Law Library Lecture and Tour for Visiting Japanese Law Students

Australian lawyers appreciate the great value of specialised law libraries. Law Libraries have been at the heart of legal education and practice for centuries in many countries across the globe. Our law students from Tokyo had the opportunity to learn about the historical and ongoing importance of law libraries in Australia at the start of their legal studies at Adelaide Law School. Law Librarian Paula Everett gave a presentation about the significance of law libraries before taking the students on a library tour. In her presentation, Paula discussed the following questions:

‘Why do we need a Law Library? Because from law student, to legal practitioner, to judicial officer legal research is conducted in a law library.’

‘What is special about a law library? It holds a vast collection of legal resources, it is a place of study that contains the specialised legal resources required for legal study and it provides expert research and study support from a trained law librarian.’

The Japanese students were very interested in this topic because at Meiji Gakuin University they do not have a specialised law library or expert law librarian. It is interesting to compare this with the situation in the United States, where every law school is required to have a law library that meets certain minimum standards by the American Bar Association. Otherwise, their law degree cannot be accredited.

After explaining and showing the collection in the Law Library to the students, Paula took them to what she called ‘the Harry Potter room’ (the beautiful old Reading Room in the Barr Smith Library). From there we visited the library’s rare books collection where a special selection had been put on display for our Japanese students. The selection included not only old books with Japanese art, but also precious law books, for example two 16th century copies of Justinian’s Institutes. A librarian used an old printing press on display to demonstrate how books used to be printed. We also learned that expressions like ‘upper case’ and ‘lower case’ letters, as well as the phrase ‘mind your Ps and Qs’ come from specific stages in the printing process.

Afterwards, the students enjoyed exploring the University of Adelaide’s Japanese collection. One student explained to Paula Everett and Cornelia Koch that some of the books in this collection were her favourites. Seeing these books printed in Japanese characters brought home to Paula and Cornelia what a monumental achievement it is for Japanese students to study, read and write in English, when their own character sets are completely different (a book is written in Japanese characters, read from top to bottom and sometimes from right to left). Overall, exploring some of the hidden treasures of the library and hearing about specialised law libraries provided the students with a useful start into their legal studies program, where they are encountering many more significant differences between the Australian and Japanese legal cultures.

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