The Law Library of Congress was delighted to engage with attendees again this year at the Library’s National Book Festival. We had 11 staff members volunteer at the festival from our Global Legal Research Directorate, Global Legal Collection Directorate, Public Services Division and Legislative and External Relations Office. We discussed our collection, legal research products and unique expertise in foreign and international law and distributed gavel pencils, bookmarks and information guides. I personally enjoyed the enthusiastic expressions from children, teachers, legal professionals and law student parents as they marveled at the novelty of our gavel pencils. I also liked informing attendees how a Reader Registration Card can give them access to our collection or how “Ask a Law Librarian” can connect them to our talented legal reference librarians. Many guests expressed their unfamiliarity with these services, so it was nice to know that our attendance at the festival made them aware of our in-person and online services.
I asked my colleagues to share their own reflections from volunteering at the festival. Below are their responses:
Jenny Gesley, our foreign law specialist for German-speaking jurisdictions and first time volunteer at the festival wrote,
Volunteering at the Law Library of Congress’s table at the National Book Festival was a great experience. It was my first time volunteering and my first time attending the Book Festival in general. I was amazed at how many people came to see us even though I had the first shift early in the morning. They seemed truly interested in learning about the various services that the Law Library offers, especially for teachers and lawyers. I apologize in advance to my colleagues at the reference desk for all the people that will descend upon you! The gavel pencils were a crowd favorite and who could blame them?! People also liked our brochure “Magna Carta – Muse & Mentor” about our recent Magna Carta exhibit, which is now travelling through the United States. They also shared how much they enjoyed visiting the exhibit and the lectures or how sad they were that they missed it.
Janice Hyde, director of our Global Legal Collection also shared her first time experience volunteering at the festival.
I really enjoyed my first experience volunteering at the Law Library’s booth at the National Book Festival. It was quite a challenge trying to describe the Law Library’s collections, products, and services in 30-second sound bites, but I had many engaging conversations with current and potential patrons. Those perennial favorites–the gavel pencils–went flying off the table, but our new book marks with law-themed images from the Jefferson building were also popular. In the few moments when the crowds thinned, it was also interesting to catch glimpses of the wonderful presentations given by Library staffers. I loved the enthusiasm shown by my Law Library colleagues and those across the institution.
Elizabeth Moore, long-time National Book Festival volunteer and manager of our Global Legal Resource Room was on double duty at the festival. She volunteered at the Law Library table and served as an author escort.
This year I worked as an author escort for Joseph Ellis, a historian whose latest book is The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789. My job was to make sure he got to his events on time, and he was kept busy with two presentations, a media event and a book signing. He was gracious and welcoming to all the people who wanted a moment of his time to ask him a question or talk about one of his books. It was great to participate at a day-long event focused on books and authors!
My best experience [at the festival] was when a patron mentioned that she picked up a gavel pencil at the National Book Festival a few years back and later gave it to a Judge who serves on the Mexican Supreme Court.
Dante Figueroa, senior legal information analyst and Nicolas Boring, foreign law specialist for French-speaking jurisdictions, volunteered for the second time at the festival and expressed their enjoyment discussing our Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor exhibition with teachers.
During our shift at least two teachers came, separately, to our table to chat with us. You could see they were not entirely sure what resources they could use for educational purposes at their schools. Nicolas and I talked to them about the Magna Carta event, and they became really interested. Long story short, they ended up taking about 30 of the Magna Carta catalogs each, to share with their students, and to impress their superiors and colleagues with such a display of interactive classroom resources. We felt thankful for the opportunity to indirectly assist students whom we will probably never meet in person.
The Law Library of Congress looks forward to participating at the National Book Festival again next year and yes, we plan to bring back more gavel pencils!