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The AALL Spectrum® blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. Previously, the AALL Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.

The AALL Spectrum blog is no longer published. Previous posts are archived on this page.
4/24/2015 4:45:00 PM

Law Library Interns: How to Make Them Work for You

For aspiring law librarians, the most useful aspects of library school are often those that afford the opportunity for practical experience. In most instances, these opportunities take the form of internships. Sometimes done for pay, sometimes done for academic credit, and sometimes done just for the experience itself, internship opportunities allow aspiring law librarians to get a better sense of what sort of work they hope to do post-graduation. They also act as an excellent means of differentiating themselves from their job-seeking peers.

Those same internships create new opportunities for the law libraries themselves. Interns can benefit law libraries in a number of ways - they can bring a fresh perspective to a project that has stalled; they may be more familiar with new and developing technologies; they may have a skillset that is helpful but not duplicated on the full-time staff (e.g., foreign-language skills, a background in a particular legal practice area).

Done properly, both intern and law library can benefit greatly from these opportunities, either as a one-time occurrence, or as the beginning of an established intern program.  But doing it properly and avoiding common problems does take some planning, effort, and foresight.

This summer at AALL, this topic will be explored in far more depth as part of the Law Library Interns: How to Make Them Work for You program. Representatives from academic (Kelly Leong), government (Peter Roudik), and court (Daniel Cordova) law libraries will discuss their own successful internship programs and the growing pains they experienced making those programs succeed – including the identification of the most-common pitfalls of such programs.

I’ll be moderating and offering my own perspective as someone who had the chance to complete invaluable internships at the Peking University School of Transnational Law, Legal Research Center and the National Indian Law Library.

As a bit of a preview, here are some issues worth considering:

  • Do you have projects or assignments to work on that are suitable for your intern? 
If, for example, the intern knows that she only wants to work in technical services and has a background to support that, having her sit reference is less likely to result in a worthwhile experience for anyone involved. If she has a substantive expertise in an area of law, working on a cataloging project in that area or preparing a research guide would allow her to showcase that expertise while also resulting in high quality work that benefits the law library.

  • Can your existing staff provide guidance and the required supervision to the intern?
As tempting as it can be to think of interns as “warm bodies” to fill existing gaps in coverage, you should still keep in mind that the legal guidelines regarding internships and work, both at the federal and state levels. The U.S. Department of Labor has created a useful Fact Sheet with good basic information – Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act – including the six criteria that apply.

  • Have you had the opportunity to have a nuts-and-bolts talk with your intern before the internship begins?
Making sure the institution clearly communicates about things like deadlines, attire, and scheduling/punctuality are very important: good communication can go a long way to eliminating issues before they become problems. In some cases, established internship programs have competitive selection processes, but even less formal opportunities should use a phone call and email documentation to make sure the institution and the intern are on the same page.

These issues and others will be discussed in more depth, with examples from the speakers on how their own programs deal with them.

What issues have you come across, either from the perspective of the institution or as an intern yourself? Please share and discuss in the comments below!

Finally, if your institution is at all interested in possibly hosting an international internship or exchange, I encourage you to complete the Internships & International Exchanges Survey. It can be a very useful way to facilitate internships and exchanges across borders. International internships and exchanges can bring with them an additional layer of logistical challenges (e.g., passports, visas, international flights) but they can also be the most rewarding. Also, if you’ve actually completed an international internship or exchange and would be willing to write it up briefly for our website or a newsletter, the FCIL-SIS Internships & International Exchanges program would love to hear from you!

Posted By R. Martin Witt at 4/24/2015 4:45:00 PM  0 Comments
2/6/2015 11:38:58 AM

What Makes a Special Library, Special?

I am currently co-teaching the “Special Libraries” class offered by the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) and the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO) in the Information Science and Learning Technologies (SISLT) program this spring semester. Special Libraries a hybrid class of face-to-face class meetings, online discussion via Blackboard and outside classes or site visits scheduled at a variety of special libraries throughout the state of Nebraska.

A unique aspect of this class is the opportunity to meet, learn from, and “talk shop” with librarians who work in special libraries. The site visits create awareness among the students to library opportunities beyond public and academic libraries, and can be the “ah-hah” moment for some students who are looking to merge previous work experience or education with librarianship. This spring semester my class and I will visit a number of special libraries including; corrections, law, medical, newspaper, engineering, music, tribal, special collections within two large academic libraries, community college libraries, and two different genealogy collections. So the big question is: what makes a special library – special?

