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From the Law Librarian of Congress

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The following is a guest post by Roberta I. Shaffer, Law Librarian of Congress. Roberta has posted to the blog on multiple occasions including: Happy Old Year, The Law Library of Congress Strategic Plan Released, and My Trip to the Future.

Another year has passed and I am pleased once again to send you great cheer and best wishes for the New Year on behalf of the Law Library of Congress. As we welcome 2012, I would like to share with you the Law Library’s many accomplishments from the past year.


Our primary dedication to serving Congress was apparent in the 4,019 inquiries we answered for Members and the 373 legal research reports, special studies, and memoranda we created for Congress. The Law Library’s staff also offered their professional services to executive branch agencies, the judiciary, law practitioners and researchers, students, scholars, foreign government officials and the diplomatic corps, the American business community, journalists, and curious and concerned citizens.

Digital Initiatives

We made great strides in leveraging the Law Library website and social media to extend our virtual services to audiences beyond our reading room walls. THOMAS, the public and free legislative information system, attracted 10.3 million visits. RSS feeds and e-mail alerts kept our readers informed with updates on the legal world.

The Law Library’s Facebook page informed our over 7,000 friends of our services, events, and publications. Our main Twitter feed kept our more than 21,000 followers up-to-date on important resources for legislative research; and the THOMASdotgov Twitter account offered our over 9,000 followers timely updates on legal developments.

In Custodia Legis, the Law Library’s blog, continued to publish fresh content daily on global legal matters, profiles of legal personae and Law Library staff, and current events related to law.


The Global Legal Monitor, our online publication covering legal news worldwide, reached an e-mail readership of 16,097. The Guide to Law Online, an annotated portal of internet sources of interest to legal researchers, had 451,917 page views.

Special Events and Programs

The Law Library hosted eight major events to honor and commemorate great achievement in law and to celebrate law related public observances. I would like to highlight some of those events below. A complete record of our public events and commemorations can be found in the Events section of our 2011 Annual Report.

On March 8, the Law Library presented excerpts from “Father Chief Justice: Edward Douglas White and the Constitution,” a play about the ninth Chief Justice by Louisiana State University Law Professor Paul R. Baier. The play depicted significant moments in Chief Justice White’s life. Baier played Richard Henry James (“Jesse”), a close friend of Chief Justice White. The play also starred Charles Cooper, Cooper & Kirk, PLLC, as Chief Justice White; and myself as Fanny Holmes.

The Law Library hosted the American Society of International Law (ASIL) Presidential Lecture on March 30. David D. Caron, President of ASIL, presented “Images of the Arctic and the Futures They Suggest.” In this wide-ranging lecture and visual tour, Caron identified the images involved; the legal and political implications of each; and possible “futures” for the Arctic.

We held the annual Wickersham Award ceremony on June 13. The Friends of the Law Library of Congress presented the 2011 Wickersham Award for exceptional public service and dedication to the legal profession to former Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens. Following the award presentation, Justice Stevens was interviewed by Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and senior correspondent for PBS NewsHour.

The event featured a display of a new rare book acquisition. Through the generosity of Julie Chrystyn Opperman, who in honor of her husband, Dwight Opperman, donated funds, the Law Library acquired a first edition of Casus Breves by Johannes de Turnhout. Published in the fifteenth century, this two-volume work is the first law book ever printed in Brussels. It marks a high point in late medieval scholarship on the Roman Civil Law. At present, the Law Library is the only institution in the United States with a copy in its holdings.

On the same evening as the Wickersham Award, the Friends of the Law Library bestowed the first-ever Blackstone Award to William C. Burton, Esq., a partner in Sagat|Burton LLP, New York, and the founder and chairman of The Burton Awards for Legal Achievement. Burton received the inaugural Blackstone Award for his significant contributions to advancing the mission and activities of the Law Library.

On October 5, Joseph Raz, the Thomas M. Macioce Professor of Law at Columbia Law School and visiting professor at King’s College London School of Law, delivered the 2011 Kellogg Lecture entitled “Sovereignty and Legitimacy: On the Changing Face of Law—Questions and Speculations.” The Kellogg Biennial Lecture on Jurisprudence presents the most distinguished contributors to international jurisprudence, judged through writings, reputation, and broad and continuing influence on contemporary legal scholarship. The series has been generously endowed by Frederic R. and Molly S. Kellogg.

We expanded our Power Lunch program and held twenty-four of these enriching events for staff, extending invitations to external speakers to present on current legal topics. Some of the topics included: “The 112th Congress–Observations and Predictions” by Judith Schneider, Specialist, American National Government, Congressional Research Service, Government and Finance Division; “Roman Law in Ruins: the Paul Krueger Archive in the Law Library of Congress” by John Hessler, a Kluge Staff Fellow from the Geography and Map Division; and “China: Today, Tomorrow and the Transition” by Kenneth Hunter, Senior Fellow, Maryland China Initiative, University of Maryland. The Annual Report of the Law Library contains a complete listing of Power Lunch topics and speakers.

Our monthly “All Staff” meetings continued with presenters from within the Library of Congress addressing pertinent institution-wide matters.

