CUA LIS Practicum Diaries: Nadew Negussie, Department of Justice Main Library

CUA LIS Practicum Diaries are bi-weekly blogposts showcasing current student experiences at their practicum site.

In the fourth installment of CUA LIS Practicum Diaries, Nadew Negussie recaps his experience working in the Department of Justice main library:

As a prospective law librarian, my original goal in this Practicum was to obtain practical training that would enable my potential to provide an unreserved service to diverse communities of library users whose primary expertise area focused on the legal profession. One of the course objectives (serve information seekers in a global society) also reflects this goal.

 In order to attain this professional goal, for the past three months, I actively practiced in unique education program and obtained training at the DOJ Main Library.

This Practicum training covered wide range of library activities (searching, retrieving, organizing, and sharing library information). Such activities which required specialized legal knowledge include basic legal research skills and analytical capabilities of understanding major legal documents, interpreting and distinguishing the authenticity of legal materials from non- legal publications.

This Practicum training also included other library-wide activities such as attending training on diverse topics, participating in staff meeting in which librarians discussed topics related to the current challenge facing library operation, conducting tours throughout the shelving areas of the library collections, and participating continuous client service at the reference desk.

One of the most interesting projects that I was instructed to work on was the compilation of the court docket number from the U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs starting from 1883 to the present. Using U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs and the U.S. Report as primary sources, and Gale U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs as a secondary, my main focus was to search, retrieve and compile the docket number from individual case, and then adds it in to the DOJ library’s SharePoint data file. The DOJ library’s SharePoint data file was designed to serve as quick reference for common share-point site. The SharePoint data file contained a spreadsheet table arranged by parties name, docket numbers, U.S. Supreme Court Records & Briefs volume number and year as well as column for cross-reference citation to the U.S. Report.

In addition to the core MLIS courses, this project fully required me to use the legal research skills that I learned from Advanced Legal Research (LSC 839) and Legal Literature (LSC 830) classes and I applied them to conduct proficient docket number search through identifying major sources, parties name, and brief synopsis of the case. In a docket number search, I strictly used key steps such as scanning the table of cases that appeared in the first few pages of the main volume, double checking all the cases that are in the same volume, parties name and docket number.

Then, using the party names as a keyword or a search phrase, I searched the Gale database to retrieve more information about the case such as docket numbers, reference cited to the U.S. Report, other party names involved in the case etc.

Another interesting benefit what I learned from one of the projects – legislative history – was the kind of correspondences that existed between the U.S. Attorney General’s offices and the United States Congress. Every correspondence exchanged between the law makers and the U.S. Attorney General’s office discussed issues related to individual law passed by Congress.

The main purpose of this project was to identify those correspondences and separately list them on a spreadsheet by public law number, the U.S. Statutes at Large citation, brief description the law, date of the correspondence exchanged, the names of the government officials involved in the correspondence. In this project what I learned and found out that, first, the chief law enforcement organ of the United States law is the U.S. Attorney General and its subsidiary offices. Second, the official correspondences (Attorney General Opinions, memorandum, letters etc.) that collected and kept from these two branches of government are crucial sources for any legislative history.

One of the six projects in which I was instructed to work on was to prepare a master list of all dictionaries housed in all DOJ branch libraries located within the DC areas. Using the DOJ Net Library online catalog, I searched the titles and created a separate record by title, author, call number, date and location of the DOJ branch libraries. In addition to the wide varieties of unique dictionary collections, I also completed another list from different category of dictionaries – Webster, Oxford, Black Law, Roget’s, and Random House.

Alike the other two projects, the main purpose of this project was to add such master list in to the DOJ Library Share-point data file that will be available for internal use as a quick reference sources. This project further broadened my understanding about the ranges of unique categories of dictionaries that need to be available in the law library collections.

Therefore, what I have benefited from this Practicum was not only to have clear understanding about LIS core courses that lead me to acquired professional knowledge, skills and capabilities but it was also served as foundation for practical training and professional growth. Such practical experiences enabled my potential to explain understanding of the core knowledge and implement it in every day performance.

In order to perpetuate such knowledge, skills and capabilities as a foundation for continuous professional growth, it is also vita to adapt new technologies and practice them within the new information systems. LIS Knowledge and practical skills of new technologies can be applied anywhere and anytime to provide the best client services that meet the needs of any library users. -Nadew Negussie

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