Events • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

Banned Books Week Events at HLS

We’re expanding our Banned Books Week activities this year, and we look forward to celebrating our freedom to read with you!

Most Challenged Books of 2017 Exhibit
Yes, books are still having their places in libraries and on school reading lists challenged every year. Visit the exhibit case between Langdell and Areeda Halls to see what the most challenged books of 2017 were. You might be surprised!

Banned Books & Censorship Exhibit
The issue of banning books ties into other forms of censorship. Visit our bulletin board by the library entrance for some questions and reports on recent anti-free press actions, current issues in free speech, the big censorship stories of 2017, and private actors and free speech. Plus learn about some of the many organizations fighting censorship that you can get involved with!

3rd Annual Read-Out
Tuesday, September 25
Library steps
Bring your lunch and join us in reading aloud passages from some of our favorite banned books. Are you part of the HLS community and want to join the reading roster? Please email Meg Kribble and we’ll addd you to the list!

A talk with James Tager, HLS ’13, PEN America
Friday, September  28
WCC 1010
Co-sponsors: the HLS ACS and the Harvard Federalist Society

Last but not least, we’re so excited to welcome James Tager, HLS ’13, back to campus. James is Deputy Director, Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America, and he’ll speak about contemporary issues related to banning books.

No RSVP necessary; lunch is available first come, first served!




Do you have a favorite banned book? Share it with us in the comments!



Book Talk: Cass Sunstein’s The Cost-Benefit Revolution, Thursday, October 4 at noon

The Harvard Law School Library staff invite you to attend a book talk and discussion in celebration of the recent publication of The Cost-Benefit Revolution by Cass R. Sunstein (MIT Press, August 28, 2018).  Professor Sunstein is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard University.

Thursday, October 4, 2018, at noon
Harvard Law School WCC Milstein West B (Directions)
1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA
No RSVP required

The Cost-Benefit Revolution Poster

About The Cost-Benefit Revolution

“Opinions on government policies vary widely. Some people feel passionately about the child obesity epidemic and support government regulation of sugary drinks. Others argue that people should be able to eat and drink whatever they like. Some people are alarmed about climate change and favor aggressive government intervention. Others don’t feel the need for any sort of climate regulation. In The Cost-Benefit Revolution, Cass Sunstein argues our major disagreements really involve facts, not values. It follows that government policy should not be based on public opinion, intuitions, or pressure from interest groups, but on numbers—meaning careful consideration of costs and benefits. Will a policy save one life, or one thousand lives? Will it impose costs on consumers, and if so, will the costs be high or negligible? Will it hurt workers and small businesses, and, if so, precisely how much?

As the Obama administration’s “regulatory czar,” Sunstein knows his subject in both theory and practice. Drawing on behavioral economics and his well-known emphasis on “nudging,” he celebrates the cost-benefit revolution in policy making, tracing its defining moments in the Reagan, Clinton, and Obama administrations (and pondering its uncertain future in the Trump administration). He acknowledges that public officials often lack information about costs and benefits, and outlines state-of-the-art techniques for acquiring that information. Policies should make people’s lives better. Quantitative cost-benefit analysis, Sunstein argues, is the best available method for making this happen—even if, in the future, new measures of human well-being, also explored in this book, may be better still.” — MIT Press

More About The Cost-Benefit Revolution

“Only Cass Sunstein could present cost-benefit analysis as a prism for understanding democracy, an exciting research frontier, and a route to a better world. The world will be a better place if the next president of the United States thinks hard about this important book.” — Lawrence H. Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus, Harvard University

“Cost-benefit analysis may not have all the answers, but Cass Sunstein’s eminently readable The Cost-Benefit Revolution addresses all the right questions. No one in America has thought more deeply about the strengths, weaknesses, and underpinnings of cost-benefit analysis from both a theoretical and practical level than Cass Sunstein. This book will surely pass your personal cost-benefit test.” — Alan Krueger, Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, Princeton University

“Cass Sunstein’s enlightening volume makes a compelling case that systematic assessments of benefits and costs should become even more ingrained in government policymaking. In addition to drawing on his substantial regulatory expertise, Sunstein deftly explores novel policy terrain ranging from national security to free speech.” — W. Kip Viscusi, University Distinguished Professor, Vanderbilt University; author of Pricing Lives: Guideposts for a Safer Society and Economics of Regulation and Antitrust

“Sunstein has been leading the cost-benefit revolution, and here he explains how it is making the world a better place. If that weren’t enough, this must-read lets readers into one of the world’s most important minds.” — Michael Greenstone, Milton Friedman Professor of Economics, University of Chicago

