A Field Trip on The Hottest Day of the Year


The Library of Congress - with my bag in the foreground



Today was a lovely D.C. day, with record breaking temperatures of 104 °F and a heat index of about 110 °F.  Today was also the day I took my first trip to the Library of Congress to track down old Burmese legislation.

USIP’s Rule of Law Center has been working with the Asia Society, the Myanmar Development Resources Institute and advisors to the Burmese president, holding meetings about Burma’s transition away from authoritarian rule.

When I was asked to track down some of Burma’s pre-military junta codes, I didn’t anticipate leaving the office.  Most legal research happens online - I just assumed I’d be able to find them electronically somewhere. I spent a good half-hour at my desk, checking all the usual foreign law resources, then resorting to a series of increasingly desperate Google searches. At last something popped up – a UCLA Law PDF of The Burma Code! I opened it excitedly, only to find that it was the 1910 version, not the Post WW II version I needed.

Finally realizing that I might have to use a book, I searched for the nearest library with copies of the laws. There are under 20 copies of the version of Burma Code I needed, and only 1 in Washington D.C., at the Library of Congress. There is no electronic version, and the books cannot be checked out. The only way to get copies of the laws for USIP was to go to the Library  and photocopy most of 13 volumes of legislation.

At least some of us were staying cool

The trip itself was also much more involved than I’d anticipated. The Library of Congress is actually a complex of three buildings – one housing one book I needed, one housing the other thirteen books I needed and one which housing the only place in the Library you can get a photocopy card with a receipt for reimbursement. I spent about 70% of my time in the Library tracking down books and copying the laws and the other 30% running back and forth between buildings in the extreme heat.

All in all it was a very successful day. By the end of the day, I’d managed to copy just under half of the laws I needed – which means another trip to visit the librarians in the Foreign Laws Reading Room is in my future.

I also acquired a large print of a photo of Steve McQueen preparing to race. . . some kind of a car. For a few dollars each, Reproduction Services sells photo reproductions that were requested but not collected.

A photo of a photo

Now who would forget to pick up this gem?