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Bar News - July 19, 2017

Court News: Law Library Work Keeps Their Minds Sharp


Arnold and Joyce Wajenberg volunteer for several hours most weeks at the New Hampshire Law Library, indexing and cataloging legal education materials and historic legal documents to make them easier for New Hampshire attorneys and others to find.

For about seven years, retired librarians Arnold and Joyce Wajenberg, both 88, have spent several hours each week, whenever they are able, working in the New Hampshire Law Library, housed at the NH Supreme Court.

Arnold does the original cataloging of continuing legal education materials from the NH Bar Association and other CLE providers. Joyce has been painstakingly deciphering and indexing the library’s collection of 18th century manuscripts, most of which are writings and case documents donated to the library by the family of Matthew Patten, a justice of the peace who heard cases in Bedford from 1754 to 1788.

“There are hundreds of documents from the Patten family,” says Joyce. “It’s interesting to read about the kinds of cases that were heard then. There were a lot of boundary line disputes... Back then, people had their own certain spots for fishing on the river, so there are some disputes where one accuses the other of fishing from his spot.”

Joyce, who spent her career working in public libraries, uses a magnifier and various reference books to decipher the handwritten documents and then enters the case information onto paper forms for inputting into a database.

Arnold is a national expert in library cataloging. He was the principal cataloger of the University of Illinois Libraries at Urbana-Champaign and was awarded the 1995 Margaret Mann Citation, which is given by the American Library Association for outstanding professional achievement in cataloging or classification. At the law library, he catalogs the CLE materials, making them searchable online and “global in reach,” says NH Law Librarian Mary Searles.

Residents of Goffstown, the Wajenbergs moved to New Hampshire from the Midwest 21 years ago, when their granddaughter was born. They met Searles in 2006, when she was working at the NH Historical Society and they were volunteering there.

The couple says they enjoy working at the law library on projects aimed at making records and reference materials easier to find, while preserving history for future generations. “And it keeps the mind active,” says Arnold.

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