The State of the Library: Taking the Pulse of Law Librarians

Posted on 08-05-2014 by
Tags: LIT , Real Law

Brought to you by the Real Law Editorial Team

Mobile devices have changed the way the world works. Business is no longer conducted exclusively in boardrooms and offices; it happens everywhere and at any time. This shift is especially apparent among law librarians, who have traditionally been tied to the physical space of the library. The law librarian of today works across media, in different locations, and at any hour of the day to find the information requested by his or her patrons.

To examine how mobile devices and other technological advances have changed the role of law librarians, and what the future of the profession will look like, we went straight to the source and asked librarians from across the country a series of questions. The answers we received were insightful and thought-provoking, and proved that the future of the library is in good hands.

In your opinion, what is the number one challenge law librarians are facing today?

Remaining relevant within the firm while managing the balance among the library responsibilities interfacing with IT, Records, KM, Training and Marketing.
– S. M.

Operating and functioning in an ever-changing environment with digital resources, social media and an evolving style as a firm’s director and provider of legal resources.
– S. B.

Technology—the increasing changes and availability of material. We try to stay one step ahead of our patrons, because we’re the ones they ask when they need help.
– C. L.

How has increasing use of mobile devices changed your role as a law librarian?

It has made me more productive, more available, and hence more valuable. I can start my day earlier than the earliest attorney in the office, checking my email for requests, and often having search results waiting for them when they arrive at the office.
– C. N.

I am able to answer questions not just in the Library, but outside the Library. I can answer questions when I am anywhere in the world, I can assist research at any time or place. It is amazing!
– C.

Very simply, I’m able to be more proactive and so provide an even higher level of service to my clients. One example: on a Sunday afternoon I received an email from a partner who was looking for a New Zealand case that needed to be included in a brief on Monday by 1 PM. I was able to check from home whether it was available through our online resources. It was not. Checked to see if any of our outside vendors could provide the resource. They could not. I contacted a friend in NZ—who PDF’ed the case to me. Crisis averted and a very satisfied client. If I had not been able to pick up the request and conduct research from home on Sunday, due to the time difference, I would not have been able to exceed my client’s expectations.
– S. K.

In your opinion, how will the law library of the future be different than today’s?

It will probably be less personal—less “in-person.” It is becoming that way now, what with multi-office firm librarians serving patrons on a global level. Even in a smallish firm like mine, I can go for weeks without actually talking with a patron face-to-face or on the telephone. More resources will be web-based so that attorneys and reference librarians may work remotely on a regular basis.
– C. N.

The law library will be located in our pockets … our mobile phones. We’ll be able to research on our phones anywhere we want to be. The ability to sync our phones with monitors and keyboards will be easily available for more dedicated research projects. You will be able to call up specific reports with your “Smart Glasses” and read documents from them.
– S. M.

I think that the law library will be virtual and mobile. Librarians will have to be prepared to be mobile and provide “on the go” research—going to patrons instead of the patrons going to a library space. I think this will increase productivity for patrons.
– A. L.

How do you see your role as a law librarian evolving in the future?

The role of law librarian will evolve more into online legal research, technology and training. I also see providing more resources to my firm and being able to decipher the ever-changing reliable source engines.
– L. W.

Being even more proactive rather than reactive. Being more in tune with technology trends as well as best practices for law firm management in order to be in sync with the organization’s goals and needs.
– T. M.

I think that there will be less of the traditional “librarian” responsibilities, and more analysis of research results. We will need to do something to provide more value to our patrons—at least those of us in firms will have to do so—so that the attorneys can be more productive as well.
– C. L.

Showing their pride

We asked law librarians to tell us why they are proud to be a librarian through the #SelfiesforScholarship campaign. Their responses confirmed that the future of the law library is, indeed, in good hands.

Click the image to see for yourself.