It is with great interest to me personally to find out about the proposed merger of Middle and Inner Temple libraries. It was only last week that I was looking into which inn to join. My motivation to do it early was the use of the inn libraries as I continue my studies, well that and the fact I will have to go in front of various committees to explain my dubious past. As luck would have it I was looking to join Inner Temple, I’d heard particularly good things about their library. Now I am not so sure and will be looking at Lincoln and Gray’s inn instead.
Like many students studying law in London I find that there is often a run on books if there is a deadline on a particular subject. The fact I could go into a specialist library, with a good selection of books and knowledgeable librarians holds great appeal to me and, I imagine, many in my situation. And it is that many where the trouble for me lies. By effectively halving the amount of inns of court libraries those making these proposals are doubling the amount of people, practitioner and student, perusing the shelves. They are also halving the amount of highly trained personnel available to answer queries from people like me who frequently get lost among the shelves of books and if they are looking to cram two libraries into one, I imagine those shelves would be fairly cosy.
And there is another point. Both libraries hold collections of unspeakable value to the English legal community. What is to be done with them? Will they be crammed into the one building? Or will they be held in storage and have to be requested, thus adding delays to the accessibility of texts? How will this work if you have a particularly tight deadline and are due in court?
What about the distinct personalities of the two libraries? It was only last week when I was listening to two barrister friends arguing about whose inn library was the better. This made me think of the merging of British army infantry regiments and the detrimental effect it has had on morale. The bar is a profession with an uncertain future at the moment. Cuts to the legal aid budget and the introduction of solicitors with higher rights, coupled with the astronomical price of education have dented the morale of those thinking of entering the wacky world of advocacy. Will these proposals do anything to encourage us that we have a future? Probably not. My most learned friends Charon QC and Geeklawyer have blogged on this already and it would be worthwhile for my four readers to check out their opinions. I however will be looking elsewhere for an inn.