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Harvard Law School Library Update

By Suzanne Wones, Executive Director, and Meg Kribble, Research Librarian and Outreach Coordinator

Law Library facade

For information about Harvard Law School Library's Free the Law project, please see the Harvard Law Today article and video.

The Harvard Law School Library (HLSL) is humming with activity as the semester gets underway and the routines of the academic year line up with special projects and goals for FY16.

Anyone who has heard one of us gush over the amazing, super-fast scanner currently on site at the library will not be surprised to hear that digitization projects are a major endeavor at HLSL right now. An example of an important project happening in-house at Langdell Hall is our continuing commitment to making available material from war crimes trials. While on a smaller scale than Free the Law, our ongoing work to digitize material from the Nuremberg Trials has many components, including digitizing fragile photostats, in-depth analysis of the material (see the Scanning Nuremberg series on our blog for a preview plus a behind-the-scenes look at the work), and, thanks to Hidden Collections funding, a round of quick, core metadata that will allow faster rolling releases of the evidence documents. The Judges' Trial (NMT 3) is finished and will be released by the end of the year; we're now working on The Hostage Case (NMT 7). Later this year, we'll begin work on more war crimes material and material related to the history of the Harvard Law School as we look forward to our bicentennial in 2017.

Historical and Special Collections continues its program of informative exhibitions that show off the depth and breadth of our collection. Over the summer, we featured It Was a Dark and Stormy Semester…Portrayals of Harvard Law School in Literature, which featured a “blind date with a book” component allowing patrons to check out—sight unseen—books that had been considered but had not made the final cut for the exhibition. Our current exhibition, One Text, Sixteen Manuscripts: Magna Carta at the Harvard Law School Library, celebrates the 800th anniversary of the Great Charter and displays many of our manuscript copies, exploring what their form has to say about the use of the text. Visit the exhibition in the Law Library’s Caspersen Room, open daily now through March, and visit the companion website at

Outreach at HLSL is an ongoing endeavor: 

  • We began the academic year with our 11th annual Love Your Library Fest, a fun introduction to HLSL that features stations to introduce students to our resources, services, and staff—with lots of candy. 
  • We provide “roving” reference twice a week, with research librarians holding court in our student center lounge. We’re expanding on the idea this fall by hosting Research Happy Hours at the HLS Pub. Librarians will purchase snacks to share and be ready to demo new resources or chat about research; students will BTOB and questions. 
  • Later in October, we’ll host our first of two planned Research Weeks this semester, during which the research librarians offer one-off classes on a variety of research topics. 
  • Interactive bulletin board displays have received a great response. We’ve used our entryway bulletin board to ask our community what they got done at the library last year, what they were reading over the summer, where they were before they arrived at HLS this fall, and who is their favorite fictional lawyer. Participants answer by writing on Post-it notes or putting up star stickers, and the results are fun to view. 
  • Last but not least, our Faculty Book Talk series continues to be a great success, with faculty always eager to get on the schedule when they have a new book to promote. Last year we hosted twelve talks, and this semester alone, we have ten in the works.

At HLS, academic technology is part of the library’s organization, and our TLC group has been very busy with the Canvas migration. The group put in many long hours over the summer to proactively prepare our faculty, and their assistants, for use of the new platform. They provided extensive training to all of the faculty assistants, met individually with as many faculty members as possible, and offered drop-in sessions for all interested parties, including students.

The Law Library’s Innovation Lab has seen a tremendous amount of use for one of its more recent projects, is a service that aims to prevent link rot in legal scholarship and court opinions. solves the link rot problem by allowing authors to take snapshots of web pages and place them on deposit with university libraries. Each record has a unique URL that readers can follow to view the preserved snapshot. With over 120 library partners and more than 140,000 saved links, is growing exponentially. An enhanced version will be rolled out this fall, and we are exploring ways to scale it for use beyond law.

Article written by Suzanne Wones and Meg Kribble.
Article published on October 14, 2015.