Law Library Times They Are A Changin

Last fall, Robert Ambrogi posted on his blog, Law Sites, about the challenges and opportunities facing information professionals.

He noted the current time of unprecedented innovation "when two guys in law school who think they have a better idea for a legal research site can run with it and create the company Ravel Law by the time they graduate."

So what does this mean for information professionals?

According to Ambrogi, "[f]or too long, librarians were defined in the public consciousness by the place in which you work. Many now believe that that place is irrelevant, unnecessary and too expensive to keep around. At both law firms and law schools, there are some who argue for doing away with the physical library altogether."

While this can cause worry and panic, "it also provides an opportunity to examine what it is [information professionals] provide. As soon as you begin to look at it that way, you see immediately that what you provide is something that cannot be done away with. You, more than anyone else in your firm or institution, holds the key to information. Your skill set is not about shelving, but about knowing how to find and manage information."

In terms of managing information, "[t]here is way too much information, making it hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. It is more difficult to assess the quality and reliability of information.
It is still difficult to find many forms of very specific information – the very kinds of information lawyers often need. The nature of information is changing. In particular, data has become information, and in this era of Big Data, many are struggling with how to manage and make sense of it."

The changes to information access also create opportunities for librarians. Ambrogi notes many opportunities - a few of which I will highlight here:
  • Librarians as publishers: Help your firm or institution use blogs and social media to help push it knowledge and resources to its constituents. 
  • Librarians as facilitators of access to justice: Librarians have a critical role to play in helping to expand access to and understanding of legal information.
  • Librarians as trainers: Training lawyers and associates on how to use research services is as important now as it ever was – maybe more so.
  • Librarians as drivers of change: You can help drive efforts to increase open-source publishing and open access to legal information.
  • Librarians as experimenters: Out of those experiments will come the future course of your profession. And that means the future is in your hands.
Ambrogi's commentary is right on. As libraries transition beyond the physical space, librarians have many new opportunities to redefine our role. We should see it as the best of challenges and continue to market our value and resources to create a perception that libraries and librarians are invaluable


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