Monday, January 14, 2019

Rare books on display in the Library

By Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian & College Archivist

     The Library’s Special Collections, tucked in an out-of-the-way room in the Cullen building, houses the College Archives, Manuscript Collections, and an impressive Rare Books Collection (if we do say so ourselves). The Rare Books Collection focuses on seminal works in legal history, English common law, Spanish and Mexican law, Texas legal history, and maritime law. The oldest item in our collection was printed in 1481, but the content of the collection, which includes the Rolls of Oleron, the Institutes of Justinian, and the Will of Aethelgifu, covers close to two thousand years of legal history.
     The Library actively seeks out rare books to add to our collection, but finding items that fit within our collection is challenging for many reasons. First, of course, is the limited scope of subjects we collect. We only collect books on or about the law and, within that, we only collect in small, defined areas. Second, and most importantly, is that we call it the “Rare Books Collection” for a reason: the items we collect are hard to find. Books today are mass-produced and, usually, easy to obtain. This is not the case with books printed prior to the 19th century. Printing houses typically only produced what they thought they could sell. Finally, books have to be taken care of in order to last. War, politics, acts of nature, and simple use all factor in to whether or not a book will survive the passage of time. When all these conditions, and the stars, align, we find an item to add to our collection.
     Several of our recent acquisitions are on display now in the Library lobby. This includes the first English law dictionary, a study on the impact of smuggling in Spain’s’ American colonies, and a manuscript legal opinion from the Court of Admiralty on salvage during the English Civil War. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The best study aids as ranked by National Jurist

The National Jurist has ranked the best study aids, and STCL Houston students have free access to 8 of the top 10. The list, based on recommendations from law students from across the country, includes titles available from the Fred Parks Law Library through CALI, the West Study Aids, and our Lexis Nexis Digital Library, as well as volumes that we have in print. What's in the Top 10, you ask? Emanuel Law Outlines, Examples & Explanations, the Acing Series, CrunchTime, Glannon Guides, CALI Lessons, Nutshells, and Short & Happy Guides. Get access to all these and more, for free, by signing up for an account with the West Study Aids, logging in to Lexis Digital Library, or searching our online catalog, STELLA. All these platforms, and instructions on how to use them, are on the Library page in STANLEY.

Friday, October 12, 2018

It's time for the Library's annual Halloween Photo contest!

 Post a photo with our spookiest patron, Stanley, and/or his Skeleton Squad (Stella, Blanche, Tennessee, and Spike) on our Facebook page* for a chance to win a private study room for finals for you and three of your closest friends. Don't do Facebook? Email us your photo to and we will post it for you. The photo with the most 'likes' wins!  The winner will be announced via our Facebook page and Blog.

Contest Rules: enter as many times as you want and tell your friends to do the same. All entries must be in by midnight, Friday, October 26. Entries will go up on Facebook Saturday, October 27. The voting closes at midnight, Tuesday, October 30. The winner will be announced at noon on Halloween.  Stanley and his Squad are not allowed out of the library, but they can travel within the library itself, and do enjoy fresh air. Stanley has had a bit of bad luck, as you can tell, so make sure all his parts stay together. Group shots are welcome! Winners will be notified at their email address.
 *You can tag us on Facebook using @fredparkslawlibrary, but you MUST make the photo available to the public or we can't see it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

