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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.
4/24/2015 4:45:00 PM

Law Library Interns: How to Make Them Work for You


For aspiring law librarians, the most useful aspects of library school are often those that afford the opportunity for practical experience. In most instances, these opportunities take the form of internships. Sometimes done for pay, sometimes done for academic credit, and sometimes done just for the experience itself, internship opportunities allow aspiring law librarians to get a better sense of what sort of work they hope to do post-graduation. They also act as an excellent means of differentiating themselves from their job-seeking peers.

Those same internships create new opportunities for the law libraries themselves. Interns can benefit law libraries in a number of ways - they can bring a fresh perspective to a project that has stalled; they may be more familiar with new and developing technologies; they may have a skillset that is helpful but not duplicated on the full-time staff (e.g., foreign-language skills, a background in a particular legal practice area).

Done properly, both intern and law library can benefit greatly from these opportunities, either as a one-time occurrence, or as the beginning of an established intern program.  But doing it properly and avoiding common problems does take some planning, effort, and foresight.

This summer at AALL, this topic will be explored in far more depth as part of the Law Library Interns: How to Make Them Work for You program. Representatives from academic (Kelly Leong), government (Peter Roudik), and court (Daniel Cordova) law libraries will discuss their own successful internship programs and the growing pains they experienced making those programs succeed – including the identification of the most-common pitfalls of such programs.

I’ll be moderating and offering my own perspective as someone who had the chance to complete invaluable internships at the Peking University School of Transnational Law, Legal Research Center and the National Indian Law Library.

As a bit of a preview, here are some issues worth considering:

  • Do you have projects or assignments to work on that are suitable for your intern? 
If, for example, the intern knows that she only wants to work in technical services and has a background to support that, having her sit reference is less likely to result in a worthwhile experience for anyone involved. If she has a substantive expertise in an area of law, working on a cataloging project in that area or preparing a research guide would allow her to showcase that expertise while also resulting in high quality work that benefits the law library.

  • Can your existing staff provide guidance and the required supervision to the intern?
As tempting as it can be to think of interns as “warm bodies” to fill existing gaps in coverage, you should still keep in mind that the legal guidelines regarding internships and work, both at the federal and state levels. The U.S. Department of Labor has created a useful Fact Sheet with good basic information – Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act – including the six criteria that apply.

  • Have you had the opportunity to have a nuts-and-bolts talk with your intern before the internship begins?
Making sure the institution clearly communicates about things like deadlines, attire, and scheduling/punctuality are very important: good communication can go a long way to eliminating issues before they become problems. In some cases, established internship programs have competitive selection processes, but even less formal opportunities should use a phone call and email documentation to make sure the institution and the intern are on the same page.

These issues and others will be discussed in more depth, with examples from the speakers on how their own programs deal with them.

What issues have you come across, either from the perspective of the institution or as an intern yourself? Please share and discuss in the comments below!

Finally, if your institution is at all interested in possibly hosting an international internship or exchange, I encourage you to complete the Internships & International Exchanges Survey. It can be a very useful way to facilitate internships and exchanges across borders. International internships and exchanges can bring with them an additional layer of logistical challenges (e.g., passports, visas, international flights) but they can also be the most rewarding. Also, if you’ve actually completed an international internship or exchange and would be willing to write it up briefly for our website or a newsletter, the FCIL-SIS Internships & International Exchanges program would love to hear from you!

Posted By R. Martin Witt at 4/24/2015 4:45:00 PM  0 Comments
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