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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. Previously, the AALL 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.

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
2/4/2015 1:00:56 PM

The February 2015 Issue of Spectrum is Available on AALLNET

The February 2015 issue of Spectrum is now available. We hope you enjoy this first issue of 2015, and please post any feedback you may have in the comments section below!

Posted By Ashley St. John at 2/4/2015 1:00:56 PM  0 Comments
TOPICS: spectrum
1/21/2015 1:28:56 PM

Urban Public Law Library Programming

Urban Public Law Library Programming


Meldon D. Jenkins-Jones

            New in my law librarian career, I felt somewhat intimidated. As the sole librarian at the Richmond Public Law Library—the library of the City of Richmond Circuit Court—I was amazed at the substantive research carried on at my library. My public law library patrons have cases pending in the U. S. Supreme Court, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. District Court and local Virginia courts. What surprised me is the fact that almost none of these patrons are attorneys! Most are self-represented litigants. Many of these patrons never went to college, and some barely know how to read. Besides the daily one-on-one, step by step assistance—usually starting with the “You need an attorney and here’s a list of numbers you can call for legal assistance” speech and continuing to Black’s Law Dictionary and the indexes to the state and federal statutes—my solution to this often frustrating (and at times, frightening) situation became programming!

            Teaming up with members of the local bar, I started with free, basic legal informational classes for the general public: How to Start a Business; Estate Planning 101; Workers Compensation; and Teen Legal Empowerment. Collectively, I called them “Know Your Rights! Community Law Series”. We utilized the marketing resources of the Richmond Public Library, in whose building the law library is located. We’ve scheduled the classes at various times, and they have been well attended. This year we are planning to add additional attorneys and new sessions on Employment Law, the U. S. Constitution, and the legal rights of the homeless. We are also coordinating scheduling and marketing with the Main Library’s classes for those seeking grant funding of non-profits using the Foundation Center’s materials.

               Last year I taught my first research class for the general public which was popular with many of our law library patrons. It included a brief history of the American legal system, the organizational structure of the federal and state court systems, and how legal cases are structured. Handouts provided links to legal websites. I ended with a tour of the law library.

            This year my expanded Introduction to Legal Research Class has 16 people signed up so far, and I anticipate a few drop-ins as well. In addition to this general orientation to legal research, this Spring Thomson Reuters has agreed to send a trainer to teach using WestlawNextTM for computerized legal research on the two law library computers. There will be two classes, one for the general public and one for attorneys. Attending lawyers will have the option of receiving one Continuing Legal Education credit for their participation.

            My next programming idea is Legal Career Day to encourage local high school and college students to consider careers in law librarianship as well as other areas of the law. Now I feel that our public law library is providing valuable resources to all members of the Richmond community.   

Posted By Meldon Jenkins-Jones at 1/21/2015 1:28:56 PM  0 Comments