A short while ago the first issue of the UC Irvine Law Review became available via the UC Irvine website. Given the school’s initial growing pains it is welcome to see this first issue. Many SLAW readers may remember the political controversy involving the initial offer, withdrawal of offer, and rehiring of leading US constitutional law scholar (and frequent critic of the Bush administration) Erwin Chemerinsky as the school’s Founding Dean. Dean Chemerinsky addresses the controversy in the journal’s opening article on the school’s founding and his vision for a new law school. Of interest to SLAWers is that he saw the hiring of a librarian – my colleague Beatrice Tice, formerly of the Bora Laskin Law Library – as an important part of building a new law school.
Beatrice has an excellent article in the inaugural issue: “The Academic Law Library in the 21st Century: Still the Heart of the Law School”. The title is a reference to Harvard president Charles Eliot’s descriprion of Harvard’s law library as “the heart of the school” in his 1872-73 Annual Report. Beatrice gives us an excellent overview of the role and perceptions of the law school library from the 18th century to the present. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that a lot of the very interesting history that Beatrice recounts was new to me.
Beatrice concludes with a discussion of why the academic law library is still relevant in the twenty first century. There has been a lot of recent discussion among and between librarians on this topic. Here Beatrice is addressing non-librarians and provides a good summary of some of the strengths of the academic library– including the increased need for the library’s “information facilitation” function in a hybrid digital and print environment (what John Palfrey calls “digital plus”), and the observation that “The indefinable ambience of the law library as an environment for work of great consequence—as the ‘laboratory of the law school’—is felt and understood by those who use the library, even in the information age.”