July 8, 2008
A Standard is a Standard is a Standard Unless It's Not Enforced By the ABA
The typical requirements portion of a job ad for an academic law library directorship (sometimes also known as an Associate Dean for Library and Information Services or some variant form) reads something like the University of San Diego School of Law's recent ad:
Required: Candidates must have a JD degree from an ABA-accredited law school; an MLS or equivalent degree from an ALA-accredited institution; significant experience in law library administration and information technology; and highly developed leadership and interpersonal skills.
Preferred: Demonstrated experience in an academic law library supporting significant scholarly research; a record of professional engagement and scholarship.
Meaning, of course, that Harvard Law's new Henry N. Ess III Librarian and Vice Dean of Library and Information Resources, John Palfrey, wouldn't be qualified for the San Diego appointment.
|Standard 603. Director of the Law Library|
(a) A law library shall be administered by a full-time director whose principal responsibility is the management of the law library.
(b) The selection and retention of the director of the law library shall be determined by the law school.
(c) A director of a law library should have a law degree and a degree in library or information science and shall have a sound knowledge of and experience in library administration.
(d) Except in extraordinary circumstances, a law library director shall hold a law faculty appointment with security of faculty position.
Interpretation 603-1: The director of the law library is responsible for all aspects of the management of the law library including budgeting, staff, collections, services and facilities.
Interpretation 603-2: The dean and faculty of the law school shall select the director of the law library.
Interpretation 603-3: The granting of faculty appointment to the director of the law library under this Standard normally is a tenure or tenure-track appointment. If a director is granted tenure, this tenure is not in the administrative position of director.
Interpretation 603-4: It is not a violation of Standard 603(a) for the director of the law library also to have other administrative or teaching responsibilities, provided sufficient resources and staff support are available to ensure effective management of library operations.
Sound Knowledge of and Experience in Library Administration. I've been mulling over John's appointment for some time now. It has caused a bit of a stir inside and outside of the profession because he isn't a professional law librarian. However, I'm not adding blog fodder to any backlash over this appointment. Instead, I'm interested in how ABA Accreditation Standards and procedures can address these situations because, in my opinion, John's appointment does not comply with the ABA's Accreditation Standard 603(c).
Standard 603(c) states
A director of a law library should have a law degree and a degree in library or information science and shall have a sound knowledge of and experience in library administration.
The appointment violates Standard 603(c) not because John doesn't have both a JD and MLS but because he does not have "sound knowledge of and experience in library administration." Under 603(c), the use of "should" clearly indicates that the dual degree is desirable but optional. However, the use of "shall" means that the "knowledge and experience" clause is a requirement because legal codes, something the drafters of the standards certainly know, use "shall" to express mandatory action. If the standards are "minimum requirements designed, developed, and implemented for the purpose of advancing the basic goal of providing a sound program of legal education" [Preamble] the drafters could have used "should" instead of "shall" in this clause to make sound knowledge of and experience in library administration also desirable but optional.
So what? It is not like the ABA enforces its standards pertaining to the appointment of law library directors, the most common violation being law school abuse of the "extraordinary circumstances" provision for tenure. See Standard 603(d); Interpretation 603-3 (faculty tenure, not administrative tenure). If the ABA Standards are not enforced as "minimum requirements," what's the point of having them?
What to do? The ABA is contemplating some fundamental changes to its Accreditation Standards, so fundamental that perhaps all current standards should be reconsidered. See our earlier post. Let's add one proposal to the discussion: Why not let a standing ABA committee of law librarians and law school deans review pending law library director appointments when a law school wants to make an appointment under "extraordinary circumstances" like the qualification issues presented in John's appointment (plus tenure and other matters that may arise). Thumbs up, thumbs down rulings by the committee with a written justification available for all to read might lead some of us to believe that the ABA's Standards actually mean something.
Thumbs Up for Harvard's New Law Library Director. As for John's appointment, I don't think our profession is so devoid of talented academic law librarians that HLS couldn't have found and hired one, but I think most academic law librarians would approve his appointment if given an opportunity to review it in that context. As Dan Filler (Drexel) has written in a post about John's appointment, "a [law] librarian still needs to be...a librarian" and still needs to demonstrate the competencies of law librarianship identified by AALL. Perhaps an academic law library director need not be one when the law library's collection, staff and financial resources are as good as Harvard's.
Welcome to academic law librarianship John. [JH]
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A Standard is a Standard is a Standard Unless It's Not Enforced By the ABA: