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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:

A black and white photograph of Law Librarian of Congress, Aslihan Bulut, taken on the second floor of the Jefferson Building.
Aslihan Bulut. Photograph by Shawn Miller.

As we begin to wind down for the holidays, I hope this message finds you content and well. And before we close the gates of 2023, I wanted to express my appreciation for your generous and unwavering support during the past 12 months.

While the previous years were dominated by our response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, as pretty much everywhere else in the world, this was the year the Law Library of Congress moved forward to fully create and embrace a durable, hybrid future. Despite continuing to face some unique challenges and opportunities, we persevered, learned, and grew stronger – together, with you by our side. Our achievements would not have been possible without the hard work of our employees, the collaboration of our partners, and the support of our patrons. To celebrate this “togetherness” as we head into 2024, we are presenting you with an overview of the Law Library of Congress updates and achievements from this year.

The Law Library team has been successfully handling multiple ongoing projects, new initiatives, and increases in research requests, despite major staff shortages and budgetary obstacles. It makes me feel very privileged and so grateful to be surrounded by so many wonderful, knowledgeable, and hardworking colleagues. As a team, we are fully committed to outcome-focused, user-centered, digitally-enabled, and data-driven results to guide our further transition to a more digital future. Our efforts are intended to ensure that the Law Library evolves to meet the needs of its patrons, so we can continue to support our partners in the law library community and beyond.

In 2023, the Law Library’s experts have been tirelessly providing research and legal reference services to our patrons from all three branches of government and the public. The expertise of foreign law specialists was actively sought by congressional staff and several government agencies. We continued hosting in-person and virtual classes, trainings, and events, as well as engaging our user communities and partners so they can learn more about our collections and services.

In Fiscal Year 2023, the Law Library’s Public Services Division (PSD) and two Foreign, Comparative, and International Law (FCIL) divisions responded to a total of 10,626 research and reference inquiries. Of those, 9,394 inquiries, about U.S. and foreign law, were received from executive branch agencies, the courts, members of the U.S. bar, and the global public. Another 1,232 inquiries came from congressional offices and legislative branch agencies. PSD also provided 783 hours of coverage in support of congressional work, 122 hours of which were under 2 USC 138 outside of the regular work time. The Global Legal Research Directorate (GLRD) staff provided 71 webinars, briefings, orientations, and presentations for congressional users, federal government attorneys, and the general public, with 4,489 attendees, as well as 51 in-person classes and tours for 958 patrons. Our specialists published 307 reports on legal developments around the world in the Global Legal Monitor, the Law Library’s online legal news product, with an average of 100,000 page views per month.

Providing free access to U.S. legal materials remains our focus, as it benefits not only American citizens but also the global public, by serving as a model of transparency and democratic governance. In this effort, we successfully continued with the digitization of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, with over 16K volumes, and we just launched the Supreme Court Records and Briefs digitization pilot, with our first shipment of the 27K+ volume set already underway.

We continued to add new content to our digital collections. Overall, 136,782 PDFs and 3,657,447 pages were prepared for addition to Law Library digital collections, including the United States Congressional Serial Set, Legal Reports (Publications of the Law Library of Congress), and Foreign Legal Gazettes.

The Law Library’s initiative to digitize the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, in collaboration with the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), has begun its fifth and final year. This project is a large, multi-year effort to digitize and make accessible volumes of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set back to the first volume, published in 1817 (15th Congress) through 1995 (103rd Congress). The Law Library of Congress is inventorying and digitizing the Serial Set, and the GPO is cataloging each Serial Set document and authenticating the digital files. The Library of Congress is displaying the Serial Set for free public access on its website, loc.gov. Since late September 2021, a subset of the Serial Set has been available as a digital collection on loc.gov. Our work continues to increase the number of items available and serial presentation for this amazing collection.

The Law Library completed its multi-year effort to preserve and publish the Law Library’s reports on foreign, comparative, and international law in the Legal Reports (Publications of the Law Library of Congress) collection. In addition to 18 newborn-digital, contemporary reports, our staff worked with the Digital Scan Center to digitize 1,293 legacy legal reports in FY23, resulting in a total of 4,200 historic and contemporary reports available in the online Legal Reports collection by the end of the fiscal year.

As the Law Library continues to expand its offering of online Foreign Legal Gazettes, 16,714 issues of foreign legal gazettes from 16 legal jurisdictions were added to the digital collection.

The website “A Century of Lawmaking For a New Nation” was migrated to our modern web platform, which includes full-text searching, metadata, catalog integration, and accessibility features. A Century of Lawmaking originally debuted online on March 16, 1998, as part of the Library’s American Memory collection.

This year, the Library’s Congress.gov team focused on data modernization, enhanced features, and accessibility improvements. The Law Library continued to serve as the public interface for Congress.gov, providing assistance with Congress.gov for the public, as well as congressional and non-congressional governmental entities. Our staff participated as subject matter experts on the Congress.gov development team, advocating for the adoption of enhancements that are requested by the public to better serve their legislative information needs. In addition, the Law Library, and its remote intern program, provided support for the modernization of historical legislative data so that this data can be displayed on Congress.gov. A new system for tracking the support the Law Library provides for users of Congress.gov resources has been developed and implemented. The Law Library also promoted the latest Congress.gov enhancements by drafting release announcements that are published on its blog, In Custodia Legis, and through posts on social media. Finally, the Law Library continued its efforts to educate the public about Congress.gov by providing the Congress.gov webinar, which introduces Congress.gov and highlights its latest enhancements.