Staff represented the Law Library at over twenty-three association meetings and conferences throughout the year, maintaining our professional presence in the United States and around the world.


This year, the Law Library saw an even greater number of visitors from around the globe. Distinguished visiting legal scholars and professionals hailed from Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Germany, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Russia, Seychelles, Taiwan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan, among others. We were fortunate to have several interns this year, covering the jurisdictions of China, Italy, the Republic of Georgia, Sweden, and the Ukraine.


The Law Library worked closely with the American Bar Association (ABA) 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 the Law Library’s visibility in the legal community. At their autumn meeting in Washington, DC, senior staff briefed the Standing Committee on the wide array of Law Library activities, priorities, and challenges.

Staff Updates

In September Robert Gee, formerly the Chief of the Public Services Division, began his new position of Assistant Law Librarian for Virtual Services. Bob will oversee the newly created Virtual Services Directorate and will have the primary responsibility of managing the One World Law Library (OWLL) resources and the domain.

David Mao, whom I introduced in last year’s holiday letter and annual report, was named by Dr. Billington as the next Law Librarian of Congress and will assume his new duties on January 3, 2012 as I move up to the sixth floor of the Madison Building to become the Associate Librarian for Library Services. In his time as Deputy Law Librarian, David has represented the Law Library at high-level national and international conferences and meetings and is well-versed in the challenges that this position faces on a daily basis. I have no doubt that he will do a splendid job leading the Law Library during these trying times of change.

The Law Library mourned the loss of two of its beloved staff members this year. While it is always difficult to lose colleagues, the Law Library perpetuates their spirit in the work that we do and benefits from the legacy of the work they left us.

Darίo César Ferreira, a senior legal research analyst who served in the Law Library for 36 years, died on April 13. Darίo was the expert on Roman, canon and eventually Italian Law. In 1981, The Library of Congress published Dario’s authoritative bibliography of The Canon Law Collection of the Library of Congress. The bibliography is now considered a rare holding in the Law Library.

Krishan Nehra, who worked at the Law Library for 39 years, died on July 2. Krishan served as the primary specialist in charge of collections and acquisitions for the laws of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Brunei and the Maldives. He saw a great deal of change within these jurisdictions but was always willing to embrace and to see the benefits of it. We can look to Krishan as a role model—as someone who always kept moving forward—in these times of constant change.

The Law Library family shrunk this November with the retirements of four long-serving staff. While we were sad to see great colleagues leave, we wished them the best at an all-staff celebration of their work in the Law Library. Mark Strattner, Chief of Collection Services Division, worked for the Law Library for 24 years. Stephen Clarke, Canadian Legal Specialist, retired after 33 years of service. Alvin Wallace, Legal Information Technician Specialist, logged the most time at the Law Library with 39 years. Meredith Shedd-Driskel, Curator of Rare Books, spent 9 years tending to the Law Library’s priceless collection. Each retiring staff member took away a booklet filled with photos from their time at the Library of Congress and with the handwritten wishes by Law Library staff.

Staff News

We established the Law Library Reading Room Management Training Program in May to offer subject-matter experts in legal and legislative research an opportunity to learn about the full spectrum of management theories and apply them to an on-the-job management rotation within the Law Library. Five Fellows were selected through a competitive process: Matt Braun, Emily Carr, Debbie Keysor, Christine Sellers, and Margaret Wood. During the two-and-a-half-year program, the Fellows receive training and mentoring to develop their leadership and management skills. Each Fellow also participates in a six-month rotation as the Law Library Reading Room manager to gain on-the-job training. The Fellows met with Dr. Billington and the Library’s Chief-of-Staff, Robert Dizard, to speak with them about leadership and management styles.

Priorities for 2012

We made great progress this year toward our goal of creating a One World Law Library (OWLL)—a portal to and repository of primary legal materials from around the world using format standards that facilitate perpetual access to current, historical, authoritative and authenticated law and law-related information.

I presented the vision of OWLL to the Library of Congress’s Web Governance Board, the coordinating authority for all of the Library’s web presences. The Law Library completed its organizational structure of the new Virtual Services Directorate to support the development and ongoing oversight of OWLL/ In September, we completed a detailed eight-year business plan for OWLL, which provides a blueprint for the realization of this important project.

Work is underway to redesign the physical space of the Law Library Reading Room (LLRR). The changes will better serve our patrons and transform the Law Library Reading Room (LLRR) into a 21st-century law library. Law Library technicians have completed pulling books from the LLRR that exist on—and are more often accessed via—online subscription services and have relocated those volumes to the stacks. Early next year, we will see even more progress on the remodeling.

Over the past year, we have embarked on the transformation of the Law Library into the premier center of global legal research. As I leave the Law Library to lead Library Services, I am honored to have been able to work with such a dedicated staff and showcase the unmatched law collections through a variety of special programs and collaborations. I know that the Law Library will continue to achieve its strategic goals in the capable hands of the twenty-third Law Librarian of Congress, David Mao.

May the new year bring you much success and great happiness!


  1. I think digital initatives should first and foremost in the line of priority.

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