This overview focuses on Library of Congress holdings of material in the subject area of law.
The Law Library contains approximately 2 million volumes. The law collection includes approximately 20,000 serial titles, 45,000 reels of microform and 900,000 pieces of microfiche. During an average fiscal year, approximately 30,000 volumes, 1,600 reels of microfilm, 75,000 pieces of microfiche, 35,000 serial pieces and 72,000 issues of official gazettes are added to the law collection.
An additional 200,000 volumes, primarily constitutional history, criminology, and canon and Islamic law, are housed in other custodial units, as are legal materials in non-book and non-microform format.
The Library of Congress has a longstanding role in acquiring and providing access to legal material. The need for a collection of law materials to support the law making functions of Congress was one of the central reasons for the founding of the Library of Congress. The importance of legal books to the Congress is seen by the separation of the legal collection from the general collection by an Act of Congress of July 14, 1832. Continuing the collection philosophy of Thomas Jefferson that an educated citizenry required knowledge of universal law in order to build and maintain a democracy, the Law Library has amassed not only a comprehensive collection of American legal materials but also a superior collection of legal works from all nations of the globe. Comprehensive geographically, the collection also spans all periods of law, from the most ancient and primitive to the most contemporary and sophisticated. All systems of law--common, civil, customary, religious, and socialist--are represented, as are all topics within the law. No other legal library matches this collection in overall depth or breadth.
For all major national, state, and equivalent jurisdictions, the Law Library attempts to acquire and retain for the permanent collections the following types of important legal publications: official gazettes; constitutions; codes; session laws; administrative rules and regulations; commentaries and indexes to laws, rules and regulations; judicial court decisions and reports; administrative court decisions and reports; digests and indexes of decisions and reports; legal bibliographies; directories of the legal profession; and legal dictionaries and encyclopedias.
The Law Library attempts to acquire and retain on a selective or representative basis the following types of legal publications: legal periodicals and their indexes; treatises; law school theses and dissertations; legislative histories; and publications of bar associations.
In addition to the above types of legal materials, the following special types of Anglo-American items are acquired: United States Congress bills and resolutions; other Congressional and United States government documents of a legal nature; legal newspapers of major United States cities; and records and briefs of the United States Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, the appeal records of the British House of Lords and cases of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of Great Britain.
The Law Library attempts to collect the official gazettes of all countries of the world, and the official gazettes from the states or provinces of Canada, India, Mexico, Spain, and selected states of Brazil. The Law Library participates in a cooperative microfilming program with the New York Public Library in an attempt to make all the official gazettes available to legal researchers. The Law Library has compiled Sources of Legal Material: A Preliminary List of Foreign Official Gazettes showing the official gazette holdings of eleven libraries throughout the world.
The Law Library's collection of American legal materials is the finest in the world. In the early 1900s the Law Library determined that it should be the repository for the complete record of American law. The Law Library's collection of original editions of colonial, state and territorial session laws, codes and compilations, and special laws is such that it now holds the nation's largest single paper collection of this material. The Law Library's collection of United States Congressional publications in surpassed only by those maintained in the libraries of the House of Representatives and the Senate themselves.
The Law Library's policy is to collect two copies of virtually every piece of commercial American legal publishing on the state and national level. For titles published in a looseleaf format, the Law Library collects one copy only. This depth is most evident in the monographic holdings of the Law Library. No other research library holds a comparable number of legal treatises on the national and state level.
It is estimated that over 200,000 American legal titles were classified with a non-law call number before the law classification system was developed in 1968. Examples of this material are pre-1970 Congressional hearings classified by subject, major administrative decisions classified in H, and many state House and Senate journals classified in J. All these materials would now be classified in K, but are currently housed throughout the general collection.
The Geography and Map Division has started a special project of collecting as a set all of the maps and charts that are found in the United States Serial Set. An index is being developed for these maps under the auspices of the American Library Association.
Since 1979, the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room has been a complete depository recipient of United States government publications. For very current United States government legal publications, it is possible for this collection to be more up-to-date than the material held in the Law Library.
The Manuscript Division holds many items that are pertinent to legal research. Many collections are held of Supreme Court justices and other famous lawyers that detail the development of legal thought in the United States.
British and Commonwealth
This Division is responsible for the development of the collections from the following countries: United States, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, and over 40 other countries of the British Commonwealth -- countries with a shared heritage in common law.
