Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Making Legal Research Sticky

Betsy's idea isn't so far fetched. In fact, it is the best solution I have heard of so far!

In law firms across Canada, librarians are struggling with ways to improve upon training for incoming law students (in Canada we call them "summer students" and "articling students" rather than "summer associates" and "first year associates"). We compare notes, we hold programs on it, and we talk to one another behind the closed doors of our firms.

At this year's CALL conference, CALL/ACBD 2005, in St. John's Newfoundland, our Edmonton colleagues talked about their solution: the local law librarian association holds a two-day event for articling students to get them up to speed with legal research. At a nominal cost per student for the law firms, a group of librarians teach and feed the students. I think this concept of sending the kids off to "boot camp" originated from a presentation by Bob Berring about 15 years ago, but don't quote me on that. The food seems to be a significant factor in the Edmontonian plot.

Are we bribing our students and lawyers with food? If you haven't read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, or re-read it recently, you might have forgotten about the importance of making messages "sticky". I'm not talking about serving up your seminars with pancakes and maple syrup, although that is one thought (there's the Canadian content you were hoping for!). I am talking about putting messages together in a way that will not only "stick" with students, but also have them returning to the message continually. Like a meme, such as the Make Poverty History / The ONE group are trying to do with their message. Or like Sesame Street with its fast-paced vignettes that the kids grew up on. Heck, that I grew up on!

That's one of the reasons why Betsy's evil plot is so perfect. If done right, we'll be able to send the law students off to their rooms to play video games as their homework.

Just one thing, though. We are going to need a few more action figures to populate the video games. Nancy Pearl just isn't going to be enough, even in the Deluxe Librarian Action Figure model!

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