Book Talk: Constitutional Democracy in Crisis?, Wednesday, October 3 at noon

The Harvard Law School Library staff invite you to attend a book talk and discussion in celebration of the recent publication of Constitutional Democracy in Crisis? edited by Mark A. Graber, Sanford Levinson and Mark Tushnet (Oxford Univ. Press, Sept. 20, 2018). Mark Tushnet is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Sanford Levinson is the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr., Centennial Chair in Law at the University of Texas Law School and Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.  Professors Tushnet and Levinson will be joined in discussion by Vicki C. Jackson, Thurgood Marshall Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School; Steven R. Levitsky, Harvard University Professor of Government; and Katharine Young, Associate Professor at Boston College Law School.

Copies of Constitutional Democracy in Crisis? will be available for sale courtesy of the Harvard Law School COOP and Professors Levinson and Tushnet will be available for signing books at the end of the talk.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018, at noon
Harvard Law School WCC Milstein West B (Directions)
1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA
No RSVP required

Poster Constitutional Democracy in Crisis?

About Constitutional Democracy in Crisis?

“Is the world facing a serious threat to the protection of constitutional democracy?

There is a genuine debate about the meaning of the various political events that have, for many scholars and observers, generated a feeling of deep foreboding about our collective futures all over the world. Do these events represent simply the normal ebb and flow of political possibilities, or do they instead portend a more permanent move away from constitutional democracy that had been thought triumphant after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1989?

Constitutional Democracy in Crisis? addresses these questions head-on: Are the forces weakening constitutional democracy around the world general or nation-specific? Why have some major democracies seemingly not experienced these problems? How can we as scholars and citizens think clearly about the ideas of “constitutional crisis” or “constitutional degeneration”? What are the impacts of forces such as globalization, immigration, income inequality, populism, nationalism, religious sectarianism?

Bringing together leading scholars to engage critically with the crises facing constitutional democracies in the 21st century, these essays diagnose the causes of the present afflictions in regimes, regions, and across the globe, believing at this stage that diagnosis is of central importance – as Abraham Lincoln said in his “House Divided” speech, “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.”” — Oxford University Press

Mark Tushnet




Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard Law School


Sanford Levinson


Sanford Levinson, W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr., Centennial Chair in Law at the University of Texas Law School and Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School


Vicki Jackson



Vicki C. Jackson, Thurgood Marshall Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School


Steve Levitsky




Steven R. Levitsky, Harvard University Professor of Government

Katharine Young




Katharine Young, Associate Professor at Boston College Law School


More About Constitutional Democracy in Crisis?

“Many are convinced that liberal constitutional democracy is in the midst of a severe crisis, and is being replaced by illiberal constitutional democracy. This important book analyses the reasons for this development, both at the global level and at the national level. It presents original and illuminating answers to the question, ‘Why is this shift occurring?’ This scholarly foundation is necessary for finding answers to the question of how this trend can be reversed. The time is right for this book to be published by its first-class authors, and it provides the intellectual foundations necessary for each of us to cope with the changes that are occurring in our own constitutional democracies, and to try to turn the tide. For me, as a retired judge, the book provides food for thought about where we went wrong, and what we can do to take us in a new direction.” — Aharon Barak, former President of the Supreme Court of Israel; Professor of Law at IDC Herzliya

“Constitutional democracies around the world are suffering assaults from within. Globally, political freedoms are becoming weaker. Democracy does not necessarily guarantee prosperity. This book provides a superb appraisal of democracy’s current crisis. Those who wish to learn about what is happening to constitutional democracies around the world should read this groundbreaking, multiperspective, and transdisciplinary book.” — Sabino Cassese, Emeritus Justice, Italian Constitutional Court; Emeritus Professor, University of Rome

“To question the current health of constitutional democracy is implicitly to affirm that there are more chapters to be written before we arrive at the end of history. Fortunately, we now have the exquisitely crafted chapters in this unique collection of essays to help us make sense of our current predicament. Written against the backdrop of a multitude of ominous developments that have shaken confidence in the stability and endurance of liberal democratic institutions, the contributors to this timely volume explore this portentous moment from all angles, leaving the reader richly informed, if not sanguine, about future prospects. A careful reading will, however, not end in despair, for as the most disturbing threats to political freedom and economic justice emanate from within, the challenge that they represent can also be met from within.” — Gary Jeffrey Jacobsohn, H. Malcolm Macdonald Professor of Constitutional and Comparative Law, University of Texas at Austin

