Friday, January 28, 2005


By Tweed

Law libaries** are suppositories of a great variety of legal works, such as judicial opinions, photo-copiers and the primary location for student research and nappy-time. Like any other libary, a law libary is filled with thousands of volumes that no one has ever opened, such as "Horker on Handtruck Liability" and many volumes written by Federal Reporter. Like general libaries, law libaries use the Dewey Decimal system - so bring your sextent and abacus.

Like their step-siblings, the general libarians, law libarians are a insular bunch. They congregate in mysterious offices behind reference desks or in the basement. They speak their own language, often incomprehenible to the new student:

Student: Could you please tell me....

Libarian: 2nd Floor, you want AD2 and Pacific Reporter, but you can also look in F3d or Fed. Sup2nd. The Key Number is 16 and 23 so cross reference that and don't forget to Shep.

Student: Where the bathroom is?

Though they frequently speak about themselves with self-deprecating humor, law libarians are crafty and clever. Underneath their false modesty lies the most remarkable encyclopedic knowledge of the great and indispensable resources that their library doesn't have. Constantly under pressure to discontinue such precious commodities as "Rouschefoch's Law of Fur Trading," law librarians greedily protect the limited resources their libary has to offer. Though proud of these prized texts and outwardly protective, law librarians have the annoying habit of lending out indispensable texts to people with the morals of wandering snake-oil salesmen.

Despite their many charming idiosyncrasies, law libarians are very helpful at finding information. But don't expect them to help you with an actual legal problem - law libarians know blessedly little about the law. Rather, they know how it is organized, catalogued and stacked. Thus, as actuarials are to social security, so law librarians are to the law.

Law libraries contain a number of great resources beside the actual law (statutes and regulations). They contain legal publications, like periodicals (e.g. the New York Law Journal, the National Law Journal, the Inlaw Journal), scholarly articles, usually in law reviews (e.g. Harvard Law Review, East Schenectady School of Criminal Justice Law Review and Broadside), and treatises (Corpus Juris Secundum, Merten's Federal Income Tax, Williston on Williston and Prosser On Prosser's Wife).

Law libraries have gone through an extraordinary transformation over the past fifteen years, not unlike Michael Jackson. Law libraries used to function as flop houses for law students - like MJ's Neverland. But now, through the power of the internet, they constitute the single largest profit source for internet pornography - just ahead of MJ's Neverland.

* Some of your more ignorant colleagues will pronounce it "library" and "librarian". Don't let them make fools of themselves. Correct them at every opportunity.

** One of the most prestigious law libaries can be found at 225 AD2d 545, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Wells said...

Once while in graduate school, not for law, I attempted to use this particular law library for my own studies. Not for the unique catalog system, but for a change of surrounding. These crafty librarians would not let me enter - and they could not cite why! This particular law library was sacred ground for the chosen few.

Stockton & Tweed Esq said...

You don't know what you're missing: cocktails, scantily clad waitresses, a jazz quartet. We like to whine, but that's just to hide the good life we're leading, "Oh God, I have to go to the library...Again!"

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