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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.
2/6/2015 11:38:58 AM

What Makes a Special Library, Special?

I am currently co-teaching the “Special Libraries” class offered by the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) and the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO) in the Information Science and Learning Technologies (SISLT) program this spring semester. Special Libraries a hybrid class of face-to-face class meetings, online discussion via Blackboard and outside classes or site visits scheduled at a variety of special libraries throughout the state of Nebraska.

A unique aspect of this class is the opportunity to meet, learn from, and “talk shop” with librarians who work in special libraries. The site visits create awareness among the students to library opportunities beyond public and academic libraries, and can be the “ah-hah” moment for some students who are looking to merge previous work experience or education with librarianship. This spring semester my class and I will visit a number of special libraries including; corrections, law, medical, newspaper, engineering, music, tribal, special collections within two large academic libraries, community college libraries, and two different genealogy collections. So the big question is: what makes a special library – special?

The second big discussion, not so much a question is; what competencies should librarians at special libraries have? For this class, we use the Competencies for Information Professionals of the 21st Century from the Special Libraries Association (SLA) https://www.sla.org/about-sla/competencies/ The competencies are divided into three broad categories: Professional Competencies, Personal Competencies, and Core Competencies; also included in the document are numerous Applied Scenarios for each category to illustrate how the competency is demonstrated in the work environment.

Each time I teach Special Libraries, I am asked how the competencies for law librarians compare to other special library competencies such as those for music librarians or archival librarians. In a nutshell: we all work in a library environment, assist patrons with information needs and oversee library collections. Each type of special library association has an expectation of what specific skills and competencies are necessary for librarians to best serve their patrons. There is overlap among the lists of competencies for information professionals or librarians; visit the American Library Association (ALA) website to review the list of competencies by professional organizations, including the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL); http://www.ala.org/educationcareers/careers/corecomp/corecompspecial/knowledgecompetencies

My goal by May 1st, the last Special Libraries class for the semester, is that the students have visited and interacted with different types of libraries. These visits should create an appreciation for the role of special libraries in education, and the community the library serves. It should introduce the students to librarians who passionately promote and communicate the importance of information - that happens to be housed in a special library collection. Most importantly, I hope the students see an opportunity to change the world with the information shared by our special libraries.

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Marcia L. Dority Baker is the Access Services Librarian at the University of Nebraska College of Law, Schmid Law Library in Lincoln, Nebraska. She can be reached via email; mdoritybaker@unl.edu

Posted By Marcia Dority Baker at 2/6/2015 11:38:58 AM  0 Comments
10/23/2014 2:26:48 PM

Librarian Is Just a Keyword

I’ve been reviewing my librarian responsibilities in preparation of my tenure and promotion file. Trying to explain what I do as the Access Services Librarian can be a challenge as I work in the Circulation, Reference and Information Technology (IT) departments. To visualize my activities for 2013-2014 Academic Year, I turned my annual report into a Wordle infograph or word cloud.

A few things jump out when looking at my job from this perspective. First, the “law” keyword or portion of being a law librarian is the biggest component of my position. This was a bit of a surprise to me as I’ve often thought myself a librarian, not a law librarian. The second large portion of my job is the “library” keyword, as my access services job title suggests. Or maybe, I should stop looking at all the departments I have responsibilities in and instead focus on the big picture – the Library. This is a good reminder that my job is to enhance the services provided by Schmid Law Library and that I’m one staff among a dozen that work towards this mission. Finally, an annual report should celebrate accomplishments. When I read the many keywords in this word cloud, I see the cool things I did this past year as a professional librarian and with colleagues in the field. This list includes the presentations and programs I gave; the scholarship that was published, projects completed, the conferences attended and the many people helped when using my library.

The big picture view is Schmid Law Library providing excellent service to our faculty members and students by supporting the teaching and research mission of the University of Nebraska College of Law. My contribution to that goal is helping connect people to the information they need. An annual report is more than a document recording service, outreach, teaching and scholarship. An annual report is a benchmark for what we do as librarians, demonstrating how our law libraries provide relevant support to the mission of the organization.







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Marcia L. Dority Baker is the Access Services Librarian at the University of Nebraska College of Law, Schmid Law Library in Lincoln, Nebraska. She can be reached via email; mdoritybaker@unl.edu 

Posted By Marcia Dority Baker at 10/23/2014 2:26:48 PM  0 Comments
9/29/2014 1:21:43 PM

So You're A Law Librarian...

“What do you do exactly?”

It’s a question I hear pretty regularly - every time I see a new doctor or talk to other parents at my daughter’s school functions. Many of you probably do too. In all fairness, it’s probably not a profession non-lawyers think much about, and I certainly don’t mind being asked. The trouble comes when I try to formulate an answer.

“Well, this month I taught a lot of legal research classes…” I begin.

“Oh, so you’re a teacher?”

Oops. “Um, no, not exactly...sometimes…”

But yes, I suppose we are - maybe not always in the traditional sense, unless we teach as faculty members. Still, many law librarians are teachers, every day, both in law schools and in private libraries. We help our patrons gain knowledge of legal materials, in print and online. We teach them how to be better researchers - how to ask the questions that get them to the answers they want and need.

We are also therapists, who listen sympathetically as students and young associates confess their confusion and bemoan the wasted hours, and reassure them that they aren’t alone in their struggles. We are researchers, delving into the farthest reaches of the Internet or the dustiest shelves, looking for everything from historical codes to non-binding decisions of immigration court judges. We are inventors, using new technologies to develop tools to guide and enhance the legal research process. We are critics, using our knowledge and experience to build collections of materials that anticipate the needs of our patrons without wasting dwindling budgets.

That’s just what I do as an academic reference librarian, without even touching on the many other roles librarians play within the wide variety of institutions and positions we hold. Sometimes it’s just easier to say, “Oh, it’s just a little of this and a little of that.”

Sara Gras

Reference Librarian

Georgetown University Law Center Library

Washington, DC

syg7@law.georgetown.edu

Posted By Sara Gras at 9/29/2014 1:21:43 PM  0 Comments