Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Blog

High School Students Learn How Law Libraries Are Far More Than a Place to Do Research

It's all gotten so easy. If you have a question, you just ask your phone or plug in a search. Shazam! You have the answer. Simple. Right? So much research can be done online and in the comfort of one's own home. It seems like going to the library to work or study is almost a lost art. Something from the past. A creaky old antique. Unnecessary. 

Nothing could be further from the truth for law students.

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Students not only spend hundreds of hours in the law libary studying, they come to appreciate and love the library, and a librarian's help even more.  

Libraries are still relevant in the schools and in the community, even in a world that is becoming more and more digital. Whether studying on their own or with a group, the library gives students a central place to gather - and virtually endless sources of additional information. A library can be a place to think and study quietly, or even meet for social events.

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The archived documents in a library help to preserve history in a way that is not possible through digital technology. Have you ever taken a picture of a really beautiful view, and then when you look at the photo you say “the picture just can’t capture what I am seeing?” That is what I am talking about. Actually picking up a book or viewing a three-dimensional artifact is a very different experience from the digital experience. Also, it is hard to distinguish between fact and opinion these days. How do you know what is “fact” and what is “fake” without using some authoritative source material to check for accuracy?

Librarians continually update their collections and arrange their spaces to accommodate their patrons (the students, faculty, and the general public). They anticipate patrons’ needs and desires based on past experience, and also anticipate future needs and technological changes. They do this to make sure libraries always stay relevant.  And they will.

A local class of High School students found out how much a law school library has to offer them. 

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What started out as a "Why us" moment on the part of some typical teenagers, ended up being a pretty cool day away from the classroom. The class toured the Brennan Law Library in Lansing, Michigan, as part of a project involving their classroom reading assignment of the book “Of Mice and Men.”

Afterwards, teacher Christi McGonigal Cross reported that "The experience at WMU-Cooley was amazing! Everyone was so helpful and patient. I was impressed with how engaged the students were with the librarians and the staff. All of the students said it was a wonderful experience."

Librarian Rita Marsala, who is Head of Public Services for the Brennan Law Library in Lansing, Michigan, learned a few things as well.

"Some of the students found the library to be overwhelming," said Marsala. "It can be mind-boggling if you don’t know how to search the stacks for what you want.  The amount of printed material in a library this size may be more information than these students have ever seen in physical form before. Making the students feel comfortable in that setting is important. If they get used to going to a library to study and interact with the librarians when they need information, they will have another resource available to further their educations."

WMU-Cooley Professor Marla Mitchell-Cichon

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Marla Mitchell-Cichon also met with the students to give them a legal perspective for their project – a mock trial involving George’s killing of his brother Lennie in the book. She discussed the role of the prosecutor and the defense attorney, and the limits on the arguments they would be able to use in an appeal compared with the scope of the original trial.

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In the end, 100 percent of the students prepared for and actively participated in the mock trial! This is unheard of with large projects like this.  There are usually a few who get overwhelmed and don’t complete the assignment -- especially when it involves public speaking.   These students gained valuable knowledge from their field trip to the library!


Is it time to visit your local library? What is your favorite book? Explore WMU-Cooley's law libraries by visiting online at WMU-Cooley Law Libraries

October 06