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A Few Parting Thoughts

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The following is a guest post by Matthew Braun, senior legal reference specialist at the Law Library of Congress.

At the end of May, I will be leaving the Law Library of Congress, after a little more than five years on the staff, to become the Head of Electronic Resources and Computer Services at the University of Iowa Law Library. As I make a transition back into academic law librarianship, I would like to share a few parting thoughts on my experience here.

Since starting at the Law Library on February 19, 2009, I have had the opportunity, among many other things, to conduct Continuing Legal Education (CLE) sessions at American Bar Association (ABA) meetings; select and curate for the Law Library’s Legal Blawg Archive; and teach federal legislative history classes, four times per year, to congressional staff members.

The ABA outreach has been particularly enjoyable, as I have worked closely with Law Librarian David Mao and the Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress on the evolution of the How to Conduct Free Legal Research Online CLE session. I conducted the session eight times, and while only a handful of attendees were at my first session at the ABA Business Law Section Meeting (in Boston) in April 2011, there were over 100 attendees by the time that I conducted it, along with my colleague Barbara Bavis, at the ABA Annual Meeting (in San Francisco) in August 2013. The ABA even allowed me to develop and moderate a webinar version of the session in May 2013, which had over 6,000 participants from across the country. Barbara will be carrying the session forward at this year’s ABA Annual Meeting in Boston, and I know that it will continue to improve under her direction.

The Law Library also provided me with my first supervisory experience, in the Law Library Reading Room Management Training Program, through which I served as acting Public Services coordinator from August 2012 through February 2013. I grew immensely as a leader and a professional during this period, by working closely with the hard-working and talented Public Services Division staff on a variety of reference, research, collections, and human resources-oriented projects. This training program was the brainchild of Roberta Shaffer, the former Law Librarian of Congress and current Associate Librarian for Library Services, and I cannot thank Roberta enough for her ingenuity in providing me and my colleagues the means to learn and develop the skills that are required for advancement within the profession of law librarianship. I also thank Robert Newlen for his detailed guidance and consistent patience in supervising me during this program.

From working with various libraries to acquire items for the 2011 Wickersham Award ceremony honoring former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, to developing a program on federal legislative history that was given at the 2012 American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting in Boston, to teaching the Advanced Legal Research course in The Catholic University Department of Library and Information Science during the Spring 2012 and Spring 2013 semesters, the Law Library of Congress has afforded me a richness of experience that is nothing short of exemplary.

The heart of this experience, however, has been the many hours I have spent at the reference desk, learning from my colleagues, especially my mentors Margaret Wood and Jim Martin, the often underappreciated art of the reference interview, applied equally and effectively for patrons of all types. It is indeed a challenge, at times, to serve our all-encompassing constituency. Yet, the benefits resulting from this challenge, both substantively and stylistically, have been legion for a librarian interested in learning and in growing each work day. Mindful of these many lessons, I thank the people of the Law Library of Congress for a wonderful five years.

Matthew Braun at the Reference Desk / Photo by Andrew Weber
Matthew Braun at the Reference Desk / Photo by Andrew Weber


  1. Congratulations Matthew…

    I also working with a Law University i.e. O.P. Jindal Global Law University, India and its great pleasure to work in a Law Academic.
    As I’v no law background but learn a lot about law. Now i am preparing subject guides on International Criminal Law that is almost completed and plan to work on Women studies, human rights, general law and like.

    It is good to read your views and experience with library of congress. Good luck …. 🙂

    Best wishes
    Sakshi Garg

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