Field Trip to the Law Library
This week, we took a field trip to the Rhode Island state Law Library located inside the Licht Judicial Complex, just a 10 minute walk from our office. There are several library branches throughout the state. Our intern Aireece, a Met School Senior who has previously spent time interning with the court, offered to show us around. So we rode the elevator up to the 8th floor, and had a look around.
Why would we visit a law library? We were not working on a specific case at this time, and we are not litigators. But I rarely pass up an offer to explore a new place or to learn something new. We were all curious about what goes into laws, how they get made and where people can learn about this process. And we are grateful that access to the public is valued!
Here are a few common reasons people might be there:
1 To do research on a specific subject area in support of an argument. Not all of the books were specifically law books, we saw a lot of titles about language and usage, geography, history and health care, for example. This could help with context, or if you just want to get reallllly into the history of bankruptcies or driveways or pronouns.
2 To do research on past cases. The library hosts primary sources, some date back to early Rhode Island and others are accessible by electronic databases. There are also sources like law journals and commentary. Why learn about past cases? Because law is built upon previous arguments and opinions.
3 To learn more about the history of law in general. Perhaps you don’t have any specific argument to make, but are wondering how something came to be? What processes happened, or how has a law changed over time?
4 To understand how laws are written-what do they look like, what kind of language is used? Students who would like to pursue a career in law might want to look at some legal language. So might writers and journalists, ethicists, historians, policymakers, litigants and curious humans.
5 To experience a part of our culture and heritage in a setting which belongs to us all. Access to information is one step toward a more equitable world. There are limits to who can take books home, and which materials circulate, but the space is cozy for reading and there are copy machines available.
“Public legal information from all countries and international institutions is part of the common heritage of humanity. Maximising access to this information promotes justice and the rule of law."---Legal Information Institute
You can visit the RI state Law Library, too! It is open to all and free of charge. There is a searchable online catalog if you’d like to narrow down the search a bit, access it via the website.
Here is a link to their webpage, were you can find addresses, hours and contact information.
Note: the Licht Complex does not allow photos inside for “security purposes”.
Written by Traci Picard, 2/14/2019