National Jurist - November 2012 - (Page 18)
What makes a
great law library today?
Technology has changed the law library and placed a premium on good librarians — making the library ‘the scholastic center of the law school.
By Christina thomas Ten years ago, a law library was measured first and foremost by the size of its catalog — the number of volumes, titles and serial subscriptions. But the Internet has changed the game, making the librarian a far more important role at a law school. “In a lot of ways, libraries are reinventing themselves,” said James Duggan, law library director and associate professor of law at Tulane University Law School. “We’re no longer just repositories of books. We like to see ourselves as the scholastic center of the law school.” Librarians today offer far more student services than they did 10 years ago, and that has made the role of the librarian even more vital to the law school experience. “What’s still important is the one-onone service that librarians and library staff provide to students,” Duggan said. “With the advancement of technology, there’s so much of it out there, you still need a librarian to intercede and make sense of it all to learn how to be the most efficient researcher you can be.” Based on the changes of the past 10 years, law libraries are now measured first and foremost by the service level provided to students. And the best way to measure that is by looking at the ratio of librarians to students. Using data from the American Bar Association, The National Jurist crunched the numbers to determine the top law school libraries. University of Hawaii at Manoa-William S. Richardson School of Law topped the list with one librarian for every 28 students. The next closest was Liberty University School of Law, with one librarian for every 29 students. The Virginia school has 10 librarians. Rhea Ballard-Thrower, the director of the law library at Howard University School of Law, said it is important for schools to have a good ratio of librarians to students. Howard University has one librarian for every 36 students. She said schools with better ratios can help students better learn valuable research skills, which will help them as attorneys getting jobs. The slow economy has led fewer firms to employ librarians, meaning young attorneys need to do the research themselves. She said it’s more important than ever to mentor students on how to be efficient in gathering research. Ronald Wheeler, director of the Dorraine Zief Law Library at the University of San Francisco School of Law, like many librarians, teaches a research course in addition to helping students in between classes. “Librarians used to have this limited role of sitting at a reference desk waiting for people to come ask them questions,” Wheeler said. “But [today] they have a far greater role in the enterprise of legal education. Most law school librarians teach four-credit legal research courses, and that skill is an outcome law students benefit from.” Wheeler said librarians are the bellwethers for what makes a good library. As for other services, law school libraries are constantly thinking of new ways to provide help. But the library isn’t just about finding resources efficiently. It is also meant to be an inviting environment for students to learn. “We want people to come to us and be active here — not just to study, but to use our resources, and we reach out in a lot of ways, after classes, with products we provide,” Duggan said. Ballard-Thrower said libraries are also using social media to connect with users. “We Tweet, we Facebook,” she said. “The idea that someone would post something on Twitter, and we would Tweet back — that’s one that I would have never imagined five years ago.” Also, Ballard-Thrower said there is a strong emphasis on health and wellness, and several members of her staff are advisers to the school’s health and wellness student committee.
“What’s still important is the one-on-one service that librarians and library staff provide to students.”
18 The NaTioNal JurisT
—James Duggan, law library director and a ssociate professor of law at Tulane University Law School.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of National Jurist - November 2012
National Jurist - November 2012
Average starting salary drops at largest firms
Enrollment down at law schools
The good and the bad
Employment Insider: Best firms for quality of life and diversity
Book Excerpt: “Don’t Go to Law School (Unless)”
Best moot court programs
Villanova and Illinois: Moving past scandals
Schools with most librarians per student
Study Advice: How to prepare for exams
Most diverse law schools
Diversity under attack
Best law schools in the world
The American LL.M. advantage
Guide to LL.M. programs
Employment Advice: Writing convincing cover letters
National Jurist - November 2012