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A Holiday Greeting from the Law Librarian of Congress

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This is a guest post by the Law Librarian of Congress, Aslihan Bulut.

Dear In Custodia Legis readers and Law Library of Congress patrons, colleagues, and friends:

As this year comes to a close and we look forward to the new year, I wanted to thank each and every one of you for such unwavering and generous support in 2022.

Aslihan Bulut. Photograph by Mirela Savic-Fleming.

This was a year of growth, change, and transition, in which we not only achieved or even exceeded our annual performance goals, but also started multiple new initiatives and projects. We have learned that our hybrid work model has allowed us to better focus on results and user engagement. Allow me to highlight just a few accomplishments:

In fiscal year 2022, the Law Library’s Public Services Division and two Foreign, Comparative, and International Law divisions responded to a total of 11,623 research and reference inquiries. 1,152 inquiries were from Congressional offices and legislative branch agencies, and 10,471 inquiries were U.S. and foreign law queries received from executive branch agencies, the courts, members of the U.S. bar, and the global public. Our staff provided 101 webinars, briefings, orientations, and online presentations to 5,028 attendees, including Congressional users, federal government attorneys, and public patrons. Among these were 22 in-person classes and tours for 292 people. Seventy-nine webinars were held, 36 of which were offered through the Legal Research Institute, attracting 4,069 attendees. Additionally, 291 reports on legal developments around the world were published in the Global Legal Monitor, the Law Library’s online legal news product, with an average of 100,000 page views per month.

Currently, the Law Library’s collection includes 2.91 million volumes. We also continue to ensure the safety and well-being of both our staff and our collections, and, to that end, the ongoing replacement of compact shelving in the Law Library’s closed stacks is moving forward on schedule.

In FY 2022, 6,676 items were circulated. The ongoing retrospective reclassification of collection items from the obsolete LAW shelving system into the Library of Congress K classification system continued with 13,258 additional titles being reclassified, bringing the total to 76% completed and approximately 198,375 volumes remaining.

The Law Library’s holdings include perhaps the world’s largest collection of foreign legal gazettes. We have been collecting these compilations of laws and ancillary documents since the mid-1800s from over 260 foreign national and subnational jurisdictions. This comprises one of our most requested collection areas. There are several initiatives the Collection Service Division (CSD) is pursuing with this collection. Once a print-only format, more nations are now publishing their gazettes in electronic format only. CSD is acquiring electronic versions via PDF (e.g., Falkland Islands), harvesting from official sites (e.g., Anguilla), and web archiving (e.g., Brazil). Significant runs of back issues were acquired recently from Colombia, Cyprus, Ireland, Macedonia, Mali, and several Mexican states. Preservation reformatting of gazettes has completely transitioned from microfilming to digitization. During the six months from April 1 to September 30, 2022, CSD staff sent 820,000 pages of gazettes for digitization. Through a copyright clearance mechanism overseen by the Library of Congress’s Office of General Counsel, the Law Library continues to expand access to this unique content for researchers around the world. In December 2022, with the recent release of The Cook Islands Gazette, the Law Library also celebrated a significant milestone—over 10,000 gazette issues have been released online as part of this project, with additional gazettes being published nearly every month.

Turning to domestic law collections, providing free access to U.S. legal materials benefits not only American citizens but also a global public by serving as a model of transparency and democratic governance. The Law Library has successfully continued with digitization of the U.S. Serial Set, we have inventoried the first batch of the U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, and we have advanced on other digitization projects like the historical legal reports archive. The Law Library prepared 4,777 volumes of the Serial Set for digitization in FY 2022. Since the project launched in FY 2019, 10,826 Serial Set volumes have been prepared for digitization, and we have already surpassed 81% of the total. Law staff also prepared 2,146 historical legal reports of the Law Library in FY 2022, and there are now 3,329 such reports included in the online collection, Legal Reports (Publications of the Law Library of Congress). We continue to see tremendous usage of by Congress and constituents, with over 100,000,000 page views in the last fiscal year. We are in the process of modernizing Century of Lawmaking and will work to bring more of the content into over the next year.

I am also glad to announce that a new Library of Congress exhibition, Join In: Voluntary Associations in America, recently opened. The Law Library’s team worked very hard on this exhibit with colleagues from across the Library, and we were thrilled to participate in opening a conversation about the importance of voluntary associations in American life and history. The exhibition opened to the public on December 15, during a Live at the Library event. It is housed in the South Gallery on the second floor of the Jefferson Building, and will remain open until December 23, 2023. We hope that you will come and have a look!

This year, the Law Library team has also made significant progress in several newly initiated projects.

Per congressional recommendation, we introduced ReadSpeaker TextAid to increase accessibility of the Global Legal Monitor, and we will explore adding it to other Law Library web content.

We initiated the State Law Libraries Outreach Project to strengthen ties between the Law Library and state law libraries. This project involves providing a guest spot for state law librarians in our well-attended Orientation to Law Library Collections webinars to discuss their collections and services.

We are moving forward with the Guggenheim Scholars Program to fund a legal scholar for research at the intersection of demography, technology, and criminal justice. At the conclusion of the research, the scholar will produce a presentation, publication, or article that summarizes their findings, and may participate in a Law Library of Congress select event panel discussion. We are accepting application materials until January 31, 2023, and the successful candidate will be announced in March.

In 2022, the Law Library’s Office of External Relations hosted many virtual and in-person events, and I would like to mention a few highlights:

  • Supreme Court Fellows Lecture. On February 17, Counselor to the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court Jeffrey Minear interviewed Associate Justice Stephen Breyer on his book, “The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics.”
  • Law Day 2022: Toward a More Perfect Union: The Constitution in Times of Change. On April 28, the Law Library and the American Bar Association hosted their annual Law Day event. This panel included Professor Wilfred Codrington, Professor Orin Kerr, Sophia Lin Lakin, Elizabeth Slattery, and Professor Stephen Wermiel.
  • Law Library’s 190th Anniversary Event. On July 14, the Law Library celebrated its 190th anniversary with an event that featured my interview with Harvard Radcliffe Institute Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin about her book on the life of civil rights attorney Constance Baker Motley. This event was later broadcast on C-Span.
  • Constitution Day. On September 14, the Law Library held its annual Constitution Day event, which featured Harvard Law School Professor Mark V. Tushnet in an interview with University of Virginia School of Law Dean Risa Goluboff concerning his book The Hughes Court: From Progressivism to Pluralism, 1930 to 1941, co-published by the Library of Congress and Cambridge University Press as the eleventh volume of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise History of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Law Library looks forward to continuing to provide access to our collections and research and reference services to all our patrons from the three branches of the government and the public; implementing our long-term digitization strategy to increase access to the Law Library’s vast collections, products, and services; and engaging new user communities and partners through our conferences and events and the Legal Research Institute’s webinars and classes.

As we prepare for an exciting year ahead, I would also like to say how honored and grateful I am to be part of the Law Library family. I am very proud of our team. As I like to say, we have so many treasures in the Library, but our colleagues are the treasures that make everything happen!

I would like to heartfully thank all of you, once again, for being with us, supporting us, and using our expertise and collections.

In the spirit of the season, I wish everyone the most pleasant, relaxing, and fulfilling of holidays, and a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. We look forward to serving your legal information needs in 2023.

Aslihan Bulut

Law Librarian of Congress

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