Law Librarianship 2.0, footnoted

Chapter 1 of Law Librarianship in the Digital Age by Ellyssa Kroski is “Law Librarianship 2.0″ by Jennifer Wertkin. This chapter briefly outlines the types of law libraries, their purposes and functions, and the major changes affecting them from U.S. colonial times to the present. There are a couple of points I found particularly interesting. As is common in legal writing, some of the best stuff is in the footnotes.

Footnote 3 credits the West National Reporter System with creating the prestigious look of a law firm library. Currently, a full set of a West regional reporter, containing case law from five states, is available new from the publisher for $10,480, or individual volumes for $655 each. Alternatively, individual volumes are available used from resellers for $20, and for those who monitor law librarian email lists carefully, sometimes libraries give them away for just the cost of shipping. I predict reporter volumes will have a long life as a distinctive backdrop for law firm conference rooms, lawyer advertising, law librarian profile photos, and so on. However, as Wertkin points out in the text of the chapter, almost all law firm research is already being done online, not from reporter volumes in print. The appearance of prestige the reporters still evoke is called into question not only by the actual cost of the books (if bought used), but also by their lack of utility to today’s lawyers.

Footnote 7 states that Harvard and a few other law school libraries have integrated their catalogs with their wider university systems, but most have not. The text of the chapter states the justification for keeping the law school library catalog separate: legal serials and foreign legal information are so different and specialized, compared to most materials in a university’s collection, that they require the expertise of dedicated technical services librarians. This makes me wonder why a law school as prestigious as Harvard would integrate its catalog while other law schools would not. It seems unlikely that the Harvard Law School collection would be less different or less specialized than other law school libraries’ collections.