March 9, 2007
The Honorable Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Chair, Subcommittee on Legislative Branch
House Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
Room H-147 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Representative Wasserman Schultz:
The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is pleased that the Subcommittee on Legislative Branch has been reestablished this year and we congratulate you on becoming its chair. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues on important issues regarding the Library of Congress, the Law Library of Congress and the Government Printing Office. Our purpose in writing today is to thank you for planning a hearing to be held later this month on the "Library of Congress in the Digital Age." AALL supports the many excellent and unique digital initiatives of the Library of Congress and the Law Library that enhance public access to important government information through the Internet.
The American Association of Law Libraries is a nonprofit educational organization with over 5000 members nationwide who respond to the legal 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. AALL's mission is to promote and enhance the value of law libraries, to foster law librarianship and to provide leadership and advocacy in the field of legal information and information policy.
We strongly support the Law Library of Congress as it fulfills its mission of providing timely access to its collections to Members of Congress, the Congressional Research Service, the Federal Courts, the executive branch, the legal community and members of the public. 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 Law Library's collection of more than 2.5 million volumes comprises the largest and most comprehensive collection of legal materials in the world. Using this extensive collection of U.S. federal, state, international, foreign and comparative law derived from more than 200 jurisdictions, the Law Library's multilingual attorneys, researchers, and reference librarians serve well over 100,000 users each year. With an exceptionally skilled staff competent in most foreign languages as well as international law and the many legal systems of the world, the Law Library serves thousands of users each year, including a rapidly increasing number of remote users from throughout the world who access its unique digital collections through its Web site.
AALL has long supported the many digital initiatives of the Law Library that make government information available free of charge to the public. Among the Law Library's important online databases are A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation 1774-1873 and the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN). A Century of Lawmaking brings together online the records and acts of Congress from the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention through the 43rd Congress, including the first three volumes of the Congressional Record, 1873-75. GLIN is a unique public multinational legal database of current, official foreign laws, regulations and other legal resources important to our government and to the legal and business communities. GLIN members contribute the full-text of published documents to the database and its membership is growing. The Law Library deserves credit for its leadership in developing GLIN, expanding its membership and increasing its functionality in recent years. A visit to the Law Library's Web site (http://www.loc.gov/law/public/law.html) leads users as well to timely collections of legal information that document key events, such as Supreme Court nominations and the trial of Saddam Hussein. In addition, AALL commended the Law Library in May 2006 for publishing on its Web site the monthly Global Legal Monitor, a new English language electronic publication that monitors legal developments from around the world. It is a unique and heavily used publication that draws together information from GLIN, official national legal publications that are published in the vernacular and reliable press sources.
It is important to recognize that the Law Library is represented on the THOMAS Steering Committee and contributes to the enhancements of each new release. In addition, Law Library staff answer the majority of questions from users of THOMAS who need additional assistance. Last but not least, AALL is very supportive of efforts to work with GOOGLE to digitize the Law Library's entire collection of congressional hearings and make them available to the public free of charge. These online hearings will become an important addition to both the THOMAS system and GLIN.
The specialized resources, important services and digital projects of the Law Library of Congress allow it to fulfill its mission and develop state-of-the-art technologies to make widely available to government officials and the public many of its unique collections through the Internet. We look forward to working with you and members of the Subcommittee to ensure continued support for the Law Library's uniquely important collections and programs. Please include this letter as part of the Subcommittee's record for the hearing on "Library of Congress in the Digital Age." Thank you very much.
Sarah (Sally) Holterhoff
American Association of Law Libraries