Guidelines for Visits & Exchanges

Visiting another law library can provide a unique opportunity for a law librarian to acquire new skills and practical knowledge, impart expertise, and learn by experiencing law librarianship as practiced in a different work setting. An entire issue of Legal Reference Services Quarterly, entitled “Law Librarians Abroad” edited by Janet Sinder is devoted to personal accounts by law librarians who have participated in foreign visits and exchanges.1 This issue makes for informative and inspiring reading for a law librarian contemplating a foreign exchange or visit to another law library or prospective host law libraries curious as to how visits by law librarians have been conducted by other law libraries. The following guidelines recommend information that should be shared between the visitor and host library in arranging a visit. Visits normally last between a week and a year and are usually straightforward to organize. These guidelines also apply to exchanges although there are more issues to be negotiated in arranging an exchange. Some of the references under the heading below, “Resources” address these details.

Purpose of Visit

In planning a visit, the first step for the visiting law librarian is to determine the purpose of the visit, to decide what type of experience is desired and what specifically the visit will accomplish in terms of personal, professional goals. This information is key to planning a productive visit that is successful for both the visitor and the host library. Visiting law librarians have undertaken a wide variety of activities and projects at their host institution including cataloging, collection assessment and collection development, learning and teaching legal research, reference, writing, preservation and archives work, staff training and advising on online systems. Having a clearly defined purpose for the visit and determining how the visit will also benefit the librarian’s employer and the host library are essential. This information can be used for scheduling and planning purposes to ensure that the visit is productive and best meets everyone’s needs.


Most visits are initiated by the visitor. A list of willing law library hosts can be found at the web site of the FCIL-SIS Internships & International Exchanges  Committee. Other times, prospective visitors directly contact law libraries in the country they wish to visit.

The visitor usually initiates the visit by submitting a resume and cover letter to the host library including information such as:

  • professional education and training
  • employment history
  • current title, including description of job responsibilities
  • language skills
  • special interests
  • reason for selecting host library
  • desired length of visit and time of year for visit
  • description of desired type of work to be done during visit
  • details regarding how the visit is to be funded

Host Library fix this

When a host library agrees to host a visiting librarian, they should designate a contact person who is responsible for arranging and overseeing the visit. Prior to the arrival of the visitor the contact person communicates with the visitor and can provide information and assistance to the visitor on areas such as:

  • Library and its larger institution (if applicable)
  • Visa requirements (if applicable)
  • Recommended web sites and print information on the local area, which is usually available from local tourist information office
  • Accommodation options and costs
  • Transportation – public transport and car
  • Health insurance
  • Weather and clothing
  • Safety information
  • Office space, access to telephone, personal computer and email
  • Library tour/orientation arrangements on arrival


The American Libraries Association’s International Relations Round Table Exchanges Subcommittee includes helpful information for prospective visitors and hosts on its web site including:

  • International Opportunities and Funding Sources for Librarians
  • Foundations and Organizations Supporting International Exchanges and/or Short-term Travel
  • Preparing for International Travel and Exchanges
  • International Employment Opportunities for Librarians
  • International Job Exchange: Bibliography

Linda Eileen Williamson, (Prepared under the auspices of the American Library Association’s International Relations Committee/International Relations Round Table Committee on International Exchange of Librarians and Information Professionals) Going International: Librarians’ Preparation Guide for a Work Experience/Job Exchange Abroad, American Library Association (1988).

Although dated, this guide offers detailed practical advice and checklists for a librarian planning a visit or exchange in a country outside of the United States.

L. Robert Kohls, Survival Kit for Overseas Living for Americans Planning to Live and Work Abroad, 4th edition, Intercultural Press (2001).

An easy to read and informative book, written for the American planning to live outside of the United States. This practical guide covers a wide range of strategies, and things to think about in preparation for a successful stay.

updated July 2008

1 18 Legal Reference Services Quarterly No. 3 (2000). Law Librarian Abroad (Janet Sinder, ed., 2000) was simultaneously published in book form by Haworth Press.