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Improving the Federal Court Library System

NCJ Number
Date Published
137 pages
The Federal judiciary's law library system, when assessed in 1976-77, showed substantial duplication as well as many weaknesses in procurement and management practices.
The Federal judiciary's 2.8-million-volume collection is the world's largest, but it offers only 2,500 unique titles to judges and judicial personnel. This duplication of titles is symptomatic of the many problems. First, the Administrative Office has too few professional law library personnel and lacks a national information system for inventory control. Its overly centralized management system has prevented circuit librarians from assuming any leadership roles. Second, current budgeting procedures have severely hampered intelligent expansion of Federal court law book collections. Third, the overwhelming majority of the holdings -chambers collections and the 47 district court central libraries -- are attended by deputy clerks, law clerks, and judges' secretaries, not professional personnel. Fourth, the artificial distinction between the courts of appeal's libraries and those of the district courts is unjustifiable. The number of judges served, not the court type, should guide the maintenance and staffing of court libraries. Also contributing to duplication has been the lack of architectural planning and guidelines for the construction of Federal court libraries. Finally, the system has done little or no planning regarding future law book needs, new research techniques, or guidance in the expansion of central systems. The evaluation presents specific recommendations to address these problems, with the most important being creating the post of director of Federal court libraries within the Administrative Office. The report includes 143 footnotes.