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Greetings from the Law Librarian of Congress

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The following is a guest post by Roberta Shaffer, Law Librarian of Congress.  This holiday letter is also available in PDF.

With the year drawing to a close, I want to send you my best wishes for the New Year and to provide you with important Law Library of Congress updates as we head into 2011.


The U.S. Congress turned frequently to the Law Library during the second session of the 111th Congress for a wide range of information and analysis. Major issues included oil spill liability, mining safety regulations, immigration, campaign finance, corporate residency taxation, crimes against humanity, government procurement agreements and health care. Law Library staff responded with timely research that was objective, non-partisan and confidential. Our legal reference staff was available for consultation with Members of Congress and congressional staff whenever Congress was in session. Over 4,000 congressional clients were assisted by the Law Library.

In addition to serving Congress, Law Library staff provided hundreds of legal research reports, special studies and memoranda for Executive- and Judicial-branch agencies, the practicing bar, embassy staff, journalists and members of the public in the United States and abroad. Two Law Library memoranda were cited in U.S. Supreme Court opinions, those of Ruth Levush in Graham v. Florida, and Graciela I. Rodriguez-Ferrand in Abbott v. Abbott. Our reading room staff members served more than 44,000 patrons on location, by telephone or electronically. Training users in information access is an important component of our service. This year, 121 programs were offered on the basic principles of legislative and legal research, and were taught by our expert staff.

Staff Updates

I was very pleased to have two excellent senior managers join Don Simon and me in the Law Library this year. David Mao was appointed Deputy Law Librarian in June 2010 and Robert Newlen, Assistant Law Librarian for Collections, Outreach and Services, joined us in August 2010.

David manages the Law Library’s entire global legal research portfolio of over 240 jurisdictions as well as the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN). With a law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center, David was in private practice for several years before returning to graduate school to pursue a Master’s degree in library science. He joins us from the Congressional Research Service. David has also worked at the Georgetown University Law Library and the research library of the law firm of Covington and Burling LLP. He served as adjunct professor at the University of Maryland and is admitted to the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bars.

Robert Newlen’s focus is on collection development and outreach to the Law Library’s diverse constituencies, and research and reference services. He oversees Law Library development and fundraising initiatives. Previously, Robert was assistant director of the Congressional Research Service Knowledge Services Group. A graduate of Bridgewater College with a bachelor’s degree in political science and French, he earned a master’s degree in art history from American University and a master’s degree in library science from The Catholic University of America.

Kersi Shroff, Co-Director of Legal Research (Western Division) announced his
retirement at the end of 2010. He oversaw a staff of lawyers and other professionals trained in laws of Central and Latin America, the European Union member states, the EU itself, and the British Commonwealth countries. Mr. Shroff served as a senior foreign law specialist at the Law Library until 1999 when he was appointed Co-Director of what is now the Global Legal Resource Center. We wish him a happy and healthy retirement and will miss him greatly.

Marie Whited, Cataloging Liaison at the Law Library, was selected as the American Association of Law Libraries’ 2010 recipient of the Marian Gould Gallagher Distinguished Service Award. Marie was selected for this honor because of her extended and sustained service to law librarianship, contributions to professional literature and exemplary service to AALL. Marie retired from the Law Library at the end of the year.

Digital Initiatives

Our online presence grew substantially during the year. THOMAS, the public legislative information system, had an average of 7.4 million page views and one million visits each month. Major enhancements were added to THOMAS featuring a “top bills list,” a “tip of the week,” connectivity to the Law Library through Web 2.0 and a State Legislature Websites page with a map interface to highlight state-sponsored legislative information systems pages. Other activities relating to THOMAS included a training webinar–a first of its kind–entitled “Congressional Legislation @ Your Fingertips.”

Web 2.0 was a big focus for the Law Library in 2010. The unveiling of the Law Library’s Facebook page followed a strong and growing Twitter presence. A year after its launch, Law Library’s Twitter had 2,500 followers, and we are closing out the calendar year with 3,500 Facebook friends. The Law Library’s video presence was expanded to YouTube and iTunes U. The Law Library also launched its own blog, “In Custodia Legis.”

The Congressional Joint Committee on Printing recently authorized the Government Printing Office to work with the Library of Congress in creating enhanced access online to three sets of important documents, the “Constitution of the United States: Analysis and Interpretation” (CONAN); historical volumes of the Congressional Record; and the United States Statutes at Large. We will play a substantial role in this collaboration.

The 17th Annual GLIN Directors’ Meeting was hosted by the National Assembly Library of the Republic of Korea–the first GLIN Directors’ meeting to be held outside of Washington, DC. During 2010, the Law Library completed a comprehensive assessment of GLIN to examine its vision, strategy, funding priorities, relationships and technology with the goal of identifying possible opportunities for future direction, which was discussed at the Directors’ Meeting.

