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

Thoughts on Library Research Guides

Since I came back to the law library from my professional development leave, I have been looking at and thinking about the research guides I have written here.  (You can view the list of them.)  I was never formally trained on writing research guides.  I learned a little bit about them, conceptually, in library school, but mainly I have developed my own process and style by just doing them.

I think my philosophy about research guides has changed a little over the years.  In the past, I thought that bigger is definitely better.  Certainly the guides that I have done for German Law Research and Alternative Dispute Resolution Research are quite broad in terms of the number of topics covered and number of resources referenced.  Those guides generate a lot of interest in terms of traffic and hits, not just from Harvard but from all over the world.  People clearly find them helpful on some level.

However, I seem to be shifting a bit toward preferring to write smaller guides on narrower topics.  Like every librarian, I have a unique set of interests, strengths, and favored research techniques, and I think my guides should reflect those.

I am also thinking about how to maximize the utility of the guides that I write for Harvard Library users.  The Harvard Library has over 17 million volumes across all its libraries’ collections.  That’s a lot!  Many of the physical books and journals in the collection are stored off-site and cannot be physically browsed on the Harvard campus by library users.

In addition, our library catalog, HOLLIS, has been evolving over the last few years, as are catalogs at other academic libraries.  What I’ve been hearing about user feedback related to academic library catalogs is that people want a one-stop shop that delivers books and periodical articles, with a Google-like single-box search interface.  Of course a catalog that is set up like this makes quick searches easier.  However, it also might make it more difficult to dive deeply into a very nuanced scholarly topic, to maximize the relevancy of search results, and to find all the relevant materials in the collection, especially if users do not know very much about advanced searching.

The bottom line for me: I think it’s important to help library users where they are, and where many of them are is online, maybe even on their phone, looking for the fastest and easiest way to find the exact library materials they need.  And who can blame them for that?  If research is arduous and frustrating, then it’s not fun.  As someone who loves research, I hate the thought of that!

So the last two guides I have written for the law library have been very much of a “niche” variety.  For each of these guides, I took a smaller topic and wrote a guide describing, on a single web page with lots of links, the best options that I know to use to research it.

One of these new guides, Organized Crime in Italy, was written after I worked with a student who is doing some research in this area.  I have to admit I am more than a little fascinated with this topic.  I also wanted the opportunity to practice working with Italian-language resources.  Of course, in writing this guide, I am not doing the student’s research for her, but I am suggesting options that are available to her, based on my experience as a researcher here at Harvard.

The other guide I wrote recently is Resistance to the National Socialist Government in Germany.  This was also in created in response to a research area in which one of our users is interested.  As the library’s expert in German law, and because the Harvard Library has so many relevant materials on this subject, this was too important a guide for me not to spend my time on.

As for the contents of the guides themselves, anyone who looks at my guides will see immediately how much I love Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) as an indexing instrument.  I always include links to pre-populated HOLLIS searches by subject, using controlled LCSH vocabulary, in my guides.  This is the surest way I know to find relevant books on a subject, regardless of publication language.

Writing a research guide is, in my experience as a research librarian, the best and most rewarding way to learn about a topic and about optimal research techniques.  But it is definitely more important that a guide is readable and useful to the researchers who are looking for help on how research should be done at your library.  Going forward, I will continue to work toward that as my primary goal.

“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” (http://www.mass.gov/veterans/benefits-and-services/financial-medical-assistance.html).  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) (https://www.ptsd.va.gov/index.asp).

According to Alicia, approximately 773,000 students in higher education in the United States receive educational benefits from the post-9/11 GI Bill (https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_gibill.asp), 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” (http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2013/11/fraud.aspx).  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.

Tenth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition

Interested in rare books, legal history or legal archives?

The Legal History and Rare Books (LH&RB) Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the Tenth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition. The competition is named in honor of Morris L. Cohen, late Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School.

The competition is designed to encourage scholarship and to acquaint students with the AALL and law librarianship, and is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, and related fields. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses to attend the AALL Annual Meeting.

Winning and runner-up entries will be invited to submit their entries to Unbound, the official journal of LH&RB. Past winning essays have gone on to be accepted by journals such as N.Y.U. Law Review, American Journal of Legal History, University of South Florida Law Review, William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, and French Historical Review.

The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website. Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., April 16, 2018 (EDT).

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.

852 RARE: Learned Hand’s Tailor

Billings Learned Hand (1872-1961): Distinguished alumnus of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Chief Judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. One of the twentieth century’s most noted jurists …

… and a secret fashionista.

The Harvard Law School Library’s Historical & Special Collections has the papers of Judge Hand. One of our most heavily used collections, it contains a trove of information about law, lawyers, and life in its hundreds of boxes encompassing some 120 feet of material. You might expect to encounter correspondence from famous lawyers, judges, and politicians; legal opinions; and records of Judge Hand’s professional and social activities: it’s all there. But tucked away in Box 57 are three folders of correspondence between him and the staff of Alfred Webb Miles, custom tailors doing business at 12 Brook Street near Savile Row and Hanover Square in the heart of London.

Alfred Webb Miles Trade Card

Alfred Webb Miles & Co. Trade and Measurements Card, Learned Hand Papers, HOLLIS 601605, Box 57, folder 39.

Folder 39 reveals an engaged correspondence from a man who took his tailoring seriously. In these days of fast fashion and online shopping delivered overnight, it’s instructive to learn how men of a particular professional and social class bought their clothes. In response to a 1934 request from Judge Hand, Alfred Webb Miles sent a booklet of styles and several fabric swatches suitable for “light summer woolen suits.”