“This book is an indispensable resource for understanding the rise of illiberal populisms and the possibilities for sustaining constitutionalism and democracy. Contributors include leading global scholars of comparative constitutional law, whose chapters provide a diverse empirical base from countries around the world with which to evaluate constitutional democracy and its contemporary challenges and competitors. Theories are tested, data provided, and new concepts advanced – addressing, among other topics, the role of political parties, political leaders, religion, economic inequality, race, ethnicity, and immigration – in a set of readable and relatively short chapters that, as much as any edited scholarly collection could be, is a true “page-turner”, hard to stop reading once one starts.” — Vicki C. Jackson, Thurgood Marshall Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School

“This rigorous, wide-ranging, and engaging volume is an indispensable guide to the current crisis of constitutional democracy. The volume’s theoretical essays raise profound new questions about the relationship between constitutionalism and democracy. Its high quality empirical chapters help us understand the global reach and historical roots of the current crisis. This is a landmark book for our troubled times.” — Pratap B. Mehta, Vice-Chancellor, Ashoka University; past President, Centre for Policy Research

“At the end of the 20th century, constitutional democracy had gained almost universal acceptance. At least, so it seemed. A decade later, we see constitutional democracy declining or mutating into more authoritarian forms of government in a number of countries. In this timely book, more than forty outstanding authors from many parts of the world offer a comprehensive analysis of this development and its causes, which should be of paramount interest not only to scholars and students of law and politics, but to everyone concerned about public affairs.” — Dieter Grimm, Former Justice, Federal Constitutional Court of Germany; Professor of Law, Humboldt University Berlin

HLS students: Invitation to Love Your Library Fest!

HLS Students: we invite you to join us for the 14th annual Love Your Library Fest on Friday, September 21. Drop by anytime between 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. to learn more about your new library!

At Library Fest you will:

  • Learn about library services that students love
  • Get the scoop on cool tools from our Library Innovation Lab
  • Tell us how to improve our spaces
  • See unique items from our Historical & Special Collections
  • Meet our legal information vendors and staff from other Harvard libraries

Library Fest Heart by Alethea Jones

Art by Alethea Jones

Visit three or more stations to get a free movie ticket (HLS students only; one ticket per student) and for each station you visit, get an entry into our raffle for a Taste of New England gift basket (two each for JD and LLM/SJD students)–with a bonus raffle entry if you visit all stations!

In addition to the grand prizes, there will be candy, treats, and some fun HLSL swag!

Mark your calendars and we’ll see you there!

Book Talk: Catharine MacKinnon, Butterfly Politics, Tuesday September 18 at noon

The Harvard Law School Library staff invite you to attend a book talk and discussion in celebration of the recent publication of Butterfly Politics by Catharine A. MacKinnon (Belknap Press 2017). Professor MacKinnon is the Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan and is the James Barr Ames Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Copies of Butterfly Politics will be available for sale courtesy of the Harvard Law School COOP and Professor MacKinnon will be available for signing books at the end of the talk.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018, at noon
Harvard Law School WCC Milstein East B (Directions)
1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA
No RSVP required

Butterfly Politics Poster

About Butterfly Politics

“The minuscule motion of a butterfly’s wings can trigger a tornado half a world away, according to chaos theory. Under the right conditions, small simple actions can produce large complex effects. In this timely and provocative book, Catharine A. MacKinnon argues that the right seemingly minor interventions in the legal realm can have a butterfly effect that generates major social and cultural transformations.

Butterfly Politics brings this incisive understanding of social causality to a wide-ranging exploration of gender relations. The pieces collected here—many published for the first time—provide a new perspective on MacKinnon’s career as a pioneer of legal theory and practice and an activist for women’s rights. Its central concerns of gender inequality, sexual harassment, rape, pornography, and prostitution have defined MacKinnon’s intellectual, legal, and political pursuits for over forty years. Though differing in style and approach, the selections all share the same motivation: to end inequality, including abuse, in women’s lives. Several mark the first time ideas that are now staples of legal and political discourse appeared in public—for example, the analysis of substantive equality. Others urge changes that have yet to be realized.

