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April 28, 2010

Law Library of Congress Leads Effort to Restore Haiti’s Legal Resources

As Haiti rebuilds after last January’s massive earthquake, the need for access to its statutes and other law-related materials has become paramount to the nation and its people, and organizations helping with the recovery effort.

In the interest of providing greater access to Haitian legal materials, the Law Library of Congress is embarking on a project to digitize Haitian law titles that are in the public domain. The goal of this project is to offer an easily accessible, comprehensive legal collection for Haiti.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for the Law Library of Congress to share its collections in direct support of a humanitarian effort," said Law Librarian of Congress Roberta Shaffer. "By combining our rich collection of Haitian law with collections of law libraries all over the world, we can provide the Haitian people, other governments and nonprofit organizations with access to most of the legal materials that were lost in the devastating earthquake. As Haiti begins to rebuild, it will be building on the strong foundation of the rule of law."

The Law Library of Congress’s collection contains more than 800 Haitian law titles that have been made available through various sources, including the Library of Congress online catalog. Public access to summaries of and related information about the Law Library’s Haitian law holdings is available through the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN). GLIN is a public database of official texts of laws, regulations, judicial decisions, and other complementary legal sources contributed by governmental agencies and international organizations.

To date, more than 370 Haitian legal materials have been organized and prepared for digitization.

"The Law Library looks forward to digitizing and providing global access to its entire historical Haitian legal collection," said Mark Strattner, chief of the Law Library’s Collections Services Division.

For more than 40 years, beginning with the effort to restore the National Library in Florence following the devastating floods in that city in 1966, the Library of Congress has assisted at home and abroad in the aftermath of natural and man-made disasters. In the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Library initiated book donations, preservation and recovery efforts of library materials and a collaborative project to collect and archive websites pertaining to the events. In 2002, the Law Library helped reconstruct Afghanistan’s laws that were destroyed during the period of Taliban rule. In addition to the Law Library’s efforts in Haiti, the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress recently digitized and repatriated to Haiti 50 hours of field recordings and six moving pictures featuring traditional Haitian culture collected by ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax in the late 1930s.

Founded in 1832, the mission of the Law Library is to make its resources available to members of Congress, the Supreme Court, other branches of the U.S. Government and the global legal community, and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of law for future generations. With more than 2.6 million volumes, the Law Library contains the world’s largest collection of law books and other resources from all countries and provides online databases and guides to legal information worldwide through its web site at www.loc.gov/law/.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.

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PR 10-095
04/28/10
ISSN 0731-3527

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