Today’s interview is with Connie Chang, a law librarianship graduate student at the University of Washington iSchool, who is completing a directed field work with the Digital Resources Division of the Law Library of Congress.
Describe your background.
I was born in Seoul, South Korea, then raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, from the age of two. My parents spoke only English to me because the focus back then was on cultural assimilation. Though there were many Asian Americans around me in Honolulu, I felt different because I was a recent immigrant and because I am Korean (at that time, South Korean culture was not as popular as it is now). I dreamed of becoming a journalist because I wanted to expose the truth and communicate it in everyday language, that everyone could understand. My desire for justice led me to law school. My interest now is in using digital technologies to enhance access to legal information for all.
What is your academic/professional history?
I majored in English at Stanford and earned my law degree at UCLA. I was a banking and corporate attorney at Skadden, Arps, Meagher, Slate & Flom LLP and in-house counsel at WellPoint, Inc. (now named Anthem, Inc.) and Amgen Inc. I also practiced law in Hawaii and served as a lecturer in law at the University of Hawaii Law School. My law practice and teaching experience has helped me tremendously in the University of Washington law librarianship program because I know better than I did when I was younger what I want to get out of my educational experience.
How would you describe your job to other people?
I am writing descriptive metadata for seven collections that will be digitally migrated from the Century of Lawmaking section of the Law Library of Congress website to the main section for its digital collections. The seven collections are: American State Papers, Elliot’s Debates, Farrand’s Records, Indian Land Cessions 1784-1894, Journal of the Confederate Congress, Journals of the Continental Congress, and Letters of Delegates to Congress. It has been fascinating to see so many documents from such a critical period in history recorded in published books and to understand how the information in them was initially organized for future retrieval. Part of my job is to think about how researchers today would want to digitally access the information in these physical book collections. I am part of the link between the subject matter experts–the law librarians who interact with library users and understand their research needs–and the technical team who will take the metadata that I am writing and use it to render a digital version of these collections that will be findable, viewable, and searchable in user-friendly ways.
Why did you want to work at the Library of Congress?
I wanted to gain experience with organizing and digitally formatting legal information in a way that would be easy to find and use online. Legal information is arguably one of the most difficult subject areas for knowledge organizers to maintain because it is complex, highly interconnected, sometimes rapidly evolving, and vast in amount. People need legal information to effectively participate in the justice system that governs them. Physical law libraries that are open to the public will always be crucial to ensuring access to legal information, and thus access to justice. But legal information is increasingly in digital form (whether born-digital or digitized) and more people are searching for it online. For those who are able to access the Library’s collections digitally, I want to help make that online experience an efficient one.
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library of Congress?
The Library of Congress subject headings scheme is well-known, but I did not realize that the Law Library of Congress maintains other metadata schemas to ensure the discoverability of its collections. Those other metadata schemas include, for example, metadata for law-related subjects, metadata to describe jurisdictions around the world, and metadata to describe U.S. agencies and departments. The amount of behind-the-scenes work needed to create and maintain these schemas is incredible. In both law and knowledge organization, standardization and consistent use of language matters. In law it matters because when a writer uses different words for the same concept, the reader might think that the writer intended different meanings because different words were used. In knowledge organization it matters because if different words are used for items in a collection that concern the same subject, the researcher might not find all of the relevant items.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
My favorite exercise is punching a bag. When things are fully re-opened in Honolulu, I look forward to being in the boxing gym again.