The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 26, Number 6
Oct 2003


Georgetown Law Center Preservation Projects

The Edward Bennett Williams Law Library, at the Georgetown University Law Center, is carrying out a project to preserve the historic state codes printed between 1840 and 1930 for all fifty states and the District of Columbia. There are two goals for this project: 1) to create a complete preservation collection of historic state codes from 1840-1930, and 2) to provide other libraries the opportunity to acquire these titles so that there are partial or complete preservation collections across the country.

In 1996, the Georgetown Law Library began the project to preserve the historic state codes. Due to the nature of the paper used and the often unstable environments in which these books have been stored, the information housed in these books is at risk of being lost. Like other brittle books, these state codes require preservation reformatting in which contents of books are reproduced on a medium that is chemically, physically, and technologically stable so that the information will continue to be accessible in several hundred years if stored under appropriate environmental conditions and used carefully. In the beginning, the codes were preservation photocopied by BookLab, Inc. in Austin, Texas, which closed in 1998. The project has since been moved to Acme Bookbinding in Charlestown, Massachusetts, where the codes are being preservation formatted; pages are digitally imaged and printed on permanent paper (ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992) and then bound to meet Library Binding Institute standards (ANSI/NISO/LBI Z39.78-2000). The reprinted codes are available for purchase by libraries from Acme, which does the photocopy reproductions. The collection at the Georgetown Law Library contains 960 titles, which represent roughly 50% of the state codes identified in Pimsleur's Checklist of Basic American Legal Publications (1992).

Supporting the efforts to create a complete preservation collection of historic state codes, the Maryland State Law Library, Delaware State Law Library, Alameda County Law Library, Washburn University Law Library, Arizona State Law Library, Gordon D. Schaber Law Library (UOP), Florida State University School of Law, Arkansas Supreme Court Library, and the University of Arkansas Library have contributed titles to the project. We continue to encourage other libraries to contribute titles to fill in gaps so that we can preserve as many of these codes as possible.

Because the books are being scanned and the images stored, preservation facsimiles can be printed without having to e-scan the original. As a result, all titles completed in this project will be available for purchase from Acme Bookbinding. Refer to the project's web site, http://www.ll.georgetown.edu/states/historic_codes/index.cfm, for a listing of all titles completed and in the pipeline.

The Georgetown Law Center is also involved in the District of Columbia Historic Preservation Project. It is an effort to collect all the District of Columbia Mayor's Agent's decisions dating back to 1978. Georgetown Law Professor Peter Byrne has been assembling a collection of these decisions by working with the Mayor's Agent and the D.C. Historic Preservation Division. Efforts are being made to locate additional decisions to create as complete a collection as possible.

The first decisions to be put up were those made during the tenure of Rohulamin Quander, the current Mayor's Agent. Mr. Quander is transmitting these decisions in Word format to the Law Library, where they are being converted to HTML format and to PDF format, and then put on a server connected to the Web. Earlier decisions from the collection of Professor Byrne have been scanned and made available in PDF format. Indexes to the entire body of opinions are being created by library staff and added to the web site. Library project staff include Janice Anderson, Chanda Cook, Susan Hooker and Hilary Seo. The web site for this project is: http://www.ll.georgetown.edu/histpres/index/cfm.

This project has an historical precedent described in the April 1991 Abbey Newsletter by Linda Nainis, then assistant law librarian at the Georgetown Law Library.

"In 1988 Georgetown University Law Library, together with more than 40 other law libraries nationwide, completed a cooperative preservation photocopying project, involving a 31-volume legal reference set. They contracted with LBS Archival Products in Des Moines, Iowa to disbind and reproduce the brittle volumes on acid-free paper and then bind the reproduction. By the time production was started in the late fall, more than 41 libraries from all over the U.S. had requested the set."

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