Taking on a Texas-sized Job

Taking the lead of the largest law library in the world, Roberta I. Shaffer will have plenty to keep her busy. Roberta, who is Texas-licensed, was appointed Law Librarian of Congress by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. Roberta currently is executive director of the Federal Library and Information Center Committee/Federal Library Network, but will begin her new position on Aug. 30.

Shaffer’s excited to start what she calls “a lifelong dream.” She says this is the best time in history to have this particular position. “The collections of the Library of Congress give meaning to the concept of democracy. Join these incomparable collections across all disciplines together with the power of technology, and opportunities have no limits.”

Billington said in a news release that Shaffer brings to the position “both extraordinary vision and demonstrated leadership skills” that will surely serve Congress and the public well. Roberta has an impressive academic background, to boot. She received her J.D. from Tulane University School of Law (graduating cum laude), graduated with highest honors from Emory University with a master’s degree in law librarianship, and graduated cum laude from Vassar College with an A.B. degree in political science/demography.

Roberta taught at several school libraries, including serving as dean and a professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Texas at Austin from 1999 to 2002. She was director of the University of Houston Law Center’s Legal Communications Program and associate director of the center’s Law and Technology Program.

Though Roberta calls her new position "a big job — Texas-sized, if you will,” she’s looking forward to tackling the challenges that lie ahead, including properly identifying, organizing, and digitizing the Library’s collections, as well as utilizing new sources of information — think blogs, Tweets, and wikis.

Roberta says the Law Library of Congress can serve Texas attorneys well as they deal more and more with foreign businesses. The Law Library of Congress has laws from more than 200 non-U.S. jurisdictions and a legal staff of lawyers from those countries who can assist with language barriers and in finding the correct sources. Further more, Roberta says by studying and comparing our laws with the laws of many other nations, Texas attorneys can find innovative ways to use law to solve the complex issues of our time.