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Meet Alexander Hoffmann: A Law Library of Congress Patron

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The following is a guest post by Megan Lulofs Kuhagen, a Legal Information Analyst in the Public Services Division.  Meg has previously posted on a variety of topics including States in the SenateHouse Committee Hearings Videothe Cardiff Giant, the Canadian Library of Parliamentfootball blackouts, and librarian services.

We have interviewed Law Library staff and our colleagues from around the Library of Congress here at In Custodia Legis. But, we have never interviewed a patron– until now. We want to showcase the research materials available at the Law Library from the perspective of our researchers.  To that end: meet Alexander Hoffmann.


Alexander Hoffmann in the Law Library Reading Room

Alexander was with us for about three months, tirelessly researching corporate governance in Germany and Brazil. Currently living in Germany, he is the son of German diplomats, and has lived in Washington D.C. before. More on his father, German Ambassador to Hungary Matei Hoffmann later.

Academic and Professional History

Alexander came to the Law Library to work on his doctoral dissertation for a PhD in Law from the University of Hamburg through the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law. Prior to Max Planck, he earned his law degree from Humboldt University in Berlin.

Describing the research to other people

Unlike corporate ownership in the United States, which is generally spread over a group of shareholders (think of last month’s Facebook IPO, for example), corporations in Germany and Brazil often have a single majority shareholder. Alexander’s research focuses on how Germany and Brazil regulate corporate ownership to protect minority shareholders. It’s an agency issue, really. In the U.S., a company’s board of directors owes a duty of loyalty to many shareholders. In Germany and Brazil that duty may be limited to only one person: the majority shareholder.

Why research at the Law Library of Congress?

​Alexander described the Law Library as “a researcher’s paradise.” This is the only place that he could come and have easy access to complete, up-to-date collections of both German and Brazilian law. He worked at the Fundação Biblioteca Nacional (National Library of Brazil) for a time, but found that he could only request a few books per day with paper call slips, and that he had to re-request each item every day. Plus, access to German law was limited, and computers were not allowed in the reading room. He worked at school, in Germany, but found that access to Brazilian law was limited.

At the Law Library, he was able to request as many books as he wanted at one time through our Automated Call Slip system, place the books on 5 Day Reserve, connect to our wifi with his own laptop to use our research databases, and most importantly have access to both German and Brazilian law at the same time.

What is something we might have never learned if we didn’t ask?

Alexander’s father, Ambassador Hoffmann, is in Hungary now, but in the early 1980s he was working at the German Embassy in Washington D.C. He attended an event at the Library of Congress where he met then-Librarian Daniel J. Boorstin. He was discussing the depth of the collection with the Librarian and commented that the Library surely did not have his thesis (also on German and Brazilian law). About ten minutes later, he had the thesis in hand, Beendigung der ehelichen Gemeinschaft und Konkubinat in Brasilien. In fact, we still have it.

We look forward to having Alexander’s thesis as well.

Comments (2)

  1. This is really a fascinating story. Sometimes we don’t realize how big and important our collection is, how patron-friendly we are and that for many serious patrons it is almost like a gold mine.

  2. Ich habe diese interessante Geschichte ziemlich viel genossen. Ich bin deutschspraechige Amerikanerin und ich arbeite als Fachreferentin an einer Rechtsbibliothek in Kalifornien. Lieder bei uns gibt es wenige Kunden, denen ich auf Deutsch helfen kann. Manchmal wuensche ich mir, dass ich an der Library of Congress arbeitete. Vielen Dank, Meg! 🙂

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