The butterfly effect can animate political activism and advance equality socially and legally. Seemingly insignificant actions, through collective recursion, can intervene in unstable systems to produce systemic change. A powerful critique of the legal and institutional denial of reality that perpetuates practices of gender inequality, Butterfly Politics provides a model of what principled, effective, socially conscious engagement with law looks like.” — Harvard University Press

More About Butterfly Politics

“MacKinnon [is] radical, passionate, incorruptible and a beautiful literary stylist… Butterfly Politics…is a devastating salvo fired in the gender wars. A fierce and lucid anthology of essays on subjects ranging from torture to pornography, this book has a single overriding aim: to effect global change in the pursuit of equality… Butterfly Politics is her call for humanity to rise to its feet.” — Antonella Gambotto-Burke, The Australian

“What comes together here—and what is fascinating about all of MacKinnon’s work—is a deep respect for aspects of the conventional world (the law, the value of scholarship) and an equally profound fury at the way in which these aspects also uphold many of the assumptions about the world that she takes to task. In this, it could be said, she is not unlike many of us. All respect to her for trying to find a way through this maze.” — Mary Evans, Times Higher Education

“Small actions can have highly complex and large impacts, and Catharine MacKinnon uses this concept, the ‘butterfly effect,’ to explain how critical interventions can produce radical transformation in the gender system. She exposes through 40 years of her legal battles an emerging global normative system confronting sexual inequality… MacKinnon is a 21st-century thinker, one of the few proposing global software that could run on the old national hardware. She is encouraging multidimensional political thinking, precise engagement, principled creativity, imagination, instinct and adaptability: small actions in a collective context producing systemic changes.” — Luis Moreno Ocampo, Lawfare

“[MacKinnon’s] theoretical understanding of concepts of power, privilege and intellectual freedom isn’t just universal, but also prophetic in the ways it holds weight in 2018… The book offers a comprehensive understanding of MacKinnon’s legal scholarship through over four decades. Her work asks tough questions, and clearly set some theoretical precedents in our modern-day, Tumblr and ‘social justice warrior’ era understanding of sexism, power dynamics and inequality.” — Sabah Azaad, The Print

“This excellent collection of MacKinnon’s speeches and other writings covers a roughly 40-year period and shows the process of attempting to hammer law into a tool that could be used for social change to address the inequality of women. This was something of a tall order, given, as MacKinnon says, ‘The legal system that we have was not designed by women or so that women could make it work for women.’ Yet here she is, doing it, and the book provides a rare and quite intimate window on how it is done, in both theory and practice.” — Michele Dauber, Stanford Law School

“MacKinnon adapts a concept from chaos theory in which the tiny motion of a butterfly’s wings can trigger a tornado half a world away. Under the right conditions, she posits, small actions can produce major social transformations.” — The New York Times

“Are You Good?”: Making the Law Library a Welcoming Space for Military Veterans

Today the HLS Library’s Accessibility Design Working Group kicked off its summer lecture series with a presentation by Alicia M. Reddin, Director of Veterans Services for the town of Andover, MA.

Alicia, after completing her service in the Navy, graduated from Lesley University with her Bachelor’s degree in 2012.  She is currently working toward a Ph.D., focusing on veterans services, also at Lesley.

During her talk, Alicia provided a number of helpful insights to the unique needs and challenges of providing academic and library services to military veterans.

Veterans Services Officers (VSOs) like Alicia have four priorities when it comes to offering support for veterans: (1) preventing homelessness; (2) assisting in finding gainful employment; (3) facilitating the receipt of government veterans benefits; and (4) preventing substance abuse.

VSOs like Alicia employ what is known as a “three-hat strategy” in meeting these priorities.  The “Chapter 115 hat,” is named for for Chapter 115 of the Massachusetts General Laws, under which the state “provides a uniform program of financial and military assistance for indigent veterans and their dependents” (  The “Referral Hat” represents the work that VSOs do to acquire local resources for the benefit of veterans.  Finally, the “Grand Marshall Hat” represents participating in social events that celebrate the military and veterans, such as Memorial Day parades.

Alicia cited some sobering recent statistics about military veterans.  Only 10% of current veterans are considered to be “post-9/11,” since it is a relatively recent trend for so many members of the military to serve multiple deployments.  Alicia also reported that an estimated that more than 5 million veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (

According to Alicia, approximately 773,000 students in higher education in the United States receive educational benefits from the post-9/11 GI Bill (, including financial support for housing, books, and supplies.  However, Alicia stated that it is estimated that veterans graduate at 40% of the rate of traditional students.  She believes this could be because veterans face a number of barriers to assimilating as university students, including social differences, lack of technological expertise, differences in language and speaking style, trouble in navigating scenarios that include numerous choices or too much confusing bureaucracy, and what is known as “imposter syndrome” (  In addition, veterans in academic communities may also hesitate to self-identify because of these and other differences between themselves and more traditional students.

