— By Jason Silver
Researching a unique discipline such as Islamic law would be a great challenge for most students at other schools, but UF Law’s associate dean of Libraries and Technology can go back to her connections from the Library of Congress to make life easier for UF Law students.
Kathleen Price, formerly the Law Librarian of Congress, arrived at UF Law in 2003 to spearhead the expansion of UF Law’s library, now known as the Lawton Chiles Legal Information Center. She uses her previous experiences from the Library of Congress as well as the libraries at Duke, University of Minnesota and New York University Law School to create a place where students want to study and congregate.
“It’s been very exciting to see how students have shifted from books to online resources over the years,” Price said. “Now, more than ever, they are using the library as the hub for student life.” Price’s unique service to law academics at the state and national level is hard to match. She faced the task of the making the Law Library of Congress — which contains the world’s largest (more than seven miles worth) legal collection, a massive rare book collection that includes the Russian Imperial collection, and the vernacular global collections of Official Gazettes — relevant to the legal community after years of neglect resulted in out-of date-collections, a mismatch of foreign legal specialists and congressional interests, and numerous attempts to fold the Law Library into the general library over the objections of the ABA.
The fact that most law students at Washington, D.C., law schools studied in the library’s reading room provided a natural constituency, as did their alumni practicing in D.C. firms and congressional staff. Indeed, the world-class foreign and international collections built by the foreign legal specialists obviated the need for local law schools to build in those areas. “We got our motivation from knowing the legal community really needed the Law Library.”
Upon her return to UF, where she earned her bachelor’s degree, Price led the effort to expand Florida’s flagship law library. “UF Law has the strongest historic collection anywhere in the state, so the new facility serves as a backdrop for the whole state system,” she said. “I was involved in a similar project at NYU Law that cost almost four times as much, and I think the facility at UF Law is far better.”
Price says one of the most interesting projects she has worked on relates to expanding online resources with a $600,000 grant from the Starr Foundation. “I have been active in looking into how legal research is conducted in places like China, South Africa and Indonesia, and the online databases for students really level the playing field,” she said. “Now students in developing countries and Ivy League law schools have equal access to legal information, although it may take greater ingenuity to find it.”
She is a co-author of a bilingual guide to legal research for Chinese law students and is working with partners on a proposal for a Chinese legal research nutshell.