Yale Law School Librarians: The Most Helpful People on the Planet

March 14, 2008

C.E., 1L

Before singing the praises of the reference librarians, a description of the first-year journal experience is in order.

During the first month of school, multiple journals welcome 1L students to sign-up during the activities fair. Judging from my own experience, the first-year commitment involves an edit team meeting to discuss the content of the article to which you are assigned and then a source cite to verify that the author’s citations are up to Bluebook standards.

At the source cite, the edit team comes together in a law school classroom, partakes in a free meal together, and then spends a few hours making sure that the author’s ideas actually come from the book and the page he references, while also checking to see if his citations are in the proper format (a truly fun task!).

In order to verify the sources before the source cite various members of the edit team check out the footnoted books and journals from the Yale library. Each team member places his assigned works on a group shelf, and they are moved into a classroom the night of the source cite.

However, finding these sources can present quite a challenge. After unearthing a unique topic and spending many months or years working on a piece, the scholars who contribute to law journals have acquired and made use of many obscure sources. This is where the Yale librarians come in.

For a recent article I’ve been working on, I had to track down everything from an affidavit filed by the local post master in a criminal complaint in Charleston, West Virginia to an unreported case out of Ontario to eighteenth-century English judicial opinions, but each time the law librarians have had answers for me, and they usually respond to my questions within an hour of my having posed the question via email.

The first librarian I contacted about the old English cases was sick at home in bed with the flu, but she responded to at least five emails from me, and every response came within 20 minutes of my having sent the request. She directed me to a fantastic online website which provides free access to PDFs of King’s and Queen’s Bench decisions from hundreds of years ago.

The librarian I reached out to concerning Canadian cases was equally as accommodating. In spite of the fact that his colleagues were leaving early to escape a weekend New England snowstorm, he lingered an extra hour to seek out answers to my questions. He ultimately contacted a friend of his who works in Ontario, who was able to forward me a PDF of the case I had requested.

Lastly, I felt sure that my request for the obscure affidavit would fail to produce results, but shame on me for underestimating the abilities of our library staff. The woman in charge of answering queries that day found the name and telephone number of the local clerk in a directory of State and Federal Courts, and I had yet another PDF in my inbox later that same afternoon.

Since I am a first-year student, I have yet to begin my own law school writing adventures, but after various journal-prompted experiences with the librarians, I feel confident that I will be able to locate and acquire almost any and every work I could want to read and/or cite in my papers. I am so overflowing with gratitude towards those librarians at the moment that I had to write my blog on their helpfulness this past week.