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A Follow-up Interview with Elin Hofverberg, Foreign Law Specialist

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Our interview series on In Custodia Legis started almost nine years ago with an interview of the then-Law Librarian of Congress, Roberta Shaffer.  We are now approaching 300 interviews.  Today’s with Elin marks a first: it is the first time we have completed a follow-up interview.  Elin was originally interviewed in 2011 when she was an intern at the Law Library of Congress.

Describe your current position.

I work as a foreign law specialist, meaning I conduct research on and monitor foreign and international law. My primary jurisdictions are the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden), which also naturally includes researching European Union (EU) law as Denmark, Sweden, and Finland are members of the EU. In addition to responding to requests from Congress and executive agencies, as well as research requests from the public, I also maintain and update the law collection for these jurisdictions.

Elin Hofverberg standing in the great hall of the Library of Congress.
Elin Hofverberg / Photo by Donna Sokol

What project are you most proud of that you have worked on at the Law Library of Congress?

The most rewarding part of my job is the joy of providing information that our patrons cannot find anywhere else; for example, locating an old law from a foreign jurisdiction, or writing an analysis of a recent foreign legal development not covered by the US media. Work at the Law Library of Congress is always very varied. Our director, Peter Roudik, often says, “what’s in the news is on our desks.”

I have written reports on topics as diverse as cryptocurrencies, foreign aid, and the slaughter of animals. I have also written “lighter” pieces, such as my blog pieces on Lego and Danish Patent Law, and the Making of a Legal Cinnamon Bun.

Law is all around us.

What is the most interesting thing you have discovered from working with the Law Library’s print and electronic collections?

How fascinating its collections are. The legal collections for the Nordic countries are extensive. Every time I work with older material I feel as If I’ve stepped into a time machine. For example, the Law Library has an original Icelandic law book from 1637.

What is your favorite Law Library of Congress website and why?

Aside from this blog, I really enjoy reading my colleagues contributions to the Global Legal Monitor (GLM). As a lawyer specializing in international and comparative law, I find it interesting to learn how other countries deal with legal issues.  In 2013, I wrote a GLM article on a decision by the Norwegian Tax Authority with regard to cryptocurrencies that later resulted in a multinational cryptocurrency report. That report has since been updated numerous times.

When you learn how one country responds to a particular legal issue you become curious to find out how other countries have approached it. We at the Global Legal Research Directorate are in a unique position to be able to satisfy that curiosity.

What is the most interesting fact you have learned about the Library of Congress?

When I first joined the Library, I was impressed by the Jefferson collection (especially his law collection). Today, I am impressed that we are such a living library. The Law Library alone has collected more than 2,954,200 volumes (the most in the world), and just in the 2018 fiscal year we prepared 1,665 legal research reports, special studies and memoranda sent across three branches of government, and answered 3,680 Ask-a Librarian requests.

The troves of knowledge contained within the Library’s walls is amazing to me.

What is your favorite legal novel and/or movie?

It’s hard to pick an absolute favorite, but one of the movies with a legal theme that I’ve seen numerous times is The Pelican Brief. With time, I have come to accept the discrepancies from the original book by John Grisham.

Another movie that I have seen more than once is 12 Angry Men, which is part of the National Film Registry. Although, I find that one is less about law and more about psychology.

I keep abreast of Nordic crime shows, such as The Bridge, just to know what my colleagues are talking about. My favorite Danish show is Borgen, which can be described as a Danish West Wing.

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