The ABA Self-Study: Law Library Leadership Must Articulate Contributions to Program of Legal Education

If you haven't gone through an ABA Site Visit recently, it may be interesting to know that the ABA has revised its guidelines on the ABA Self-Study, which is made up of the Site Evaluation Questionnaire (SEQ) and Self-Assessment. 

The SEQ is fairly straightforward; the Self-Assessment -- not so much. In the Managing Director’s Guidance Memo (revised March 2017), it states that the Self-Assessment will focus “on evaluation of the educational program and efforts to improve it.” It also mentions that 
the schools should report descriptive data only once – in the SEQ portion 
of the Self-Study.

At the conclusion of the Site Visit, the Site Team will review the law school's Self-Study as it prepares a report using the Site Evaluation Report Template

The Site Evaluation Report consists of the following sections: 
Organization, Administration, Institutional Planning, and Finances: Questions 1 – 10 
Program of Legal Education: Questions 11 – 38 
Faculty: Questions 39 – 56
Students: Questions 57 – 75 
Library and Information Resources: Questions 76 – 86 
Facilities, Equipment, and Technology: Questions 87 – 90

Question 8 of the Site Evaluation Report Template asks:
Does the Law School’s Self Assessment address the elements required by Standard 204(b) [(1) a statement of the law school’s mission and of its educational objectives in support of that mission, (2) an evaluation of the educational quality of the law school’s program of legal education, including a description of the program’s strengths and weaknesses, and (3) a description of the school’s continuing efforts to improve the educational quality of its program]?

So we know that the Self-Assessment will focus on the law school's program of legal education. And in the Self-Assessment, instead of providing data and descriptive information on the program of legal education (like in the SEQ), the law school should evaluate the strengths and weaknesses, as well as set goals to improve the program. 

Now it may seem, based on this limited guidance, that the ABA no longer cares about the law library. At first blush, it's a separate part of the Site Evaluation Report that is not part of the "Program of Legal Education." 

But this can't be right because the law library is such an integral part of the program of legal education. From the questions dealing with the Program of Legal Education in the Site Evaluation Report, it's clear that the law library takes part in (at least) the following parts of the program of legal education:
  • Question 16 dealing with student learning outcomes, particularly as the outcomes pertain to legal research proficiency. 
  • Question 17 on preparing students, upon graduation, for admission to the bar and for effective, ethical, and responsible participation as members of the legal profession. After all associate, on average, spend 35% of their time doing legal research.
  • Question 20 discussing the first year writing experience because legal research is obviously a part of legal writing. 
  • Question 21 regarding the upper level writing requirement -- see legal research as obviously a part of legal writing. 
  • Questions 23 & 24 dealing with experiential learning and simulation courses. Law libraries have led the way with hands-on experience in the classroom. 
  • Question 26 dealing with classroom instruction component of domestic field placements. Most of us provide legal research instruction here, too. 
  • Question 29 dealing with "directed research" because many law librarians have individual research consultations with independent research study students (or law review students if your school gives credit). 
  • Question 30 pertaining to distance education courses. Law libraries often teach online courses or support the course management system used by the school. 
  • Question 35 covering academic support. Nearly every law library has substantial supplements and other study aid resources. 
  • Question 37 dealing with formative and summative assessments. This is another area where law libraries have led the way to ensure comprehension of material. 
Law library leadership working on ABA Site Visits must ensure that our contributions to the program of legal education are clearly spelled out in the Self-Assessment. If we don't act to articulate the vast contributions of the law library to the program of legal education, we could continue to see the law library's importance shrink to oblivion

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