Mensaje de Elena González, directora de la Biblioteca Legal del Departamento de Justicia, ante la American Association of Law Libraries

As you may know, on September 20, 2018, Puerto Rico suffered one of the most catastrophic events in our history; first Irma and then Hurricane Maria destroyed the product of many years of hard work. The Department of Justice of Puerto Rico was no exemption. Our main facilities were seriously damaged and after more than 10 months, we haven’t been able to be completely recovered from all the damages. The Department of Justice of Puerto Rico’s Library was located in the ninth floor of a very centric historical building near Old San Juan. Both together, in one week, took apart our Law Library. Since we lost our main office facilities, our Law Library has been disarticulated. All of our books have been relocated in order to preserve them and we have no space to offer adequate services to our employees. This has not stopped us to still manage to give an excellent services to all our employees. After a few months, without power and communication, the library started giving services through a tablet and the librarian cellphone. Our Law Library was damaged to the extent of non-existence; the other law libraries on the Island stared recuperating slowly, provided support and inter library services.

When a hurricane is coming, there is no escaping from something like this. There is no way to prevent damages even if you are prepare for it. The emergency operational plan is there. But do you really know to deal with the upcoming? For decades we have been aware of our yearly hurricane season. But they all had a tendency to miss the Island or deviate it path, so people didn’t put an effort this time to prepare for the worst. Our emergency protocols (operational plans) were not taken seriously. It was not until now that the Government is giving the importance it deserves and is working in a much better operational plan that contemplates a much better organization.

The history of the Department of Justice of Puerto Rico can be traced to November 25, 1897; in which Article 45 of the “Carta Orgánica” from the Spain regime, refers “Justicia” as one of the Secretary of Office. Due to the war between United States and Spain, to stop hostilities in Puerto Rico, the military regime began on October 18, 1898. One of the first measures of this new military regime was to nominate all the heads of Cabinet Members or Cabinet Councils. Up to today the Department of Justice of Puerto Rico still exercise the same authority as the Department of Justice and the General District Attorney’s Office of the United States, and various States of the Union. This includes the publication of the Opinions of the Secretary of Justice, printed since 1902; one of our historical irreplaceable collection that was rescued and saved after the Hurricane Maria from the ninth floor Law Library.

palacio rojo vsj

This is one of the first Headquarters of the Department of Justice of Puerto Rico. It is called the “Palacio Rojo” (Red Palace), located in Fortaleza Street #50 in Old San Juan. As a fact, the “Palacio Rojo” have been remodeled several times over the past decades and is still used as a government offices facilities.

Miramar Building Department of Justice Destroyed by Maria:

departamento de justicia en miramar

The Law Library of the Department of Puerto Rico received its first book in 1956. That was the beginning of our law collection development. According to the declaration of all library rights (adopted in June 18, 1948), the library’s mission is to provide historical and actual information without restriction to every person without motive of origin, age, personal history or points of view. It was not until the Law Num. 205, August 9, 2004, that the Department of Justice of Puerto Rico incorporated in its Art. 41 of the Organic Act, the importance of having all bibliographic resources together needed to provide a reference tool to all officials, lawyers and personnel of the same.

Doing reference by the mentioned above, the Law also established the need to serve every other government agency, every member in the legal profession and the Puerto Rico’s community in general. In order to be able to continue providing references services after the Hurricane Maria, and comply with the Law, we need to build a new library.

nuevas facilidades del departamento de justicia

The 2018, new building facilities located in Rio Piedras, San Juan Puerto Rico.

The following picture represent the sketch (“croquis”) of the new space for the Law Library:

biblioteca del departamento de justicia

 

The Department of Justice of Puerto Rico is going to be relocated in a very modern building with much space and facilities. It is my responsibility as a Law Librarian of Puerto Rico to continue providing service to our law community. To be able to continue offering the same, we have started a program: “Adopt a Library- Puerto Rico after Maria”. The AALL have provided me the opportunity to assist and exposed the situation to all my colleagues, offering me a complementary registration.

To continue my mission I came to Baltimore with a full list of our needs. If you want to help us with our project you can contact me: Elena Gonzalez (787-306-1858). E-mails: fmeh2002@yahoo.com elenagonzalez@justicia.pr.gov

 

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