September 10, 2000
Approved by the Executive Board Nov. 4, 2000
The American Association of Law Libraries' Research Agenda aims to stimulate a diverse range of scholarship related to and supportive of the profession of law librarianship.
Law librarianship encompasses a wide range of job responsibilities in a variety of settings, based on a foundation of a common bibliography, the provision of information services, and the assistance of users with their research needs. The "Information Age" offers a myriad of opportunities to improve, expand, and enhance the profession. Interdisciplinary research will increase in frequency, scope and importance as the profession adapts to changes in its demands and the needs of end users. Technology will continue to change the work and the workplace of law librarians. The Research Agenda is structured to promote exploration of these changes, and others, as they affect the profession.
An essential underpinning of the Research Agenda is the assurance of intellectual freedom in Association-sponsored research. Intellectual freedom is a cornerstone of librarianship. It allows both the researcher and the end user to explore new areas of knowledge and reach conclusions and recommendations free from oversight and pre-determined results. The American Association of Law Libraries adheres to the principles of intellectual freedom and does not seek specific outcomes from any research produced under its auspices.
The Research Agenda is not comprehensive. It will change as research projects are completed and conditions warrant. The AALL Research Committee invites law librarians and other interested researchers to explore the items listed in the Research Agenda, and looks forward to working with them to develop research projects and publicize their results.
- The Profession of Law Librarianship
- Librarians traditionally engage in a democratic approach to decision-making. How can this collegial approach be accommodated in the current climate that often requires fast action and rapid decision-making?
- Can job descriptions for professional positions be developed to allow for the flexibility in the execution of duties while giving some sense of the range of responsibilities in the particular position? How can job descriptions be written to encourage professional development, job growth, and changing library needs? What system or method of professional evaluation will best lead to a motivated and productive law librarian workforce?
- As law librarians, what are the common principles and goals we share regardless of our work setting? How can we ensure that those principles are sound? How can we best pass them on to subsequent generations of law librarians?
- What are the current and future growth patterns of various sectors of law librarianship? Is the need for legal information professionals being met? If not, what should the profession do about it? What are the implications for the profession as we see fewer MLS graduates and more "information specialists," and as more non-MLS professionals are hired in libraries?
- What makes the law librarian different from other information professionals? Why should universities, law firms, courts, etc., continue to hire law librarians? What justifies categorizing law librarianship as a unique profession? Can we find parallels in other professions to help explain our reason for existence?
- What are the characteristics of an effective leader in the profession? Can we find parallels in other professions?
- What are the characteristics of a good law librarian? What skills and talents are needed to succeed in the profession? How can these traits be described and communicated to those who are investigating careers? Why do librarians develop a specialization in law librarianship, or lawyers decide to seek a career in law librarianship?
- How do law libraries support staff development and continuing education? Can standards for support of professional development be determined and implemented? Should standards and strategies for implementation vary among different types of law libraries? What effects do variances in levels of support have on the status and credibility of law librarians, as well as on their opportunities for advancement, salaries, etc.? How can the value of professional development be promoted as a tool for effective law librarians?
- How well are law librarians served by their local, regional and national professional organizations in matters of continuing education, public relations and promotion of common interests? How can these organizations best promote individual development and law librarianship? Should there be different types of organizations for each different type of law librarian? How well do non-law related organizations serve the needs of law librarians?
- Does the current curriculum in librarianship provide the basic skills and competencies that will be needed by law librarians in the year 2000? 2010? 2020? What new curriculum or degree programs may be needed to ensure that basic skills and competencies are taught?
- What specific requirements and experience are appropriate or necessary for work in different types of law libraries, or in different areas of specialization? For what positions and in what types of libraries is the law degree desirable? What are the professional consequences of changing jobs or specialization in mid-career?
- What impact does faculty status for academic law librarians have on salary, job security and academic freedom?
- What can be done to improve salaries in the profession? Should the salary difference between administrators and non-administrative positions be reduced, or is it justified given differing job responsibilities, experience, and other factors?
- How can the financial benefits of law librarians to their institutions be quantified and documented?
- Law Library Patrons
- How can law libraries offer instruction and training to remote patrons? Does the format of the materials being used by the remote patron affect the type of instruction and training offered?
- How will user fees and cost recovery mechanisms affect law library patrons access to resources and services?
- What implications does the globalization of the practice and teaching of law hold for law libraries and patrons? Can services be designed that can serve a multilingual user population?
- How can patrons who have wholeheartedly embraced electronic resources be regained as customers? Should they be? What services/products can law libraries provide patrons so that the patron, and the institution, continues to find libraries of value?
- Do the legal information needs of culturally diverse communities differ from the needs of the majority community? Do the information needs of individuals with disabilities differ from the needs of the majority community? If so, how can law librarians be prepared to meet the needs of all library patrons?
- What is the appropriate role for law librarians in the provision of pro bono services to indigent and pro se patrons?
- Law Library Services
- How can we better analyze the needs of our users, to make sure that the services we offer meet their needs? Are random surveys sufficient? Can sample surveys, survey questions, or other information collection instruments be developed that would serve a variety of types of libraries?
- Can we develop a service model for library instruction that can be quantitatively correlated with outcomes, to allow us to justify this expenditure of time? Should service models be developed based on cost alone?
- How can we continue to create collections and services that are accessible by remote users and at the same time continue to offer the human touch that has characterized law librarianship since its beginnings?
- Can legal resources on the Internet be adequately classified and cataloged? Should they be?
- How can the full range of resources available electronically, including audio, video, graphics, animation, text, etc., be incorporated into and described in a single cataloging record? How can adequate access and retrieval mechanisms be built into the cataloging record? Will cataloging records need to change from text to a more graphical representation? What are the implications of this kind of change? What happens to unindexed/uncataloged materials?
