Opening Statements

Librarian's Course Seeks to Entice Attorneys Who Value Rare Law Books

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Many lawyers are bibliophiles, but few extend their collection to books of their profession. Mike Widener, the rare-books librarian at Yale University’s Lillian Goldman Law Library, wants to change that. This summer he will be offering a course on collecting historical law books.

And while the course is not aimed at lawyers, he is hoping that the knowledge he can impart about this genre will inspire more lawyers to become a specific kind of bibliophile.

Widener, who will be teaching the course for the second time, isn’t sure why more lawyers don’t collect law books. But he speculates that after coming home from long workdays, some attorneys opt not to think about the law.

His course, “Law Books: History & Connoisseurship,” will explore a variety of topics, such as the terminology of printed books, material preservation and how to use catalogs. Students also will have the opportunity to handle rare books, Widener says.

The “fast-paced” five-day class was primarily taken by law professors, librarians and book collectors in the past as a form of professional development, he says. “Last year, there was not one single student in my class. … It would be nice to have students.”

And, of course, more lawyers.

The course is scheduled to begin June 13 at the Rare Book School in Charlottesville, Va.

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