as Deputy Law Librarian, and then became Law Librarian in 2012.
Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?
The opportunity to work with the world’s largest collection of legal materials is a primary reason. In addition, I am able to work with the Law Library of Congress team–a high-caliber group of people who are very respected in the community and around the world. As the Law Library is a part of the larger Library of Congress, I have the added pleasure and honor to work with colleagues who together are leading the library profession in the Age of Information. I am always in awe to be among the leaders in the areas of information, policy, preservation and research–right here at the Library of Congress.
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library?
One interesting fact is that, pursuant to the Standing Rules of the Senate, “the Assistant Librarian in charge of the Law Library” has privilege of the Senate floor. Access to the Senate Chamber floor is a privilege not accorded to many non-members of Congress.
How have you used your fluency in Chinese in your profession?
I believe that it is important to be involved in professional associations. As an outgrowth of work with the American Association of Law Libraries, I joined with several law librarian colleagues to help found a non-profit organization to promote the accessibility of legal information and foster the education of legal information professionals in the United States and China. Working with the organization has allowed me to use my Chinese language skills as well as my academic background in international affairs, law and librarianship.