The Law Library's collections are extremely comprehensive for Great Britain, Canada, India, and Australia. The Law Library holds the only known collection outside of Great Britain of the appeal papers of the House of Lords and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The House of Lords is the ultimate court of appeal for cases submitted to it from the highest courts of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Law Library has a collection dating back to 1925 and regularly converts the paper copies into microfilm. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is the supreme court of appeal for cases from the colonies, protectorates, trust territories, and certain Commonwealth nations; the ecclesiastical courts of the Church of England and the Admiralty Court of the Queen's Bench Division. The Law Library has a collection dating back to 1934 and regularly converts the paper copies into microfilm. The Law Library has maintained an index to all the cases from these two sets of collection. The Law Library is currently in the process of converting these paper indexes into a machine readable format. The Law Library is the only library currently indexing this material.
This Division is responsible for the development of the collections from the nations of the continental Europe and their possessions, excluding Spain and Portugal.
The Law Library has an unparalled legal collection from most countries in Western Europe, especially Germany and Italy. The Law Library's collections from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia covering the independence years of 1919-1939 are extremely rare. Recent visitors from these three countries have stated that the material is no longer available in those countries as the material was destroyed during the time of incorporation in the Soviet Union. The Law Library is one of the largest repositories of Russian legal materials outside the Soviet Union, including 13,000 volumes from the pre-1917 revolution period. The Law Library also owns 150 items pertaining to the anti-Soviet governments of the civil war period, 1918-1921.
This Division is responsible for the development of the collections from Spain and Portugal, Latin America, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and the Spanish and Portuguese language countries of Africa.
The Law Library has maintained an index-abstract in English of the major laws and regulations of the Hispanic speaking countries taken from the official gazette of each country. The indexes from 1950-1975 were maintained on 3" x 5" cards, and then photographed by G.K. Hall & Company and published under the title Index to Latin American Legislation. Since 1976 the index-abstract has appeared in the SCORPIO portion of the Library's online catalog under the file name LAWL, and is now called the International Legal Database.
The file currently covers the following countries: Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Sao Tome e Principe, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela. Public electronic access to this searching tool is now available via Internet.
An additional project is the International Legal Information Network (ILIN). ILIN consists of an electronic network of national legislative bodies, or their designated station operator. Each of these national operating stations contribute to the International Legal Database by scanning their national statutes and regulations published in their official gazette. The digitized image thus obtained is then compressed and transmitted to a server in the Library of Congress via the Internet. This material is retrieved for quality assurance, abstracting and indexing. The Law Library is currently receiving the national gazettes of Brazil and Mexico via the ILIN. The Law Library hopes to expand the number of participating countries as soon as possible.
This Division is responsible for the development of the collections of the nations from East and Southeast Asia, excluding the Philippines and including Hong Kong.
The Chinese, Korean, and Japanese law collections are perhaps the best in the world outside the countries themselves. The Law Library owns a 28 volume set of hand-copied documents dealing with the issues of justice and law in the areas of China controlled by the Communist Chinese party before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. These documents shed much light on the evolution of Communist Chinese legal theory and practice as well as illuminate the policies and methods by which the party established its control over an area.
The collection of Japanese materials is the largest in the Division. The pre- and post-World War II monograph collection is very strong, but serial holdings obtained through purchase and international exchange are probably the best assets of the Japanese collection. Another noteworthy item is a complete set of Horei zensho (Statutes at Large) from 1868 to 1945 on microfilm. These films contain Japanese statutes arranged chronologically under various subject headings. Rare Korean holdings of the Division include 29 volumes of legal classics compiled during the Yi Dynasty (1392-1910). These are held in their original form, either handwritten with brushes or printed with wood-block letters.
Near Eastern and African
This Division is responsible for the development of the collections of the Near and Middle Eastern countries, including the Arab states, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan, and all African countries except those with Spanish and Portuguese colonial background.
The Law Library has an excellent legal collection from the Arabic speaking nations. The Law Library holds a very comprehensive collection of official gazettes and compiled statutes from the Ottoman Empire. It also has an excellent collection from the English and German colonial periods.
The Law Library shares with Constituent Services the responsibility for the maintenance and development of the public international law, or law of nations, collection. The Law Library houses all material classed JX1-JX1304; JX2000-JX9999. Materials considered international law include treatises, serials, documents, and other publications dealing with the relations of nations.
The general collection houses the international relations collection classed JX1305-JX1999. The Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room houses all unbound serials from this class range as well as the full depository collection of United Nations documents.