On the physical end of making our collections more accessible, we are in the second and final phase of the third quad in our compact shelving replacement. Procurement for the final quad took place at the end of the fiscal year, with construction to commence in Fiscal Year 2025. To improve discoverability and access to the Law Library’s collection, the classification of retrospective collection items from the obsolete LAW shelving system into the Library of Congress K classification also successfully continues, thanks to both our employees and our tireless volunteer, Jolande Goldberg. Thank you, Jolande!

Our goals in 2023 focused on continuous improvement of services, such as preparing to launch a reference chat service for our congressional patrons, adding the ReadSpeaker TextAid accessibility feature to additional Law Library online resources, continuing with the Guggenheim Scholars Program, and executing the Law Library’s signature events, including several events to support the Join In: Voluntary Associations in America exhibit. Here are some highlights:

  • With the Guggenheim Scholars Program, we created an annual stipend of $5,000 to fund a legal scholar for research at the intersection of demography, technology, and criminal justice. This year’s winners are from CA State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and GA Southern University, with the joint proposal “Compliance and Corporate Counsel in the Age of China’s Social Credit System.” The announcement for 2024 was published on October 17, and we are still accepting applications – until January 31, 2024.
  • Through our partnership with HeinOnline, the Law Library Reports database has launched to great fanfare from our academic audiences, and has yielded great visibility for our comparative, multinational legal reports. As of April 2023, all of the Law Library’s legal reports on foreign, comparative, and international law topics were accessible via HeinOnline. In less than six months, the HeinOnline Law Library of Congress site received 9,226 visits, 6,035 page views, and 1,303 searches.
  • The State Law Libraries Outreach Initiative to strengthen the ties between the Law Library of Congress and state law libraries continues. Since its initiation, we have hosted special appearances from law libraries in California (late 2022), New York, Minnesota, Virginia, Georgia, and Wisconsin (during 2023). They will be followed by Hawaii and Maryland (in early 2024). We are grateful to our state partners for supporting and contributing to this magnificent program.
  • The Library of Congress exhibition, Join In: Voluntary Associations in America, which opened to the public on December 15, 2022, is still going strong. The exhibition is housed in the South Gallery, on the second floor of the Jefferson Building. If you have not visited already, we hope that you will come and have a look! The Law Library’s team worked very hard on this exhibit with colleagues from across the Library, and we were thrilled to support it by hosting multiple events, such as:
    • A reception to celebrate the opening of the exhibit, which included an interview with Dr. Olivier Zunz, James Madison Professor of History at the University of Virginia, conducted by Dr. Kevin Butterfield, the Library’s Kluge Center Director, about the life of Alexis de Tocqueville;
    • A Live at the Library event with Dr. Butterfield, providing a lecture that highlighted the history and importance of voluntary associations in early America; and
    • Robert Putnam, the Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University (retired from active teaching in May 2018), and Shaylyn Romney Garrett, author, speaker, and changemaker, were our guests to discuss their book, “The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again.”

Additionally, the Law Library’s Office of External Relations hosted many other virtual and in-person events, with a few selected mentioned below:

  • Dr. Jeffrey Stout (Professor of Religion, Emeritus, Princeton University) provided the Kellogg Lecture in Jurisprudence. Dr. Stout’s lecture was titled, “The Tree of Democratic Liberty.” It attracted 36 in-person attendees and 125 online attendees, and, since then, the event’s recording has been viewed over 17,000 times. The Law Library’s Kellogg Biennial Lecture in Jurisprudence presents the most distinguished contributors to international jurisprudence, judged through writings, reputation, and broad and continuing influence on contemporary legal scholarship.
  • The 2023 Law Day celebration with the American Bar Association (ABA) is a program that honors a longtime partnership between our two institutions. The event highlighted the Law Day theme, “Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility, and Collaboration,” by drawing on U.S. and international perspectives. The University of Jacksonville College of Law Dean and ABA’s Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress Chair Nick Allard moderated the discussion. The event included an opening by ABA National Law Day Chair Sharon Stern Gerstman, and a panel discussion with ABA President Enix-Ross and the Law Library of Congress’s foreign law specialists Ruth Levush and Kayahan Cantekin presenting.
  • University at Buffalo School of Law Professor Samantha Barbas provided the Law Library’s Constitution Day lecture on the history of the New York Times. v. Sullivan case in the context of the civil rights movement.

Our efforts are being tailored to ensure the Law Library is the first choice for legislative, judicial, and executive agencies, as well as public users. We are also promoting our community engagement through initiatives focused on increased awareness of the Law Library’s collections, services, expertise, and events. Likewise, the Law Library is developing increased posts to social network sites, and you can find the latest news on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and GovDelivery. Our X account @LawLibCongress has 73,400 followers, while @Congressdotgov has 71,800 followers. The Law Library’s Facebook page has 40,000 followers. The Law Library continued to offer RSS feeds and e-mail alerts to notify subscribers about selected resources, upcoming events, and training. Join us, follow us, and write to us, we look forward to hearing from you!

And, to end this narrative on a very high note, thanks to all of you, the Law Library’s In Custodia Legis patrons, we have recorded over one million visits and views to our blog in this year only. I feel proud and humbled to be part of such an amazing team and to be supported by our incredible partners and patrons. Thank you!

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 2024.

Aslihan Bulut
Law Librarian of Congress


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Comments

  1. Thank you to the extraordinary leadership and staff of the Law Library. May your 2024 soar.

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