Libraries •

Executive Director of the Harvard Law School Library

As you may know, Suzanne Wones, Harvard Law School Library’s Executive Director, has accepted a new position as the Director of Library Digital Strategies and Innovations for the Harvard Library. We are sad to see her go, but excited for her as well and wish her all the best!

With her imminent departure, we are looking for an Executive Director for HLSL and we encourage qualified candidates to consider applying. The successful candidate will be responsible for working closely with the Vice Dean of Library and Information Resources to set service, collection, and budgetary priorities for the library. The Executive Director also directs all of the library’s day-to-day operations, including overseeing departments focused on research services, faculty support, academic technology, collection development, and empirical services. In partnership with the Vice Dean of Library and Information Resources and the Director of the Library Innovation Lab, this individual will also set the agenda for the new design and development projects undertaken by the Library Innovation Lab. This is an exciting position that is perfect for someone who is interested in working on a wide range of projects that have an impact on the HLS faculty, students, and staff as well as the world beyond our campus.

If you think that you would be a strong candidate for this position, you can read more about it in the official job description and apply online. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us for further information.

852 RARE – New Exhibit! One Text, Sixteen Manuscripts: Magna Carta at the Harvard Law School Library

Magna Carta posterFirst written in 1215, the ideas of liberty and human rights contained in and derived from England’s Magna Carta (the Great Charter) have persisted for 800 years. They have provided inspiration for developments in law now enshrined in constitutions and treaties across the world. The survival and resonance of those ideas is reflected in the manuscripts in this exhibit.

The Harvard Law School Library owns close to 30 manuscript copies of Magna Carta; a few of our favorites are presented here. Tangible items like these connect us with the past and allow us to approach the people who created, used and treasured these documents. Each manuscript tells a different story and raises many questions.

This exhibit was curated by Karen Beck and Mindy Kent, HLS Library. It is on view daily 9 to 5 in the Caspersen Room through March 11, 2016. An online companion to the exhibit is available. All our manuscript Magna Cartas have been digitized and may be viewed online.

Go On A Blind Date With A Book!

BlindDateWithABookThis summer, the Harvard Law School Library Historical & Special Collections Department’s latest exhibit, “It Was a Dark and Stormy Semester … Portrayals of Harvard Law School in Literature,” is on display in the Caspersen Room on the fourth floor of Langdell Hall. This exhibit highlights prominent examples of literature that reflects or is inspired by Harvard Law School. In conjunction with this exhibit, the library is also offering two ways for visitors to get involved. The first is our “Blind Date with a Book” program that encourages visitors to take a deeper dive into this literature and the second is our online display, which offers everyone a chance to contribute to our list of titles that include depictions of HLS students, faculty, alumni, or the campus itself.

In this post, Carli Spina explains a bit about these interactive components of the exhibit:

1. So what exactly is “Blind Date with a Book”?

In “Blind Date with a Book” programs, books are wrapped in plain paper to hide their titles and authors and a brief description of the book is written on the front. The descriptions focus on who might like the book and the genre and visitors are encouraged to pick a book that sounds appealing without seeing the cover or reading the synopsis. You won’t know exactly what you have until you stop by the Circulation Desk to check the book out. The goal is to encourage people to branch out into new authors and genres that go beyond their normal reading patterns. Hopefully you’ll find a book that you never would have picked up before!

2. What about this exhibit made you want to bring the program to HLSL?

Ever since I read about other libraries hosting “Blind Date with a Book” programs, I’ve wanted to bring it to HLSL. I think most of our visitors focus on Harvard’s academic collections, but HLSL and the other library’s at Harvard University also have an impressive collection of other books including ranging from mysteries, to thrillers, to graphic novels, and memoirs. With its focus on depictions of Harvard Law School across literary genres, this exhibit was the perfect opportunity to highlight this diversity. Hopefully this exhibit will introduce visitors to some of these other materials that they might not have considered in the past.

