Thursday, January 02, 2014

Special Collections in Law Libraries

The Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries are fortunate to be part of a larger community of law libraries throughout the United States, extending out to the greater world. These other libraries include other Court or governmental libraries, academic libraries in law schools and libraries which are part of private law firms. We share parts of our mission with these other law libraries, and we work together in consortiums or organizations such as the New England Law Library Consortium (NELLCO) and Law Librarians of New England (LLNE), a chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL).

Recently one of our colleagues, Ruth Bird, the Bodleian Law Librarian at Oxford University, wrote an interesting post to SLAW, Canada’s online legal magazine. In “Selling the Farm?”, she opens a dialogue about librarians’ balancing act, as they navigate their way through acquisition and retention of print and electronic resources. What is noteworthy about this blog post is her treatment of the subject of rare books or special collections in law libraries.

The Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries all began life as associations of attorneys in the early part of the nineteenth century. We have a long tradition of opening access of these libraries to the general public. As an institution with a long history, our collections include some treasures. As librarians, we are the stewards of these treasures, and it is our job to balance preservation and access to our special collections.