Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Contemplating law librarian requirements for success

What makes a great law school librarian?

* Skill and willingness to keep learning new tricks, new skills and new resources. You start with the basics of legal research, or the tech services skills of cataloging, systems work or circulation/reserve, etc. But you have to keep learning new things every day! You learn how to do it with the collection and databases available at YOUR library. You learn who to contact, who to work with to get the job done.

* Great memory (or a good note/index system) -- So much of how to do things is kept in our heads. You have to learn from every question you answer, and build a database in your mind (or palm or laptop or rolodex or somewhere!)

* Student focused -- ya gotta be fond of them, and have sympathy for the demands and stresses they labor under. But you also have to remember that this is a teaching environment -- you teach them how to do it, not do it for them. And hopefully, you also help them see how to be a professional as well.

* Flexible and Tough -- it helps to be able to change your plans, your judgements and your presentation at a moment's notice. The Internet connection goes down. The administration calls a meeting. The material you planned to use or present is missing from the shelf. Deal with the dean (or prof) who needs it yesterday. Don't get rattled, think up a new approach! Talk to the outraged patron, listen to the frustrated faculty member, and remain unruffled yourself. Wow!

* Hard to Faze -- every time you think you've seen it all, something pops up to surprise you: The professor who put his laptop in the freezer, the student who needs special settings on the computer, the new billing department at Westlaw where nobody understands what subscriptions they are dealing with. You gotta go with the flow, and handle it all with a smile and never a blink.

* Collegial -- A huge amount of your job is interfacing with other librarians, both in your institution and at other libraries. You also have to build good working relationships with the other administrators around your law school and your university. And working with faculty and deans to support the educational enterprise, absolutely key!

* Sense of Humor!!! Gotta laugh!

* Enjoy the job.

Do you have anything to add? This is a job that is evolving every moment, morphing from its deep roots in the written word to a digital world. It's like riding a big wave, keeping your balance and finding the center to work from.

Image is Jon Roseman: a BIG day in Tavarua, Fiji - on www.bessellsurf.com, a surfboard manufacturer.

No comments: