11 October 2012

The Law Library

I was an early teen the first time I saw the Howard W. Hunter Law Library. We were driving through Provo, and I was at my accustomed spot in the back seat of the family van. I honestly had no idea where we were, and I didn't really care, either; it wasn't a restaurant, so it didn't matter.

As we drove, though, we passed a large building with huge glass windows, and behind them fluorescent lights shining on rows and rows, floors and floors of bookshelves. Neat, orderly, hardbound, leather-covered, important-looking books filled them, I could see from the van window. I felt a familiar excitement tingle down my spine at the sight of such a massive library.

Then from the driver's seat, way up front, I heard my dad's voice: "That's the law library, where the law students study until midnight. Poor souls."

The tingle immediately fizzled out, and I realized now the brown drabness of the walls and shelves, the spartan severity of the rooms—how intent and tired the people inside looked as they bent over those heavy, thick books at narrow desks when outside, just on the other side of those windows, it was dark and everyone else was hurrying home to dinner, to a movie, or even just to bed.

The desks suddenly seemed ready to buckle under the weight of those books.

Maybe that's when I decided not to become a lawyer. To avoid the fate that awaited on the other side of those windows like the plague.

My dad lobbied for law school once I got my BA and didn't know what to do with myself. I considered it. Started studying for the LSAT. Heard others make comments about "those poor law students." Even dated a law student hopeful.

And decided I'd never set foot into that law library. Never be one of "those poor law students." It's a worthy profession, and the money's cushy, but I saw no personal gratification in it. Not for all that work.

Guess where I'm writing this post.

I know. Everything's so predictable nowadays. Dramatic effect has gone the way of the dodo.


I study in the law library almost every day, sometimes for hours on end.

No. I'm not a law student. But. Once I reconciled myself to the fact that, yes, I was back in school and that, yes, I'd better find a place where I could get my work done without distraction, I found my haven in the law library.

Of all places.

Despite myself, I've discovered that the law library has perks no other building on campus does:

1) It's dead quiet. DEAD quiet. My tapping on the keyboard of this computer is the loudest thing I hear. Those poor law students really take their work seriously. Thus, I can get something done!

2) It's got amazing views. Remember those large-paned windows? From the second floor I see the autumn trees and students walking up and down the sidewalk. From the first floor, I look out into a jungle of plants and trees. And so much natural light. In school, it almost seems criminal.

3) It has a piano. A grand piano. Right here, on the first floor. I have no idea if it ever gets played. But. Can I say "whimsical" in a law library and get away with it?

4) The first thing I saw when I walked in today were these books, proudly displayed at the circulation desk: The Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon and Life in the Law: Service and Integrity. Excuse me? What a novel approach. Still breathing that one in.

5) Do you have any idea how happy most of these "poor law students" are? They're forever smiling. Friendly. Seemingly unstressed. Yet they get their work done.

No. I don't intend to become a law student. This compromise I've just admitted is as far as I go.

But. I love the law library. Plenty of room, plenty of quiet, plenty of light. The PERFECT place to study, regardless of your program (don't tell anyone I just gave you that invitation).

I look up through these windows to the street where first I saw the law library and promised in young-girl surety that I would never enter it.

And I smile, thankful that despite all I can do, life involves so many ironic twists and exciting changes in perspective.


  1. This is a delightful read. You're so good with words, and that last line is so pertinent to now, "life involves so many ironic twists and exciting changes"


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