3. What types of books will I find on the “Blind Date with a Book” cart?

We’ve tried to include something for everyone on the cart. You might pick up a graphic novel, a memoir, a romance, or a historical novel. Part of the fun is not knowing exactly what you will find, but rest assured that the cart offers a wide variety of options to appeal to all tastes. The only certainty is that the book you select will have a connection to Harvard Law School.

4. Can you talk a little bit about the exhibit’s virtual components? 

In addition to the “Blind Date with a Book” cart, the exhibit also has two virtual components. First, there is a the exhibit website, which will tell you more about portrayals of Harvard Law School in literature even if you aren’t able to visit the exhibit in person. In addition, we have also created a virtual display that shows books featuring Harvard Law School that weren’t included in the exhibit. Best of all, anyone can submit other books to be added to this display, so that we can learn about books we may have overlooked!

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The cart is available in the Caspersen Room on the fourth floor of Langdell Hall during normal exhibit hours. Stop by to find a new summer read!

“Transliteration” of Foreign Languages in HOLLIS Records

The law library’s print collection includes many non-English books and journals, including materials published in languages that do not use the Roman/Latin alphabet.

The example below shows the HOLLIS+ record of a Russian-language book that was recently added to the collection.  Information in several of the fields, including the title, is shown first in Cyrillic, and then in what is known as “transliterated” or “Romanized” Russian:

HOLLIS+ Record of a Russian Book in the Law Library.

HOLLIS+ Record of a Russian Book in the Law Library.

The law library’s catalogers use the ALA-LC Romanization rules to create the transliterated text. Romanization tables showing these rules, for languages from Amharic to Vai, are available to the public through the Library of Congress’s website:

Want to learn more about how Romanization works for non Latin/Roman alphabet-language materials in libraries?  Check out these resources:

CALI Unconference

We are currently hosting the 2014 CALI Conference for Law School Computing here at Harvard Law School.  Before the official conference started, several attendees met on Wednesday, 6/18, for an “Unconference.”

The Unconference agenda was completely attendee-driven: the participants selected topics and then broke off into small groups to discuss them.  Topics included:

  • Is “Law Practice Technology” Worth Teaching as Part of an Advanced Legal Research Course?
  • Flipped Classrooms
  • Building Virtual Communities
  • Polling Tools
  • How Do We Train Faculty to Understand When Multimedia Tools Are Adding Value, When They’re Just Wanting to be “Cool”?
  • What Tool has Really Helped a Colleague Teach and Didn’t Demand a Lot of Time?

Check out for notes from the sessions.

Thank you to the attendees for some great discussions!

852 RARE: Coke Upon Littleton (and Smith Upon Coke)

While we librarians may frown on writing in library books, it’s a pleasure to stumble upon the ownership inscriptions, annotations, and occasional cheeky asides of former owners of books in Historical & Special Collections.  Whenever possible we make a note of former owners of books and manuscripts in the HOLLIS catalog records as they may be of interest to scholars now or in the future.

The Harvard Law School Library is fortunate to have in its collection several books and manuscripts owned by the highly respected New Hampshire jurist and statesman Jeremiah Smith (1759 1842). Also in the collection is this undated engraving of Smith.

Smith practiced law in Peterborough N.H. from 1786 until 1796 and between 1791 and 1820 he served in the U.S. House of Representatives, was nominated by John Adams to a federal judgeship, became chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and was governor of New Hampshire. He was also a close colleague and friend of Daniel Webster. Smith is known to have been was very well-read … and he wrote in his books.

Smith's ownership inscription on front flyleaf.

Smith’s ownership inscription on front flyleaf.

Most noticeable in Smith’s volumes is his large and elegant signature. Thankfully for historians, he also often added the date and city where he acquired it. One of Smith’s books in our collection is the fourteenth edition (1789) of The first part of the institutes of the laws of England. Or, a commentary upon Littleton, by the illustrious legal writer Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634). Smith acquired this substantial folio volume in New York in 1792, perhaps travelling between New Hampshire and Washington, DC while serving in Congress.


