Thurgood Marshall Law Library, University of Maryland School of Law

The database of Historical Publications of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
The database of Historical Publications of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is one of several projects that the library manages.

We would like to extend our thanks to the University of Maryland School of Law, Thurgood Marshall Law Library, for their ongoing partnership with the Federal Depository Library Program. The University of Maryland School of Law is one of the oldest law schools in America, and has a student population of nearly 900 full time students. The law library joined the FDLP in 1969 and recently celebrated their 40th anniversary as a depository library.

The Thurgood Marshall Law Library (TMLL) manages several projects that benefit other libraries and online users. The most familiar of these is their popular database of Historical Publications of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. This project is a partnership between GPO and the United States Commission on Civil Rights - one of only a few that directly partners with the originating agency - and provides access to over 500 digitized Commission publications. Publications can be searched using standard access points such as Title, Date, Subject, and SuDoc number, but interestingly also by using a Google map to identify publications based on the geographic location. The staff is currently exploring how to use the many cover images to create Flicker access by image.

The Historical Publications of the United States Commission on Civil Rights began in 2000 with a team consisting of staff from the library’s User Services, Technical Services and the Technology Assisted Learning (TAL) Center. Seeking to produce the highest quality scans possible for their users and the library community the project team quickly found they could not produce quality scans themselves using in-house equipment. As a result, they have worked with several vendors to develop the product they sought. At present, the project is managed primarily by Bill Sleeman, who works with these outside vendors to process the digitized publications on a regular basis. On average, the library adds about 30 to 40 publications a semester. This includes creating all of the value-added features such as PDF bookmarks and links, creating metadata, and updating cataloging records for the electronic version. In addition, through the partnership with the Commission, the library receives new publications directly from the agency as they are produced and distributed. Feedback from users has been overwhelmingly positive.

Another way that staff at the Thurgood Marshall Law Library gives back to their local library community is an on-going project to update the catalog records for hearings and reports of the Congressional Judiciary Committees while simultaneously adding the library’s holdings. Bill Sleeman and his colleague Jeff Elliott then update the bibliographic information, as appropriate, in the local catalog of the University System of Maryland.

Another unique contribution of the Thurgood Marshall Law Library is their project to identify and make more readily accessible, Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports. Unlike other projects devoted to harvesting CRS publications their library’s project concentrates primarily on the topical areas most relevant to the academic mission of the University of Maryland School of Law. Focusing on:

  • Environmental Law & Policy,
  • Foreign Policy and Relations,
  • Intellectual Property, Cyberlaw, and Electronic Commerce, and
  • Intelligence, and Military and National Security (including Terrorism).

Once again, the value added to the digital reports includes PDF bookmarks and hyperlinking. To identify these CRS reports, the depository coordinator regularly visits Internet sites likely to contain relevant reports; particularly useful are overseas U.S. embassies and the Department of Homeland Security Web site.

Successful projects require promotional activities to publicize the product. In this case, the depository coordinator, Bill Sleeman, is an active participant in the government information community, having served as a past-Chair of the American Library Association’s Government Documents Round Table, and maintains regular communication with other government information specialists by posting messages through discussion lists such as GOVDOC-L and the Maryland/Delaware/District of Columbia regional list – GOVDOC-Talk. He has also presented at a number of ALA, AALL, and FDLP conferences, sharing his experience and expertise with other librarians.

For managing all these ongoing projects on top of their normal depository operations, GPO would like to extend our thanks to the Thurgood Marshall Law Library. The commitment of the staff, along with strong support from their library director, has allowed them to strike a balance between the high quality end product that the FDLP seeks and their local institutional needs. The excellent work they do benefits not only their local users, but the library community at large.

Read more about how the staff of the Thurgood Marshall Law Library went about developing their local digitization project!