AALL Guidelines for Graduate Programs in Law Librarianship

Approved by the AALL Executive Board, November 5, 1988

This policy statement is for the American Library Association to use in its accreditation of graduate library school programs. Law librarians are employed in academic, court, private firm, corporate, government, bar and subscription libraries; the competencies this policy describes are needed by all law librarians. These guidelines are concerned with graduate library education only, specifically those areas that require expansion or modification of current curricula to meet the educational needs of future law librarians.

Library school curricula must include courses that create a high degree of competency at the general level as well as in the subject discipline – the law. Therefore, this document is divided into two sections: general competencies and subject competencies.

I. General Competencies

Although these general competencies are required by librarians employed in all types of libraries, library instruction must alsoinclude and emphasize the components of these areas that are specific to law librarianship.

Areas of general competency include: 1) Reference and Research Services; 2) Library Management; 3) Collection Management; 4) Organization and Classification.

1. Reference and Research Services

Law librarians provide reference and research services that meet the requirements of their organizations in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible. An essential component of law library service includes teaching users how to identify and use sources for legal research. Because legal materials are the tools of the trade for lawyers and law students, effective law librarians are sophisticated users and finders of legal information. Further, law librarians are required to fulfill the non-legal information needs of their organizations.

Research and reference services may include, but are not limited to: a) provision of information to meet specific needs; b) selective dissemination of information; c) analysis and evaluation of sources and information, d) development and delivery of new services as needed by the organization, e) advice on the design and development of commercial information products and services, and f) expert use of all information media used for storage and retrieval of information. Education for law librarianship must teach research strategies and methods that are based on sound analytic and problem-solving skills.

2. Library Management

Principles of management and organizational behavior must be part of all graduate library school programs. Specifically, law librarians must learn techniques for managing library personnel and resources, measuring and evaluating library services and implementing technology-based solutions to library management problems. Library education must emphasize communication skills, human resources, strategic planning, budgeting, marketing strategies, productivity, innovation and sound fiscal management, including cost recovery and profit-making.

3. Collection Management

Law librarians make decisions regarding the identification, selection and acquisition of the legal and non-legal resources needed by their organizations. In order to support the needs of their organizations, they must assess the strengths and weaknesses of their collections, develop appropriate collection policies, and employ the best methods to improve the power and scope of their collections, including resource sharing and interlibrary cooperation as appropriate. Knowledge of subject- specific selection tools and of acquisition procedures is essential.

Legal materials are increasingly created, stored,and retrieved in full-text electronic databases. Whole systems of national and state case law as well as statutory and regulatory materials have been published in full-text in online systems. Selection policy and purchasing decisions require not only critical evaluation of subject matter, but also consideration of the efficacy of particular formats (e.g., print, online, CD-ROM, microform, etc.), space limitations, user access, cost and other relevant factors. Knowledge and use of cost-benefit analysis techniques are essential to the collection management process.

4. Organization and Classification

All law libraries contain basic primary and secondary legal materials in a variety of formats which must be easily identified by and accessible to users. Methods and reasons for classification and organization of a library collection may differ from one law library to another because of size, organizational needs, and emphasis of the collection. Knowledge of cataloging and classification theory, serial publication patterns, government documents, database design and construction, and indexing and abstracting is essential, with the ability to apply this knowledge in the context of organizational needs and national standards.

II. Subject Competencies

An understanding of the origins, development and present state of Anglo/American law and legal literature is crucial to the work of the law librarian. Graduate library education for law librarianship must, at a minimum, provide basic competencies in: 1) the Legal System; 2) the Legal Profession and Its Terminology; 3) Literature of the Law; 4) Law and Ethics. In-depth knowledge of the law is outside the realm of library education.

1. The Legal System

In order to locate pertinent materials and recognize their relative importance to the user, a law librarian must have a working knowledge of the judicial, executive, and legislative branches of United States federal and state governments. Knowledge of the legislative process and the materials that form the legislative history of statutes is also essential. The interplay of common law, precedent, statutes, regulations, and constitutions significantly affects the use of legal materials. Therefore, all law librarians need a thorough understanding of the processes by which law is created.

2. The Legal Profession and Its Terminology

Law librarians must possess knowledge about the legal profession in order to understand the forces that drive its information needs. Specifically, law librarians need to know about the institutions and professional organizations of the legal profession and law librarianship.

Legal terminology is the professional language of those who are directly or indirectly involved in the legal profession. Thus, it is essential that law librarians have a working knowledge of legal vocabulary, including legal abbreviations and citation systems.

3. Literature of the Law

Knowledge of the literature of the law is a fundamental component of law librarianship. Legal literature includes primary and secondary sources, their accompanying finding tools, and adjunct publications in all media formats. Printed legal publishing continues, but new legal publishing formats such as full-text legal databases, microforms, and CD-ROM mean that library education must prepare law librarians to exploit the advantages as well as recognize the limitations of these new formats.

4. Law and Ethics

The use and dissemination of legal information is affected by legal and ethical considerations. Law librarians must understand the legal complexities that affect access to and use of information, including copyright, freedom of information, privacy, and issues related to unauthorized practice of law and/or malpractice. Law librarians must be familiar with and understand any legal requirements and ethical considerations of both the legal profession and librarianship.