Monday, December 23, 2019

The Airing of Grievances

The secular holiday Festivus, popularized on a 1997 episode of Seinfeld, is celebrated on December 23. Presented by a character on the sitcom as a non-commercial alternative to Christmas glitz ("a Festivus for the rest of us!"), Festivus traditions include an undecorated aluminum pole rather than a tree, a simple dinner, demonstrations of "feats of strength," and ceremonial "airing of grievances." The episode was inspired by the family traditions of Seinfeld writer Kevin O'Keefe, who described the origins of Festivus to Time magazine in 2016.

Festivus and its "airing of grievances" immediately sprang to mind when Goodson Law Library staff came across this treasure from the Law Library Archives: the Law Library's Comment & Grievance Book for 1973/74.

Comment & Grievance Book 1973/74

This tattered spiral notebook gives a fascinating glimpse into law student life more than 45 years ago. Presumably housed at or near the service desk, library users left all sorts of comments, suggestions, and complaints in the pages over the course of the academic year. Library staff would occasionally respond with handwritten comments indicating that a problem had been reported or handled.

Some of the common complaints of the era will feel completely alien to today's law students: repeated complaints about inadequate photocopying facilities, desire to access the locked "periodicals cage" on weekends, and numerous suggestions for which print magazine subscriptions to add (someone really, really wanted Gloria Steinem’s Ms. magazine, still a relatively new publication at the time). We’re particularly relieved not to receive complaints about smokers in the modern law library:

Request to enforce no-smoking rule

However, many of the concerns will feel just as familiar to law students today as they did in the 1970s. For example:

The library was too cold!

Concerns about library being too cold

Except when it was too hot!

Concerns about library being too hot

But then it was too cold again!

Concerns about library being too cold

People kept reserve items past their due time!

Comment regarding overdue reserve items

The Comment & Grievance Book also featured an annual poetry contest in its pages during the month of April, with unspecified prizes to be awarded by staff.

7th Annual Quasi Modo Poetry Contest Rules

A few student entries incorporated some common library grievances:

It's always cold in here / It's always hot in here / But always / At the wrong time of year

Lengthy poem by student on mischievous library elf

These days, Goodson Law Library users can share their comments and concerns (whether in verse or prose) via an online Library Suggestion Box. During this holiday season, the Suggestion Box is on a short hiatus from official responses, due to various University closures and limited staffing. Administration will resume responding to new suggestions on January 6, 2020. In the meantime, we hope our community enjoys a safe and happy winter break, as well as this walk down Duke Law memory lane.

Friday, December 20, 2019

History of International Law Now in HeinOnline

The Goodson Law Library's subscription to HeinOnline now includes the module History of International Law. This library currently contains more than 2,000 titles and one million pages on international law topics, including the development of the Hague Conventions, international arbitration, the Nuremberg trials, law of the sea, and much more.

While the earliest titles in this collection date back to the 17th century, more modern texts and treatises are also available, including a number published by Duke University Press (such as 2016's Man or Monster? The Trial of a Khmer Rouge Torturer). The full list of titles can be accessed in the Hein library, and the Duke Libraries Catalog will point to individual works in the collection as well.

For additional help with researching the history of international law, check out the library's research guide to International Law or Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Resources for Ethics Research

Legal ethics should always be a matter of paramount concern for practicing attorneys. Failure to abide by ethics rules and opinions can spell disaster – including malpractice suits by clients and disciplinary action by the bar. Unfortunately, many key publications are locked behind premium legal research services like Bloomberg Law (online home of the ABA/BNA Lawyer's Manual on Professional Conduct), Westlaw, and Lexis Advance – sometimes out of reach for solo practitioners and the general public.

However, it is possible to conduct some legal ethics research without premium research tools. The University of Texas's Tarlton Law Library recently unveiled a new free resource for legal ethics research, the Thomas Woodward Houghton 50 State Ethics Guide. This new guide links to free options for state codes of attorney and judicial conduct, legal ethics opinions from state and local bars, and selected print and online resources from the American Bar Association.

For additional resources on researching professional responsibility (both free and premium), check out the Duke Law Library's own research guide to Legal Ethics or Ask a Librarian.