Please Don't Call Me a "Lawyer Librarian"
Diane Murley, Northeastern University Law Library

I have always hated the term "lawyer librarian," especially when it's been applied to me, but I have never been able to adequately explain the reason that I find it so distasteful.

Part of my objection is to what I see as misuse of the word "lawyer." Despite alternate definitions, I think the term generally carries the connotation of one who practices law. I do not practice law. I provide reference service in a law library, I teach legal research, and I do whatever else I can to help people make use of the library's resources. I am a law librarian. Although I practiced law years ago, I am not a lawyer.

I think that calling ourselves "lawyer librarians" instead of law librarians demonstrates a kind of insecurity about our chosen profession. It sounds like we think that being a law librarian is not good enough, so we have to set ourselves above those librarians who don't have the dual degrees. I have known many fine law librarians who do not have JDs. The fact that I survived three years of law school and the bar examination process does not make me a better law librarian than any of them. And calling myself a "lawyer librarian" is unnecessarily insulting to their professionalism.

Furthermore, I don't think that the term "lawyer librarian" impresses anybody whom we are trying to impress. Students, while they occasionally appreciate the fact that we understand the ordeal law school can be, don't care about our degrees as long as we help them with their research. And certainly faculty, if impressible at all, are not impressed by anything other than good service. If the title "lawyer librarian" were more impressive than law librarian, they would call themselves "lawyer professors."

But perhaps what troubles me the most is my fear that the biggest insecurity revealed by our use of the term "lawyer librarian" is the fear that we are not good enough librarians. Are we just ex-lawyers, or perhaps recovering lawyers, who work in a law library? Why else would we need to refer to a former job in describing our current profession? I had a number of jobs before coming to librarianship, including cashier, baby sitter, and stage manager, all of which provided me with skills I use to this day. But, even when it seems more descriptive, I have never referred to myself as "baby sitter librarian."


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