Tuesday, January 31, 2006

So you want to hire a law library director

There are a lot of law school director slots opening up. More still will come open in the near future, as the current tenants retire. We are actually looking at a wave of retirements and openings the likes of which has not been seen since the 1980s when many law schools initially upgraded their library directors to JD/MLS positions.

This might be a good time to consider what law schools should be thinking about when they hire a new director. Librarians think a lot about what we value in another librarian. But faculty members and deans who are not "professional" deans might never have had to consider this question. Be aware that the comments I make here are my opinions alone, but they are probably worth something. I have been a law librarian since 1986, and an active member in the national association and whatever regional association I lived near.

The jobs a law school needs its library director to do:

1. Run the library. Either the director needs to be a good administrator, or needs to hire a second-in-command who is. A good administrator needs to be able to:
a) Make decisions about books, databases, and other materials to purchase;
b) Balance the budget;
c) Manage and supervise the people assigned in the library, exercise
d) Oversee the facilities of the library, from rare books, to manuscripts to
archives to the pipes, bathrooms, photocopiers, ceilings, heating/AC, etc.;
e) Make long-term and short-term policies and procedures to keep the library
running smoothly and uproar-free;
f) Coordinate and cooperate with law school and university administrators;
g) Maintain the law school's interests with diplomacy and keep open channels of communication with deans while not overwhelming them with information.

2. Be an excellent faculty colleague. Ideally, the director would be a full member of the faculty and fully engaged in faculty activities, as an equal member. This works best if the faculty understand that the first job takes up a huge amount of what, for most of you, is unscheduled time. The director probably works 11 months of the year, while you are scheduled for 9 months. The director probably has 8 or more hours each day of management tasks, plus, if he or she accepts the task of teaching and scholarship, understand that these are added to an already full-time job.

3. Teaching -- I do like a director to teach. I can see it having an effect on the perception of faculty colleagues if the director does nothing but adminster the library. But to have a tenure-track post and make teaching, scholarship and administration of the library all 3 part of the mix, is a very hard job. I have done it, but am very grateful that my colleagues here at Suffolk understand that administration is the main job, and accept scholarship in librarianship and teaching in Advanced Legal Research as my contributions.

4. Scholarship -- Just as I said about teaching, scholarship contributes to the equality with fellow faculty. But I would slacken the number of articles, count library scholarship, and otherwise, give some credit for the burden of administering the library if that is the primary duty of your director. However, my scholarship very much informs my teaching and how I run the library. I also enjoy it very much. What a wonderful job to be able to combine three things I love! (Oh, plus I get to spend other people's money to buy books! And tell other people what to do -- how much better could a job get!! Oooh -- I think I broke the librarian's code. Don't read this part)

How do you pick the right person? Over and over I see faculty get excited about the school on the resume. Well, I guess the school you graduate from has something to say. But really, by the time you are director material, you have a lot more on the resume to judge by. I would say, instead, look at the accomplishments.

Look at whether the individual has come up through a series of increasingly responsible jobs. Or in the same job, has taken on increasing responsibilities. Look at outside committee and organizational work. Have they served in their professional organization? Have they been active in their university organization? That shows leadership, and leadership is something you want in a law library director. It also shows that they have been learning about how to get things done, and how to work with people and organizations.

You might also look to see if they already have some scholarship done, before it actually counts toward tenure. That would be a pretty impressive statement of how committed to scholarship this person is. Have they already had an opportunity to teach? How did they do? Have they already run a library? How did that turn out? That would be really good information. If you know people who know this person, ask about their reputation. Law librarians tend to know each other pretty well. It's actually a small world out here. Good luck! We all have a stake in getting the best directors into each library. Not everybody fits every school. It's a little like dating. You have to see who suits you, and whom you suit. When it's a fit, the situation is wonderful. Best wishes for a match made in heaven!

No comments: