“Shhutt… slowly please. Do not rush. No more than two at the time. See you on level 4”. And up the giggling students step in the paternoster of the Albert Sloman Library. Paternosters are revolving lifts dear to Germans, but there are only very few of them in England. It always brings a slight moment of perplexity to find out how to get in and out of it, but the lift moves gently up and down and we soon realise that this is nothing else that taking the stairs. Nevertheless the puzzlement on students’ faces the first time they see these lifts is priceless. This works as a nice ice-breaker for their induction in the library.
I love this first session usually one afternoon of the welcome week when students are asked to join me in a treasure hunt across the library. Not literally a treasure hunt, but a first taste of what they will find in there. The French Law Collection is located in the far-right-corner of the fourth floor of the library. Besides the very nice view on the park and the lake, this corner is also home of a outstanding collection of 400 books, textbooks and handbooks in all the major fields of French law: constitutional law, administrative law, obligations, family law, criminal law. The books are primarily aimed at our cohorts of first and second years students in French law. So for instance, students will have access to a range of textbooks and case books such as the so-called GAJA, the “Grands Arrêts de Jurisprudence Administrative”, a renown case book founded a few years after the Second World Warby René Cassin, Prix Nobel and one-time-chair of the European Court of Human Rights. Now in its 20th edition, the GAJA is definitively the main resource for students in French administrative law, a field where case law is prevalent.
The collection is however by no means limited to the main textbooks and case book: for instance, classics in public law such as Hauriou, Duguit, Jèze or in obligations such as Ghestin and Viney are also available for the students seeking to nurture their French legal culture. Shelves are also neatly stacked with nicely bound issues of the Recueil Dalloz from a time when print was the only way to publish. Of course, modern databases are also explored with the students at this first visit to the law library. Here come all the little intricacies of Dalloz and LexisNexis with their many doors and links to open up endless avenues for research and to explore a entirely new world !
This is a very different world to the one I was first induced to when I started my law degree. At the time we were using indexes, tables, index cards organised thematically, alphabetically and chronologically. No internet or electronic database was known to us. My first sessions were dedicated to gathering material for a piece of research devoted to the role of the judge in 19th century Belgium and all the very vivid controversies that the first one-judge-courts had triggered at the time. But I still fondly remember one of the missions that was entrusted to me: finding information on “grivèlerie”. I had never heard of this word before that day. Bewildered, I jumped searching, leafing indexes and tables, a bit panicked that I might appear stupid if I did not find the information. Then suddenly I found it : buried in the criminal code was an offence of “grivèlerie”… The English word for it tells it all: “dine and dash”.
Shutt slowly, quietly, freshers. It is your turn to discover the many treasures nested in the hidden recesses of the physical and virtual law libraries !
Yseult Marique, August 2016