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The AALL Spectrum® Blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. The previous Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
2/25/2014 3:30:40 PM

Book Review: Law Librarianship in the Digital Age

Law Librarianship in the Digital Age, edited by Ellyssa Kroski, 2014, Scarecrow Press, 514 pages.  $125.00 (hardback); $75.00 (paperback); 74.99 (e-book).

I am very excited about this book, which I was asked to review specifically from a law firm librarian’s perspective.  Law Librarianship in the Digital Age pulls into one place introductory information on almost every topic about which a law firm librarian might be curious.  The authors, many of whom are considered thought leaders in the field, work in or have experience in every sector of legal librarianship.  In some chapters, private law librarians team up with academic or government or subscription librarians to round out a topic’s breadth and depth.  Where a topic is mainly of interest to non-law-firm librarians, the authors and editors were careful to include a section or sections discussing its application to law firms. 

Just a few of the many chapters in this book that may be of particular interest to law librarians in law firms include:  Law Librarianship 2.0 (by Jennifer Wertkin), Law Library Management (by Camille Broussard, Ralph Monaco and Gitelle Seer), Copyright in the Digital Age (by Kyle K. Courtney), The Cloud (by Roger Vicarius Skalbeck), Electronic Resources Management and User Authentication (by Catherine M. Monte), Competitive Intelligence (by Jennifer Alexander and M.T. Hennessey), and Getting the Most from Major Associations, Publications, and Conferences (by Holly M. Riccio).  The introduction by Jean O’Grady sets the stage for this collection of works addressing the mind-boggling number of roles we now fill.  She states, …the externals of librarianship have been wildly transformed.  But the core mission of the profession—matching people to knowledge—remains intact and drives a vision of the future….(p. xi).

In addition to pulling together introductory information on current topics, Law Librarianship in the Digital Age has helpful bibliographies at the end of every chapter for law firm librarians who wish to delve further into a topic, but who may not have time to collect disparate resources.  Topics are also treated thoroughly.  For example, the chapter by Jennifer Alexander and M. T. Hennessey on competitive intelligence (CI) includes both an overview of what CI is and is not, and in-depth treatment of the topic.  Areas covered in depth include:  The CI research process; CI tools and techniques (e.g., KITS, SWOT, PEST & PESTLE, and Porter’s Five Forces); and key CI tools such as company reports.  The section covering staffing a CI function discusses the advantages and disadvantages of staffing a CI research position with a law librarian.  Advantages include the librarian’s training in online databases and reference work; disadvantages include the potential absence of data analysis and packaging in the librarian’s experience.

The chapter on web-scale discovery and federated search by Valeri Craigle presents a fair-minded discussion regarding the benefits and drawbacks of implementing web-scale discovery platforms.  Though geared primarily for an academic audience, I found Ms. Craigle’s chapter food for thought regarding tailoring the research experience to a user’s needs, and recognizing when more is less, and less is more.  In other words, some users require us to assist them in narrowing their results, while others require a broadening of their results.  This is true regardless of the type of research a patron is conducting or the format the patron is using (i.e., print or electronic), and is one of our greatest challenges, particularly now due to the overwhelming amount of available information.

I read through many other chapters in this book and found that the quality of editing throughout was superb, the bibliographies were thoughtfully constructed, the book was extremely timely, and the writing and organization were clear and helpful.  The table of contents is thorough and serves as a handy checklist of our issues.  The only flaw I found in the book was that the spine on my paperback review copy broke in a week.  However, this may be more a testament to the book’s usefulness than to its production quality.  Well-written and comprehensive in coverage, the book is engaging for both the merely curious and those in need of step-by-step instructions for implementing a change in their library’s services or infrastructure.  I highly recommend Law Librarianship in the Digital Age for any law librarian.

© Heidi W. Heller, 2014.  Director, Research & Information Resources, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, hheller@schnader.com.

Posted By Heidi Heller at 2/25/2014 3:30:40 PM  0 Comments