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Law librarians are a resilient group. For the last decade, they endured predictions of the paperless law office, the virtual law library and the elimination of law librarian jobs. Law librarians have weathered downsizing, library school closings, fluctuating economies, unceasing technological change and predictions of computer meltdown as a result of Y2K. Throughout, law librarians continued to provide important services to their employers and even assumed additional roles within their organizations. As a result, law librarianship has matured significantly as a profession. Where law librarians spent the last several years worrying about their continued employment and the very existence of libraries, they have now turned their focus to their changed positions and their job performance. That is not to say they have become complacent or that they take their continued employment for granted; there are too many challenges for that to happen. But the law librarian’s concern of 10 years ago — the end of law libraries — has lost a lot of its urgency. Instead, law librarians now confront many intriguing issues: How can they most efficiently balance print and electronic materials in the library’s mix of resources? What is the best way to teach the library’s clientele effective legal research? How can law librarians ensure the preservation of primary legal materials that appear only in electronic formats? What will the law library of the future really look like? As law firms, law schools and other legal institutions with law libraries move forward, these questions will be resolved out of necessity. Law librarians have the opportunity to guide and shape the resolution of these problems, or to be shaped by them. The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) has chosen to shape the future. The issues described above are among those to be addressed by AALL in the next five years. Using the “2000-2005 Strategic Plan, Leadership for the 21st Century: New Realities, Changing Roles,” as a guide, AALL is investigating systematically these and other pressing matters. For example, the Special Committee on the Future of Law Libraries in the Digital Age is charged with considering the implications of electronic publishing for the future of law libraries. The committee will consider different scenarios or models to describe the law library of the future, covering such things as library content, the relative balance between print and electronic sources, library staffing and staff roles and library services. The committee might develop a set of draft standards for the law library of the future and for the delivery of information and services in this new environment. All law libraries, and their parent institutions, are grappling with the vexing “print vs. database” question. The situation is complicated even further by the massive but chaotic content of the Internet. Can the library afford to duplicate electronic resources in print? Can it afford not to? Can it rely on the Internet for current authoritative legal information? In the last few years, some law library print collections were all but eliminated in favor of electronic subscriptions and the Internet. In recent months, however, law librarians have heard anecdotal reports of firms denying electronic resources to summer clerks and new associates, and even canceling electronic subscriptions. There are a variety of reasons for this trend: The cost of database subscriptions (on-going and escalating) vs. the cost of print (one time). In addition, there is the growing realization of the limitations of online research — excellent for factual retrieval but very difficult for conceptual research. Administrators thus need guidance on the right path to follow. The report of the special committee, expected by summer 2002, should be valuable to all institutions in determining the future directions of their legal resource collections. FOCUSING ON THE FUTURE Until then, AALL’s annual meeting will examine the profession and the role of individual law librarians in the context of rapidly changing legal, technological and library environments. The educational program will place the variety of significant and complex issues facing all law librarians in a conceptual framework. For example, the program will include a discussion of the law of cyberspace, and another on the inevitable evolution of law librarians into knowledge workers. These topics, and many others, will lay the groundwork for AALL’s consideration of the prospects for law libraries in the coming years. Law librarians have learned over the past decade that they can’t take their jobs, or even their libraries, for granted. Law librarians now know they need to demonstrate their value to their institution or face replacement. They must continually upgrade their skills and knowledge, and keep themselves apprised of the changes facing them, their institutions and the legal system. Continuing professional education has become indispensable. As with all legal professionals, however, law librarians realize that learning could become a full-time occupation. How, then, do law librarians pinpoint the essential areas in which they need to develop proficiencies and expertise? To help answer this question, AALL’s Professional Development Committee engaged in an ambitious project to define the profession of law librarianship today and in the future by identifying, verifying and actively promoting competencies of law librarianship. Competencies are the knowledge, skills, abilities and personal characteristics that help distinguish superior performance. The committee identified both “core competencies” (applicable to all law librarians) and specialized competencies (library management; reference, research and client services; information technology; collection care and management; and teaching). The resulting report, “Competencies of Law Librarianship,” available at www.aallnet.org/prodev/competencies, will guide librarians in their continuing education and assist employers in hiring, evaluation and promotion decisions. The core competencies stress the foundations of law librarianship; fundamental skills such as critical thinking, communication and advocacy; the ability to work as part of a team; and a knowledge of the legal system and the parent institution. The specialized competencies relate to specific areas of practice. Many law librarians will concentrate their energies in just one area: teaching, for example, or collection management. Some law librarians, however, have multiple responsibilities, requiring expertise in more than one area. The specialized competencies present a framework for gaining and maintaining critical, expert knowledge. The AALL, through its extensive professional development programs, is preparing law librarians for the future. Barbara Bintliff is the vice president-elect for the American Association of Law Libraries. She is currently professor of law, Thompson Fellow, and director of the Law Library at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

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