November 25, 2009
Would Yesterday's Law Librarian Recognize Today's Law Librarian? Will Today's Law Librarian Recognize Tomorrow's Law Librarian?
Theodora Belniak's The Law Librarian of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries: A Figuration in Flux appears in the currrent issue of LLJ. It's a revised version of a winning entry in the student division of the 2009 AALL/LexisNexis Call for Papers Competition [2010 call for papers] and clearly worthy of the award. Reviewing the professional literature, Belniak outlines how the archetypal law librarian has changed over the last one hundred years. This is the sort of article law librarians "of a certain age" read as they reflect upon their careers. From the article's conclusion:
The skills and knowledge of the archetypal law librarian have changed drastically over the course of the century. From local to national to international, legal sources have increased exponentially. From mail by post to e-mail, and from printed matter to electronic databases, technology has transformed the methods of information classification and dissemination. Self-education and collaborative learning have been replaced by accredited M.L.S. and J.D. degree programs. In short, everything has changed.
Despite this, the figuration of the law librarian retains some constants. In each exposition of this figure, from the early 1900s to today, the most important element in determining professional success was and is the ability to anticipate changes in the sources and methods of communication and to integrate unanticipated changes to better serve patrons. The law librarian is a figuration in and of flux, evolving in response to environmental changes and incorporating new information and technologies. The librarian is always a little uncomfortable and is never settled; the discovery of new legal landscapes ensures that complacency cannot be a characteristic of the figure in any time period. And, regardless of the particular knowledge or skills expected of the law librarian, it is this dynamic interaction with the legal and library environment that defines law librarianship as a profession.
There is nothing to suggest an end to the growth of legal information and sources, or an end to the creation of various classification or communication technologies. Whether working from an office in a law library or working remotely from home, the law librarian of the future will seem nothing like the librarian of present when comparing qualifications, skill sets, experience, and knowledge. However, when evaluating the future law librarian’s ability to adapt to change and to embrace unanticipated outcomes, it will be oddly similar to that of the twentieth century’s and today’s figurations.
I've had the pleasure of working with Ms. Belniak and look forward to reading her article and to forthcoming scholarship from this talented contributor to law librarianship.
Posted by: Laura Suttell | Nov 25, 2009 8:19:11 AM