The Law Library of Congress continues to maintain and make accessible large collections acquired since the nineteenth century. The Law Library serves as the archival repository for born-digital legal documents and publications, especially since many of these materials would otherwise disappear into an “electronic black hole” after their initial appearance. Our ongoing digital
preservation program is a priority. A noteworthy initiative involved the restoration of Haiti’s legal resources. After the devastating earthquake in January, 2010, the need for access to Haiti’s statutes and other law-related materials became paramount to the nation and its people, and organizations helping with the recovery effort. As a result, the digitization of 226 rare Haitian law titles (273 volumes) was completed as part of the Law Library Microform Consortium’s Haiti Legal Patrimony Project.


The Global Legal Monitor, a continually updated online publication covering legal news and developments worldwide, reached an e-mail readership of 13,023. The Guide to Law Online, an annotated portal of Internet sources of interest to legal researchers, had 451,622 visits and 616,558 page views. Other online resources added to the Law Library’s website this year included special presentations on the nomination of Justice Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. The Law Library continues to offer RSS feeds and email alerts to notify subscribers about the availability of selected resources.

Staff News

David Mao visited the European Parliament’s Directorate-General for the Presidency and conferred with various units including the Directorate for the Library & Documentation Management, and the Archive and Documentation Center concerning library collections and services as well as collaboration with the Law Library of Congress. He also met with members of the European Commission’s Directorate on Better Regulation and Administrative Policies and the European Union Publications Office regarding digitization and authentication matters. David discussed collection development and digitization with the staff from the European Court of Justice Library and Research & Documentation Directorates. We are hoping that short-term staff exchanges will result from the contacts David made during this trip.

Bob Gee attended the 67th annual meeting of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in Albuquerque where he and Aaron Chaletzky, from our fellow Library of Congress service unit, Library Services, presented a program entitled “Sharing Tribal Codes and Constitutions: A Tribally-Driven Partnership with the Law Library of Congress to Strengthen Tribal Governance.”

Law Library staff gave presentations at numerous meetings and conferences. David Mao and Kersi Shroff focused on the legal services available at the Law Library of Congress at the American Bar Association annual meeting; Robert Newlen attended the annual meeting of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, including the parliamentary library pre-conference; many staff members and I attended the American Library Association conference in June; and other contacts were with the American Society of International Law, the American Association of Law Libraries, the Association of American Law Schools, the International Association of Law Libraries, and the Special Libraries Association, to name just a few.

We have assumed a leadership role in the Library of Congress telework program with a substantial number of Law Library staff members teleworking on a regular basis. Staff members have participated in other creative programs, as well. An April retreat on “cultural intelligence” was conducted by Dr. David A. Livermore who focused on the ability to function effectively in a variety of national, ethnic, and organizational cultures. Rosetta Stone, the online language acquisition system, is being accessed by approximately half of the Law Library staff who are studying over 10 different languages of key importance to our services.

Special Events and Programs

We offered a number of special events and programs during the year including our Annual Law Day Celebration, the Wickersham dinner, a co-sponsored program on the treatment of foreign law by different jurisdictions, the film Courting Justice, FLICC’s “great escape” and Human Rights Day.

  • The Law Day event, “You Be the Judge: Cross-Cultural Issues in the Court,” attracted a large audience of “jurors” whose “verdicts,” delivered via handheld responders, were compared with actual legal decisions interpreted by Professor Jonathan Turley, moderator, and panelists Rene L. Valladares, Mark J. Mills, J.D., M.D. and Hon. Delissa A. Ridgway. We received substantial support from our many friends to present this program. Thank you again!
  • Harold Hongju Koh, U.S. Department of State Legal Adviser, was this year’s Wickersham dinner honoree, with the Law Library Friends generously extending complimentary invitations to Law Library staff and local law school law review editors.
  • The program, “How Different Jurisdictions Treat Foreign Law in Their Jurisprudence” featured Professor Vicki C. Jackson from Georgetown University Law School and Law Library foreign law specialists. The program was the shared effort of the Law Library of Congress, the American Society of International Law (ASIL), the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C. (LLSDC) and the Federal Law Library Caucus (FLLC).
  • The film, Courting Justice, by producer Ruth Gowan related the fascinating story of women justices and judges in South Africa today.
  • FLICC’s “great escape” program hosted federal librarians onsite to learn about the Law Library and tour our impressive stacks now holding over 2.78 million items.
  • We also hosted briefings and tours for U.S. Supreme Court Clerks–those leaving in June and those arriving in July.
  • The Human Rights Day panel discussion “Cultural Property Rights of Indigenous People,” with panelists Dr. Helen Stacy, Betsy Kanalley, Kelly Buchanan, and Stephen Clarke celebrated the 1948 global enunciation of human rights. The Friends of the Law Library generously sponsored a post-panel reception.
  • Our Power Lunch series has provided a variety of programs featuring senior Law Library staff members and others. Topics covered included “Minority Religious Rights” with Ruth Levush; “Current Comparative Constitutional Developments in Latin America” by Dante Figueroa; “Copyright Law Update” by the Register of Copyrights, Marybeth Peters; “World Justice Project” by our former Director of Legal Research, Honxia Liu and her new colleagues; “Highlights of the Meeting of the Advisory Committee on International Law of the State Department” by Teresa Papademetriou; “Rare Book Treasures of the Law Library” by Meredith Shedd-Driskell and Nathan Dorn; “Promotion of the Rule of Law” by Keith Crawford and Wade Channel of the U.S. Agency for International Development; “The Law and the North Korean Refugee” by Sayuri Umeda and Helen H. Lee; “Living and Working in Africa: Life as a Peace Corps Volunteer” by Jeffrey Page, Chief Financial Officer for the Library of Congress; “Legal Updates from South Africa and Ukraine” by Wenette Snyman Jacobs and Valentyn Gladkykh; and “Citizenship Issues Affecting Ethiopian Citizens of Eritrean Origin” by Hanibal Goitom. In addition to Law Library staff, we were delighted to have our Library of Congress colleagues from the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. Copyright Office, the General Counsel’s Office, Library Services, as well as members of the public participate in these programs.

