Hazardous Materials

Soutron at BIALL

We are at BIALL this week. The British and Irish Law Librarians Conference in Birmingham, well almost, if you can call the NEC Hilton, in Birmingham. Shame that we were not closer to the town and all it can offer! But it was a chance to meet up with friends from times past as well as making the acquaintance of several people in our client community that we rarely get to see as well as librarians from academia who attend. All in all a great mix and stimulating to break out of the day to day. It’s always interesting listening to anecdotes about the way libraries work and the freedom to explore ideas through conversations is a real pleasure.

Gin and Chocolates at BIALL

I have to declare that some of the conversations were heavily weighted towards gin. That is the appreciation of the varieties of gin, its subtleties and how experimentation with different mixers such as ginger ale could realise unexpected pleasures. The existence of a secret BIALL sub-committee that has specialist knowledge of gin establishments, particularly in London, was a revelation. Previously unbeknownst to me legal librarians have a fondness for gin greater than the average person one meets. The bottle of Hendrick’s Gin that  was strategically placed on the table next to me (a raffle prize) prompted several confessions.
(Raffle winner shown below!)

Amongst the tales of ginfests (the next one is in Leeds June 24 and then Plymouth 29 June) was a conversation about hazardous substances.  A prominent legal library had images of the skull and crossbones stamped on many of the texts on the shelves. This symbol is generally used as a hazard symbol that warns of danger. Nothing in a law library commonly suggests danger, piracy perhaps, but not poison or hazardous materials, unless the librarian has a distaste for contract law and taxation!

I learned that it came about as a result of a lawyer coming into the library late one night before a court case the following day to help himself to a text that was an old edition. His use of citations in it caused the firm significant loss and embarrassment. The librarian of the day from that point on decided to mark old editions with a danger symbol, indicating that the text was indeed hazardous and to be used carefully. I have never seen this repeated elsewhere but it is probably typical of why such libraries are referred to as “special”. Hopefully the hidden gin bottles that might exist are not marked thus with the same skull and cross bones, for when the librarian has to work late into the evening to support the diligent lawyer.

As for “my” Hendrick’s Gin bottle, it found its way to a deserving BIALL attendee and I had to settle for a simple beer at the bar (sic).

And the Winner of the Hendrick’s Gin and Thornton’s Chocolates is… Helen Robinson at the Faculty of Advocates, Reader Services Librarian, Edinburgh. Enjoy!




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View more posts by Graham Beastall Graham Beastall – Senior Consultant and Managing Director. Graham’s background is in Accountancy, Public Administration, Organizational Theory and Library Technologies with a deep technical understanding of databases and web technologies. More posts by Graham.

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