ARCHIVED: Future of Law Libraries in the Digital Age - Scenarios

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(November, 2001)

In the current AALL strategic plan, "Leadership for the 21st Century: New Realities, Changing Roles" the Association identified the changing role of law librarians within the first strategic direction. Outcome 1A of the plan states that "law librarians will determine the evolution of virtual and physical law libraries."

In response to this objective, in March 2001 AALL President Bob Oakley appointed the "Special Committee on the Future of Law Libraries in the Digital Age." The Committee is charged with considering the implications of electronic publishing for the future of law libraries, including those serving law firms and corporations; federal and state courts and agencies; and law schools.

Over the course of the past year, members of the Futures Committee have worked to complete a variety of tasks:

  • Researched and prepared "Trends Briefings" identifying seven significant trends external to libraries that are shaping the face and the future of law libraries
  • Completed a survey of many groups to solicit input and determine what others are doing to plan for the future:
    • Information technology and space planning experts
    • Legal publishers
    • Law related organizations such as the American Bar Association and the National Center for State Courts
    • Library associations (ALA, SLA, ARL, etc.)
    • Colleagues
  • Drafted written impact analyses for the three primary types of law libraries, each examining the evolving impact of seven trends external to law libraries and six components of a law libraries' operation: physical plant, content, staffing, services, training and budget.

Gleaned from all these documents, a variety of possible scenarios are in draft form - scenarios that will provide a glimpse of the future law library. The range of possible scenarios is not mutually exclusive; that is, any one library might assume roles described in several of the scenarios.

So, what exactly is a "scenario" anyway? The committee's charge includes preparation of a final report "examining the issues and outlining different scenarios or models to describe the law library of the future." Given the wide range of law libraries operating in today's world, it is indeed difficult to visualize and describe a model of the future law library -- yet this is what the Committee has done. Brief descriptions of 16 possible scenarios, each articulating our vision of a future law library, including the facility, the collections, staffing, services offered, training and implications for that library's budget have been drafted. A dictionary definition describes a scenario as a "sequence of events, especially when imagined; an account or synopsis of a possible course of action or events" and that is just what you'll discover below!

Monday, May 13, 2002 - Creating Virtual Law Libraries in the Digital Age

Glimpse a snapshot of the virtual law library by reading these scenarios:

Scenario #1: The Virtual Academic Law Library 
Scenario #2: National and Regional Repositories/Virtual Resources   
Scenario #3: Private - Law Firm Electronic Library  
Scenario #4: State, Court & County - Totally Electronic Public Law Library 

Tuesday, May 14, 2002 - Redefining Traditional Roles of a Law Library in the Digital Age

For a look at how our roles might be different in the digital age, read these scenarios:

Scenario #5: Academic - Academic Law Library as a Place  
Scenario #6: Academic - Redefining the Library as Multi-Faceted Partner  
Scenario #7: Private - The Global Law Firm Library  
Scenario #8: Private - Law Firm Library as Knowledge Management Center  
Scenario #9: State, Court & County - Truly Public Law Library 

Wednesday, May 15, 2002 - External Collaborations and Expanding Staffing Roles in the Digital Age

For a further look at new roles for libraries and librarians, read these scenarios:

Scenario #10: Academic - Academic Law Library Collaborating with External Partners  
Scenario #11: Private - Distributing Staff and Services  
Scenario #12: Private - Law Firm Library as Managed by a Private Company  
Scenario #13: State, Court & County - Riding the Circuit - Roving Law Librarians 

Thursday, May 16, 2002 - Establishing Repository Libraries and Library Consortia in the Digital Age

For a new view of shared collections, read these scenarios:

Scenario #14: Academic - National and Regional Repositories/Print Resources  
Scenario #15: Private - Solo Librarian Consortium  
Scenario #16: State, Court & County - State, Court & County Regional Repository 

Friday, May 17, 2002 - Beyond the Boundaries

Previous days have covered common themes across all types of future law libraries. Today's discussion offers an opportunity to summarize the issues, identify features unique to particular types of libraries, and discuss how these differences impact the common themes.