Read the Books

Among some of the historic materials in our collection, I discovered the transcript from the centennial celebration of the Cincinnati Law Library Association, which was the original governing body of the Law Library. The event was held at the Court of Appeals on June 7, 1947. Many honored guests were in attendance and the speeches from that auspicious occasion are well-worth a read. One speech, given by the Hon. Michael Heintz, includes a code of ethics that I found particularly compelling and wanted to share.

He states:

“One of the shortest codes of ethics that I ever heard in my lifetime was given to me shortly after my admission to the bar by Mr. John Coffey, who was one of the able members of this bar during the last century.

This code consists of three sentences:

  1. Be honest;

  2. Keep sober;

  3. Read the books.”

What better code of ethics could you ask for? Be honest. To others, to your profession and to yourself. Keep sober. Maintain an appropriate sense of the gravity of your profession and protect yourself from intoxication, whether emotional or chemical. And most importantly, Read The Books.

Whether print or electronic, books continue to be the most valuable resource a legal professional can possess. Many have expressed concern that the rise of electronic media has spelled the death-knell of books, but librarians know better. Books are not dying, they are transforming. They have crawled, caterpillar-like, into the chrysalis of databases and have emerged beautiful, easily-searchable butterflies. They may not look the same as 70 years ago when those honored guests gathered to celebrate the creation and life of this collection of law books, but they are every bit as vital as they were then. The format may have changed but the information, the knowledge contained within, the wisdom, the importance, those have remained the same.

And so what was true 70 years ago is still true today. Be honest; keep sober; read the books.