By MARIE-LOUISE BERNAL
Law librarians from other federal agencies with headquarters in the nation's capital were welcomed to the Law Library of Congress on May 11 for a program devised by Federal Law Librarians' President Rick McKinney, assistant law librarian at the Federal Reserve Board. The occasion was "Agency Day, " an annual event sponsored by the Federal Law Librarians' Special Interest Section of the Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C. (LLSDC), which unites library professionals from many of the executive agencies for meetings on a regular basis to discuss issues and developments of common interest to their special clients.
In focusing this year on the Law Library of Congress, Mr. McKinney gave federal librarians the chance to have a close-up view of how the Law Library fills a vital, but often little known, role in serving research and reference needs of the executive branch. The two-hour session in the conference room of the Law Library in the Madison Building was attended by professionals from the law libraries of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the Court of Veterans' Appeals, the Departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, Justice and Treasury, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Executive Office of the President, the Federal Election Commission, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, the Federal Reserve Board, General Accounting Office, the Legal Adviser's Office of the Department of State, and the Small Business Administration.
Law library managers, Daniel Hill Zafren, acting director of legal research, and Kersi Shroff, who serves both as Western law division chief and foreign legal specialist for the British Isles and Australia, gave an overview of the Law Library and described its unique resources. Kersi Shroff explained how the research staff of 23 foreign legal specialists-attorneys provide agency requesters answers to legal inquiries that may profoundly affect the people's lives.
Two such specialists were on hand, George Sfeir of the Eastern Law Division and Nicole Atwill of the Western Law Division, to detail some of the kinds of inquiries the staff receives. Ms. Atwill, whose work involves the laws of France and other French-speaking jurisdictions, and Mr. Sfeir, who is responsible for legal research on Islamic law and much of the Middle East, detailed the intricacies of doing research on such topics as asylum, extradition, bribery of foreign officials, electronic signature laws, money laundering, human rights and bank secrecy, to name but a few topics they meet in the course of their work. The audience learned how important to it is for the legal specialists to understand how the law fits within the cultural context of a given jurisdiction.
In a basic orientation to the Law Library's Reading Room, Pamela Barnes Craig, senior legal research specialist, provided attendees with an overview of the Reading Room. Ms. Craig also shared with them the special problems involved with the Law Library being the largest law library in the world and keeping an up-to-date reference collection. Ms. Craig was joined by Randolf Wells, digital conversion specialist in the National Digital Law Library Project. Mr. Wells spoke about "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates: 1774-1873," which contains the digitized records of early House and Senate journals, early summaries of congressional debates, bills and resolutions and other material at www.loc.gov.
Program Officer Janice Hyde demonstrated the Law Library's own digital initiative, the Global Legal Information Network, (GLIN), which supports both the Law Library's research function and its collection in preserving primary material for posterity in digitized format. As a cooperative, not-for-profit federation of government agencies, or their designees, that contribute national legal information to the GLIN database, it contains statutes, regulations and related legal materials originating from countries in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. The database is password protected, but Ms. Hyde invited the federal agency libraries to contact her to acquire their own password.
The program concluded with tours of the Law Library led by Rose Marie Clemandot, chief of the Law Library Collection Services Division, and by Ms. Craig for participants interested in public services.
After the session in the Law Library, SIS members joined outgoing President Rick McKinney in a business luncheon held in the Montpelier Dining Room of the Madison Building. During this meeting, Meldie Kish, Law Librarian at the U.S. Small Business Administration, was elected secretary-treasurer/president-elect. On June 1, she began serving together with Mary Grady, Law Librarian at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and incoming president-elect. Besides the election, the discussion during the business meeting focused on possible new program topics for the coming year, including one-person libraries, new roles for federal librarians, marketing techniques and disaster planning.
Ms. Bernal is a special assistant to the Law Librarian of Congress.