Detail of title page of 14th edition of Coke's Commentary upon Littleton (1789)

Detail of title page of 14th edition of Coke’s Commentary upon Littleton (1789)

Although he rarely annotated his books, in this case he was inspired to write a succinct line. This more informal handwriting matches other manuscripts we have in his hand, and was possibly written later in life. He wrote:

Comment on Coke

Smith’s comments on Coke upon Littleton.

“The etymologies of the great Sir Edward Coke afford a singular instance of the blunders of which men of the greatest abilities are sometimes guilty when they venture to speculate in [a science?] for which they have not been qualified by previous study.”

Words to the wise from an eminent jurist –and a choice nugget for readers intrigued by provenance!

852 RARE: You Can (Sometimes) Judge a Book by Its Cover

Anarchy and Anarchists

Michael Schaack, Anarchy and Anarchists (Chicago, 1889)

When we think of beautiful books, illuminated manuscripts or vellum-bound volumes usually come to mind. But 19th-century English and American book publishers produced some amazing decorative cloth book bindings as well. The HLS Library’s Historical & Special Collections has a number of these attractive, and occasionally amusing, law books. The examples shown here were published in the United States and London between 1873 and 1889.

As you can see, the works tended to be popular rather than scholarly. The ornate illustrations, bright colors, and extensive gold tooling were intended to attract the buyer’s eye.


Two decorative book covers

Two decorative book covers



While most books from earlier centuries were individually bound and illustrated according to the taste and pocketbook of each customer, 19th-century publishers were able to mass-produce beautiful books that recalled earlier bookbinding traditions – particularly the use of color and gilding – while being very much of their time.

Haunted London

Walter Thornbury, Haunted London (London, 1880)





App of the Month: HeinOnline

Do you use HeinOnline all the time? Do you find yourself wishing that you could even access it on your commute? Have you ever been out and about and had a burning question that could only be answered by turning to the Pentagon Papers?

Ok, maybe not, but if you have ever wished you could turn your bus ride to school into productive time or if you ever wanted to look up one last thing as you rushed to class, you may be interested to know that HeinOnline has a mobile app! With their app, users can access all the same materials that they access through the full database on their iPhone or iPad (currently the app is only available for iOS devices). From the app, you can review the same full text PDF of the item that you would find on HeinOnline itself and you can download the document for later review.

Once you download the app, all you need to do is login for the first time while on the Harvard University IP range. After that, you will have access anywhere for 30 days before you will have to re-authenticate while on campus. HeinOnline offers a complete User Guide to help you get started with the app and if you run into any troubles, you can also always ask a librarian. Looking for more mobile app recommendations? Check out our guide to mobile apps!

This screenshot shows the app in action.

Improve Your Presentation Skills with Our New Presentation Tools LibGuide

Whether you are creating a presentation for an assignment, to teach a class or to speak at a conference, it can be difficult to design slides that will keep your audience engaged. As with so many things, a lot of this comes down to finding the right tool for the job, but frequently people fall back on the same basic techniques for every presentation. If you’re interested in trying a new tool, learning a new technique or improving your skills with your go-to presentation tool, our new Presentation Tools guide has resources for you!

In the guide, you’ll learn about PowerPoint alternatives, find apps that allow you to present from (or even create slides on) your tablet, or find the latest tools for sharing your slides with your audience. The guide even includes resources for finding Creative Commons-licensed content to include in your presentation and tips on how to make your presentation more dynamic, engaging and fun! To learn more about any of the tools included in the guide, click on it in the word cloud below.

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Censorship, Law, and Banned Books

This week is the 30th annual Banned Books Week, which was started in 1982 in response to the large number of books that were being challenged in schools and libraries. Efforts to ban books have resulted in a number of lawsuits challenging books ranging from the Bible to Slaughterhouse Five and everything in between. For more information, check out the map below, which highlights recent book challenges from across the United States.

View Book Bans and Challenges, 2007-2011 in a larger map