The second big discussion, not so much a question is; what competencies should librarians at special libraries have? For this class, we use the Competencies for Information Professionals of the 21st Century from the Special Libraries Association (SLA) https://www.sla.org/about-sla/competencies/ The competencies are divided into three broad categories: Professional Competencies, Personal Competencies, and Core Competencies; also included in the document are numerous Applied Scenarios for each category to illustrate how the competency is demonstrated in the work environment.

Each time I teach Special Libraries, I am asked how the competencies for law librarians compare to other special library competencies such as those for music librarians or archival librarians. In a nutshell: we all work in a library environment, assist patrons with information needs and oversee library collections. Each type of special library association has an expectation of what specific skills and competencies are necessary for librarians to best serve their patrons. There is overlap among the lists of competencies for information professionals or librarians; visit the American Library Association (ALA) website to review the list of competencies by professional organizations, including the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL); http://www.ala.org/educationcareers/careers/corecomp/corecompspecial/knowledgecompetencies

My goal by May 1st, the last Special Libraries class for the semester, is that the students have visited and interacted with different types of libraries. These visits should create an appreciation for the role of special libraries in education, and the community the library serves. It should introduce the students to librarians who passionately promote and communicate the importance of information - that happens to be housed in a special library collection. Most importantly, I hope the students see an opportunity to change the world with the information shared by our special libraries.

Marcia L. Dority Baker is the Access Services Librarian at the University of Nebraska College of Law, Schmid Law Library in Lincoln, Nebraska. She can be reached via email; mdoritybaker@unl.edu

Posted By Marcia Dority Baker at 2/6/2015 11:38:58 AM  0 Comments
1/13/2015 12:47:33 PM

What I Did On My December 9th Lunch Hour

My favorite thing to do is go to a museum.  Whether it’s fine art or historical artifacts, I’m never happier then when I’m walking into a great building devoted to the display of human endeavor and learning.  I am particularly fortunate in my location, as Washington, D.C. is home not only to the world-class Smithsonian Institution, but also to the National Gallery of Art, as well as many other fine, although admission-charging, institutions.  Not only do I live in the D.C. area, but my office is located walking distance from the Mall, home to the National Gallery and to most of the Smithsonian museums.  This means, when the weight of the world is on my shoulders (meaning, I've had one too many requests from attorneys), I can stroll a few blocks down the street at lunch time to soothe my soul and clear my head.

So imagine my delight at being able to combine my profession and my great passion and take a guided tour of the library of the National Gallery of Art!  Arranged by Andrew Martin, librarian at the National Labor Relations Board, under the auspices of the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C., a group of law librarians took a tour of the National Gallery’s library last month.  Our group met with several of the library’s staff members, including Gregory Most, who was kind enough to spend a lot of time showing us the library’s fantastic image collection.  Note that, unlike those of us in the law library world, the National Gallery is not moving from print to digital resources!  They will go on acquiring art books as long as they are around to be collected; many of them are works of art themselves.

Located in the East Building, the library is still open to visitors while much of the rest of the building is undergoing construction for the next several years.  Although most of the people who enter the library come to do research, there is also a display case in the reading room area with rotating small exhibits throughout the year that is open without an appointment.  There’s a guard at the entrance, a feature I wish I had at my library, but you can just tell him or her that you’re there to see the display and in you go.  For more information on the library, visit their website located here: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/research/library.html.

So why am I telling you about this?  Sure, it’s a nice story: law librarians venture out and make a new friend, but it’s not exactly “breaking news.”  What I got out of it was an opportunity to expand my horizons, to see how another library works, how it’s different from and similar to a law library.  It’s easy to become insular in law librarianship - there are enough of us that you can always talk to another person who does the same thing you do, and the specialized jargon is often incomprehensible to someone without a legal background.  In these times of chaos (really, “change” doesn't do the situation justice), reaching out to other librarians, to see how they do things in their library, how they handle patron requests, how they make collection development decisions, is a rich (and free!) source of new ideas.  The more connections we can make, the better off we’ll all be.  So if your local law library organization offers tours of other types of libraries - by all means, make the time and go.  If not, suggest that they start.  

Susan Ryan, 2015
Librarian, Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, Washington, DC  sryan@seyfarth.com

Posted By Susan Ryan at 1/13/2015 12:47:33 PM  0 Comments