It is no secret that legal education in America faces an uncertain future. A pronounced enrollment decline coupled with widespread negative media attention—especially regarding a lack of practical skills training in law school curriculums—has led the legal academy to consider serious reform measures. As has been predicted ad nauseam by commentators, in the near future, a number of law schools may even be forced to close. As law schools go, so go academic law libraries, and the crisis in legal education has had a profound effect on these institutions. Shrinking budgets and “questions of new missions” have beset law libraries across the nation. But for a number of interrelated reasons, this so-called crisis might be a blessing in disguise.
Like many academic librarians, after completing the marathon of the traditional school year, we often use the summer semester to reflect, revise, and plan for the upcoming fall. In the summer of 2012, during a casual conversation in which we shared stories about rewarding reference interactions, we stumbled upon an “a-ha moment,” discovering an opportunity to connect targeted library outreach with an underserved user group. During this exchange, we realized how much we both enjoy working with adult learners and how they always seem genuinely interested in gaining skills to make themselves better library users, and therefore better students. This conversation became the catalyst for an idea of a library course designed specifically for adult learners returning to the classroom.
Historians are used to sleuthing. Obtaining verifiable sources is difficult; original documents may be unavailable. With computer searching methods some of the detective work has eased up, at least superficially. However search engines depend on databases that can be parsed and queried digitally. Whatever is not in these databases is unreachable except in person. Great strides have been made thanks to the Internet, and online techniques are useful tools, but their help is always limited.
The search for Rodríguez’s “Chinese Poem” is a case study in how, despite strong efforts and advanced technological approaches, searches cannot be guaranteed to succeed.
So many ideas can be sparked by coincidental juxtaposition. In the past few weeks, I have been thinking about the intersections between scholarly communications and information literacy. This was largely because I was part of a panel at the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Conference about the task force charged with implementing the 2013 White Paper on the topic. My specific task was to discuss how the new Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education illuminated the approach we called for in the white paper. On top of these concerns came the Blurred Lines copyright case, which was all over the media in the past few weeks, and about which I have been asked my opinion repeatedly. Can these different strands be woven into a coherent idea?
The great debate has come to a truce: The new Framework for Information Literacy has been adopted, but will not replace the familiar information literacy Standards, at least for now. This probably frustrates people who strongly support (or oppose) one or the other, but it gives us a chance to work out some sticky issues without anyone feeling that they lost.
ve heard the “what are they teaching in library school these days, anyway?” comments for as long as I’ve been an educator; it comes with the territory. It’s natural, and healthy, that all of us are invested in the process by which people become members of our profession. However, in the last few years, another couple of tropes have entered the fray: that there are too many students in our programs and that the number is growing, that there aren’t enough jobs for them, and that students and recent graduates feel betrayed and even lied to as a result. That has extended, in some conversations, into calls for somebody to do something about this, such as, perhaps, ALA through its accrediting functions. Taken together, these seem to indicate substantial questions or misgivings about LIS education and its infrastructure. As an educator and proud member of the profession, that’s concerning to me as well.
Every year I do a short presentation about negotiation during the course I co-teach with my colleague Will Cross on legal issues for librarians at the University of North Carolina School of Information and Library Science. And every year, that presentation elicits a large number of questions and exposes considerable anxiety amongst these new librarians about negotiating, first on their own behalf as they seek employment, and then as negotiation becomes a regular part of their professional lives. I also recently had a conversation with seasoned librarians about license principles and how to use them in negotiations, and detected some of the same hesitations I later saw in students.
I recently watched the film “The Monuments Men,” which tells the story the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archive program that was established under the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied armies. This program was tasked to rescue fine art pieces before the Nazis had a chance to destroy or steal them during World War II. Sadly, the program ended in 1946. It is very much needed today.
A few years ago I went to my optometrist. On hearing I was a librarian, she asked me a fiction reader’s-advisory question. Of course, I’m not a public librarian, or a reference librarian either. Rather than try to explain that to my optometrist, however, I went along with her assumptions about what librarians do by recommending a recent read. It isn’t just optometrists who have narrow notions of what this field encompasses; too often our own notions are barely any broader. This worries me, not least because it doesn’t reflect the variety and opportunity I see in the information professions.
Now that the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education is finished, I finally got around to reading it. I was often critical of parts of the information literacy standards, but haven’t found much to criticize about the “Framework,” although I know others have. Most of the “threshold concepts” are things I’ve been talking about with students for years, so there’s little in it that seems particularly new, except thinking of such ideas as threshold concepts. There was one thing that surprised me, though: the recognition of various forms of privilege.