This week’s interview is with Patrick Brown, Friends of the Law Library of Congress Rare Book Fellow. Patrick previously participated in the Junior Fellows Program at the Library of Congress (Summer 2011) and has returned at the invitation of the Friends of the Law Library to combine work and study as the inaugural participant in a fellowship funded by the Friends to promote the Rare Book Collection of the Law Library of Congress.
Describe your background
I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, near Emory University, which is where I went to undergrad. I actually attended college classes in the same building where I went to preschool. After college, I moved to North Carolina. I’ve lived for the past five years in several different parts of North Carolina’s Piedmont region, most recently in Chapel Hill.
What is your academic/professional history?
This spring I will be finishing my MSLS from UNC Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science. My path towards librarianship started in college. During the summer after my freshman year, I started working in the Emory Libraries’ Preservation Department. Along with discovering the craft of bookbinding, I enjoyed the combination of practical hand skills, science, and academia found in preservation and in the library as a whole. I also loved seeing the variety of library materials that came through the lab. I decided that I wanted to become a librarian in order to help researchers make use of collections, while still protecting the collection for future generations. After college I continued on the conservation path at Etherington Conservation Services in Greensboro NC, working in the rare book lab. Later, I moved to Raleigh and did conservation on general collections for the NCSU Libraries. In 2010 I started library school at UNC, which has been a real broadening experience. At UNC, I had a research assistant position working on acquisitions for Slavic and East European materials. Through my supervisor there I found out about the Library of Congress’s Summer Junior Fellows program and applied for the summer 2011. I was delighted to be accepted to work on the Cyrillic 4 Collection in the European Division. During the Junior Fellows treasures’ exhibition, I met Nathan Dorn, the Law Library’s Rare Book Curator, and Roberta Shaffer, who was then the Law Librarian of Congress, which led to this current fellowship.
How would you describe your job to other people?
I am the first Rare Book Fellow in the Law Library, generously sponsored by the Friends of the Law Library of Congress. As the Rare Book Fellow, I assist with the day-to-day operations of the Rare Book section of the Law Library. I perform end-stage processing, making books shelf-ready; I help shift and re-shelf books, I update electronic records in the Library’s ILS. A lot of my time has gone into working on a special project dealing with the Law Library’s Russian holdings. I think the best way to describe it is as a big treasure hunt. My task is to locate and identify books in the Law library that are part of a major sub-collection at the Library of Congress known as the Yudin Collection. G. V. Yudin, a late 19th, early 20th century liquor merchant from Siberia, was one of Russia’s foremost book collectors. In 1906, Yudin sold his library to the Library of Congress. The collection, which contained approximately 80,000 volumes, was the first major acquisition of Russian materials by the Library of Congress. Over the years the collection was dispersed throughout the Library. Efforts to record which books are part of this large, historic collection in the online catalog did not begin until several years ago. I am going through the Law Library’s general Russian stacks and looking for physical indicators that the book was part of G. V. Yudin’s library. These books will be transferred to the Law Library’s Rare Book Collection. This project is going to be the basis of my master’s paper for my degree at UNC-SILS. For that part of the project, I am investigating the types of binding and provenance evidence found in the Yudin Collection. I am very excited to be able to work my studies into something that will benefit the Law Library and future researchers.
Why did you want to work at the Library of Congress/Law Library of Congress?
I am happy to be back at the Library of Congress after participating in the Junior Fellows program over the summer. The community here is very impressive. There are always interesting lectures and exciting things happening around here. The collections at the Library of Congress and specifically the Law Library are amazing. Going through the compact shelving has been a constant revelatory experience.
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library of Congress?
I wasn’t aware what a huge variety of material can be found in the Law Library. The collection is incredibly international. Working with the Rare Book Collection, I’ve been amazed to see how historical law documents inform the development of law everywhere. The continuous relationship of Roman Law to modern continental European law was a completely new concept for me. I also didn’t expect to see ecclesiastic laws, Canon law, and the like in the Law Library. While going through the Russian holdings I’ve been finding an interesting mix of material ranging from discussions of the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church to 19th century criminal trial reports.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
I’m a big fan of Irish traditional music and try to head down to a pub for a session at least once a week. I play the concertina—a small, hexagonal kind of squeezebox.