Law Library Journal Review – Rachel Becker
Observations of Law Librarianship
Like many professions over the past several years librarianship has changed and shifted to keep up with increasing technological demands. Law librarians are facing tighter budgets, increased demand from attorneys and pro se litigants, and pressures to stay relevant while many special libraries are dwindling. Unlike many library journals, which focus on the negative, the Law Library Journal fully embraces the challenges and offers real solutions for change. From collection development suggestions and book reviews to professional development resources this publication connects members of the law library community. The most valuable content comes from real law librarians working in the field who have a game plan of how to keep their profession relevant.
The winter 2012 issue is devoted to a tribute of Morris L. Cohen who is considered the best law librarian of all time. His work revolutionized the profession through his legal guides and bibliographical work on American Law. He won the Joseph L. Andrews Bibliographical Award twice (the only person to do so) and is best known for BEAL (Bibliography of American Law). Through his career Mr. Cohen was a law librarian at Harvard and Yale where the online library catalog is named MORRIS in his honor.
The spring 2012 contains an article “Restoring The Public Library Ethos” which stresses the importance of libraries and librarians exercising their fair use rights under United States copyright laws. A major trend in all libraries and especially in law libraries is creating the greatest access to materials as possible. With the shift toward online only materials and the subsequent expensive licensing agreements the public’s access is becoming increasingly constricted. According to the author libraries have the right to reproduce copy written material under certain circumstances. Often journals would be available in print and online but an increasing number are online only. This creates an access issue for people who cannot afford a computer or do not possess the computer skills necessary to navigate a database.
Along with collection development another key area for law librarians is instruction. Many universities are shifting their law school curriculum to focus on practical skills. Legal research is a complicated skill to learn and one which law librarians are already proficient. Academic law libraries are seeing their budgets being slashed in part due to the mistaken idea that all legal materials are easily searchable online. As anyone who has attempted legal research knows this simply not true. Legal databases are a world unto themselves and having an information professional who knows the ins and outs is important. This is why law school librarians are increasing teaching courses in legal research. The Law Library Journal has started running an article each issue on how to improve teaching skills and what resources are available.
Ethics are extremely important in libraries and especially so in law libraries. The summer 2012 issue offers an article on ethical issues not taught in library school and important to the profession. The journal stresses that it is impossible to know exactly what to do in every situation but having a basic understanding of what is expected will help. Through being a member of a professional organization a librarian can have guidance and support when ethical issues arise.
More than anything else the Law Library Journal and its parent organization the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) strives to form an opinion of current challenges to the law librarian community. By offering solutions the organization is able to remain relevant and continue to provide the best services possible to their patrons. Keeping legal materials readily available and accessible to the widest amount of people possible is the objective of the AALL. Which an increasing amount of pro se litigants seeking legal information law librarians are facing more demand than ever before. Not only do the library materials need to be accessible they also need to be understandable to the general population. The Library Journal helps law librarians provide the best service possible and definitely a worthwhile read.