When Librarian Becomes Student

Last week I registered for the LLM in International Law and Sustainable Development. I am really looking forward to this semester; I am taking The World Trading System: Law and Policy, Legal Research Methods, and Business and Human Rights Law.

Yesterday, I attended an introduction to library services, and it was extremely interesting to be on the other side for a change. Due to my remote location when I was in my last post, I did not get to visit too many other libraries to see how other librarians approached instruction sessions. Since I was a solo librarian, I did not like to attend meetings during term time unless absolutely necessary, it meant that I usually met with my colleagues during the school holidays and thus rarely got to see them “in action.”

Yesterday’s session was more of an introduction, rather than an information literacy session. The university’s law librarian actually delivers a series of webcasts for our Legal Research Methods class, which are meant to explore research in greater detail. Therefore, yesterday’s introduction focused more on general library policy, the arrangement of the physical library, how to search the library catalogue, and a brief overview of the library’s electronic databases. As a librarian who has actually done a work placement in that particular library, I can’t say there was too much that was new to me, but I was interested to learn that the library’s new integrated catalogue allows one to export bibliographic records to reference management software.

One thing that did stand out to me was the fact that only about 20 or so students were present for the optional session. There were about 60 students at the law school induction the night before, and I believe there are about 100 LLM students in total, although some may be distance learning.  It also seemed as though a greater proportion of the “mature” students attended; at 29, I was one of the youngest students there, although there are certainly many more twenty-something LLM students.

So why such a low turn out? I believe one of the greatest factors was the timing. The session took place at 2:00, which isn’t ideal as many of the students are also practicing lawyers or have other work commitments. Of course, yesterday’s weather may have also been a factor; at a sunny 23 degrees, it was one of the nicest days in Glasgow all year and few people would have wanted to be stuck inside. However, I’d venture that many of the students did not see how it would be relevant to them. I overheard a couple of students (not law students, btw)  in the lift say, “I’m not going to the library session. I know how to take a book out!”

Admittedly, many practicing lawyers who studied for their LL.B. at the same university would not have been too surprised by the information in yesterday’s session. Most are familiar with using Lexis and Westlaw for work and they are familiar with the university’s print collection, even if it has been relocated recently. Any gaps can probably be filled in by information on the library website.

If the law librarian wanted to ensure that he reached all LLM students, another way to tackle the introduction to library services would be to bring it to the students. Perhaps it could be shortened to a half-hour session to be part of the general law school induction or part of an early class session. The librarian could focus on the most relevant issues, such as the difference between the commercial databases and the academic ones, or showing students who are unlikely to ever visit the physical library how to access e-books. To be honest, I didn’t really think it was necessary to go over noise policy or food policy. There are signs up all over the library stating the library’s (rather restrictive and old-fashioned), in my opinion) food and noise policies, so I didn’t see why a professional librarian had to reiterate the policies to a room full of adults. I am guessing this is something he may be required to do by the library director, rather than something he really wanted to spend valuable time going over.

Although I didn’t discover much new information, I am glad I went for the different perspective.  I had to stop myself from jumping in a couple of times, and I kept wondering how I would have delivered the session if I were in the librarian’s position. Who knows? Maybe one day I will be!


About thegreatnorthernlibrarian

I am a newly qualified librarian and law student currently living in Scotland. The name of this blog was inspired by my extreme northern location at the time of the blog's creation. Savvy readers will recognise that it is also a Twin Peaks reference. I do not necessarily categorise myself as "great."
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