Professional Publications: Learning about the Literature of the Profession

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By Kumar Percy, Ted Potter and Miriam Murphy

In an effort to introduce newer academic law librarians to the literature of the profession and to give them a head start toward successfully publishing an article, the 2000-2001 ALL-SIS CONALL committee spent some time talking with editors of law library publications. This article is a short summary of what we learned.


An Overview of the Publications

There are several different types of law library publications, each with its own audience and level of scholarship.


General Interest Publications

  • The Law Library Journal is the official journal of AALL. It focuses on scholarly articles about legal issues and law librarianship. It also publishes bibliographies, pathfinders, and essays of interest to law librarians. Articles are written in a formal style with citations. Frank Houdek is currently the editor. For more information see the LLJ Website:  <http://www.aallnet.org/products/pub_journal.asp>.

  • Legal Reference Services Quarterly is another scholarly journal devoted to the profession. While LRSQ focuses on issues of interest to working reference librarians, it also publishes bibliographies, pathfinders and essays. The articles are written in a formal style with citations. Michael Chiorazzi is currently the editor. For more information see the LRSQ Website:  <http://www.haworthpressinc.com/store/product.asp?sku=J113>.

  • Legal Information Alert is a professional newsletter that focuses on current issues of interest to anyone regularly conducting legal research. In each issue the publication prints a feature article on new research techniques. It also prints book reviews, product reviews, industry news, reports from trade shows and other current awareness tips for law librarians. The publication pays for feature articles. Donna Tuke Heroy is the publisher and current editor-in-chief. For more information see the newsletter's Website:  <http://www.alertpub.com/vitstat_lia.html>.

  • Perspectives:  Teaching Legal Research and Writing. Perspectives is an aptly named newsletter that focuses on issues related to teaching lawyers or law students the skills needed for legal research and writing. The articles are written in an informal style. Mary Hotckiss is the current editor. For more information see the Perspectives Website:  <http://www.westgroup.com/customerservice/newsletters/perspectives/>.

  • AALL Spectrum is the newsmagazine for AALL. It focuses on current news of the profession, as well as on short substantive articles of interest to law librarians. Articles are informal, written without citations and often include photographs. Paul Healey is the current Editorial Director. For more information see the AALL Spectrum Website:  <http://www.aallnet.org/products/pub_spectrum.asp>.

  • LLRX.com is a national Web journal that pays for articles on legal research and legal practice. It is dedicated to current legal research information. It focuses on Internet-based legal research and technology related issues. The journal includes guides for legal research, especially foreign and international law, articles about information policy, product reviews and other news of interest to law librarians. Sabrina Pacifici and Cindy Chick are co-publishers and co-editors. For more information see the journal:  http://www.llrx.com.

Subject-specific Publications: Special Interest Section Newsletters

  • AALL has established 13 Special Interest Sections, each devoted to a specific aspect of law librarianship. Each SIS publishes a newsletter with short practical articles, including program summaries. They are also often open to pieces that are more theoretical. For more information about each of the Special Interest Sections see http://www.aallnet.org/sis/. Additionally, each SIS Website can be found through the AALLNet SIS index: <http://www.aallnet.org/public/sis.asp>.

Local and Regional Publications

  • AALL has also sponsored 31 local and regional chapters. Most publish newsletters, with short practical articles related to legal and library issues of that region. Like SIS newsletters, these publications are often also open to longer theoretical pieces. For more information about AALL chapters see the AALLNet Chapter index:  <http://www.aallnet.org/public/chapters.asp>.

Competitions

  • The AALL Call for Papers Award is not a publication but a competition to recognize law librarians who write scholarly papers. The winners of the competition receive a cash prize and earn the opportunity to present the paper during an AALL annual meeting. The winning papers are also forwarded to the editor of Law Library Journal for publication consideration. For more information about the competition see the Award's Website: <http://www.aallnet.org/about/award_call_for_papers.asp>.

Suggestions from the Editors

The most common question from newer law librarians is how to pick a topic. Frank Houdek of LLJ advises authors to read as much professional literature as possible. This may be the best way to learn about all of the new issues in law librarianship and see examples of good writing.

Editors also suggest that newer librarians start their publishing career by submitting short pieces to newsletters, especially SIS and chapter publications. Some recommended that librarians start by writing conference reviews, product reviews, book reviews, or research guides.

Regardless of the topic, Donna Tuke Heroy of Legal Information Alert warns all prospective authors that it is very important to submit articles on time, especially reviews. Submitting reviews before a deadline is a very good way to keep your editor happy.

Another suggestion for newer librarians is to publish short news pieces during the process of writing a large research article. For example, a newsletter might publish a short overview of an ongoing research project. The feedback from the shorter piece would help the author publish the final article in a scholarly publication.

It is also worthwhile to consider the relative merits of print and electronic publications. Both formats offer distinct advantages and pose unique difficulties. Many people still believe that printed journals are more prestigious and trustworthy than Web-based publications. However, some electronic journals have gained the reputation for publishing quality articles. Electronic journals are also usually able to publish articles much more quickly than print resources.

Each of the editors was interested in talking to newer law librarians and helping them pick topics and refine article ideas. The first step is to start reading the literature. The next step is to contact an editor.