The Law Library collection of rare books consists of approximately 25,000 volumes of books and bound manuscripts, most dating before the year 1600. Two of the treasures of this collection are a manuscript concerning "Rules for Daily Living" written in 1517 by Ibrahim Al-Halabi, one of the most learned legal scholars in the 16th-century Ottoman Empire, and a unique medieval French manuscript of the Coutume de Normandie dating from the 15th-century. The overall value of this collection consists of major strengths in incunabula, customary laws, continental consilia, English year books, English statute books, editions of William Blackstone and early American session laws.
The Law Library holds a portion of its core legal material in micro-format. This is especially true for American material. All Congressional reports, documents, hearings, committee prints and available unpublished hearings are held in microfiche. The Congressional Record, the Federal Register, the Code of Federal Regulations and pre-1909 Executive Documents are held in microform.
The records and briefs of the United States Supreme Court and the current receipts of eight of the thirteen Courts of Appeal are held in microfiche. The Law Library is working with the legal community in an attempt to make the remaining five circuits available on microfiche. Most current official gazettes are available on microfilm produced either commercially or filmed by the Library of Congress or New York Public Library and the paper copy is discarded. The Law Library converts older issues of the official gazettes into microfilm. Major law review titles are acquired on microfilm on a current basis.
From the 1930s to the early 1980s, the legal specialists of the Law Library added titles to the collection without sending them for cataloging. It is estimated that 117,000 foreign titles were added to the collections in this fashion. For some of these titles a card was typed with author, title and shelf location for the Law Library shelflist. In the European Division approximately 30% of the new titles were handled in this fashion; in the Near Eastern and African Division approximately 75% were done this way. Some of these title appear in PREMARC. The fact that this material is uncataloged hinders legal research in many different ways.
Legal research is also hindered by the approximate 800,000 volumes which are not yet classed into the LC classification schedule. These books received a shelf location in the Law Library based on type of material and then on author. It is impossible for the legal specialist to browse any of the foreign collections and see quickly what is held by subject on a particular point. The ever-growing number of law titles being minimally cataloged also diminishes the effectiveness and efficiency of legal research done at the Library.
A major area where there are gaps is serial publications. Many serial sets are incomplete because of factors such as small press runs and the impossibility (due to lack of staff) of monitoring receipts so that claims can be made in a timely fashion. In some cases only one issue of titles of research value has been acquired although more were recommended. Finally, the Law Library has no easy way of indicating to its users if a serial title has ceased publication, has been cancelled, or is just not being received.
The Law Library currently does not have access to many of the legal databases that exist in the vernacular languages covering Western Europe and Latin America. Current funding for legal databases is not sufficient for these additional databases to be added to the Law Library collection.
The Law Library does not have the staffing resources necessary to survey the law collection on a continuous basis for items in need of preservation or deaccessioning.
The Law Library to date has not collected the ever-expanding number of legal titles and material available on CD-ROMs. Negotiations recently concluded between the Copyright Office and the publishers of CD-ROMs should make it possible to acquire more of these through copyright for access via small scale local area networks. The Law Library is currently able to purchase only the most important CD- ROMs for its network. The Law Library has not collected most of the vast number of audio visual materials produced yearly.
The currency of American legal material is a major issue. The Law Library depends on Copyright receipts for over 60% of its American supplementation. This material can arrive up to six months later than it would if the material was purchased. The Law Library is unable to purchase this material due to insufficient book funds to cover the additional cost. Lack of resources also make it difficult to keep current with the large number of looseleaf materials that must be filed.
British and Commonwealth
The absence of an established book trade in many of the smaller Commonwealth nations has resulted in gaps in our holdings. It is difficult to identify and to actually obtain government documents and noncommercial publications, many of which are issued in limited quantity and quickly go out of print.
The Law Library is finding it difficult to acquire basic legal materials from the newly emergent republics of the former Soviet Union, especially those in Central Asia and the former Yugoslavia. It is hoped, as the Exchange and Gift Division establishes more exchange partners in these new nations, and as the Order Division finds appropriate approval plan partners, that not only basic official legal materials but commercial legal publications can be acquired in a more timely and consistent pattern.
Near Eastern and African
The Law Library's most consistent acquisition problems are located in this Division. Due to the absence of an established book trade in most sub-Saharan African countries (except South Africa), gaps are often found in the Library's holdings from this area. It is difficult to identify legal government documents and noncommercial publications. Once they are identified they are often out of print. The Nairobi and Cairo field offices as well as Order/AMEAS are very helpful in the attempt to locate these kinds of hard-to-find material.