Some time ago the wonderfully helpful and charming reference librarian Vanessa Seeger asked me if I would write a guest blog post about the Hamilton County Law Library for National Library Week. It seemed easy enough then. Sure thing. But I was asked to write in the before. #NationalLibraryWeek is most certainly taking place somewhere different.

This year’s theme for National Library Week is, “Find your place at the library.”  It has been said by someone smarter than me -- who I cannot remember now -- and that if I asked I’m sure a librarian would know -- but for now I want that mystery -- that writing is thinking and good writing is thinking well. So I am using this opportunity to think about my library.

The law library is:

  • A place to research.
  • A place to hide after a particularly contentious morning in the floors below.
  • A place to get coffee.

But really, it is a place where sometimes the elements are just right and I still feel like a law student with the whole world of this magical thing called “law” spread out before me. Because that is what the law library is. The magical world of law embodied in a place.

One of my favorite books, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, is a fantasy about that kind of magic. Its author, Robin Sloan penned that, “Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across then spines -- it’s hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.”

That this is far from original thought does not make it any less true. Mark Twain is quoted as saying that, “In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”

I’m sitting in my home office as I write this. To say that makes me sound much fancier than I am. The home office is really the old office laptop set on a table made of two sawhorses stashed in a corner of my dark, chilly, and not terribly inviting basement. Although I get a lot of work done here, it is not a place of wisdom and knowledge.

I miss my place at the library: Seated at a table beneath the spectacular ceiling and the natural sunlight streaming down. The rows and rows of law. The librarians helping with a question or pulling a resource I didn’t know existed.

Your place at the library is still there. Just as the law library has always, you know, been there. It has always been upstairs at the courthouse. At least for me. There was never a time that it wasn’t there. So I asked myself, has the law library always been there? For those of us who use it now, the answer might as well be yes.

 

Originally created in 1834, this Bench and Bar library was incorporated June 5th. 1847 for "the improvement of its members and the cultivation of the Science of Law."

 

My place for #NationalLibraryWeek is back at the library. But just because it is closed for a while longer, doesn’t mean it isn’t there for you and me. Remote reference is available to subscribers and on a limited basis to the general public. Email your reference librarians and they can send results from West or Bloomberg or Hein or even of the other county law libraries if necessary. They have your code references. They have your citations and annotations. They have your forms.

See you soon at the library.

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Erik W. Laursen loves the library and practices law in Cincinnati and throughout southern Ohio.