FCIL Newsletter, February 1999
v. 13, no. 2
People in the Profession: Ellen Schaffer
Boston University Pappas Law Library
Ellen Schaffer has �always been interested in international things,�
she told me over the phone from Germany when I called her yesterday. And
now her interest in things international has taken her to the International
Tribunal for the Law of the Sea where she is attempting to organize what
she calls a �baby library.� The Tribunal was established in accordance
with Article 287(1)(a) and Annex VI of the United Nations Convention on
the Law of the Sea of 1982 to deal with international disputes relating
to the seas, their uses, and resources. The Tribunal consists of 21 judges
who were elected by the States Parties to the Law of the Sea Convention
on 1 August 1996. It is located in Hamburg in temporary quarters awaiting
the completion of a beautiful new building on the Elbe River. How did she
get there? She describes it as �an adventure.� It struck me that
she is well-suited to adventure.
Ellen Schaffer began by studying foreign languages and contemplating
a career in teaching Spanish. She quickly decided teaching was not for
her and allowed her friends to convince her to go to library school. This
turned out to be a happy choice. Since library school she has had only
jobs that involved languages and international relations - the two areas
that interest her most. What she loves about being a foreign and international
law librarian is that �every day and every question are different.� Her
work always seems to involve the very issues being written about in
the �International Affairs� section of the newspaper.
She began her career as a librarian as a Romance Languages Descriptive
Cataloger at the Library of Congress. When I winced at the thought of being
a cataloger, she said that she thought it was a very good way to begin
as a librarian, since it provided a very solid introduction to the tools
of the trade, or bibliography. She then moved to the Columbus Memorial
Library of the Organization of American States, where she was able to work
in a multilingual environment.The work and the people were interesting
and enjoyable, however, working for an international organization is much
different than working for a university - there is not as much money for
libraries and libraries are not necessarily a key function of the organization
as they are for a university. After one particularly frustrating day, she
decided she wanted more of what academia had to offer. She applied for
a job at an academic law library, and, after talking to a friend who was
a law librarian, she decided to accept a position at the University of
Miami Law School. She missed Washington, D.C. and only stayed in Miami
for one year, moving to the Georgetown University Law Library where she
spent the next fifteen years developing the international and foreign collections.
Now she has moved from �Nirvana to a Pre-historic age� in terms of library
sophistication. Her library at the Tribunal is small and funding is tight:
she is working for an international organization again. She is challenged
by the prospect of developing this library, but says �thank heaven for
the Internet� and for her friends around the world. The library has no
catalog and the books are not yet classified. She has no access to Interlibrary
Loan - she relies on her own resourcefulness and the generosity of colleagues.
The other day she paid a courtesy visit to a local University library and
stopped at the Max Planck Institute on the way home to photocopy a section
of a French law requested by one of the translators. The English version
came via fax from a friend.
For those of you interested in the publications of the Tribunal, there
is an agreement between the Tribunal and Kluwer Law International to publish
the Basic Texts of the Tribunal as well as a Yearbook. The Tribunal does
not yet have its own website, but hopes to in the future. Until that time,
information by and about the Tribunal can be found at the UN website (http://www.un.org/Depts/los/).
Ellen Schaffer seemed to me to have always followed her interests in
things international, and this course has led to very interesting jobs.
She says that she is going to be calling on all her friends to help her
in this current undertaking. In addition, she said that if any of you are
weeding your international collections, please think of her before disposing
of anything! I, for one, would be very happy to help her with whatever
she needs. I can only admire someone so drawn to adventure.
to the next article: "Exchange Program with Korean Libraries?"
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