Library Committee Handbook

Executive Committee



Request to Fill the Position of Reference Librarian

Janis L. Johnston

August 25, 2004

Law Library

 

Background:  The Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Memorial Law Library serves the research and teaching needs of the College of Law, the University community, the practicing bar and the citizens of the state of Illinois.  Currently the College of Law has 45 faculty members and approximately 685 students including 30 advanced degree students from 22 different countries.   As in most ABA accredited law schools, the law librarians are expected to play an integral role in the students’ professional education through training in legal research.  We have an very research oriented faculty including six new lateral hires this year.

Additionally, service demands from the rest of campus are quite heavy as numerous undergraduate and graduate course offerings focus on the legal aspects of many disciplines.   Our services are used frequently by the local bar and judiciary.  Law reference staff provides basic legal research assistance to many citizens who require extensive help.

The Jenner Law Library houses one of the largest campus libraries with a collection of 750,000 including nearly 9,000 serials subscriptions.  Technical services functions are performed in house in collaboration with the main library. 

 Our current staff includes 6.5 librarian positions (one vacant) and nine support staff (two are vacant and a third position was eliminated this year).  The librarian positions are as follows:

            Director (Janis Johnston)

            Head of Public Services (Paul Healey)

            Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian/Collection

Development/Reference (Jane Williams)

Head of Technical Services (Barbara Henigman)

Reference Librarian (vacancy resulting from the departure of Phill Johnson

             on 9/15/04.)

Reference Librarian – part time (Ann Ribstein)

Reference Librarian (filled by Travis McDade on 10/4/04)

The Jenner has two graduate assistants in public services and two in technical services this year.  Our public services G.A.s both have law degrees.  However, because of their lack of experience in providing legal reference assistance, they will not be scheduled to serve on the reference desk alone until well into the second semester of the academic year.

 

Accreditation:  The American Bar Association, Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar accredits law schools.  Among its standards are specific ones for the law library to insure adequate levels of collections and services are provided and that a sufficient number of librarians are employed to support the educational mission of each school.   As well as providing legal research instruction, the ability of the library to support faculty research is measured.  The ABA standards reflect a belief that scholarly productivity is a strong indicator of a school’s intellectual vitality. 

At the time of the 1996 ABA Accreditation Inspection, the ABA communicated to the College the need to have, at a very minimum, six librarians and preferably more on staff to remain in good standing.  (The average number of law librarians at our peer institutions in the CIC is 10.5.)   We are awaiting the results this fall of another ABA Accreditation Inspection conducted last spring.  The preliminary report indicated serious concerns with our current staffing levels.

The following chart illustrates our staffing levels for professional librarians since the last site inspection

 

 

 

8/1997

8/1998

8/1999

8/2000

8/2001

8/2002

8/2003

1

Surles

 

Johnston

Johnston

Johnston

Johnston

Johnston

2

Williams

Williams

Williams

Williams

Williams

Williams

Williams

3

Hemp

Defendifer

 

Healey

Healey

Healey

Healey

4

Cooper

Cooper

 

Callister

Callister

Callister

 

5

 

 

 

 

Butterfield

Butterfield

Butterfield

6

 

 

 

Hook

 

Johnson

Johnson

7 (½ time)

 

 

 

 

 

 Ribstein

Ribstein

Totals

4

3

2

5

5

6.5

5.5

 

 

Nature and Scope of the Position:  This position provides reference services, legal research training and support for faculty research.  In addition, this position has been relied on to oversee the library’s website, market library services to faculty and create online resources to assist in Westlaw and Lexis training.  Given the gravity to users of incomplete or inadequate legal research assistance, this position requires both an M.L.S. and a J.D. degree.

 

Relationship of the Position to the Educational Mission of the College of Law and the Campus:   This position is essential to providing the necessary level of both formal and informal legal research training for our students.   No law school can hope during three years to train its students in all areas of the law.  Instead law schools train students to “think like a lawyer” and equip them with legal research skills that will allow them to find the applicable law for each client’s situation, to stay abreast of new developments in particular legal fields and to master new legal areas as their practice dictates.   The law library, be it in electronic or print format, is the lawyer’s laboratory. 

            Additionally, the demand for research assistance from our faculty is growing.  We have added six new faculty this year and hope to hire four more in 2005.

 

Impact of Not Filling this Position:   Because of our vacant reference position, the law library has significantly reduced the training and assistance normally provided to the first year legal research and writing program.  We are failing in our task of equipping our students to be competent legal researchers.  Our librarians who staff the reference desk have all assumed additional shifts, reducing the time available to work on more extensive faculty requests and other projects.  Whether we are able with 6.5 librarians in place to support the mission of the College of Law is questionable.  I anticipate that the Accreditation Committee of the ABA, Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, will be critical of our low number of law librarians once again.