Friday, January 7, 2011

How to Find the Law

Morris Cohen in 1971,
in the University of Pennsylvania law library.
Photo by Israel Shenker for the New York Times.

I try not to talk about my day job as a law librarian much on this blog, because, well, that's not what this blog is about. But - and in spite of the abundance of obits around here lately - I feel like I'd be remiss in not taking note of the recent passing of one of the profession's great lights: Morris Cohen, former director of the law libraries at Yale, Harvard, Penn and the University of Buffalo (now SUNY), and at the time of his death a professor emeritus at Yale law school. Morris is one of those people about whom anything that is said risks coming off as an understatement, inadequate, and fundamentally unworthy - especially by someone as young in the profession as I am. (I never met Morris but I feel like I can call him by his first name because I almost have the sense that I know him at this point, and because . . . well, just look at the man.) Suffice it to say that he is pretty much the Godfather of modern law librarianship, and clearly beloved by everyone who had the privilege of making his acquaintance.

The title of this post is also the name of one of the many texts he authored, and the one that I first cracked when I started my advanced legal research class in law school almost 10 years ago to this day. Its definitive tone pretty much sums up what an unquestionable lion of the profession he was. To the law library community this is something like the passing of Ted Kennedy, Johnny Cash, and Picasso all rolled into one. Rest in peace, Morris. There's no danger you'll be forgotten.

The obit from the New York Times (which also published an editorial tribute to Morris Cohen today) is here. My favorite part is the concluding paragraph:
As evidenced in his research, Professor Cohen had a penchant for the quaint and the quirky. At the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught legal bibliography from 1963 to 1971, a student once typed her term paper on onion skin and squeezed it into a walnut shell. He gave her an A.

1 comment:

Pantalones said...

Loved the onion story too ... and I don't think you have to be a law librarian to appreciate this mover and shaker! The editorial reminded me of you. Xoxo.