- Can standards for description, access, encoding and transmission of digital resources be developed that would allow for uniform comparisons and knowledgeable selection? How can law librarians or AALL persuade legal information producers to adopt open, non-proprietary standards?
- How can the difference between "adequate" and "excellent" law library service be described?
- There is a wide range of measurements available for evaluating law library performance, including input measurements, output measurements, performance measurements, quality assurance measurements, outcome measurements and impact measurements. When is it appropriate to use each type of measurement? How should each be used? Can and should measurements include both a qualitative and a quantitative component? (This question can relate to services, patrons, library personnel, the collection, etc.)
- What roles do law librarians play in their respective institutions beyond those traditionally associated with librarians (reference, instruction, collection development, cataloging and classification, etc.)? How can these roles be balanced with the competing demands from institutional authorities that the librarians assume these additional roles?
- How can law libraries improve interlibrary loan and document delivery services, irrespective of the format of the information being shared? What are the copyright implications of resource sharing arrangements?
- Changing technology has made it possible for legal researchers, law firms, and practitioners to create personalized electronic libraries suited to their specific needs, and to make these libraries easily available to the public. How does this affect the use and role of law libraries?
- What is the potential impact of direct publisher-end user relationships on law libraries?
- How can a digital law library be evaluated? What kind of performance measurements can be devised to measure how the digital law library met patrons' needs? What kind of performance measurements can be devised to measure the adequacy of the collection?
- Should law librarians oversee the computer/information technology functions of their institutions? If so, how is the computer/information technology function best integrated into the operation of the library without taking resources away from other operations? If not, how should the library staff maintain its position as primary information supplier for the institution?
- Legal Research and Bibliography
- How do lawyers in various professional settings actually conduct research, how do they use law libraries and librarians, and how do their approaches to research relate to those in other professions?
- How can legal research instruction be improved? What are the levels of responsibility for legal research instruction among law schools, law firms and vendors? What electronic resources should be taught, and why? What is the impact of the timing on the teaching of electronic resources to law students? What are the legal research skills a law school graduate should have?
- What will be the effects of increased reliance on electronic research on the development of the law, once researchers are no longer tied to the structures of the digest and other indexing systems? Is electronic legal research changing the actual law?
- How is legal research by attorneys affected by differences in the economics of practice between large and small firms, or between urban and rural firms?
- What are the ethical requirements of the legal research process? It has been stated that it is an attorney's responsibility to find information that is "reasonably available," regardless of format. What is the definition of "reasonably available?" When has an attorney performed sufficient research?
- What impact have networking and direct user access to information had on the patterns of scholarly communication among academic lawyers and scholars in other disciplines? What implications does this have for library services to law school faculty?
- In addition to the more theoretical questions posed above, law librarianship is also concerned with the practical tasks such as bringing bibliographic organization to legal publications and providing finding tools such as indexes and directories. The following list of projects represents concrete ideas and also may suggest additional topics needing to be addressed:
1. index to state and national bar association reports or proceedings (i.e, update to Dooley's Index to Bar Association Reports); index to state and national bar association periodicals
2. index to lower court cases in a judicial district (i.e. those cases only published in newspapers, local legal periodicals, etc.)
1.historical directory and/or biographical directory of appellate and trial judges in a state
2.historical biographical directory of the law school faculty for each state or school
BIBLIOGRAPHIES/ PUBLISHING HISTORY
1.bibliographies of the state court reports and statutes for each state
2.bibliography and/or publishing history of legal periodicals in a state
3.bibliography and/or publishing history of legal treatises in a state
- Legal Information Resources
- How can consortium agreements be forged between public and private, for-profit and not-for-profit libraries, to maximize leverage in buying/acquiring information resources? How can the individual members of the consortium retain sufficient independence while benefiting from the consortial agreements?
- Can, or should, "digital libraries" become members of consortia, separate from their parent institutions? Does it make a difference if their parent institutions are in the for-profit sector?
- What new relationships are forming between libraries, with or without walls?
- What is a "legal document" in the electronic age? How does this new genre impact publishing, access, control, preservation and the use of the document in a legal proceeding?
- How can we best communicate with information producers to ensure that they provide legal information in the best appropriate format for end users, rather in the most cost-effective format for production or the "format of the moment"? What are we doing as a profession to influence information resource research and development?
- What standards and guidelines should be developed for the organization and delivery of information and services in an evolving print and electronic environment? Can these standards and guidelines apply to a purely electronic collection (whether virtual or not), or must there be differing standards to recognize the different formats and organizational models?
- Can a "standard of excellence' for a legal information website be developed? Can this standard of excellence be applied to web resources in such a way that will assist consumers and law librarians in law-related research?
- How do cancellations of materials affect library service in law libraries? What are the long-term impacts of write-for-order programs and cancellations of materials produced by targeted publishers? What are the long-term implications of canceling print copies of publications because the information is available online? Are there different considerations if the information is available for free on the Internet or only available through commercial providers?
- Law Library Facilities
- How does the arrangement of the library and its collection of resources influence the patron's choice of resource? How does it influence the librarian's choice of resources?
- What is a digital law library? How does it differ from a print library and a virtual library? Does a digital law library have to also have a physical location?
- What kind of infrastructure is needed for a digital law library? For this purpose, "infrastructure" includes hardware and software, staffing, location, and information resources content?
- Would it be feasible to unify all the law library catalogs, either in the U.S., in North American, or worldwide? Can databases and websites be incorporated into this unified law library catalog?