Reference from Coast to Coast - Lessons in Librarianship

By Jan Bissett and Margi Heinen, Published on January 15, 2002

Welcome to Reference From Coast to Coast: Sources and Strategies, a monthly column written by Jan Bissett and Margi Heinen.

Jan Bissett is a Reference Librarian in the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan office of Dickinson Wright PLLC. She is a past president of the Michigan Association of Law Libraries and has published articles on administrative and research related topics in the Michigan Association of Law Libraries Newsletter and Michigan Defense Quarterly. She and Margi Heinen team teach Legal Information Sources and Services for Wayne State University's Library and Information Science Program in Detroit, Michigan.   

Margi Heinen is the Librarian at Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer & Weiss in Detroit, Michigan. She teaches Legal Resources at the University of Michigan's School of Information and is team teaching with her co-columnist, Jan Bissett, at Wayne State University's School of Library and Information Science. She regularly does Internet training of legal staff at her firm and recently collaborated with Kathleen Gamache on an I.P.E. presentation, Internet Strategies for the Paralegal in Michigan. She is active in the Law Librarians of Metro Detroit and is a member of the American Association of Law Libraries.

A new year is a time of reflection and we've recently been thinking of how we teach our own. By "our own" we mean future librarians and possibly law librarians. Teaching legal bibliography to potential future colleagues is a learning experience. Preparation reveals that which is important to you and interaction with your students often reveals how others view our part of the research world and information profession. This month, we thought we'd take time to reflect on how we've selected and prepared teaching materials, sources we used and lessons we learned.

Preparing course materials is an education in its self. A mini librarian-skills workshop: collection development (selection and acquisition); reference interview (determine questions to be asked and answered; information needed); management (human resources and time management) as well as technical and access services (catalog and classify materials so that they may be easily identified and located). Selecting class materials including the text, additional readings, assignments and discussion topics involves research. We looked to legal research materials used in law schools and other library/information programs. The American Association of Law Libraries Education for A Career in Law librarianship and Competencies of Law Librarianship provided some of our starting points. The Conference of Law Library Educators provides a school's list of related courses and syllabi where available. Legal Research and Writing materials from law schools may help you shape your syllabus but library/information students are not law students and their needs must be recognized and met.

With interest, we've followed the discussions concerning the choice of legal research textbook from the discussion lists to the AALL 2001 Annual Meeting program through Which Legal Research Text is Right for You? 10 Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing 23 (Fall 2001). And while we may agree with some of the observations, a legal bibliography/legal resources class text cannot be confined to legal research. A variety of materials have served as the text: Kunz, The Process of Legal Research (Aspen 2000); Sloan, Basic Legal Research ( Aspen 2000); Svengalis, Legal Information Buyer's Guide and Reference Manual (Rhode Island Press) as well as Fine, American Legal Systems: A Resource and Reference Guide (Anderson Publishing Company). Additional readings from professional associations, research related materials from LLRX.com, The Virtual Chase and other information related publications provided some lively discussions.

Lessons Learned

We've heard it said, most often as students, that each class has its own personality. So true. And we've learned from our students as they've learned from us. Some of those lessons were surprising, others thought provoking, but all were good experiences:

Interest in law librarianship and the need to perform basic legal research continues to grow. In the past three years of teaching the Legal Information Sources and Services at Wayne State University's Library and Information Science program, the enrollment has increased each year, even though the majority of students did not plan to work as full-time law librarians. This year we were asked about the possibility of an advanced course for legal research. Public librarians, special librarians and legal practitioners can learn from those of us who are inclined to teach. Is there an opportunity for you to share your "lessons learned" with others in your community?

Links Mentioned in this Article

American Association of Law Libraries Education for A Career in Law librarianship

  • Link: http://www.aallnet.org/committee/tfedu/education.html

The Conference of Law Library Educators

  • Link: http://courses.unt.edu/chandler/CONFERENCELAWLIB/

The Process of Legal Research

  • Link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/073551223X/

Basic Legal Research

  • Link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0735511985/

Legal Information Buyer's Guide and Reference Manual

  • Link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0965103218/

American Legal Systems: A Resource and Reference Guide

  • Link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0870842668/

The Virtual Chase

  • Link: http://www.virtualchase.com/index.shtml

"Law Librarianship"

  • Link: http://www.llrx.com/guide-gen/3/543.html

"Law Librarians"

  • Link: http://www.llrx.com/guide-gen/2/542.html

Martindale-Hubbell Law Digest

  • Link: http://corporate.martindale.com/xp/Corporate/Login/

archived discussions from the law librarian list

  • Link: http://lawlibrary.ucdavis.edu/LAWLIB/lawlib.html


  • Link: http://www.google.com/

Business Week column

  • Link: http://www.businessweek.com/2000/00_45/b3706195.htm

DPC Data Document Center

  • Link: http://www.dpcdata.com/