Law Libraries Retaining Talent

While at AALL Management Institute last spring, one of the other attendees asked Maureen Sullivan, our fearless leader and management expert, how law libraries can stop "hemorrhaging talent."

This question struck a chord. I love this profession, and it feels like a calling. But I often find myself asking "is it time for something else?" The sense from the room at Mgmt Inst was that I am not alone. And we are at a continued risk of losing talented, valuable librarians.

We have to consider why we're losing folks to create change. I'll highlight a few reasons here:
In academe, the solution is to SUPPORT the talent. We're often talking about what law libraries do to support our community with little regard for our own well being. Law librarianship is so rewarding that you'd be hard pressed to find a career with higher satisfaction. Because the work is inherently rewarding, supporting librarians is key to the retention of talent.

Legal writing instructors have been so successful in securing status across the country, and law librarians need a similarly secure status. Our law faculty colleagues should understand the gender dynamics at play that perpetuate our low status and the systemic devaluing of law librarians because of our institutional role. In particular, faculty should recognize (1) the devaluing of law librarians based on role/credential; (2) changing their accepted behavior based on our role; (3) the actions (ignoring/excluding/surprise/interrupting) related to our role; and  (4) the terminology related to our position.

With the proper support, law libraries will be less likely to suffer at the cost of other programs. And with more security and status, it could be a better "deal" to become an academic law librarian.

Seven years ago, when I approached my mentor and told him that I intended to pursue his profession, he responded that he was afraid I was coming to that conclusion and that I was in for a miserable, frustrating life. Of course, that stayed with me. And while there are days that it feels like too much, I just can't see myself doing anything else. So let's make it less miserable. In fact, let's be agents for change.


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