The University of Arizona

Law Librarian of Congress to Speak at UA

By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Communications | April 19, 2010

Roberta I. Shaffer will discuss challenges facing the legal field brought on by digitization.

Roberta I. Shaffer is the librarian of the Law Library of Congress, which was founded in 1832. The library collects and maintains information used by members of Congress, the Supreme Court and other branches of the U.S. government, as well as members of the global legal community.
Roberta I. Shaffer is the librarian of the Law Library of Congress, which was founded in 1832. The library collects and maintains information used by members of Congress, the Supreme Court and other branches of the U.S. government, as well as members of the global legal community.

E-mail, text messaging and cell phone records – information unavailable several decades ago – are increasingly used as evidence in legal cases.

Yet there remains a challenge with legal information being recorded and maintained in a digital format, particularly related to determining authenticity and preservation.

Roberta I. Shaffer, the Law Librarian of Congress, will speak this week at the University of Arizona about the ways in which digital information is affecting legal librarians, policymakers, legal practitioners and other professionals.

"This is a huge issue because of all of the information the federal government produces in digital form," said Peter Botticelli, an assistant professor of practice at UA's School of Information Resources and Library Science. 

"The question is: How do we keep this information, and what is its legal status as a record?" he added. "People are sometimes not aware of the trace they leave electronically." 

Shaffer will present her lecture, "Digitization and the Future of Law Libraries," at 12:30 p.m. April 23 in Room 160 of the James E. Rogers College of Law, 1201 E. Speedway Blvd. 

Her talk is sponsored by the UA's School of Information Resources and Library Science, commonly known as SIRLS, with funding from its digital information, or DigIn, program that is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Shaffer's lecture comes at a time when SIRLS is revamping its undergraduate minor in digital information management to have a much heavier emphasis on digitization, said Leslie Kent Kunkel, assistant director of SIRLS.

Also, the lecture coincides with a number of events at the UA school that are intended to promote program offerings and recruit students.  

The U.S. Congress appointed Shaffer in August to her position. The Law Library of Congress, which maintains the world's largest collection of legal texts, was established in 1832 and now contains more than 2.65 million volumes. 

Shaffer, who has a home in Tucson, formerly served as an adjunct faculty member in SIRLS and has retained a relationship with the school over the years. During that time, she taught courses on corporate libraries and ethics for information professionals.

She also has served since 2005 as executive director of the Federal Library and Information Center Committee/Federal Library Network at the Library of Congress.

Schaffer earned her undergraduate degree in political science and demography from Vassar College and went on to earn a law degree from Tulane University. She also earned a master’s in librarianship from Emory University.

She has since been admitted to the Texas, District of Columbia and U.S. Supreme Court bars and previously directed the University of Houston Law Center’s Legal Communications Program.

Years later, she became the first appointee to special assistant to the Law Librarian in the Library of Congress.

Previously, Shaffer also was named a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar and served as director of the George Washington University National Law Center Library. She also has worked for the the Catholic University of America's School of Library and Information Science, the University of Texas at Austin and University of Maryland-College Park.

Shaffer has written numerous articles and is a frequent speaker at law, library and leadership conferences. Her areas of interest include knowledge creation, capture and mobilization; the role of information professionals; and the development and evaluation of professional practices.

Botticelli said Shaffer's lecture is timely and important. 

"The legal profession is swiftly changing because of electronic delivery, especially now that a lot of research involves digital collections," he said. 

"It's the kind of thing that should be relevant certainly to law librarians, but also to lawyers and law students," Botticelli added. "They all are dealing with a new world of legal information that is digital."