Two Interesting Stories: Harvard Law & Pesky Stains

Here are two very interesting and LARGE projects being undertaking by two different libraries.

First, Harvard Law Library is digitising around 40 million pages to create a searchable and FREE database of American case law! Usually you have to pay a lot of money for subscriptions to databases that supply this information, so this is an exciting step in providing knowledge to the public as well as increasing access to justice. Entitled the ‘Free the Law’ project, I hope to see other institutions follow suit, as well as the incorporation of other legal information in addition to case law. As a law graduate and a librarian, it is worrisome to see how little the layman understands and can source information on their own rights within our society.  This leads to a lack of autonomy and power over ones life and choices, as well as fear due to lack of knowledge, which in the end means large corporations and governments have the ability to take advantage of the general public.

Of course, the thought of all those books spines being ‘chopped off’ to enable scanning is a little unsettling, but such is the price of progress! They do say all the spines are re-attached though thankfully. You can read about the project, due to be completed in 2017, in the New York Times article here.

Second, The National Library of Australia’s preservation team has managed to very cleverly remove stains from old adhesive/sticky-tape on many of their items in the display for their William Strutt exhibition, Heroes and Villains: Strutt’s Australia. Seeing the comparison photo’s makes it look like the team has waved a magic wand – I hadn’t realised it would be possible to so perfectly remove such stains without affecting the works in any way!

Reading the process is fascinating, the library must have had a team of scientists helping – I can barely even pronounce the chemical names let alone fully understand how it worked! You can read their blog post about how they achieved this feat and see some pictures.

These projects show the amount of care and patience librarians have for their collections and their work. We are a fabulous bunch aren’t we? 😉

Until next time,

Michelle De Aizpurua

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