ARCHIVED: Future of Law Libraries in the Digital Age Scenario #6: Academic - Redefining the Library as Multi-Faceted Partner

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(November, 2001)


In order for the academic law library to be a driving force within the law school and the university community, it must engage in strategic partnerships, with the parent institution and with the academic community. In this model the library is fully integrated in the life of the law school and actively seeks partnerships across campus.

It is already a trend for academic law library directors to play a major role in the integration of technology in the law school. This successful partnership model can be expanded to other areas of service, teaching, and research to further the mission of the law school.

  • The partnering model recognizes redefined relationships with students, faculty, and administration
  • Librarians are in the classroom
  • Librarians contribute to curriculum development
  • Librarians collaborate more closely with faculty to enable teaching, scholarship and service in the digital world
  • Librarians collaborate more closely with legal research and writing programs
  • The library plays a key role in distance education and the satellite campus
  • The academic law library is a publisher
  • The academic law library partners with other library types


The fully integrated academic law library is the heart of the law school, providing facilities, resources and services to support the educational process.

  • The physical space of the library will not look significantly different in the short-term, with the exception of greater numbers of computer terminals for walk-up use, outlets or wireless capacity for personal laptop use, and scanners for converting microform and print materials. In the longer term we will see redesign of space to facilitate collaborative projects as well as emerging technologies.
  • Librarians will assume a variety of traditional and new roles, in the information technology arena (desktop, classroom, campuswide resources, remote access), in the classroom (information literacy skills training, bibliographic instruction in substantive and skills courses, legal research and writing instruction), in law school administration, in web and digital publishing, and as a visiting librarian in firm and court settings.
  • Law schools and law libraries will work with the ABA to revise the Standards for Approval of Law Schools and Interpretations to reflect the library's integral role in the legal education process and to suggest some qualitative measures of evaluation. For example, to recognize the greater partnership role, we might propose new interpretations to be added under Standard 601(a) (General Provisions) and Standard 605 (Services).

Implications/strategies for library areas

  • Facilities - This model includes the need for space devoted to non-traditional library roles - less stack space for print resources and more computer workstations; expanded use of group study rooms and seminar rooms within the library to facilitate collaboration among students, faculty and librarians; electronic classrooms; space for career services consultation; space for clinic services; rooms equipped with multi-media for skills training, simulation exercises, etc.; areas where "roving" librarians can mix with students who are seeking information or doing research; technology that will support electronic reference chat rooms and shared viewing of computer screens; flexible space that can be adapted to new roles and functions as they evolve.
  • Collections/content - The percentage of non-print resources in the overall collection will increase as more resources are available in electronic form and libraries begin to respond by weeding print collections. Libraries will begin to collect more aggressively in other media, such as instructional media and digitized collections. Librarians will work directly with faculty to provide advice on electronic content that will support course web pages. Librarians will work with the law school's journals, research centers, and other units on digital publishing and archiving.
  • Staffing - This model will include a wide variety of professional and non-professional staff. Some will be law- or library-trained, but some will have training in other academic disciplines or professions. Educational backgrounds in computer science, adult learning, instructional technology, and publishing, for example, will facilitate the more collaborative role of librarians in the teaching, research, administrative and publishing functions of the law school. Law schools will develop more programs of research leaves for librarians that that a librarian might undertake a cooperative project with an outside organization. For example, a librarian might work with a state agency to develop a legal information system or with a legal publisher to design and test new products and systems for providing legal resources. Such redefined staff roles will necessitate changes in rank and status for librarians and non-librarians.
  • Services - The more the library partners within the law school and across campus, the more new services will be expected. These might include electronic delivery of information to faculty within and outside the law school, assistance with instructional media, delivery of career services resources, development of institutional and instructional web pages, electronic publishing, and training students in information literacy skills.
  • Training - Library staff will be required to complete regular courses in technology instruction and database training in order to take advantage of new products and technologies, developments in web-based instruction, and opportunities for service delivery and collection building.
  • Budget - While all of the above will require more money, partnerships should assume some sharing of costs across law school and university departments. Budget realities will dictate less duplication of formats and a shift of resources away from print. Increases will be needed in training and professional development budgets. Major funding will be required for renovation of facilities.

SWOT Analysis


  • Library staff play a pivotal role in the legal education process with both students and faculty
  • Library staff capitalize on knowledge in related areas, such as technology and publishing
  • Library's strong service ethic serves as a model for other law school units


  • Resistance from library staff to changing roles and new expectations
  • Difficulty of changing image of the library and breaking through the boundaries of traditional library functions; practical issues of integrating new roles


  • Create the future of the library instead of reacting to external developments
  • Become a vital and more visible part of the legal education process


  • Resistance on the part of the faculty
  • Resistance from other law school departments