ARCHIVED: Full FY 2000 Appropriations for the Law Library of Congress

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March 30, 1999

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

Dear Senator Bennett,

I write to you today, as president of the American Association of Law Libraries, to urge you and members of the Subcommittee on Legislative Branch to support the full funding request of $8,005,971 for the Law Library of Congress' Salaries and Expenses for FY 2000. I would also like to request that this letter be added to the record of the hearing held on March 17, 1999. The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is a nonprofit educational organization with nearly 5,000 members nationwide. Our members respond to the legal and governmental information needs of legislators, judges, and other public officials at all levels of government, corporations and small businesses, law professors and students, attorneys, and members of the general public. 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.

The mission of the Law Library 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 2.2 million volumes is the largest legal collection in the world. With this extensive collection of United States federal and state, international, comparative and foreign law covering over 200 jurisdictions, and with a uniquely skilled staff competent in foreign and international law and legal systems of the world--and 50 languages--the Law Library serves 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 website, recording some 1.2 million digital transactions last year.

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 is engaged in two separate digital library initiatives: the Global Legal Information Network, known as "GLIN," and its National Digital Library project, entitled "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation, U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1873."

With your 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 twenty in FY 2000, and to expand its content by digitizing more retrospective materials and adding new categories of specialized legal resources.

"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, undertaken with support from the National Digital Library Program, is the largest single project within the National Digital Library Program. When completed in 2001, it will comprise approximately forty percent of the entire Program. Including the latest release of last week, any researcher with access to the Internet may now explore the first thirty-one years (1774-1805) 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.

Mr. Chairman, we urge your full support for the Law Library's FY 2000 budget request of $8 million. The request includes necessary increases to support the Law Library's important automation projects: increasing the digitization of unique and historically important legal materials for the National Digital Library Program; and expanding the scope of GLIN's collections and the number of participating nations. It also includes a much needed increase to fund several positions (including technicians, reference librarians and automation staff) to ensure continued acceptable levels of research and reference service to members of Congress and other Government agencies and officials.

The American Association of Law Libraries thanks you and members of the Subcommittee for your past support of the Law Library. We encourage your continued support so that in FY 2000 the Law Library can continue to build its valuable collections and services, as well as its significantly important digital initiatives. Thank you very much for your consideration in this important matter.


James S. Heller
American Association of Law Libraries

cc: Members, Senate Subcommittee on Legislative Branch Appropriations