Library User in the Spotlight: Michele Hou


Last month, the Peace Palace Library welcomed Michele Hou, a librarian from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva to visit our Library for a week to exchange knowledge and experience of working in an International Law Library. Fortunately, it turned out to be a rewarding experience for us as well as for Michele. Find out what she had to say about our Library.

Two years ago, I came across a little flyer called "Top ten FCIL (Foreign, Comparative and International Law) Dream Jobs". Number 2 on the list was "Law Librarian at the Peace Palace Library", the first being "Intergalactic Peace Librarian", one can say that PPL is the actual first on the list. Well, after my visit to the Peace Palace Library and meeting with the staff, I can definitely vouch for that. The Peace Palace Library is like some of the best Swiss made watches: beautiful on the outside, incredible clockwork on the inside. Professionalism, dedication, productivity and love of the job are the first words that come to mind, but the library is also a beacon of what libraries and librarians should be, now and in the near future. It is almost impossible to compare the little library of the International Committee of the Red Cross which is focused on merely one branch of International Public Law, with the Peace Palace Library. The Peace Palace Library achieves what all libraries would want to achieve: exhaustiveness in collection development and selectivity in reference services. However, exhaustiveness comes at a price: the amount of sources to monitor for collection development purposes is overwhelming -and I’m still amazed of how they manage to do it- and indexing books and articles sometimes badly written but unavoidable can be very unpleasant.

But the Peace Palace Library has found balance: a brand new and user friendly website offering the advices and opinions of the reference librarians in the form of research guides, blog posts, selection of international law news, allowing the reference librarians to put forward their knowledge at user's service. Working in the studying, calm, helpful and beautiful Reading Room is a privilege, but the Library is also about what you don't get to see: the 100 meter lego-organised stacks and an incredible collection of old books gathered through auctions. Two weeks after my visit, I’m still over the moon about the amazing hospitality and about all I have seen.