Academic law librarians: wallflowers or social butterflies?


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Presentation given at BIALL 2011 conference by Emily Allbon (City University), Maria Bell (LSE) and Wendy Lynwood (Birkbeck). Focus is on the role of academic law librarians within their institutions and the wider HE sphere, with a look at the varied experiences of the speakers and the relationships formed.

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  • Scene setting.As we said in our abstract: With compulsory redundancies, zero-based reviews and everyone nervously watching their backs, alliances are more important than ever within Higher Education. In a world where circulation is moving over to self-service , everyone’s best friend is Google and library spaces are full of funky furniture and chat, it is vital to prove our worth. Notes to work with: How are we perceived? As helpful people, but don’t’ really understand the pressures of being an academic / student? Is the Library visible? Physical position of building important, but also visibility of management and staff in committees / meetings outside of the library.Is the work recognised as the Library’s? (online can mean not seen as a Library service) An academic told me he didn’t use the Library but when asked if he used the journals online and databases, he did but clearly did not recognise this as the Library as well. Budgets and constraints And only going to get worse! Doing more for less?User expectation vs reality e.g. publisher restriction with ebooks.(MB)
  • Founded in 1823 when around 2000 people flocked to the Crown and Anchor Tavern on the Strand to witness Dr George Birkbeck and his supporters launch London’s first ever Mechanics’ Institution dedicated to the education of working people. Women admitted 1830. TS Eliot taught English, only London university to stay open during the Blitz (direct hit on the library). Alumni incl.: Ramsay MacDonald, Sidney Webb, various current MPs. 2006 begins to offer courses at Stratford, East London. 2009 4 faculties and 21 schools become 5 schools – Law after long fought battle is 1 of them.(WL)
  • First University Law School in London to educate students and practitioners at every stage of legal education.ICSL original provider of Bar training Inns of Court School of Law discontinued in 2008GDL from 1976 – extremely respected course and one of first providersFamous grads: 4 British Prime Ministers (Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Clement Attlee, Herbert Asquith) Mahatma Ghandi. More recent ones include: Afua Hirsch the Guardian Legal Correspondent, David Allen Green the promient legal blogger and media lawyer. (EA)
  • (EA to start and intro others)Wendy – also responsible for Department of Psychosocial Studies and manages Access Support services team. Maria – Academic support librarian for law and European Institute; EDC manager; Information literacy co-ordinator; copyright advisor; other team respoonsibilities
  • Regardless of area, relationships are keyRest of session re. our own experiences and relationships across the institutionTalk briefly about the sorts of areas we’re going to look at, obvious ones such as with academics and students, but also relationships within our ‘own backyard’ – the library as well as central services such as IT, before considering librarians’ relationships with each other. (WL)
  • Key focus for the institutions we work in is Teaching and Learning, and, therefore, this is an area in which we need to ensure that we’re providing effective support to academics and students, working in partnership with other parties within the institution.(MB)
  • The degree to which we’re given the opportunity to actually teach those legal research skills we know are so pivotal, is probably the most obvious way of demonstrating how indispensible we are. However many factors make this difficult: those who support BPTC students know that the legal research element has been removed, with this skill just expected to be picked up throughout the remaining modules. Across HE, lecturers are being expected to cram more and more into less teaching time so often it’s the ‘library stuff’ which gets shunted off. We’ll have a look at how different the situation is just across our 3 universities – and highlight where we think the relationships we’ve built in these areas work well, and where we’re still trying to get a foothold in – and why this can be difficult. (EA)
  • City - Have always taught on the compulsory Legal Method module but integration has become more streamlined as years progressed. Work very closely with academic on all parts of the course, do lectures, workshops and set/mark assessments which students must pass to progress into Year 2. I do all the various parts of the induction programme for all courses, as well as various ad hoc ones for different modules; for example a lecture on finding EU sources. City - Last year I was part of the official PhD seminar series and did 2 sessions: one on general law research and the other on researching in a web 2.0 world (rss, twitter, social bookmarking, alerts on databases etc). Available: We have only a small number of PhD students but this is growing esp with the creation last year of a new interdisciplinary centre in Law, Justice and Journalism. Last year I also got invited to do a session on keeping up to date and social media stuff for the academic staff. I get to attend any meetings concerning teaching on the LLB.  (EA)
  • Department has made greater inroads to ensuring legal research skills are taught to undergraduates within courses but how this is done varies. No separate compulsory module. Induction: this year was a joint approach with library and academic staff with 2 one hour lectures with online research exercise in between. This was a better approach than just a library lecture. Aim to build on this. Focus on first years...working on second and third years. Department buy in has been the key.Outline of general info skills work - research course, keeping up to date, all relevant to law(MB)
