In response to my post lamenting that more legal researchers don’t seek out the help of a law librarian, Jeremy Richey asks a good question on the Advanced Electronic Legal Research Blog:
What sort of questions would be appropriate to ask? For example, would it be appropriate to call them in an attempt to find information outside my Wexis plan? What if I need to research an unfamiliar area of law and want suggestions as to good overview resources? Should I only call them if I am absolutely stumped in trying to find something? Basically, what I am trying to get at here is when will I be making good use of the librarians and when will I be annoying them?
Thank you, Jeremy, for the thoughtful question. In answer to your question – it depends. It depends on the policies of the library and the resources that they have available (both in staff and materials).
If you are at a firm/corporation that employs a law librarian, count your blessings. Firm librarians are amazing at tracking down the resources you need – sometimes even before you know that you need them! They are often very tuned into the firm’s interests and can set up alerts to monitor information affecting the firm and its clients.
If there isn’t a librarian on staff, (why isn’t there a librarian on staff?), check out a local public law library. This may be a state, court, or university law library. While the librarians there can’t offer you the level of support that a firm librarian can, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by the help that they can offer.
Here’s a sampling of what we CAN do:
– Help you track down known, but hard-to-find information or documents. Most libraries will deliver documents to you for a fee.
– Get you started in a new area of law by suggesting good overview sources
– Suggest search strategies for cost effective database searching
– Help you locate on-point journal articles, books, cases, etc. that may answer your research needs
Here’s some of what public law librarians WON’T do:
– Your research for you. Don’t ask for “everything you’ve got on …” Don’t ask us to do a complex state legislative history. Public law librarians will help you get started and maybe even teach you how, but we aren’t going to do your work for you.
What we CAN’T do:
– Interpret the law for you. You’re the attorney – that’s why you get the big bucks. And it’s not our law license on the line. But what exactly does “interpreting the law” mean – that can be a bit murky. It’s often a “I’ll know it when I see it” type rule.
Hopefully this clears things up a bit. If you still aren’t sure, give us a call. If we can’t help, we will tell you. But, chances are, we can. Don’t wait until you are completely stumped. Your time is expensive – we may be able to help you save some. And, no, you aren’t annoying us.
The Canadian Association of Law Libraries has launched its first conference blog. Look for posts by SLAW’s Michael Lines, Vancouver Law Librarian Blog’s Steve Matthews, and Connie Crosby.
The CALL conference will be held May 7-10, 2006 in Edmonton, Alberta. Although I won’t be attending the conference, reading the blog is the next best thing.
Source: Steve Matthews
Yesterday, I had a visit from fellow blogger, Compujurist.com’s Nerino Petro. Nerino is now the Practice Management Advisor for the Law Office Management Assistance program of the State Bar of Wisconsin. You might recognize him from the cover of the Feb. 2006 Wisconsin Lawyer.
We talked about ways that law librarians can add value to the practice of law. We brainstormed how Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin members can advise legal practitioners about research, technology, and other useful things that live in our brains. In return, law librarians will be awarded with a higher profile among the legal community. We can use all the help that we can get.
Marketing our selves and our services has always been a challenge for librarians. When asked, most people say that librarians are great. But, how many actually seek out our assistance when confronted with a difficult research or technology problem?
Nerino gets it. “Librarians are unrecognized and often over looked resources for lawyers and the community as a whole, ” he writes in his blog. I wonder if that has anything to do with his wife being a librarian?
Law librarians have a lot to say and a lot to teach about legal research…
By writing articles for… law-related publications, librarians can reach out beyond our own organizations and offer research guidance to a much wider audience…
Just as importantly, writing articles for legal journals and publications helps law librarians build a higher profile among the legal community, both as individual authors and as a profession.
That is a selection from an article I co-wrote with LLAW member, Carol Bannen. (Write and Reach Out: AALL Chapters Tout the Value of Law Librarians through Journal Submissions, AALL Spectrum, March 2004)
Carol and I are both active in the AALL Publishing Initiatives Caucus, whose charge is to inspire and motivate law librarians to write articles for legal publications. To that end, Carol has just created a very useful guide to Publication Resources for Law Librarians.
The guide compiles information about legal publications, such as target audience, editorial contact information, and sample articles written by law librarians (when applicable). I suspect that there are a number of law librarians who could write some really killer articles, but, unfortunately, they don’t know where to submit them. This guide should help.
A word of advice for those new to writing: start locally. There are probably a handful of small, local associations or publications who are looking for content. Once you have successfully published an article there, writing for a national publication may not seem so daunting.
The blog for this summer’s American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting in St. Louis is already up. The AALL Gateway will feature news, announcements and informational pieces about the upcoming meeting (and birthday celebration), as well as stories, tips and other items of interest for conference attendees.
AALL is recruiting “Gateway Bloggers” to report on the meeting or post an occasional article or picture. Contact James Duggan or Diane Murley for more information.
The March 2006 edition of WSLL @ Your Service is out and it’s a good one.
Heidi Yelk explores some of the electronic resources available at the Wisconsin State Law Library and Connie Von Der Heide shares the schedule of upcoming library events. It appears as though they have a very nice slate of workshops and National Library Week activities planned.
The Winter 2006 edition of the LLAW Newsletter is now available. The newsletter is a quarterly publication of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin.
Madison District 15 Alder, Larry Palm writes in his blog about plans for several Madison Public Libraries. He rounds out his post with the following:
When I walked doors in late 2004 through my central eastside neighborhoods, I did hear from a high percentage of households that taxes were too high. However, when I suggested that the library levy is roughly $40 per household (or about eleven cents a day), residents were amazed! For a year’s worth of services this seems like an incredible bargain. And it is.
There were a lot of lost souls wandering around the UW Law Library in the last 24 hours. Horror of horrors – the Law School’s computer network was completely down thanks to an accidentally severed fiber optic cable.
It’s truly amazing how reliant we are on technology. Students were forced to use print resources without the Lexis and Westlaw. Reference librarians could only rely on their memories of where things were shelved without access to our online catalog. Many a library staff member cleaned out her desk and caught up on his professional reading.
So if you wondered why you couldn’t access WisBlawg or the UW Law Library or Law School Web sites yesterday, now you know. The workers are out on Bascom Hill right now with their little white van finishing up their repairs, bless their hearts.