By Mandy Lee
In this, my inaugural post for Notes Between Us, I’d like to explore “Us” in Notes Between Us. Who are we? We are all “law librarians,” meaning that we work in legal information settings, guiding people to legal information as our vocations. What do we have in common? Perhaps more importantly, what distinguishes us from each other, and from the rest of the law librarians in the world?
We know who we are by name – Aamir, Andre, Brandi, Clanitra, Jenny, Marcelo, Ramon, Zanada, and Mandy (me), not to mention the guest bloggers. We represent diverse races and ethnicities, a minority in the law librarianship world. The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), our national professional organization, boasts almost four thousand members (AALL 2019-2020 Year-End Membership Report, As of May 31, 2020). Of these, twenty percent represent racial and ethnic minorities (AALL 2020 Membership Survey Results).
Aside from these above, what do we really know about each others’ work as law librarians? Sure, there are similarities, but there are also differences – and I’d like to know more about my colleagues’ experiences, and to share, with non-law librarians in particular, the duties of which my work consists. A person, upon seeing me at my desk one day toward the end of a final exam period, with no patrons in sight, asked me, somewhat (actually, more than somewhat) dubiously, “What do you do?” I suspected that, if I weren’t communicating in person with patrons, it appeared as if I had nothing to do.
In order to confront the fear that I seem to sit vacantly in front of a computer all day, twiddling my thumbs while waiting for patrons to approach me, I’d like to examine – and justify – my job. Who am I, as a law librarian? More than my title, Research & Instructional Services Librarian, my work defines me. So, what do I do all day?
Let me tell you a few things I do all day.
I monitor three email accounts – my individual work account, and two reference accounts, to support the informational needs and database access of approximately 727 JD students, around 120 LLM students, a handful of JSD students, approximately 165 full-time & part-time faculty, numerous staff, Visiting Scholars (faculty from foreign law schools), when they are able to come to the U.S. . . .
In addition to answering faculty and students’ research and reference questions, I respond to the occasional query from staff members, public patrons, and students on the main campus of Illinois Tech.
I prepare for, and present, legal research and technology sessions to a range of law school classes – for example: International Trade, Employment Litigation, Civil Litigation, Family Law, Legal Forms, CLIO legal practice management software, Research in U.S. Law to LLM students, Legal Research to LLM students, as well as presentations to student groups such as Law Review, on choosing a note topic and preemption, plus I help to give library orientations/tours at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters.
I meet with students individually, meet with new faculty, JSD students, and Visiting scholars individually to introduce them to the library’s relevant resources and services.
I am the contact person for Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg Law, as well as for CALI, which means that I generate and email Westlaw keys to new students – 1L, transfer, and LLM, and I respond to student, faculty, and staff database log in questions. I email graduating students to notify them when their library database access will end.
I create, and send, new issue alert emails and new content emails to specific faculty.When I come across articles and events that may be of interest to Chicago-Kent faculty, based on research interests, I share them with the relevant parties.
I promote library resources and services when I encounter students in the law school – the elevators create great captive audiences for my spiels. I follow up, via email, with students with whom I speak, by sending links to library resources of which they had not been aware.
I create, and maintain, study aid guides that enumerate, and link to, the library’s electronic resources for each Chicago-Kent course and clinic offered each term, around ninety this semester. I create, and maintain, LibGuides, such as Student Legal Writing Competitions, and I create resource guides on various topics, such as diversity, to support twelve student interest groups.
I write blog posts, once in a while, on topics such as the promotion of new library services and resources. In conjunction with my colleagues, I evaluate resources for their prospective utility to our patrons. On occasion, I serve as a reference for a student or alumnus/a sitting for a bar exam or applying for a job, volunteer position, scholarship, etc.
These are the primary things that I do in, and for, my job, whether day, evening and/or weekend.
I look forward to reading my colleagues’ blog posts and comments – to learn from, and about, all of you. What do you do all day?
Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. Their essays represent their personal beliefs and not that of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.