As anyone who’s been to law school can tell you, just earning a J.D. doesn’t prepare you to teach. Nevertheless, most law professors have only a J.D., or at best an LL.M., when they begin their teaching careers. Few of them have any formal training in teaching, and some of them will take all the help they can get. This neediness provides libraries and librarians with opportunities to demonstrate our usefulness.
Collect and Promote Materials on Teaching
Libraries can help new and experienced law professors hone their teaching skills by identifying, purchasing, and promoting teaching-related resources. Most, if not all, academic law libraries subscribe to publications such as the Journal of Legal Education, but many professors will need more in-depth materials than articles. Some examples of non-periodical materials for purchase include the Foundation for Critical Thinking’s (www.criticalthinking.org) “Socratic Questioning” video series and books on college-level teaching such as the Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education series. You can also compile a list of free web-based sources. Newer faculty in particular may be unaware of such basic electronic resources as the Jurist (http://jurist.law.pitt.edu), the Harvard Law School Annual Examination Archive (www.law.harvard.edu/academics/registrar/exams.html), Barbara Glessner Fines’ Teaching and Learning the Law – Resources for Legal Education (www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/profiles/glesnerfines/bgf-edu.htm), or the various law professor email lists.
Once you’ve compiled a list of both library and web materials, include it in your library’s faculty handbook, put it on the law school intranet or library web page, hand it out at a regular faculty meeting, or have your library liaisons email it to their assigned faculty members. Providing this service not only helps faculty, but also increases faculty awareness of library resources in general.
Turn Faculty Liaisons into “Course” Liaisons
Many academic law libraries already assign liaisons to faculty members. A useful next step can be the designation of these liaisons as “course” liaisons. Naming a librarian as a liaison to his or her faculty members’ classes encourages faculty to think of librarians as sources of help with developing reading lists, archiving past exams for student access, and giving guest lectures on research topics. This is especially true if course liaisons take the time before the beginning of each semester to request syllabi from professors and explain the potential benefits of complying with the request: improved collection development, recommendations of relevant videos and CALI lessons, help gathering sources for course packs and web pages, and possibly even help getting copyright permissions.
If your law school uses a course management system such as Blackboard or WebCT, you may even be able to reduce the need for copyright permissions and increase use of costly library databases by linking directly from the online version of the syllabus to any reading materials that are available in your databases. Both Lexis (http://web.lexis.com/intranet/) and Westlaw (http://integrationsolutions.westlaw.com/customize/wizards/USDefault.wl) provide web-based utilities for linking to materials in their databases. Many other vendors will provide linking instructions upon request, or you can use link-building software such as the open-source application LinkMaker (http://bb-opensource.org/download/linkmaker.html). This option for providing course reading materials is extremely popular with students, who like being able to access their reading materials from home without buying a coursepack.
A course liaison is a resource not only for the faculty member, but for the faculty member’s current students. With the cooperation of the faculty, course liaisons can be listed on syllabi and course web pages as contacts for all library-related questions, especially in seminar courses. Students who might otherwise never think of consulting a reference librarian, perhaps because they don’t know what we do, will now have a specific person to seek out for help. This relationship can provide opportunities for the promotion of lesser-known library resources such as non-legal databases and (gasp!) books.
For more information on course liaisons, see Barbara Gontrum, Librarians Bridge Information Gap in Law Courses, AALL SPECTRUM, Mar. 2004, at 22.