Leading the way in the library

The combined talents of leadership, language skills, innovative spirit and strategic vision has seen Elizabeth Naumczyk (BA ’76) establish three research law libraries, in Australia, The Netherlands and Singapore.

When the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established at The Hague, The Netherlands, in 2002, legal and reference books were procured hastily for court staff in Chambers, The Registry and Office of the Prosecutor and kept in offices. It took Elizabeth, a Flinders University graduate to make order out of the chaos, establishing the ICC Law Library. During her time as Foundation and Chief Librarian, from 2003 until 2015 she implemented its bilingual digital catalogue which in 2015 included 20,000 records totalling 50,000 volumes as well as digital resources, both commercial and open source.

The Library provided a crucial foundation within the world’s peak international tribunal, and signalled Elizabeth’s emergence as a prominent law librarian with international impact and recognition.

Her pivotal work at The Hague came about through her knowledge of multiple languages – English, Polish, French (which she studied at Flinders University) and some Dutch.

“I didn’t have connections within the UN or international organisations, so I really didn’t think my job application would go far, but my language skills proved to be an invaluable asset in a bilingual court that issued all proceedings in English and French,” she says.

As she became a specialist in the literature of international criminal law, the criminal law of States, humanitarian and human rights law, Elizabeth’s diverse understanding of different languages, cultures and approaches to solving problems allowed her to help judges and lawyers, from both common and civil law jurisdictions, work on difficult cases through providing library resources and research advice.

It was rewarding work. Having graduated from law as a mature aged student and admitted to the Bar in 1999, she chose to remain in the library profession. Her involvement and expertise in establishing law collections and working at university libraries led to her heading overseas.

“Throughout my life I have chosen to be part of new institutions, faculties, libraries and courses and have been privileged to have met people with a passion for creating something new and working beyond what is required to make a difference”.

Elizabeth’s work at the International Criminal Court was particularly impactful. As her role expanded to include managing and cataloguing the Court’s archives and legacy, she not only fulfilled legal deposit obligations with The Royal Library of the Netherlands (its National Library, known in Dutch as the Koninklijke Bibliotheek and more commonly as the KB) but initiated uploading to the KB public digital ICC documents and those of the Assembly of State Parties – a first among UN and affiliated libraries in The Hague. This further contributed to preservation for posterity and provided another point of access to researchers worldwide to official public digital documents in the six UN languages.

Importantly, the strong foundation provided by Elizabeth has continued through her job training and mentoring of, not only of library staff, but many interns from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, Australia, United States, Canada, Cambodia, Thailand, Poland, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy and Mauritius.

“I’m delighted to have introduced and encouraged so many people to flourish in new law library systems, and especially that the decisions I made when establishing these libraries ensured that the highest standards are in place.”

Elizabeth Naumczyk received a 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award for her distinguished leadership and international impact as a prominent law librarian in establishing three research law libraries in Australia, The Netherlands and Singapore. Read more on the Flinders University Alumni Awards

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