Spring 2014 Newsletter
John Wolff International and Comparative Law Library:
Location, Destination, Collection, Concept
Observing Ten Years of Operation
By Marylin Raisch
On August 13, 2004, a certificate of occupancy was issued for the Eric E. Hotung International Law Building, and with that, a move began to bring just over 100,000 volumes of international and comparative law materials, along with some items having related content, into a beautiful new space, the John Wolff International and Comparative Law Library.
Today, in 2014, the library remains a showcase for international and comparative legal research, and its strength may be its integration of people, print, and professional services—all characteristics shared with the main location of the law library in the Edward Bennett Williams building. The library is itself a technology for information, with five specialist librarians serving our students:consultations, classes and circulating materials. Two additional assisting staff make it all work. How did we get here?
Well, thanks to many librarians and staff over the years in both locations, books started flowing between locations in late August of 2004, hours extended to midnight by 2006, followed by projectors in two study rooms in 2007, and the arrival of checkouts for other technology-related use and collaboration in the form of "cool stuff" in June 2012. Later than same summer, in August, our International Computer Learning Center,a teaching lab, received new Mac computer hardware and a dual operating system set-up that permits switching from MacOS to MS Windows at a whim and a click.
Late former Director Robert Oakley and Margaret A. ("Peggy") Fry, then Associate Law Librarian for Administrative Service and later interim director, wisely chose Mabel Shaw (then and now our Assistant International & Foreign Law Librarian) to keep the preparations for the opening of the new building and library going before the arrival of Marylin Raisch as the new International and Foreign Law Librarian. Mabel's most daunting task was to implement the physical movement of books across an expanding campus—no mean feat! Mabel used this as an opportunity for collaboration, the first of many for the two law library locations, using the slogan MoveIT—Move International Together. Inventory, shelf reading and the lure of hidden chocolate bars (to be discovered in the stacks) got many library staff members involved in the project.
Current students and newer faculty may be surprised to learn that prior to 2004, the international collection was on the first (lowest) floor of the Williams Library in a space now occupied by the Office of Journal Administration (see offices as depicted in the staff photo above). Another major change came in September 2010 with the removal of a staircase that was located in the Hotung Lobby and was an alternative path to our main entrance.
As with most workplaces and memorable academic haunts, people, holidays and experiences count for a great deal. For those of us who are privileged to serve the Georgetown Law Center from our lovely location, our windows onto the green are among the pleasures.
Lastly, on a more somber note, a year ago in April the library lost an extraordinary colleague, employee, supervisor and friend. Vivian Villasenor passed away in retirement after serving as our first International & Foreign Law Collection & Services Coordinator. She is missed still.
Our services continue with the tone and standards set by our late colleague, and we have had, and currently have, a wonderful staff. Friends of the Law Library and alumni are welcome to use our library and wealth of international and foreign law resources and databases covering all jurisdictions as to access and expertise; we focus upon international trade, treaty research, environmental law and human rights; Mexico, Germany, France and Asian jurisdictions are also a focus of our recently increasing knowledge base.We recently added a large database of digital access to the legal history of Europe, Latin America and other aspects of the civil law tradition in the form of Foreign Primary Law in Gale-Cengage's vast collections.Ten years is several centuries in the world of technology, but thanks to our current Law Library Director Michelle Wu, a staff newly energized by the arrival of librarians Heather Casey, Charles Bjork and Maxine Wright, I join with staff Jill Thompson-Riese and Yasmin Borochov in welcoming Friends and sharing, in another newsletter installment, more detail about our collection and its future in the tradition of benefactor Professor John Wolff.