How can academic librarians optimize their services for the benefit of veterans in our libraries?  Alicia cited several factors to keep in mind in the work that we do with this community of users.  Veterans may be suffering from PTSD, and may also be struggling with the effects of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Substance Use Disorders (SUD), migraines, and panic/anxiety episodes.  Therefore, library users who are veterans may require a space in a low-traffic area to which they can retreat, in which they can control both light and noise, and that has comfortable seating, grounding elements, and water.

Also, many veterans are looking to make connections to patient people whom they can trust, from whom they can get reliable and non-confusing help and information, and to whom they can speak plainly and directly.  Librarians may be ideal to provide this type of support in a university environment.

Among the questions Alicia was asked by the attendees was, “if we see a veteran in our library who seems to be in difficulty, what should we do?”  Alicia’s response was plain: (1) ask them, simply, “Are you good?” and (2) if they’re not good, do not hesitate to get them some immediate help: call the Veterans Affairs Benefits and Services hotline at 1-800-827-1000 and press “1” for veterans.

The HLS Library’s Accessibility Design Working Group will be offering other lectures throughout the summer.  Topics will include accessible space design and devices for blind and visually-impaired users.

Visit Historical & Special Collections (and lots of other archives!) during Cambridge Open Archives this June

This year Historical & Special Collections is celebrating Cambridge Open Archives’ 10th Anniversary as part of two weeks of behind-the-scenes tours at 15 archives, libraries, and special collections around Cambridge! Get a closer look at special collections and archival material here at HLS, as well as 14 other archives at Harvard and across the city.


: Unite to Support Rent Control flyer with additional information about Cambridge Open Archives

Unite to Support Rent Control flyer, Records of the Cambridge Tenants’ Union, Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections, Box 11, Folder 1.

When:   June 11-15 and June 18-21, 2018
Various locations in Cambridge, including Historical & Special Collections
Free! Space is limited, however, so be sure to register below.


NEW! HLS Library Bicentennial Exhibit Now On View

Collections | Connections  

Stories from the Harvard Law School Library

HLS Bicentennial Exhibit PosterThe Harvard Law School Library’s new exhibit celebrates HLS’s Bicentennial through the stories of some of the Library’s 2 million items and the people behind them. On view are historic photographs, striking rare books and early manuscripts, books published all over the world, fun glimpses of HLS Library history, and even an Awesome Box!

Collections | Connections documents the evolution of the Harvard Law School and its Library in response to the School’s evolving role in relation to society, legal education, and technology. Yet it is the people who make a place. Groups and individuals highlighted throughout this exhibit have cultivated the life and ethos of the Harvard Law School. Learn how the Library preserves this continuing story of the HLS community: faculty, students, alumni, and staff who are moved to question, prepared to reason, and called to act.

The exhibit is arranged around six themes: Keepers of Memory, Global Citizens, Promoting Justice, Supreme Court Clerks and their Justices, Library as Lab, and Preserving Legal Heritage. Curated by many members of the HLS Library, it is on view daily 9 to 5 in the Caspersen Room, fourth floor of Langdell Hall, through June 2018.

Join us to celebrate Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week is coming and we are excited! As librarians, the freedom to read is in our DNA. Every year scores of books have their places in libraries and schools challenged by would-be censors. We can’t stand that, but we can stand up for the freedom to read and you can join us!

Visit the HLS Library lobby during the week of September 25 for a display about local censors. “Banned in Boston” isn’t just a random expression; the New England Watch & Ward Society records in our own collection (digitized in 2010) contain lists of  books deemed “impure literature” and banned in Boston (and beyond) during the 20th century.

Read-Out with us, Tuesday, September 26 at 12:15, HLS Library steps 
Bring your lunch and join us on the steps of the library as members of the HLS community read excerpts from our favorite banned books. We’ll be reading from classic literature, children’s picture books, and everything in between! If you’re HLS faculty, student, or staff and would like to be a reader, please contact Meg Kribble and we’ll add you to the line-up!

All week on Instagram!
Follow our Instagram for photos of HLS faculty, staff, and students with our favorite banned books. Share your own banned book selfies with #hlslbannedbooks! Email Jane Kelly if you’d like to be featured.

Not sure if your favorite has been banned or challenged? Check out the American Library Association’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books for 2015 and ALA’s Banned & Challenged Classics.

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