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Are you ready for special goggles that would enable you to read every legal document ever written? How about glass screens displaying documents that can be manipulated by a digitally enhanced glove like the one that Tom Cruise wore in “Minority Report,” the recent sci-fi thriller? Okay, so maybe the goggles and the high-tech screens are a bit far-fetched, at least for now. But such devices were mentioned when California Legal Pro asked law librarians around the state what their jobs might look like 50 years from today. Futuristic visions of Jetsons-era gadgetry aside, the librarians’ responses reflected a common attitude that their jobs are most definitely changing — and will continue to do so in the years and decades to come. Already gone, of course, are the days in which law librarians sat at their desks and devoted their working hours to checking out dusty books to lawyers and other law-firm staffers in the course of their legal research. The Internet era has required librarians to reckon with a seemingly unlimited supply of online information. Indeed, the very notion of a library itself has changed. No longer confined to a physical space, today’s law library has already been transformed into a more virtual entity that can be accessed, via computer, from anywhere on the planet. Here are some predictions for the future: I think that 50 years from now the only librarians left, in the traditional sense, will be in major universities and perhaps the Law Library of Congress. Those librarians will be manipulating and providing access to digital information in ways I can’t even begin to imagine. Law librarians in law firms will no longer exist as they do now because all firms will be working exclusively with digital information. The need to manage that information will still be an important task, along with staying ahead of the curve with new technologies. I see librarians being integrated into information technology and knowledge management functions. But librarians will still be the purveyors of information applications. — Deborah Schwartz San Francisco Library Manager Pillsbury Winthrop San Francisco Librarians 50 years ago were confronting new technology and dire warnings that “your entire library can fit in a shoebox and library books are obsolete.” That technology was microfiche. But my shoeboxes still contain shoes. Libraries 50 years into the future will be smaller than they are now and less pretentious because buckram-bound case reports will be gone. But at least a few quintessentially convenient, easily portable books will still be nearby. Librarians will sift through the large streams of electronic information with the help of hand-held wireless scanners and deliver the best nuggets to their attorneys, who may be half a world away or standing over their shoulders just as they do now. — Bob Oaks Chief Library and Records Officer Latham & Watkins Los Angeles Librarians help bring order to the chaos of random data available in the information universe. The law librarian decides what external data goes into the firm’s information stream and organizes the data for easy understanding, digesting and use. It’s what we’ve always done. In 50 years, the tools we use will be different but the need will still be there for managing information. Perhaps, similar to what was portrayed in the movie “Minority Report,” we’ll wear special hand tools and information will flow by on the glass panels in front of us, controlled by our voice commands and the pointing of our fingers. Even with more technology, our basic job will still be to filter, organize and deliver information in a user-friendly format. — Catherine Hardy Librarian Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe San Francisco In the 1957 romantic comedy “Desk Set,” Spencer Tracy plays an efficiency expert who arrives at a TV network to install a room-sized computer in the research department. Its failings force Tracy to explain that the computer was designed to help the researchers, not replace them, and he concedes that the undertaking was a mistake. Those who are captive to the “Desk Set” fallacy exaggerate or underestimate the risks and benefits of technological innovation. Advances in legal research technology will unfold within the tightening strictures of intellectual property law and legal publishing business practices. These constraints will increase the value of professionals who, following the latest advances, will master the cost-effective uses of all resources for legal research. Michael Ginsborg Library Research Analyst Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin San Francisco In 50 years the entire collection of the world’s largest law library may fit on a tiny chip implanted into special goggles that law students will be able to check out and then read all their treatises and cases via virtual reality. The library in 50 years may very well be bookless. But there will always be a need for trained librarians to sort out all the information, regardless of how it is accessed. What won’t change in 50 years is the need for the library as a meeting and study space. Law is by nature a collaborative enterprise, and the library offers conference rooms and other meeting facilities. The law library is also where law students learn the law. They may spend an hour in class on a certain course, but it is during the many follow-up hours that are spent studying away at a library carrel or table when actual learning takes place. — Paul Lomio Acting Director, Law Library Stanford University Palo Alto I think that 50 years from now law librarians will no longer be a separate group within the firm. Instead, we’ll be allied with other groups, including marketing, knowledge management and Web development. We will no longer be directing people to books but instead to databases and Web sites, which will not be free. Even government-provided Web information will require a subscription fee or access charge. We will shift our focus from conducting legal research to training — showing lawyers how to use the many electronic legal sources available. We will be part of mega-firms, handling more and more nonlegal requests for information. And we will telecommute much more often because all information will be electronically available — many more casual days! — Lauri Flynn Manager of Library Services Littler Mendelson San Francisco As the practice of law becomes increasingly specialized, it follows that law librarians must invest further in subject and practice specialties. We must do this while meeting the challenge of understanding the broader legal context and maintaining generalist skills. As we take on more specialist roles, it will be critical for librarians to identify and evaluate digital resources. We will take responsibility for codifying, organizing and delivering tools and content, training attorneys in the use of various resources and providing all possible access points in anticipation of user preferences. We will leverage all available technologies to provide truly portable 24-7 service and enable real-time e-dialogue with attorneys as we partner with them to conduct increasingly sophisticated legal and business research. – Peg LaFrance Librarian Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe San Francisco What won’t change is the essence of what law librarians do. We will continue to manage the explosion of information and make it available in manageable segments. The Internet explosion hasn’t made us less useful. If anything we are needed more now than ever. If everything is available somewhere, it is increasingly necessary to have someone who knows where the somewhere is. We will continue to act as guides and teachers, help filter trustworthy and valuable sites from the vast universe of information dreck. How we do our jobs will change over time. What we do will not. — Lynn Connor Merring Librarian Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth Irvine The trend towards global mega-firms will continue over the next 50 years. This trend, along with the ever-increasing plethora of information, will create unique opportunities for law librarians to become highly specialized and more closely aligned with the practice groups in their firms. Sadly, the concept of the library as a physical space filled with books will continue to be less relevant, as will geographic location, as law librarians work across offices to support their practice groups. Law librarians will collaborate in a virtual fashion with their librarian co-workers and patrons rather than in a traditional library setting. Research services will be available 24-7 in order to accommodate various time zones and work styles. In spite of the virtual nature of much of the communication between librarians and patrons, patrons will still value a continuing relationship with an information specialist they know and trust. In our free time, law librarians will still read good books made out of real paper. – Kathy Skinner Information Resources Manager Morrison & Foerster San Francisco Andrew Simons is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles and a regular contributor to California Legal Pro.

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