ARCHIVED: Support for the FY 2001 Funding Request of the Law Library of Congress

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February 28, 2000

Honorable Robert F. Bennett
Chairman, Subcommittee on Legislative Branch
Senate Committee on Appropriations
S-125 Capitol
Washington, DC 20510-6035

Dear Senator Bennett:

On behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries, I urge your support and that of the members of the Senate Subcommittee on Legislative Branch for the full FY 2001 funding request of $8.3 million for the Law Library of Congress. The ability of the Law Library to fulfill its mission effectively is of utmost importance to our membership. As law librarians, we know firsthand the value of the legal and legislative collections and services of the Law Library of Congress. As the Federal Government's only comprehensive legal and legislative research collection, it serves the unique role of being our Nation's de facto national law library.

Recognizing that the availability of legal information to all people is a necessary requirement for a just and democratic society, the American Association of Law Libraries is a nonprofit educational organization with nearly 4,800 members nationwide. Our mission is to promote and enhance the value of law libraries to the public, the legal community, and the world; to foster the profession of law librarianship; and to provide leadership in the field of legal information and information policy.

We have embarked upon the exciting new millennium where the rapid pace of technological development and the exponential growth of the Internet will intensify at lightening speed. Libraries have long been on the cutting edge of new technologies and are successfully harnessing them to bring new, timely and unique information to our patrons, to government and other officials, to members of the business community and to citizens in their homes. Thanks to the support of the Subcommittee, the Library of Congress and the Law Library have been able to pursue important digital projects with distinguished success. Indeed, the award-winning digital initiatives of the Library of Congress and of the Law Library are as outstanding as they are unique, and they demonstrate the value and importance of providing public access to the ever-growing body of digital resources.

The mission of the Law Library of Congress is to provide legal and legislative reference and collection services to Congress, the Judicial and Executive branches of government, and to the American public. Its collection of more than 2.3 million volumes is the largest legal collection in the world. Using this extensive collection of U.S. federal, state, international, foreign and comparative law derived from over 200 jurisdictions, the Law Library's multilingual attorneys, researchers, and reference librarians serve more than 100,000 users each year. In addition, the Law Library serves a rapidly increasing number of remote users with electronic legal and legislative information through its web sites, recording some 1.5 million digital transactions last year.

Full FY 2001 Funding Request Essential Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I urge you on behalf of AALL to support the full FY 2001 funding request of $8,287,085 for the Law Library and $13,564 for price level increases in non-personal services. This budget includes a request for 16 FTEs that we believe to be absolutely essential in order for the Law Library to restore continued acceptable levels of research and reference service to members of Congress and other Government agencies and officials. Over the past decade, a decrease in number of FTEs at the Law Library has been accompanied concurrently by a substantial growth in the collection and the successful development of the Library's important digitization projects. These 16 positions will enable the Library to meet current demand by Congressional members and staff, as well as by other government agencies, for research and reference services that are critical to the Library's mission. These positions include Legal and Foreign Law Specialists, as well as library technicians and automation staff. Very importantly, the budget request will fund the Law Library's Succession Plan to provide professional training and experience to new staff before the retirement of highly regarded legal experts.

Digital Initiatives Among the Law Library's most important new initiatives are its successful efforts to maximize use of state-of-the-art technologies to make its collections more accessible. The Law Library currently has been engaged in two separate digital library initiatives: the Global Legal Information Network, known as "GLIN," and a project undertaken with the National Digital Library entitled A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation, U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1873. With your past support, the Law Library continues to enhance GLIN, a multinational legal database of official, current foreign law resources that is uniquely important to our government in the rapidly changing global economy. Full funding for GLIN is imperative to expand the number of participating nations to at least 15 in FY 2001, and to augment its content by digitizing more retrospective materials and adding new categories of specialized legal resources. The comprehensive development of multi-national resources of GLIN is critical to the ability of our nation's business community to participate in the burgeoning global economy

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation offers Congress, the nation, and the world unprecedented access to historical congressional debates and documents. In addition to the congressional debates of the first forty-two federal Congresses (1789-1873), the project also includes the debates and laws of the Continental Congress, the records of the Federal Convention, and the debates on the ratification of the Constitution. This project is a cooperative undertaking of the Law Library and the National Digital Library Program, and when completed in 2001, it will constitute one of the largest single projects of the entire National Digital Library Program. When the project is complete, any researcher with access to the Internet may explore the first hundred years (1774-1873) of our nation's history and evolving government as documented by the official records of Congress. With your continued support for this unique project, the Law Library will offer Congress, the nation, and the world remote access to the nation's Second Century of Lawmaking covering 1873 to 1972.

Rare Legal Materials The Law Library of Congress maintains a collection of over 65,000 rare items, making it the largest collection of rare law and law-related materials in the world. To make it possible for the Law Library to develop and maintain adequate physical control over and security of its unique, priceless and irreplaceable rare legal historical collection, the Law Library requires a Rare Book Librarian, a position that it has lacked for over 5 years. Hundreds of rare legal materials are now integrated in the Law Library's non-rare collections, thereby compromising the integrity and security of these items. A rare book librarian is needed to identify and segregate these materials into an appropriately secure facility.

In conclusion, as the Library of Congress celebrates its bicentennial throughout this coming year, it is very important that Congress support the unique collections and services of this important national institution. It is a celebration both of our rich national heritage and the Library's ability through state-of-the-art technologies to make available many of its magnificent collections through the Internet The specialized resources, important services and digital projects of the Law Library of Congress are part of this magnificent celebration. The ability of the Law Library to fulfill its mission and to be our acclaimed de facto national law library is dependent upon full funding of its budget request.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I thank you on behalf of AALL for your past support of the Law Library of Congress. We encourage your continued support so that in FY 2001 the Law Library can continue to build its valuable collections and services, as well as its significantly important digital initiatives. I would also like to request that this letter be added to the record of the Subcommittee's hearing held on February 22, 2000. Thank you very much for your consideration in this important matter.

Sincerely,

Margaret Maes Axtmann
President
American Association of Law Libraries

cc: Members, Senate Subcommittee on Legislative Branch Appropriations