The Law Library will be hosting a number of events in 2011 and we hope your schedule will allow you to attend as many as possible. One in particular that you should plan for is the 2011 Wickersham Award Ceremony, which will be held on June 13, 2011, at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The Friends of the Law Library of Congress will be honoring Justice John Paul Stevens, recently retired from the U.S. Supreme Court. Save the date!


We are always delighted to welcome guests. This year’s distinguished visiting legal scholars and professionals hailed from all corners of the globe, including the U.S., China, Thailand, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, the European Union, the European Parliament, Catalunya, Germany, the Russian Federation, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. Within the framework of the Legislative Fellows Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, we hosted two parliamentary staff members, one from Ukraine and the other from the Republic of Georgia. Interns provided information on such jurisdictions as Korea, Mongolia, South Asian countries, Ireland, and the European Union.


The Law Library worked closely with the American Bar Association Standing Committee of the Law Library of Congress. The Committee serves as the ABA’s principal connection to the Law Library and facilitates efforts to increase Law Library visibility in the legal community. At the fall Standing Committee meeting in Washington, DC, senior staff briefed the Standing Committee on the full range of Law Library activities, priorities and challenges.

Strategic Planning and Future Directions

In 2010, the Law Library engaged in an overall strategic planning process for fiscal years 2011 – 2016. Donald Simon, Assistant Law Librarian for Operations and Planning, led the project. Versions of the strategic plan were reviewed by key internal and external stakeholders and constituents including the entire Law Library staff. The themes that emerged were: preservation and maintenance of the collection regardless of format, accountability, efficiency of operations, customer focus, exploitation of the most current technologies, retention and attraction of the best qualified staff and coordination within the Library of Congress and with partners outside the Library. The Law Library Strategic Plan is complete and fully aligned with the Library of Congress Strategic Plan. The June 2010 issue of the American Association of Law Libraries’ Spectrum Magazine describes the unique process that we used to develop our strategic plan, strategic positioning vision and the guiding principles for our short- and long-term goals.

Much attention was paid to the ever-growing space needs of the Law Library. During the past year, fifty-five percent of the collection designated to be sent to Fort Meade Module III/IV was inventoried and prepared for shipment. Forty percent of the collection has actually been sent to the off site facility. The overflow shelving areas for most of the non-United States portion of the legal collection have been expanded to provide enough shelving space for the growth expected in the next three years. The expansion of the overflow shelving areas for General Law, Religious Law, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States will be completed early next year.

Looking to the future, the Law Library of Congress plans to position itself as a major facilitator of research on all global legal issues. Confronted with a changing array of competing information technologies, lawyers must rely increasingly on librarians who have an expert’s blend of subject-specific knowledge, research know-how and technological skills. We expect to provide information and maintain an up-to-date collection by using the latest technology. However, we must continue to provide in-depth legal research and reference assistance using a variety of formats and techniques, as we navigate a range of materials, both print and electronic. We cannot ignore our rare and unique collections and important print legal documents. While other research
libraries may have discarded print materials in favor of online access, we remain an invaluable and often sole resource for legal research and materials in all formats.

Reaching out to colleagues world wide, the Law Library’s future plans include developing and maintaining a “One World Law Library,” or “OWLL,” using the latest digital technologies to make the world’s laws and law-related materials accessible and usable over the Internet. OWLL will provide a focal point for building partnerships with other governments, U.S. agencies, the federal judiciary, the non-profit sector and academia. At the very end of this year, THOMAS became part of This website allows federated searching across federally-supported scientific websites. The addition of THOMAS to will facilitate research at the intersection of science, policy, and law. We continue to work with our Library of Congress colleagues to design and develop the Library’s next generation of web-presence and search capability. As we turn the corner into calendar year 2011, we will be focusing efforts on the structure and content for our domain, LAW.GOV. This will involve collaboration with internal LC stakeholders, as well as myriad external ones, including state and local libraries, federal agencies, and foreign and international law collections held globally.

We will spend much of 2011 preparing to renovate and transform our reading room into a 21st Century prototype for library collections and services. Our state-of-the-art reading room is slated to be fully functional in 2013.

This past year was my first full year as Law Librarian of Congress. I am delighted to acknowledge the dedicated service of the Law Library staff and the encouragement and support of our many friends and colleagues. I look forward again to working with each of you in the coming year as we serve Congress, the American people and the world’s legal community.

May 2011 be filled with peace and prosperity!

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