  • Undergraduates - Growth in numbers means seeing each seminar group individually bit the dust last year - now deliver lecture to 300 and follow up with voluntary sign up sessions (timetabled so don’t clash with lectures / seminars. Not ideal as miss a lot of students. Masters - Mixed success, as every year I lobby to be included in the induction programme / offer sessions but for all but 1 programme I’ve still not got a formal slot, despite repeated student feedback that library involvement would be useful. I therefore offer sign up sessions independently of the programme. Those who attend give positive feedback, but I’m aware that I’m only covering limited numbers. Don’t think that it’s a coincidence that those academics who are keen library / eresource users encourage their students to make use of me / resources. But….A good e.g. of a relationship that has worked at Bbk is the workshops I’ve run with the academic support officer for Law. She’s based in the school and provides tailored study support, e.g. how to answer problem questions, how to tackle exams. We’ve run joint programmes for pre-enrollment students, and also for 1st years just before 1st assignment is due (recap of online legal resources, how to reference them and how to avoid plagiarism). Works well as have similar aims (make students indep learners, encourage retention) and because we get on - this certainly helps the relationship work. (WL)
  • WL to kick off, followed by MB & EA.Collections – SO important to students and staff whether online or print. If collections not right that’s what you’re judged on – we are defined by our collections. Collection – money almost spends itself due to tight budget – having to say ‘no’ all the time due to financial restrictions can adversely affect relationships if not careful, though increasingly academics are aware of financial climate more generally. Work closely with school to identify growth areas – and school contributes to library budget as realise importance of having basic materials in. Birkbeck - very involved with nitty gritty of adding readings to the VLE - seen as of real value by those academics using Blackboard, but very time-consuming and repetitive work, impacts adversely on time left to work directly with students and staff.LSE – Library team manage the processes for e-packs and the VLE - Teaching Support Services. I would feed information & reading lists to them and liaise when setting up or if any problems. Important to communicate effectively with Teaching Support so that the messages are consistent. Centre for Learning Technology administer VLE – very responsive to working with Library. Cross referral successful.City – similar to LSE arrangement – I would pick out materials to complement the modules and Academic Services within the library would get the copyright clearance/digitisation sorted.
  • ExamplesSending over things we see which relate to their research topics. Letting them and their students know about events of interest to themAt Bbk offer 1-2-1 training in their offices on databases to help them make the most of new features. And academics who are more confident with these tools tend to encourage student use as well. This year, Birkbeck have started a Law Clinic in association with local solicitor’s firm offering advice to those living with HIV. Although not strictly part of the curriculum, have bought LAG books to support and also subscribed to ‘Rightsnet’ database – from fines money – has gone down well. (MB)
  • great potential for forging relationship with research divisions and researchers. - showing what other skills we have- traditional library skills set given new lease of life - e.g metadata/cataloguingGreat potential Key also relationships within Library as IR run by other depts/colleaguesExamplesBBK - Institutional Repository - Law has been the pilot School for mandated deposit. Following slightly disappointing results in the RAE, keen to do better in the REF. They invited library to talk about the Repository (which was initially set up in 2004) c. 2 years ago. So this is an e.g. of a partnership that has worked because of external factors encouraging engagement - sometimes things do or don’t work due to timing. Initial promotion of the IR had met with enthusiasm by some early adopters, but only top down approach made it mainstream. Within Library have Repository and Digital Media Management librarian who takes lead, though SLs involved as already have contacts in Schools. Looking at offering sessions as part of Graduate School on IR - including awareness of copyright in own work, influence on impact factors etc.LSE Research Online - no mandate but the approaching REF has led to decision to use repository as main database of LSE research output. Law a great contributor with designated support staff to ensure library receives info regularly. Relationship helped by this staff member being former library staff!The coming REF is proving a way in - workshops on citations analysis/bibliometrics and research impact. Relationship with Research Division. (WL)
  • City - Forged close links with the law school admin teams - for all kinds of issues: communication, finding out problems with individual students, liaising re questions from students (my role often very much a go-between for students and school), timetabling q’s, getting problems sorted out between us, I meet monthly with the law school COO, e-learning technologists, head admin and finance where we get to raise issues and hear about the position of the law school in terms of admissions, budget etc.  Have the ear of the Dean on an ad-hoc basis.Birkbeck – Meet regularly with School Manager, who works very closely with the Dean – often find out about ideas for new modules / programmes before they go through the official channels, giving opportunity to get resourcing in place. I answer emails from admin staff asap as have found that it works both ways – if I need something quickly I usually get it as sense of helping each other out, sometimes despite the best efforts of disorganised academics! Invited to summer & winter social events, leaving dos etc, informal networks help cement formal meetings. Helps if you’re seen as a human being.(EA)