September 23-29 is banned books week

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian & College Archivist

      Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. It brings together the entire book community - librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types - in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
      Every year hundreds of requests are made to remove books from library shelves because the content is considered objectionable.  Over the years, the list of challenged or banned  books has included titles such as Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; Carrie, by Stephen King; Judy Blume’s Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams; How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell; Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, and Little Red Riding Hood.
      Objections to books are typically made because someone judges the content inappropriate on social, political or religious grounds, or because it is sexually explicit. The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles a list every year of the top 10 most frequently challenged books.  They have also compiled lists of the top 100 most frequently challenged and banned books for the decades of the 1990s and the 2000s.  Number 69 on the list for the 2000s is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, a book that is itself about censorship and the banning and burning of books.  Originally published in 1953, the publisher, Ballentine Books, marketed two different versions of the book – the “adult” (i.e. original) version and an expurgated version that was sent to schools.  In 1973 it stopped selling the adult version, but continued to publish the edited version in which over 75 passages were changed; offensive words such as ‘hell,’ ‘damn,’ and ‘abortion’ had been removed.  The publisher withdrew the edited version in 1980 after Bradbury discovered what they had done (Sova, Dawn B. Banned Books: Literature Suppressed on Social Grounds. New York: Facts on File, 2006).
      One of the most censored books in America is Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and the list of reasons is quite long: obscenity, vulgar language, violence, inappropriateness, ungodliness, immoral subject matter, cruelty, and an unpatriotic portrayal of war.  It has been the subject of several lawsuits as well: in Michigan, Todd v. Rochester Community Schools (1972), circuit Judge Arthur C. Moore told a high school to ban the book for violating separation of church and state.  The Michigan Appellate court overturned this decision.  It was one of the books mentioned in Pico v. Board of Education, the first school censorship case to make it to the Supreme Court.  The court ruled that “[l]ocal school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books …” (Board of Education v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982)) 
      There are many court cases surrounding the right to read; one of the more recent ones is from 2003, Counts v. Cedarville School District (295 F. Supp. 2d 996).  The suit was filed in reaction to the school district requiring students to obtain written permission from their parents in order to have access to the Harry Potter books.  The Court overturned the board’s decision.  In 2000, the court ruled in Sund v. City of Wichita Falls, Texas (121 F. Supp. 2d 530) that a city resolution to remove Heather has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate from the children’s section of the library was discriminatory.
     Of the 416 books that were challenged or banned in 2017, the top 10 most challenged are:

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why written by Jay Asher
    Originally published in 2007, this New York Times bestseller has resurfaced as a controversial book after Netflix aired a TV series by the same name. This YA novel was challenged and banned in multiple school districts because it discusses suicide.
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian written by Sherman Alexie
    Consistently challenged since its publication in 2007 for acknowledging issues such as poverty, alcoholism, and sexuality, this National Book Award winner was challenged in school curriculums because of profanity and situations that were deemed sexually explicit.
  3. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    This Stonewall Honor Award-winning, 2012 graphic novel from an acclaimed cartoonist was challenged and banned in school libraries because it includes LGBT characters and was considered “confusing.”
  4. The Kite Runner written by Khaled Hosseini
    This critically acclaimed, multigenerational novel was challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.”
  5. George written by Alex Gino
    Written for elementary-age children, this Lambda Literary Award winner was challenged and banned because it includes a transgender child.
  6. Sex is a Funny Word written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth
    This 2015 informational children’s book written by a certified sex educator was challenged because it addresses sex education and is believed to lead children to “want to have sex or ask questions about sex.”
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee
    This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, considered an American classic, was challenged and banned because of violence and its use of the N-word.
  8. The Hate U Give written by Angie Thomas
    Despite winning multiple awards and being the most searched-for book on Goodreads during its debut year, this YA novel was challenged and banned in school libraries and curriculums because it was considered “pervasively vulgar” and because of drug useprofanity, and offensive language.*This book was removed from all school libraries in Katy ISD until a 15 year old student collection 3,700 signatures on a petition, spoke at a school board meeting, and started a book club about the YA novel*
  9. And Tango Makes Three written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole
    Returning after a brief hiatus from the Top Ten Most Challenged list, this ALA Notable Children’s Book, published in 2005, was challenged and labeled because it features a same-sex relationship.
  10. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    This autobiographical picture book co-written by the 13-year-old protagonist was challenged because it addresses gender identity.

