A Word from Law Librarians - Musings for National Library Week 2019

We have a lot of fun during National Library Week – it is right before Final Exams and allows us to goof off before the pressures of the end of the semester.  It is also a great time to remind our students, faculty and staff about the importance of libraries – all kinds of libraries, but especially public libraries.  This is our annual tradition to help our students realize what they have in libraries, how they can use libraries and how they can support libraries today, tomorrow and far into the future.  One way of doing this to provide some commentary on libraries with an Inspirational library quote of the day and a librarian’s musings about it.  These were originally sent out via email to our community during the week, but we’ve collected there here for your reading pleasure. 


Carol Megathlin, “The quality and self-respect of a people can be gauged in their libraries. The open door of a library says we are ignorant without excuse. The boarded-up door says we are simply ignorant.”

Did you know that in 2016, 84% of libraries offered technology training to patrons in computer software use;  76.8% of libraries provided online health resources; and 60% offered programs to help Americans identify health insurance resources and get better informed on health topics; 73.1% of libraries provided programs that assisted individuals apply for jobs, create resumes, and prepare for interviews;  97%  of libraries helped people complete online government forms.*


Public libraries are powerhouse organizations – and citizens get a lot of “bang for their buck” by supporting them. A Brookings Institution article even referred to librarians as “ad hoc social workers and navigators” who “help local people figure out the complexities of life.” This role is especially evident, and never more essential, than in times of crisis.**  So, support your public library.  Check out an ebook!  Run for library trustee!  Support your library’s Friends group.  You’ll be making an impact in your immediate community and fighting ignorance.


*American Library Association, Quotable Facts About America’s Libraries, (2019) 

**American Library Association, State of American Libraries 2018, (2019)



Today an essay by our Library Cataloger, Matt Jenks…


Toni Morrison, “Access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations.  Of all the institutions that purport to do this, free libraries stand virtually alone in accomplishing this mission.”


At their essence, libraries are the Keepers of civilization.  They contain a record of our history and a microcosm of our many varied cultures and beliefs which weave the “crazy quilt” of our country together.  Libraries are also Knowledge Centers – repositories of raw data, organized information, bodies of knowledge, and yes, even Wisdom – the learned experience and wise counsel of those who have gone before us.  They enrich us, inform us, and enlighten us, and their continued existence is vital to the continued existence of not only our civilization, but our democratic norms and principles as well.


The nature of libraries as physical spaces – information commons, welcoming centers, meeting spaces – cannot be overlooked, either.  Libraries are those places where we engage in the most vital functions of a free society – learning, debate, the exchange of ideas, and free thought.  They are the foundations and the pillars of our modern democracy.  Without them, we are only a few steps away from either anarchy or authoritarianism.


Lastly, libraries are the repositories of our society’s creativity.  They contain the Stories that have shaped our time and times gone by.  In a library you can discover fantastical new creations, meet people and characters who amaze and delight you, and enter whole new worlds with discoveries beyond imagination.  Libraries are the repositories of Imagination, and it is imagination that has accounted for the rise of our civilization from its very beginnings to the wonders that we know today.  May libraries never fade from the landscape or disappear into the “Clouds” of virtual emptiness which threaten us from the ether.  We are all the better for their existence, and they save our democracy in little ways every day just by being open.  Check out a Book Today!


Matthew R. Jenks



Adam Gopnik, “I don't think we brood sufficiently on what a miraculous institution the public library is. It's not democratic in spirit: It's democratic. The credential you present is your existence, and the resume you show is your curiosity.” 

By Law Library Director and Professor of Law, Sue Zago, on public libraries:


As I brooded on the miracle that is a public library, I remembered my hometown public library experience.


I was five years old when I got my first library card. It was a big deal in my town with a little ceremony thrown in.  Once a child could legibly print her full name, she got to sign the book that assigned them their library card number.  Then the Children’s Librarian would make up a card for them which was kept on file in the library.  No muss, no fuss for the kids.  If you could tell the desk worker your name you could check a book (“Mary Anne’s Mud Day”), or a record (“Free to Be You and Me”) or a game (“Sorry”) out of the library and take it home and absorb it all for days.


My town library was where I was first employed. I helped maintain the collection, help kids and families find and borrow materials, help during story time, help preserve the town’s history, help the elderly find new books, and more. The town was fortunate to have a philanthropist found the library and an interested citizenry who recognized its value to the town, much like other towns around the world have had industrialist Andrew Carnegie’s library project build their “Palaces for the People” and invest in their communities.


Here in New Hampshire, public libraries are especially special places and even the smallest town has one.  Each public library is also backed by the extensive network developed by the New Hampshire State Library to get New Hampshire residents the materials they need and to facilitate being the true heart of a community.


These Palaces for the People function as a private study space and a community center rolled into one safe place.  It’s where people go to find a nook to read, think and work.  It can save you a bundle on your entertainment budget as you can check out books (print, electronic or audio), stream video, DVDs, CDs, games, and museum passes. It can also be a social place with a lot of programming for kids, adults, and teens like English as a Second Language, Homework Help, storytime, gaming groups, knitting circles, financial literacy classes, technology help and more. 


Be curious and explore libraries.  They are forever reinventing themselves to meet new demands and to best support their communities.




“Mohandas Gandhi, “You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”


Your law library is much bigger than you may know!


Over the last 10 years we have added thousands of traditional books but have also added hundreds of thousands of e-books & e-journals as well. Think of these additions as a virtual 4th or 5th floor of the library. These hundreds of thousands of titles quietly snuck into our collection over the years. For example, Westlaw and Lexis contain thousands of electronic journals and treatises as well as primary sources. Discover PLI contains thousands of practice focused material including checklists, sample forms, and more. BloombergLaw contains many unique publications such as the venerable United States Law Week. Many non-legal titles are in our collection now as well courtesy of EBSCO, JSTOR and other shared UNH databases. Accessing these resources is much easier than ever before. Most of the above resources are accessible via the library catalog.


Curling up with an e-book on your tablet, phone or laptop may not be the same feeling as a traditional book but what matters is reading them as the quote above stresses.


By Tom Hemstock, Associate Professor of Legal Research, Reference & Electronic Resources Librarian


P.S. –If you have any questions on how to access those resources, please let me know.”




Hermann Hesse, “Without words, without writing, and without books, there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity.”

By Kathy Fletcher - Access Services Librarian and organizer of National Library week at UNH Law


In 1992, during the Bosnian War, the National Library at Sarajevo was burned to the ground. In 2003, after the allied invasion of Bagdad, regime loyalists looted and torched the Iraq National Library. The perpetrators of these heinous crimes knew what Hermann Hesse knew. Words are our humanity. Libraries exist not only to provide a space for studying and finding information, but also to preserve our humanity. How many of us, in low moments, have been buoyed by remembering characters in a story we’ve read? I think of Atticus Finch defending Tom Robinson, or Meg Murray saving her brother Charles Wallace from IT. These books connect us to our history and our common courage. They provide meaning and help in moments when life goes to pieces. They pull us out of ourselves a remind us to be empathetic or brave or ethical.  


Libraries collect these stories and librarians continue to develop new ways to promote them to new generations.  We are WAY more than study spaces. We are curators of the shared human experience.