Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Should Law Librarians Attend And Participate In Faculty Meetings?

Faculty MeetingCharlotte D. Schneider (Reference Librarian, Rutgers), Inclusion and Participation: Law Librarians at Law Faculty Meetings, 107 Law Libr. J. 113 (2015):

Despite the vital role they play in the success of their law schools, academic law librarians are often denied attendance to and participation in law faculty meetings on certain matters of law school governance. This article argues that including qualified librarians in faculty meeting discussions and decision making will benefit law schools, faculty, and students alike.

Law faculty meetings represent an amalgamation of conversations, ranging from substantive to social, all focused on or coming back to the institution’s direction in legal education and the success of its student body and faculty. While it is hard to quantify these successes, they can often be sensed by way of the acknowledgments by doctrinal faculty for scholarly research support and in the employment outcomes of the student body who impress employers with their knowledge of research materials and processes. These successes directly impact school rankings and the number of potential applicants, and they can be easily traced back to law librarians’ contributions within the legal academy.

Academic law librarians are such an integral part of legal education and yet often lack the right to contribute a voice to the ongoing success of their law school and its student body. These librarians often have the educational equivalent of voting faculty and are likely to contribute to their industry very much like those doctrinal faculties, even without the implicit encouragement of being on a tenure track.

These librarian-professors, very much like their doctrinal brethren, are invested in the success of their students and even contribute to better employment placements for students, but are still overlooked as a voice to contribute to matters concerning the student body. These librarian-professors are likely to also take on course loads that are not just foundational to the success of the law students but essential for their later success in the practice of law. Required legal research courses should not be limited to only the first-year curriculum but should also be an integral part of the upper-level curriculum because research is a necessary skill for postgraduation employment. This urgency in focusing on legal research instruction in law school demands that legal research educators—law librarians—be a part of discussions and votes that take place at faculty meetings. Librarian attendance and participation at faculty meetings will only add support for the continued success of the legal academy and legal education as a whole.

Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink


Eric: We seem to have a disagreement here. From my perspective you are drawing your conclusion from the ideal of what law professors are ideally supposed to do, not from that of what many, many, many actually do in terms of being scholars and advancing knowledge. The reality is that too many times law teachers tend to be "scholars" (of some sort) until they achieve job security and it is still a very real question whether the categories of "knowledge" we tend to put forth (if we even bother after a time) is simply technical analysis of a kind that any intelligent person could do in a technique-driven profession or something of truly deep intellectual merit. Unfortunately, most of the things in the latter category were already done quite a bit of time ago. There is also the issue whether much of the politicized political opinion and "feeling" stuff that dominates a fair amount of the legal literature is worth much of anything.

By the way, I am not a librarian but as indicated I have found the ones with whom I worked to be insightful and intellectual in a way that many doctrinal faculty are not.

Posted by: David | Nov 25, 2015 12:47:07 PM

Are there any other disciplines where librarians are considered faculty members (outside of an MLS program of course)?

Posted by: JayA | Nov 25, 2015 11:17:39 AM

To economics professors, it seems like a joke that librarians should be at the same level as faculty. You may have to be smart and know a lot to be a librarian, but you don't need to be a scholar or to advance knowledge.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Nov 25, 2015 9:35:44 AM

I am stunned that the question even needs to be asked at this point. Most of the law librarians I have dealt with have a level and breadth of intellectual curiosity and knowledge that would shame some of the tenured law faculty with whom I have dealt. They also tend to have an intellectual superstructure that integrates knowledge across sub-specialties because they have to look at the entire field of "law knowledge" in making choices about the library directions. I'm not even going to go into the need to have a strong presence in the evolution and impact of communications and knowledge technologies on legal education, law and law practice. My answer, of course they should have the rights and privileges of other faculty members.

Posted by: David | Nov 25, 2015 8:56:01 AM