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January 17, 2005

Library Love

I'm just heading off to school in the freezing cold weather (D.C. went from a high of 70 last Wednesday or Thursday to a high of about 25 today) and I wanted to mention that I'm in love—with the library. I spent Saturday in the library at school making copies of cases from real books and I just loved it. It was fun. There was something almost thrilling about looking at a case citation, browsing to a row of shelves, running my gaze along the line of spines counting up or down to the correct volume I was seeking, then pulling it out and flipping through the pages to find a direct, simple, and logical correlation between the case citation and the book I held in my hands. There's a satisfaction to physically finding, holding, and flipping through the book of cases that just isn't possible with online research, regardless of how great Lexis and Westlaw might be. That said, I wouldn't want to have to do too much serious case research with books only; online services offer much better and broader searching capabilities, and I wouldn't want to give those up. But for small projects, or when you know the exact case you're looking for, going to the books is a nice breath of fresh (old?) air. BTW, the reason for my little library excursion was a source collection assignment for the journal I'm on. This was the first time I had to do this, and I was pleasantly surprised that it was nowhere near as difficult as I'd feared. My task was made easier by the fact that our editor kindly did the source compilation part of the assignment for us (thank you!) and then divided up the article so that I had only 9 actual sources to locate and copy. Yeah, I had to copy multiple versions for several of the sources, and Shepardize and Keycite them, as well, but that's not so bad. I ended up with 8 cases and one journal article to locate, which is nothing compared to the obscure sources other people have had to track down. But as easy as it was, the exercise suggested to me a better way for law journals to operate. Rather than having law students trudge around killing thousands of trees by making multiple copies of all the sources an author cites in an article, why not make the author submit the sources with the article? Here's how it could work: An author submits an article as usual. The editors or readers assess it; if they decide they want to publish it, they email the author asking for copies of all of his/her sources, which he/she can then send electronically if the files are available, or in hard copy if not. This makes the author more accountable for his/her work, and saves the journal time and effort. Wouldn't it be much more efficient? Of course, it's possible that the primary value to a law student of participating in a journal is the source collection, which gives students practice in getting around a library. This would be lost under the above plan, but the experience may not be that valuable, anyway, since students doing source compilations just find predetermined sources; the hard part of legal research is tracking down the citations in the first place. Whatever. I better shut up and get to school to get my reading done. I hope everyone is enjoying their MLK Jr. Day...

Posted January 17, 2005 02:44 PM | 2L

When I was on a journal we sometimes had authors citing hard-to-find sources (even though we had access to absolutely massive paper resources) or the ever-pernicious Disappearing Internet Source. We got in the habit of asking for copies of all electronic sources and whatever else the author had on hand. It was a good idea in some cases, especially when our initial look at the article suggested that there would be a lot of rare or difficult-to-find sources.

Posted by: tph at January 17, 2005 05:18 PM

heh ... 25F being cold. woke up, walked to the bus stop, sign read -15. winter sucks.

Posted by: jose at January 17, 2005 07:52 PM

it is my impression that some journals do require that. we don't have any law reviews or journals, though, so i don't know.

Posted by: monica at January 18, 2005 05:42 AM

tph & monica: I'm not surprised to hear that some journals already do this; it just makes sense. I'm not sure why more don't do it, though. Why should it be the job of editors (students or otherwise) to prove that author's assertions are based on legitimate sources and reasonable interpretation of them? That should be the author's primary responsibility, it seems to me. (Yes, I know the peer reviewing function of a journal helps ensure quality scholarship, but source collection is just the gruntwork part of peer review and law students are hardly "peers" to most journal authors, anyway.)

jose: I am not envious. The temp this morning is 15 degrees. It's been so long since I had to deal w/this kind of cold that I've almost forgotten how. Biking downhilll at 20 mph is very unfun at about 15-20 degrees. The eyes, they rebel w/tears. The ears, they freeze. Maybe I'll just take the train...

Posted by: ambimb at January 18, 2005 07:40 AM

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