Sunday, September 28, 2014

New ABA Law School Accreditation Standards

The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has released their most recent modifications to the standards for accrediting law schools. Here is a link to their handy Explanations PDF. I found it easier to read and more useful for understanding the changes than their Overview document. You can get the full text of the Redline version (66 pages) which shows the original and changed text, as well as the Clean copy (42 pages), and all of these other documents and more, from this convenient page.

From the point of view of folks who have been involved in the discussions and sending in comments, the changes to the library standards are not a big surprise. Below are the revised standards affecting law school libraries.

Chapter 6, Library and Information Services
Std. 601, General Provisions There are four basic requirements for the library:
* provide support adequate to enable a law school to carry out its program of legal education,
* develop a responsive relationship with users,
* engage in planning and assessment, and
* implement technology when appropriate

and one requirement for the law school:
* provide sufficient financial resources for the library to fulfill its responsibilities

Std. 603, Library Director...
Std. 603(a) adds “providing information resources in appropriate formats to faculty and students” as one of the overall management responsibilities of the law library director.

Standard 603(c), the requirement that the law library director must have specific degrees for the position has been replaced with a requirement that the director must have “appropriate academic qualifications.” As in other provisions in the revised Standards, the Committee added the requirement that the director’s knowledge and experience must be “sufficient to support the program of legal education and to enable the law school to operate in compliance with the Standards."

Revised Interpretation 603-1 provides guidance for the Accreditation Committee by elaborating on how a law school could meet the Standard.The Standards Review Committee had recommended that the language of current Standard603(d), which states that “a law library director shall hold a law faculty appointment with security of faculty position,” be replaced in revised Standard 603(d) with the requirement that the law library director “shall hold appointment as a member of the law faculty with the rights and protections accorded to other members of the full-time faculty under Standard 405.” Based on the Council’s decision to make no change to current Standard 405,this revised change was also not approved.

Note from Betsy: Std. 405, mentioned above, is referring to the Committee's decision not to require tenure for full time teaching faculty. The Standard itself is titled Professional Environment, and includes many other details such as academic freedom, governance and due process. But in the context of the statement above, the reference is certainly to the Committee's decision about "security of position," or tenure. If the doctrinal faculty can't have a standard requiring tenure, the library directors shouldn't get a standard requiring it for them, was the decision, apparently. SIGH...

Revised Standard 604. PERSONNEL
The current Standard has been changed slightly to require a staff with expertise that will support the goals of the library and law school.

Revised Standard 605. SERVICES
No changes are recommended to the current Standard. The current Interpretation has been rewritten to better state how those services can be provided.

Revised Standard 606. COLLECTION
The revisions to current Standard 606 reflect the change from an emphasis on ownership of materials to providing reliable access to legal information. The revised Standard also links the choices of format and means of access to the needs of the institution. Revised Interpretation 606-2 elaborates on the definition of “reliable access” by providing ways to meet the Standard through ongoing access to databases or participation in a formal resource-sharing arrangement with other libraries.

The decoration for this post is rapper Lil Wayne's Law Library "Statutory Rape" which turned up when I looked for images of law libraries. Apparently Lil Wayne has spent some time in prison libraries and knows something about legal research, from a few posts I stumbled across, so the cover may be earned in more ways than one. I just wanted something other than the classic law school library, since that seems to be fading away... but I guess this is not the look most schools will be aiming for. For one thing, look at all those reporters on those shelves!

1 comment:

Marie S. Newman said...

Thanks, Betsy. Very helpful!