AWM Fashion Book

Alfred Webb Miles Fashion Book (undated; ca. 1934)

Judge Hand circled model number 2, a straight, single-breasted style, and marked three swatches as his choices number 1, 2, and 3.

AWM Suit Selections

Alfred Webb Miles Suit Selections (ca. 1934)

His chosen fabric is a fine black and white weave with a dashing streak of electric blue running through it:

Fabric Swatch

Learned Hand’s number 1 fabric choice (ca. 1934)

When placing his order in a letter dated May 21, 1934, the 62-year-old judge had, shall we say, a few requests: “The trousers are to be made with cuffs, a straight back, two hip pockets and a small front pocket on the right side of the band; suspender buttons on the outside, but loops for a belt. In the jacket, a ticket pocket inside the right hand side pocket, and two inside breast pockets, as well as one outside.”

Initial Order

Learned Hand’s Initial Order to Alfred Webb Miles & Co., May 21, 1934

Invoice

Alfred Webb Miles Invoice to Learned Hand, June 15, 1934

Sadly, the relationship soured soon thereafter. Hand wrote in a letter dated 1935 (not shown) that a recent suit had arrived with the chest and armholes cut too tightly. He directed the tailors to take note of his measurements on file and cut the next suit jacket with more room.

It was not to be. In a letter dated June 1, 1936, Judge Hand ended his 25-year relationship with Alfred Webb Miles & Co.: “… I particularly asked you this time to give me more room under the arms and to make the coat larger around the chest. Your cutter has apparently paid no attention whatever to these instructions. … There is of course no inducement to have any more made if my orders cannot be better observed.”

Complaint Letter

Letter of complaint from Learned Hand to Alfred Webb Miles & Co., June 1, 1936

While the parties exchanged a couple more cordial letters, it appears that Judge Hand never bought another suit from Alfred Webb Miles & Co. Other folders in the collection show that he did business with London tailors Meyer & Mortimer from 1925-1938, and again from 1941-1951.

This is the fun of archival research: you never know what the next unexpected detour will be. We hope you visit Historical & Special Collections or another archive, and see what hidden treasures you discover!

Another Option for Finding Library Materials by Subject

I have written before in this blog about using the Hollis library catalog to find materials in the law library by subject.

Specifically, I find the Hollis catalog’s hyperlinked Library of Congress (LC) Subject Headings to be a great way to discover what the libraries at Harvard have on a particular topic, especially if I’m looking for materials in multiple languages.

I recently learned more about a subject-based classification system that is used in many German academic libraries, the Regensburger Verbundklassifikation (RVK) system. This system was developed by the library at the University of Regensburg in the 1960s.

As with LC Call Numbers, the RVK system assigns letters to subjects. However, where law books are given a call number that starts with “K” under the LC system, the RVK system uses the letter “P” for call numbers for legal materials.

There is a wonderful RVK directory and search engine that is freely available through the internet: RVK Online. Although it is all in German, it is intuitive enough to use even if you don’t know the language well.

On the homepage of this site, there is a collapseable list of subjects. To view the subtopics under law, you would click the plus-sign next to Rechtswissenschaft (Legal Sciences).

rvk_1

Next, keep collapsing the list until you find the subject you want.  For example, if you are interested in researching the history of criminal law in the German states, you would click Rechtswissenschaft > Strafrecht, Strafverfahrensrecht, Kriminologie > Allgemeines und Geschichte > Geschichte > Deutsche Länder.

Once you have clicked down to a designated subject, a menu will appear on the right side of the screen. There is a row of blue buttons under the text of the subject you have selected. You can use these buttons to search for materials on this subject in German-language library consortia catalogs. (Suche = Search)

  • BVB – Library consortium of the state of Bavaria
  • GVB – Library consortium of the states of Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Niedersachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, Thüringen
  • SWB – Library consortium of the state of Baden-Württemberg
  • OVB – Library consortium of Austria

rvk_2

If, on the above screen, you were to click Suche in SWB, you would see a search results list of 288 items available in the libraries of Badem-Württemberg, listed chronologically, newest first. (Note: I personally find the SWB catalog to be very strong in legal materials.)

The first book in this list is a 2014 conference publication about the work of Feuerbach, a late-17th century German legal scholar whose major work was to reform the Bavarian criminal code.

rvk_3

If you are interested in the history of criminal law in Bavaria, you will probably want to read this book. Of course, if you are not in Germany, you’re wondering if any U.S. libraries have this book so that you can borrow it.

This is easy enough to find out. Click the record in the SWB catalog, and look for the book’s ISBN number, a 13-digit code that starts with “978.”

Then, use that code to search for the book in the worldwide library catalog WorldCat (http://www.worldcat.org/advancedsearch). There is an option to search WorldCat by ISBN.

If you do this, you will see that several North American libraries (include the HLS Library!) own this book.

rvk_4

Although there is not a lot that has been written about the RVK system in languages other than German, there are lists of selected subjects (including those under the “P” legal sciences class) translated into both English and Italian. These lists are available at http://www.unibz.it/en/library/about/projects/rvk-translation.html.

The RVK system provides researchers with another option for finding library materials by subject. It might be easier to use this RVK system for certain types of research than to try to search a library catalog by keyword, especially if you are unfamiliar with the language used to discuss the topic in the scholarly literature.

I know that this is a resource that I am very happy to have learned about, and one that I will always use in my searches for German law materials in the future.

 

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!

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 10.40.07 AM

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: http://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/roman.html.

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

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