Click here for more information on Banned Books Week.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Throwback Thursday: T. Gerald Treece becomes Director of Advocacy

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian & College Archivist

Today's throwback post is an article from the August 1978 issue of Annotations, the student newspaper. In it, staff writer J. G. Trichter discusses the newly hired T. Gerald Treece: his background, his education, and his views on how to produce the best advocacy program in the nation. Happy 40th anniversary, Dean Treece!

Annotations, Vol. 7, no. 2, August, 1978. Fred Parks Law Library,
College Archives: Student publications. Available online here.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Surviving Law School: 95 Years of 1Ls

By Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian & College Archivist

     September 2018 marks the South Texas College of Law Houston’s 95th fall semester. That’s 95 years of excited, determined, and confused students. Through the years, our student body has gone from being all part-time students who had full-time jobs and families to mostly full-time students fresh out of undergrad. The College changed with the students, albeit probably slower than some students would have liked (we didn’t start having classes before 2 pm until the 1980s). What has not changed is our commitment to student success. However, in order to succeed, first you have to survive.
     There have been many books written about how to survive law school – in fact we always have a display of them up at the beginning of every fall semester (head to the short reference shelves by the puzzle, on the second floor. The rest of the year, you can find these in on the 4th floor of the library in the KF 280s). They are full of helpful tips on studying, how to maintain school-life balance, and reminders that your family members are going through this ordeal adventure with you, so please try to not disappear on them or turn into crazed loons when it’s time for finals (I may be paraphrasing a bit). 
     South Texas has always assisted students to survive and navigate law school. Through the years, there have been countless programs, activities, and seminars created for the sole purpose of helping students not only get through law school, but also thrive in the legal profession. Starting with orientation, students learn to look around at their section mates. Over the next three years, you will spend more time with your classmates than your family. The relationships you forge with them will continue long after law school, into your careers. Find your place, and your study group, within them.
     Explore the different student organizations. It’s important to meet students outside your section and area of interest as well as to mingle with upperclassman. Student organizations are a great way to network within the school. Take advantage of all the workshops and seminars that take place within the school. It’s never too soon to attend events put on by the Career Resource Center. Attend resume writing workshops, seminars on how to outline, and the library’s legal research workshop series (which will be starting up again soon).
     Socialize! For the most part your life, from now through the bar exam, is law school. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun. Those same student orgs that you are investigating are going to have mixers – go to a few of them (at least one of the orgs should have a Game of Thrones watching party in 2019 – go to it and try to figure out how you would defend Cersei from murder). Take in trivia night and go to a Halloween party. Take the family to see Night Court. Law school is serious business, but you have to have some down time.
     Those are the big things. What about the little things that will make your law school life a little easier? A few tips from your friendly law school librarians:
  • Set up the wireless on your laptop now.
  • Set up printing from your laptop now – it’s called webprint, and the directions are on the Technology page in STANLEY. 
  • Do you type your notes on your laptop?  Back them up to the cloud! Use Microsoft 365 (available to you free using your email address), Google Drive, iCloud, etc. Use whatever service you like best, but do it. Laptops have been known to crash, die, get stolen, or otherwise stop working.
  • Eat healthy and exercise when you can. It’s good for you.  
  • SLEEP (at home, not in class. Nor in the Library).
  • Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to talk to your professors and remember you can go to the offices of Student Academic Affairs and Academic Success at any time.
  • Review your notes weekly, don’t just cram at the end of the semester.
  • Go to the Library. Attend our workshops and events as often as possible (you can always ask for a quick refresher course on any of our workshop topics).
  • When in doubt, ask.

     In honor of our 95th anniversary, an exhibit, “Surviving Law School: 95 Years of 1Ls,” is now on display in the Library lobby. This exhibit contains materials from the College Archives detailing student events including photographs, flyers, catalogs, and articles written by students for students through the years. This exhibit will be up through December 13, 2018.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Dear students,

Please remember to inform the Library staff when there are issues in the Library.  Many of the people using the Fred Parks Law Library during the summer are studying for the Bar, and emotions can run high.  Please do not let issues reach a crescendo before asking for assistance.

Thank you and good luck to all of you taking the Bar.