Thursday, November 17, 2005

Teaching in "Real" Courses

I have been working for several years to integrate library instruction into the substantive law school curriculum. In other words, teaching legal research in “real” classes: Administrative Law, Contracts or Legal Ethics for example. When you think about it every doctrinal legal subject has its own research quirks. At the very least students who have completed a doctrinal course should know the authors of the major treatises and names of any looseleafs relevant to the course.

Other courses have more research intricacies. Administrative law students should at least be familiar with the Federal Register, CFR, how to update a regulation and find an administrative agency decision. Legal Ethics students should know what ethics opinions are, what precedential weight they have and where to find them. And tax law research is a beast unto itself.

One initial hurdle that can be difficult to clear is gaining access to teach. The schedules of most courses are extremely crowded. Approaching a faculty member well in advance of the course is a good practice. Some faculty may question the value of taking time for a skills exercise in their doctrinal course. I have found that the more I lecture the more I am invited into other courses. If your presentations are well thought out, carefully delivered and supported with quality handouts or bibliographies you will quickly be in demand.

These presentations have numerous collateral benefits. Law librarians who make them are seen in a different light by students. Students realize we don’t just sit around surfing the web all day. Students often approach me weeks or months after a presentation and introduce themselves by saying … I saw your administrative law presentation in Professor X’s class and I have a question. Teaching is also a great way to learn about research in a particular area and to test the strengths of your collection. These talks also look great on your resume and annual report.

What experiences have others had? Post your comments.

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