"... you can do anything with an amazing research librarian."

In a recent post from 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, Greg Lambert responds to the comments of a George Washington University Law Professor.

The comments of Professor Orin Kerr were published in an interview to the National Law Journal, where he said:

The lesson of the article is that you can do anything with an amazing research librarian.

Three cheers for Professor Kerr. Let's face it, it's true. Without research librarians where would our library users be?

Greg Lambert, comes up with a valid point though. After noting he will be "printing out, framing, and hanging [the quote] on my office wall", he asks Kerr "you're just now figuring that out??".

To me, this sounds like the same problem faced here in academic law libraries every day - our staff and students not knowing what we can do for them.

Queue the branding and advertising spree I'm currently in the middle of - it's all about marketing. As I've discussed previously in Academic Librarians v Bono, the key is promoting our services in a way that reaches the user in a way they digest easily (gluten free, I suppose?).

This semester we have seen success with particular sections of the law student body. Identifying post graduate researchers as being a key group unaware of the services on offer from the Law Library, we contacted their supervisors and highlighted that what we could do. In the month after that email was sent out, we did more hours of research consultations than recorded for the entire previous year.

While this is a good thing in being able to provide a service to this under serviced group - it did mean we had a very busy month. Perhaps in hindsight, it may be worth considering the time of semester before I send out another "we can help" email of this kind.

The Law Library has always provided services to our students, but it seems to be only those "in the know" who avail themselves to the service. Lambert highlights the fact that research librarians have been providing a fantastic services every day, for a long time:

"As happy as I am to see this quote, I have to really as[k] Orin Kerr one thing, "you're just now figuring that out??" I bet there are some folks back at George Washington that would love to introduce you to the research librarians at the law library. Helping you find the obscure text from 1859 is something that many of us do on a regular basis. In addition, we can probably get it to you overnight (or within hours), without costing you a fortune. Law Librarians, and Researchers have connections, and those connections have connections. I hope for Kerr's sake that he's located the law library researchers back at GW when he got back from the Library of Congress."


Lambert does highlight the importance of connections to success as a research librarian. This is true to us all - just take a look at the  ALLA-ANZ, ALLA (WA) and ANZACLL mailing lists. (There's a handy list of more Law Librarians Mailing Lists available).

So of course, this is a question of self-promotion, library advocacy and not being afraid to say "I'm a Librarian, I know answers to questions you haven't even thought of yet (and if I don't know, I certainly know enough to figure it out)". But we can't take all of the responsibility - library users have to take the steps towards actually asking a librarian.

Lambert ends with some advice to Professors, that I think will apply to all legal researchers:

"So let this be a lesson to all of the Professors out there writing the next great Law Review Article. Go find the law library and introduce yourself to the research staff. Tell them what you're working on, and make them a part of the team. They probably won't be able to make your article any more appealing ..., but they will definitely help you thoroughly research the topic."



ALLA(WA) Committee Member - Alice Hewitt. 
Librarian, Reference and Information Services, Murdoch University.


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