Penguin Legal Research

Study of Small Aquatic Creatures and Law Library Use

Kelly Browne & Joan Shear
RIPS Committee on Penguin Practice

Although scientific and health research has been conducted on Penguins, we have noted an absence of research focusing on the ability of Penguins themselves to actually do legal research. To address this lack, we invited a small group of Penguins to visit Boston College Law Library on June 17, 2003, so that we could more closely observe their research practices. This was determined to be an ideal day for the Penguins to visit the library, as Boston College Law School students were on summer break. The research that follows documents their visit to the library and provides some evaluative commentary on our assessment of Penguins and law library usage.

The Penguins Arrive at the Library

The penguins arrived at the library, as evidenced by the photographs below, in an airplane. It should also be noted that, not unlike law school students, they are wobbling, probably due to having had a few cocktails on the plane.

Penguins in a plane

Penguins in a line

Beginning Research

We quickly observed that penguins, like law students, immediately began their research by sitting down at the computer terminals and looking for information on the Internet. The most popular search engine was Google. Our observations of their individual screens indicated that they were most likely looking for information about themselves. This research characteristic was noted in an article that appeared in the March 21, 2003, issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education that discussed the tendencies of students to use search engines before library databases.

Penguins by a computer

The first page we observed the penguins looking at was the official website of the RIPS-SIS. We speculate that this page was located via a search engine, as our attempts to replicate their search ("penguins") in several search engines resulted in this page appearing at the top of the hit list of websites.

Penguins by a printer

Once again the similarity of penguins and law students is observed in the excessive printing that is evident in the above photograph. Like law students, the penguins have failed to used the Print Preview command before printing pages from an obviously large website.

Advanced Research Skills

The next behaviors that we observed in the penguins were quite surprising to us. Following their initial searches on the Internet we observed the penguins engaging in more advanced research behaviors, including consulting with a reference librarian.

Penguins getting instrutions

Penguins and Library Behavior

Are penguins aware of appropriate behavior in a library setting? During the course of the day we observed them engaging in inappropriate behaviors.

Food: The photograph above illustrates that penguins are just as likely to eat snacks in the library as are law students. It should also be noted that the penguins attempted to finish their candy as quickly as possible when they became aware of the presence of library staff in the area.

The photograph below illustrates the lack of understanding penguins have for the purpose of a photocopy machine. In the photo the penguins appear to be enjoying the warmth of the photo element on their bottom sides. This experience led to an unfortunate incident in which the top of the photocopier fell on the penguins, resulting in some injury.

Penguins by a printer

The Feasibility of Penguins and Library Usage

Given some of the above occurrences, we began to ask the question: Should penguins be permitted to engage in law library research? Given their small size and rather fluffy skeletal structure, we asked the penguins to engage in specific library behaviors. The results of these are available below.

Penguins by a book

Retrieving books from shelves: Our observations indicated that it was virtually impossible for penguins to remove items from the upper shelves of the library stacks. One unfortunate incident is illustrated in the above photographs.

Penguins by a cutting board

Paper cutters: Even with (or perhaps because of) the assistance of a group of her peers, one of the penguins met an unfortunate demise while attempting to use the paper cutter.

Completing the Research Activity

Penguins by the door

Boston College ID card

The conclusion of the penguins' library visit was rather routine (when compared to the rest of their day). The penguins begin their exit from the library in an orderly manner through the exit gate. On the right one of the penguins, with the unusual name of Puron, displays his Boston College ID.

About this Project

This page was inspired by (and copied with permission from), which in turn was created for an exhibit in the "Faculty Peep Show" on display at the Perkinson Gallery, Kirkland Fine Arts Center, Millikin University from April 11-25, 2003.