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National Library Week – These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things

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We celebrate many commemorative days, weeks, and holidays at the Law Library of Congress, from Public Service Recognition Week to Constitution Day. One week that is particularly dear to our hearts is National Library Week. Each April, libraries across America celebrate the important work of libraries and librarians, and the countless ways in which they serve the public. This year’s theme is “Connect with Your Library.” I asked my colleagues to tell me about their favorite collection item or service at the library. Some colleagues, like Ruth Levush, choose a service that helps them with their work, stating “my favorite services are Israeli legal databases and online news services to which the Law Library of Congress subscribes. These digital sources provide me the ability to respond to urgent congressional and government requests for analysis of Israeli law as necessitated by both global and Israeli domestic developments. The legal databases are in Hebrew, the language of publication of official documents in Israel, and contain an extensive collection of statutory and judicial legal sources.” Others gave answers specific to the Law Library of Congress, the Library of Congress at large, and libraries in general! Check out some of our favorite things about libraries.

By the 1890s, Users in Close Quarters: A 220th Birthday Salute to the Library of Congress (LOC). From The Library of Congress Flickr.

Margaret Wood: I believe I have written about this item before, but one of my favorite items in the Law Library Reading Room is the three-volume publication with the spine title, “List of Private Claims.” The full title for this item is considerably more formidable. The House of Representatives passed three resolutions between 1848 and 1851, directing the Clerk of the House to assemble an alphabetical list of private claims submitted to the House from the first Congress through the end of the 29th Congress. The list includes the names of the claimants; the nature of the claim; the session at which it was introduced; and any actions taken on it in the House or Senate. This list also contains references to the Journals of the House and Senate, reports of committees, and any laws that were passed on these claims. The actual records related to these claims are with the National Archives. This publication has also been digitized by HathiTrust.

Robert Brammer: I would pick the Malleus Maleficarum. This 15th-century treatise is housed in the Law Library’s rare book collection and discusses how to conduct the trial of a person accused of witchcraft. Nathan Dorn and I created a video several years ago to highlight this item.

Betty Lupinacci: I have so many favorites in the collection that it’s difficult to choose. However, there are a couple rare items that I really love. One is the Russian Manuscript Scrolls Collection, which I’ve only seen once, but which made an enormous impression on me. The collection consists of 48 scrolls of varying lengths, containing all manner of legal documents from the 1600 and 1700s. The second is Laÿen Spiegel von rechtmässigen Ordnungen in burgerlichen vnd peinlichen Regimenten. This book has the best illustrations in perhaps any book, but certainly any law book, I’ve ever seen. They contain all manner of devils and demons and even dragons that depict the blurred lines between law and religion during that time. The illustrations remind me of Hieronymus Bosch’s art. Fortunately, you can get a look at some of them in a post Nathan Dorn wrote a few years ago. If you want overlooked items, though they’ve been getting more attention in recent years, there is our collection of gazettes and other documents from the occupying forces of post-WWII Germany. I just think that this is such a historically significant collection, and I wonder if any other library has as many of these titles as we do. Here are three examples of gazettes from the U.S., French, and British zones:

Jennifer Davis: Of all my favorite collections and collection items in the Library, in a tie with the rare law books collection, is our foreign legal gazettes collection. We have an extensive foreign gazette collection, which started around the mid-19th century and is one of the world’s largest. Responsibility for foreign gazettes crosses several sections in the Collection Services Division; we handle the entire lifecycle from identification of titles and title changes of gazettes to acquisition to cataloging, classifying, providing metadata, and web archiving gazette titles and issues. We have gazettes from all over the world: search and see. Working with this collection has been highly enjoyable, and whenever I have need of it, using it and knowing I can rely on it is wonderful.

Jennifer González: My favorite collection that we have in the Law Library is our United States Treaties collection. This collection spans 1776 to 1984 and it is so interesting to see how the country has expanded and increased its international reach. There are 13 volumes for the 174-year span from 1776 to 1949 (which includes all the post-WWI and WWII treaties) and 16 volumes/parts for the two-year span of 1976-1977. Working on this collection has also honed my metadata skills, especially when having to figure out how to handle former countries and names like Burma, Czechoslovakia, Muscat, and Texas. Start your research with our research guide or dive into one of the volumes to find out about treaties on coffee, highways, potatoes, mail, gold, ships, education, or friendship. Another thing that consistently amazes me is how expansive the Music Department of the Library of Congress is. Included in the over 400,000 music item collection is a large collection of musical instruments, including the Dayton C. Miller collection of flutes from around the world, the Stradivarius instruments, and a set of instruments from Thailand. The Music Department also hosts concerts and writes for In the Muse Performing Arts Blog. Also, my local library has been so inventive, especially over the last few years. They have a program to learn the ukulele, a magazine published to highlight the art of public school students, and a set of Garfield comics for cyber safety. They also have a Storytime Bundle – a curated, surprise brown bag of books to take home – that has been a big hit with my children!

Nathan Dorn: I don’t have a single favorite item, or rather, I get excited about different items all the time. In the last couple of months, I’ve been looking again at the work of Johannes Buno, a 17th-century German school teacher who wrote books of mnemonics to help students learn by memorization. I’ve written about him in a previous post. He came up recently in preparation for a future exhibition at the Library. For that show, I contributed a piece about his work Memoriale Codicis Justinianei  (“Mnemonics for Justinian’s Codex”) which was published in Hamburg in 1674. In the photo below, you can see a foldout of one of the copper-engraved illustrations that are included in the work. This one presents mnemonics for the Libri Feudorum (Books of Feudal Customs), a collection of the feudal law of the Lombards that became a common source of law throughout Europe. If you notice, the upper half of the foldout contains many small images that are arranged around a bow. Buno explains that this is to remind students that feudal ties arise from military service. Their primary purpose is to establish an obligation of military service to a lord. Each small vignette on the foldout represents a law or cluster of laws in the book. Buno’s book is found in the Law Library’s rare book collection. Rare book service is available at the Law Library reading room by appointment Monday-Friday. The collection features approximately 90,000 printed books and manuscripts, representing jurisdictions from all periods and from around the world.

Johannes Buno. Memoriale Codicis Justinianei [“Mnemonics for Justinian’s Codex”]. Hamburg [1674].
Anna Price: The Library of Congress has an amazing array of services, as demonstrated elsewhere in this post. When I think about unique offerings from libraries, services provided by local public libraries immediately come to mind. For decades, public libraries have loaned tools during the spring and summer months. These lending programs have grown to include modern electronics, like thermal leak detectors and energy meters. The Pew Research Center put together a fairly expansive list of innovative library services several years ago for readers who want to read more examples of these programs throughout the United States.

In honor of National Library Week, please tell us your favorite way to “Connect with Your Library” in the comments!

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  1. I have loved libraries since I learned to read at 5 years of age. There are many reasons to go to a library, for research for a school project, for information about home improvement, to attend a lecture or a play, for story time and several other reasons. I have learned so much from library books and from librarians. Now I am enjoying the Law Library of Congress and your great blogs, and, of course, In Custodia Legis. I can’t wait to come for a visit in person.

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