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Legal research and puppies, life, love, rain – and ferrets

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Almost everyone loves a mystery whether it be a book, a TV show, a movie, a thrilling true story of a long-lost whatsit found after a lengthy search. But no one connects that excitement with life in libraries and librarians and researchers. I sometimes wonder why, but then forget about it because I have some legal research mysteries of my own I’m hot on the trail to solve.

A story ran a few days ago (the MSNBC one here) on how the Senate removed evidence of their actions from the Congressional Record. This isn’t anything new and I admit this doesn’t sound like riveting stuff, but it is! Imagine (work with me here) being a writer, a lawyer or a journalist a few years from now and you have to research a legislative history, or any other history, of Congressional actions during the Libby (Scooter, that is) years. Unimaginative researchers will look in the usual sources and, wonder of wonders, believe what they read in tomes like the Congressional Record, the Presidential Papers, and other such “official” sources. Some will even believe what the press secretaries or public officials say at press conferences! Isn’t that a hoot? But the others will ferret and discover the truth.

Research, like love, puppies, life, and rain, is messy, but worth the bother. The joy of discovery, of uncovering buried treasure, of piecing together heretofore disjointed facts, and bearing witness to the birth of an idea can’t be beat. Some of our local newspaper reporters and bloggers know this well (and learned well from reporters of yore, Twain, Murrow, Stone, etc. – any journalism student could probably name you dozens more). They are regular gumshoe journalistic detectives, taking not only to the library but also to the streets, the sources, the buried treasure.

So if you are wondering about that smile on your librarian’s face, at least those of us who have been around the block a few times, we could tell some of our own stories about participating in these excavations. Yes, it’s fun, great fun – not ha-ha fun, though there is a lot of that too – but research can also be bloodthirsty and beat-the-clock pulse raising.

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