I recently read this short piece about kindness in law libraries in the AALL Spectrum magazine (a publication for law librarians), and it really struck a chord with me*:
Law school isn’t easy, whether you’re a student, a professor, an administrator, a staff member, or even a librarian. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, without a doubt. But I didn’t get to know my friendly neighborhood librarians back then. They could have helped me a lot along the way.
Don’t make the mistake I made in law school. We’re proud of our Library — YOUR Library — and want you to consider it an oasis in the middle of all the stress and chaos of law school. A sanctuary, if you will. This is the place where we want you to come with questions and problems, which we will do our best to answer and solve. If we can demystify the legal research process (or any other aspects of law school) and send you home a little bit less stressed out, we have done our jobs well.
And we know there is plenty of stress to go around. Summer is a time for students to catch up on their upper level research papers and directed research projects, professors are toiling away on their articles for publication, and our recent graduates are studying around the clock for the Bar Exam, now just a few weeks away.
So when I see people at their wits’ end, studying around the clock, sleep-deprived and sad, I try to say something positive to them. Let them know they aren’t alone, that we’re rooting for them, that it gets better. I think little things like that can make someone’s day, so why not try to do so? Just like good grammar, empathy and kindness cost nothing. I’m grateful to work with service-oriented colleagues that feel the same way.
And on that note, I’ve always hated the stereotypes of lawyers as “sharks,” cutthroats, mercenaries. The law can do so much good in this world, and I think Barry students really stand out among their peers in that capacity. With Barry’s core commitments of knowledge and truth, inclusive community, social justice, and collaborative service, I think we’re sending a new breed of professionals off into practice: brilliant and driven for sure, but also compassionate, socially-conscious, mindful, empathetic.
The title of this post, “It takes strength to be gentle and kind,” comes from a particularly depressing (but pretty) song by the Smiths, that beautiful British band of sad-sacks from the mid-’80s. Known for charismatic, crooning frontman Morrissey’s dark wit, and backed up by Johnny Marr’s resonant guitar, they were a perfect pop group that was too good to last.
Anyway, here’s the song that’s stuck in my head now, “You Know It’s Over”:
*See what I meant about striking a chord?