Many Librarians Make Light Work

By , September 27, 2012 1:46 pm

By Nick Harrell
Reference/Instructional Services Librarian at the University of Miami School of Law
UW Law Librarianship Graduate 2012

Recently I was asked to track down a copy of an unpublished opinion from the 1970s issued by a U.S. District Court located on the other side of the country.  After my best efforts failed to find the case, I did what everyone should do when they’re stuck.  I asked for help.  I reached out to a law librarian who works at a county law library near where the case was argued.  After she took a look around without any luck, that librarian provided me with contact information to a librarian at the court where the case was argued.  The court librarian didn’t have a copy of the opinion either, but he did provide me with more information about the case.  He shared the research notes of another court librarian trying to locate the case for yet another librarian on a different occasion.  He also provided contact information for the folks at the archive where the case file was held.  With that information, I was able to put in a request to the archives that would hopefully have the case.  While waiting for a response from the archives, I contacted an author who had cited to the case.  And, as I should have expected by this point, the author referred me to the librarian at his firm, who was also exceedingly helpful.

Eventually I was able to get my hands on the elusive case, but only with the help of over half a dozen librarians (I had been picking the brains of my co-workers during my quest).  I learned some new things about researching unpublished opinions while working on this project (specifically, that unpublished opinions roam in the wild west of citation land and are anything but uniform, and that if someone offers you a docket sheet, you take it).  But, my real take away was that librarians help each other.  Besides my co-workers, I had no prior connection to the librarians who helped me, but they were all generous with their time and eager to help.  I have added that generosity and eagerness to the list of reasons why I am glad to be a librarian.

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