Executive Director's Report
A National Treasure
The Law Library of Congress Contains the World’s Largest Collection of Legal Works
Posted Sep 29, 2005 2:26 AM CST
By Robert A. Stein
The law library of Congress, the world’s largest law collection, is of great importance to the ABA and the legal profession. The Law Library’s holdings, which number well over 2 million legal volumes and include 25,000 rare books, provide scholars and practitioners with an extraordinary resource. The library contains one of the world’s leading collections of works relating to foreign, international and comparative law. Ensuring strong ABA support for this national treasure is the ABA Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress.
Chaired by Tedson Meyers of Arlington, Va., the committee serves as the association’s connection to and voice supporting the continued development and effective operation of the Law Library of Congress. Working with other nationally recognized professional societies, the committee facilitates efforts to increase Law Library visibility and promotes initiatives, including digitization, that improve access to legal literature and resources.
On behalf of the ABA, members of the committee testify each year before congressional committees in support of appropriations for the Law Library. As a direct result of congressional lobbying efforts by committee members, the Law Library of Congress received unprecedented increases in its appropriations for fiscal years 2002 and 2003. A major beneficiary of these increased appropriations is the Global Legal Information Network, a multinational electronic database comprising current statutes and regulations of participating countries in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. The support and interest of the organized bar leverage the Law Library’s ability to develop the GLIN to a point where its full benefits can be realized by the public. As affirmed in Paris by participants at a recent international conference, “Internet in Service of the Law,” there is now widespread recognition and support for the principle that it is the duty of governments to provide free public access to their national laws.
Through its association with the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, the International Liaison Office, the Section of International Law and Practice, and the Friends of the Law Library of Congress, and with the help of generous corporate sponsorships, the committee has provided at ABA annual meetings a digital learning center showcasing Law Library technology. The committee continues to work closely with other interested groups to improve awareness and promote wider use of the Law Library’s unparalleled collections and staff.
Exploring a New Development
The committee has received approval from the ABA Board of Governors to begin exploring the possibility of creating a freestanding National Law Library in Washington, D.C. As envisioned, the National Law Library would be a joint effort of the U.S. Congress, the ABA and other sponsoring organizations. It would house all current staff and facilities of the Law Library of Congress and continue its current missions. New missions would expand library, research and conference services to the bar, states, businesses, nonprofit organizations, international bodies, and universities and law schools, as well as the general public.
Discussions are now under way among lawyers, law firms, universities and other private and public organizations about the feasibility of a National Law Library and, in addition, enhanced services of the Law Library of Congress. The committee is also undertaking a preliminary assessment of private funding sources to support a National Law Library. At the committee’s request, the Board of Governors approved the creation of an advisory commission of lawyers to assist it in its work. Current members of the advisory commission include Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former FBI Director William Sessions and former ABA President Robert MacCrate.
To see the exciting array of information available in the Law Library of Congress, visit its Web site. The site offers a unique window to the vast resources of the Law Library, including the GLIN, which has information on the national laws of more than 35 countries, and a comprehensive guide to law that provides links to a wide range of sources of information on law and government online.
For more information about the committee, contact its outstanding staff director, Amy Horton-Newell, at 202-662-1693 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.