Special Interest Section
|From the Chair|
Public librarians face a dilemma more often than law librarians: are we here to give patrons what they want or what they need? It is a dilemma that comes from the strain in our profession between the sometimes conflicting ideals of encouraging the free flow of thought and the preservation of cultural riches. Public libraries have largely followed the give-them-what-they-want path, good democratic institutions that they are, which is why you see lots of videos at your nearest branch and not too many Latin grammars.
I think technical services librarians in legal settings have a similar dilemma, although in this case our "patrons" are often our administrators and public services colleagues. They may "want" quick and cheap cataloging, maintenance-free package plans, and a bogus classification number so that those old green books can stay in the north reading room where they’ve always been; but what they "need" are accurate and complete cataloging records with authoritative headings, acquisitions procedures that ensure adherence to the library’s collection policy, and a commitment to a coherent set of standards that make the library’s organization a truly long-term investment. Many of us are lucky enough to work with non-technical services librarians who understand and support our view of the law library’s needs. Those who aren’t so fortunate should be able to articulate the necessity for basic principles underlying technical services work. It is the goal of the Technical Services Special Interest Section to help define and support those basic principles through the ongoing education of our membership, participation in other nationallevel organizations with technical services interests, and by providing a network of helpful colleagues.
If I can push the analogy one more time, I would suggest that AALL faces a similar want/need dilemma. There may be a perception that the majority of AALL members do not want substantive technical services programs offered at the annual meetings. But the fact is AALL needs those kinds of programs. A well-informed and enthusiastic cadre of technical services librarians will help to keep the organization focused on its raison d’etre: the support of law libraries. It is up to us to make sure our parent organization understands the necessity of supporting technical services work as part of its effort to uphold the place of law libraries in our culture.
In all of these cases an overscrupulous desire to give people what they want at the expense of what they need will in the end give them neither. Just as good public librarians never abandon their duty to give their patrons the opportunity to enrich their intellectual lives, so we should never neglect our duty to inform of and advocate for the technical services needs within law libraries. How we go about doing that is a matter for discussion and even disagreement. Is it time for us to make a radical departure from past practices? Should we try to operate within the traditional bounds of the SIS structure?
As with most dilemmas, the best we can do at times is to work with a compromise that may not make anyone immediately happy. In the near term, we do have good news from our parent organization. The general dissatisfaction expressed by TS librarians with the offerings of the Anaheim meeting has been noted, and changes for the next annual meeting have already been put into place. There should be ample time for TS-SIS committees to meet, for roundtables to be held, and for business to get done. There should also be a much better opportunity for Technical Services librarians to attend relevant educational programs. A Technical Services track has been introduced for the 1999 Washington, D.C. meeting, and that would seem to indicate a willingness by the organization to take our needs seriously. At this writing, we are about to submit one workshop proposal and 11 program proposals for the Washington meeting. With this much raw material (most of it very good) we should be building toward a great meeting in 1999. I would like to thank everyone involved in getting these proposals ready, particularly those who submitted them, and, most particularly, Regina Wallen of Stanford who put many of the proposals into proper form, and who has proven again what a valuable member of the TS-SIS she is.
I would also like to extend a welcome and a note of thanks to our newly elected officers. Janet McKinney is the Vice Chair/Chair Elect, Linda Tesar is the Secretary/Treasurer, and JoAnn Hounshell is the new Member-at-Large. Their willingness to serve and their already-proven enthusiasm promise much for our future. As for the past, we all owe a debt of gratitude to those officers who have served us so well: Leonette Williams, our Immediate Past Chair; Carole Hinchcliff, our Secretary/Treasurer for the past two years; and Betty Roeske, Member-at-Large for the past two years. Those of us getting underway in our new terms look to them for examples of service to the legal technical services community.
Notre Dame University