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My children find it hard to believe, but there was once a time when we got information from things called books — collections of paper bound in hard covers, kept in large public spaces called libraries, rich with the fragrance of musk and dust and scrubbed linoleum and all the heady knowledge of the universe. I still love libraries. I no longer have the luxury of lingering in fiction aisles, but I’ve found something even better (as truth is stranger than fiction): a place that holds a sense of history side by side with electronic portals to the present and future. Where is this? It’s the Connecticut State Library, housed in the 1910 Beaux Arts building in Hartford that is home to the Connecticut Supreme Court and the Museum of Connecticut History. I relish it all: the grandeur of its main reading room, with its cathedral ceilings tipped in gold, its sturdy wooden reading tables and capacious chairs; the narrow creaky stairs in its inner core, leading up and down to shelves filled with arcane yet vital information; its unique collections of Connecticut state and colonial history. But best of all, there are the law and legislative reference librarians who make it all accessible in the most capable and obliging manner imaginable. Under the talented leadership of Denise Jernigan, the reference librarians never fail to produce whatever ancient, contemporary or esoteric information may be needed to fill some logical or historical gap in a brief. Need to know what Zephaniah Swift thought about the right to a jury trial? It’s there. (And if you don’t think Zephaniah Swift still speaks from the grave, see State v. Griffin, 251 Conn. 671 (1999).) Need the records retention schedule for parks records? Right there. The legislative history of a Depression-era statute? No problem. The unpublished 14-page report of a governor’s task force from 1962? You’ll have it in a minute. The State Library has certain resources that I consult on every appeal of a state law issue. First, of course, as the designated depository for official state documents, it’s an unparalleled source of information about the meaning of a state statute. You can find anything that exists about Connecticut legislation there. It’s the primary locus for legislative history research. But its resources are not limited to the transcripts of legislative hearings and debates. It also holds the legislative bill files — the iterations of each bill that provide a wealth of information about drafting history, amendments proposed and abandoned or adopted, and other documents considered by the legislature. There are OFA and OLR reports, task force reports, commissioned legislative studies — all of which may yield insight into the purposes of particular legislation. Just as valuable as the legislative materials are the Judicial Branch materials archived in the State Library. It’s one of the few places in Connecticut where you can find the records and briefs of cases argued in the Connecticut Supreme Court and in the United States Supreme Court. (Appellate Court records and briefs are available on microfiche.) When an appeal depends on the application of a principle of law from an earlier case, there is no better way to understand the precedent than to go back to the original source: the record and briefs filed in that earlier case (even if it was argued in the 1840s). These original documents always contain more facts than the published decision — thus providing additional ways to distinguish or align with the earlier case. But the State Library is not merely the repository of the past. With the wisdom of those who know that today is tomorrow’s history, the library’s staff has embraced the electronic age. The library is part of a pilot project to develop ways of archiving electronic materials (like that state agency Web site you relied upon last week, only to find that it has disappeared today). The library Web site ( http://www.cslib.org/) is well designed, user-friendly, and provides links to innumerable other resources (including e-mail links to friendly reference librarians). Westlaw’s electronic citation service, KeyCite, is available for free to those who need to update case law on a tight budget. The State Library suffers from some of the ills that plague all state agencies — budget cutbacks force hard choices about continuing growth, and the information explosion itself has forced the library to move some valuable materials off-site. But its staff is irrepressibly committed to quality service — finding creative ways to deliver needed information as quickly and reliably as humanly possible. And it’s a place where you can sit and soak up a sense of history, continuity and community — where better? Shelia A. Huddleston is an appellate lawyer at Shipman & Goodwin in Hartford, Conn.

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