AALL Spectrum Blog


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.

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
1/13/2015 12:47:33 PM

What I Did On My December 9th Lunch Hour

My favorite thing to do is go to a museum.  Whether it’s fine art or historical artifacts, I’m never happier then when I’m walking into a great building devoted to the display of human endeavor and learning.  I am particularly fortunate in my location, as Washington, D.C. is home not only to the world-class Smithsonian Institution, but also to the National Gallery of Art, as well as many other fine, although admission-charging, institutions.  Not only do I live in the D.C. area, but my office is located walking distance from the Mall, home to the National Gallery and to most of the Smithsonian museums.  This means, when the weight of the world is on my shoulders (meaning, I've had one too many requests from attorneys), I can stroll a few blocks down the street at lunch time to soothe my soul and clear my head.

So imagine my delight at being able to combine my profession and my great passion and take a guided tour of the library of the National Gallery of Art!  Arranged by Andrew Martin, librarian at the National Labor Relations Board, under the auspices of the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C., a group of law librarians took a tour of the National Gallery’s library last month.  Our group met with several of the library’s staff members, including Gregory Most, who was kind enough to spend a lot of time showing us the library’s fantastic image collection.  Note that, unlike those of us in the law library world, the National Gallery is not moving from print to digital resources!  They will go on acquiring art books as long as they are around to be collected; many of them are works of art themselves.

Located in the East Building, the library is still open to visitors while much of the rest of the building is undergoing construction for the next several years.  Although most of the people who enter the library come to do research, there is also a display case in the reading room area with rotating small exhibits throughout the year that is open without an appointment.  There’s a guard at the entrance, a feature I wish I had at my library, but you can just tell him or her that you’re there to see the display and in you go.  For more information on the library, visit their website located here: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/research/library.html.

So why am I telling you about this?  Sure, it’s a nice story: law librarians venture out and make a new friend, but it’s not exactly “breaking news.”  What I got out of it was an opportunity to expand my horizons, to see how another library works, how it’s different from and similar to a law library.  It’s easy to become insular in law librarianship - there are enough of us that you can always talk to another person who does the same thing you do, and the specialized jargon is often incomprehensible to someone without a legal background.  In these times of chaos (really, “change” doesn't do the situation justice), reaching out to other librarians, to see how they do things in their library, how they handle patron requests, how they make collection development decisions, is a rich (and free!) source of new ideas.  The more connections we can make, the better off we’ll all be.  So if your local law library organization offers tours of other types of libraries - by all means, make the time and go.  If not, suggest that they start.  

Susan Ryan, 2015
Librarian, Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, Washington, DC  sryan@seyfarth.com

Posted By Susan Ryan at 1/13/2015 12:47:33 PM  0 Comments
1/2/2015 9:38:23 AM

Magna Carta: Muse & Mentor – Exhibition at the Library of Congress

One of the benefits of working in the nation’s capital is easy access to cultural treasures like the Library of Congress. Not only is it astoundingly beautiful inside and out, but it is also hosts fascinating exhibitions like the current Magna Carta: Muse & Mentor exhibition commemorating the 800th anniversary of the creation of Magna Carta.

While the centerpiece of the exhibition is the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta, one of four existing copies that date to 1215, the year of its creation, it includes much more. In addition to documents, books, letters, newspapers, judicial decisions, and images that provide an account of the initial granting of Magna Carta and its many confirmations by kings and parliament, it also explores Magna Carta’s impact on principles and protections of American law such as due process, trial by jury, and the writ of habeas corpus. One section even features Magna Carta in Culture with an array of items from commemorative stamps to Jay-Z’s recent album, Magna Carta Holy Grail.

Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta

Blackstone's Magna Carta

Commemorative Magna Carta stamps

While the standing exhibition will only be at the Library of Congress until January 19th, a traveling exhibition has been touring the country and will continue to make its way to different cities throughout 2015. Exhibition dates and locations can be found on the ABA’s website. If it happens to be coming to a city near you, I highly recommend you take the opportunity to check it out.

Sara Gras, Reference Librarian

Georgetown University Law Center

Washington, D.C.


Posted By Sara Gras at 1/2/2015 9:38:23 AM  0 Comments