Sunday, October 08, 2006

A question that needs a discussion

There has been some comment on this blog and elsewhere in library land about the lack of respect shown to our profession. I don’t think our profession is uniquely belittled; I think any profession that handles issues of public policy is belittled.

I wonder if we librarians need to reframe our response. The following facts started my thinking

1. Today’s New York Times front page article, “In New York Immigration Court Asylum Roulette. The 27 judges in New York’s immigration courts are searching for ways to handle 20,000 cases a year.”
2. New York City’s public advocate report that the Agency of Children Services (ACS) places at children at risk because staff attorneys leave because of poor pay and excessive case loads.
3. Our own AALL survey found most judges do not use librarians.
4. The large number of dual degree librarians. How many are attorneys fleeing trial practice? Like ACS.
5. The recognition that most practitioners rely on Lexis and Westlaw because it is efficient. It provides good enough answers upon which to base a decision.
6. The declining number of trials and the question whether legal education is preparing students for the reality of practice. Symposium: Vanishing Trial. 1 Journal of Dispute Resolution 1-334 (2006)

Judges are too overworked to read briefs, much less law review articles. The attorneys at ACS admitted that they needed to appeal cases, but workload prevented them. No wonder librarians and libraries are underutilized. When I read articles about immigration judges’ and ACS attorneys’ workloads, complaints about disrespect toward librarians appear trivial.

How do we enter the debate about public policy and resources? Our AALL representatives do wonderful work; I am not slighting their efforts. I respect and admire their achievements. When I read articles like the ones listed above, I cannot help but wonder if we need to enter public life differently. Has anyone else thought about this?

I will be offline all this week. I will be reading comments when I return.

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

I am not sure what you have in mind. I have re-read your entry several times and am not clear what you have in mind. Librarians certainly have a lot in common with other public service professions. And it is true that lawyers, judges and others in professions that are seriously under-funded may have some sort of disrespect issue. But I submit to you that I am viewed differently as a law librarian than I ever was as a Legal Services lawyer. As a librarian, I immediately benefit from the assumption that I have the good of the community at heart, that I am a warm, nurturing and basically honest and honorable person. But I am also viewed as a powerless dweeb. When I was a legal services lawyer, I suffered from all the slings and arrows of lawyer jokes. But I also seemed somehow more dangerous and powerful, even though I was a legal services attorney, not a silk-stocking partner. I think you are confusing monetary support with the respect and recognition of the public.