  • Relationships with support / central services / other library teams – do these enable better connection and higher visibilityExternal relations/ Alumni (WL)Birkbeck - We contribute to the pre-entry and retention programmes led by External Relations (Don’t Drop Out, Drop In for e.g.) Partnership is developing well, though events themselves have had mixed success in terms of reaching the target audience. A case of getting foothold in programme and due to positive feedback from students attending library sessions being asked to provide more. Sometimes first step is most crucial in developing partnerships. Think this relationship works well as of mutual benefit – we raise our profile with students and in the college, and ER / student experience people know we can be counted on to contribute a key proportion of the programmes run.City (EA) - have connections with Alumni Relations - tap them up every now and again for interesting alumni and to get messages out via their LinkedIn account. Marketing: Have a reasonable relationship with our Law School marketing guys - they do always ask me to do a slot at the Law Open days for different courses but they don’t really ‘get’ what I do totally. They aren’t willing to invest the time in exploiting one of the things that makes the law school different from others. They designed a brochure for lawbore last year which totally bombed, so I had to get one done myself. They use students for various things (video clips on website, testimonials) but then don’t share them with me. Careers – City - well connected to both Careers and Volunteering at City, with them keeping me up-to-date with events and students who may be doing useful things that I can collar for the Lawbore blog or Learnmore. They’ve been a little slower at contributing content themselves but am working on it! They always direct their events to me to ensure they get the widest audience. LSE (MB) – have yet to make the right connections with Careers. Feel that there is potential but not yet found a consistent way in. their profile can be very high at certain times of the year. Other departments in the library (MB) – seems obvious but am aware that not always working as well across teams as do within our own team. Some tensions and stepping-on-toe prospects; Process-driven rather than liaison – fines, digitisation (unrealistic deadlines) ; Perceptions of us: Are we precious/controlling? Learning technologists – already mentioned that LSE has strong relationship with the Centre for Learning Technology who run the VLE and use of technologies in teaching. City - Work closely with our e-learning technologists re moodle and new developments. They’ve been able to do things like have various lawbore side-boxes in moodle - a feed from the blog to the course central modules and one from the topic guides into each module. When they get funding from the central university Learning Development Centre they let me know about it in case I have any ideas. IT Services Birkbeck - Learning technologists good relationship, and also with main IT trainer who does sessions for library staff on a regular basis. However, ‘IT’ in wider sense problematic – Help Desk not open at weekends, and disinclined to come into the library to help students, even though PCs upkeep / running is their responsibility!
  • Timing - sometimes its just being in the right place and the right time….But the personal relationships that built are key for getting involved  or being approached. So we must be approachable / flexible / up for it/anything!! (almost) Take up any opportunities to get involved - research projects/bidsCity - often things just happen - my interest in student activities has meant that I’m always included in meetings where some kind of insight is required. My development of resources to support mooting resulted in me being asked to lead on mooting across the school. Lawbore has meant that I’m able to get involved in and change things across the school - chatting to some guys who did debating lead to a great piece on Learnmore, and agreement from the school to pay for team sweatshirts, as well as developing workshops for students on getting sponsorship. Just doing something and showing departments can be easier as have something to show and then see if there is interest and buy in. LSE - Moodle block example or legal research online companion.Similarities in approach/views - LSE - individual relationships where include each other even if at higher level less engagement. Often outside of formal meetings/networks – Bbk - Attending School social events has definitely helped gain acceptance – and quite often find am contacted more than usual in week after an event as people remember who I am!LSE - Drinks receptions/formal dinners/parties can go a long way to breaking down barriers - see each other as colleagues. Also accept that some people will not connect and move on. (EA)
  • Bbk- Copyright law – law academics some of the worst for just emailing out pdfs / putting stuff up on Blackboard without proper clearance – as Library is CLA license holder can mean policing role which sits uneasily with sense of co-operation, especially as often agree that copyright law is unduly restrictive!Library just sometimes overlooked – not deliberate but not always at centre of things.(WL)
  • Formal networks e.g. BIALL, CILIP – all enthusiastic after conference but hard to maintain meaningful networks once back in the office. Are we putting enough effort in?Attending user group meetings, publisher eventsEmail discussion lists – can break the ice so that when you see someone at a meeting / conference you’ve got a ‘way in’ Can’t be out at too many external events or meetings due to pressure internally. Is it enough as it is and we just accept it or could we make our jobs easier with strong collaborations. (MB)
  • Conclusion - most of us feel we contain elements of wallflower / social butterfly – complementary skills and approaches that lead to effective relationships.
  • Academic law librarians: wallflowers or social butterflies?

    1. 1. Academic Law Librarians: Wallflowers or Social Butterflies?<br />Emily Allbon @lawbore<br />Maria Bell @bellmari<br />Wendy Lynwood @wlynwood<br />
    2. 2. Issues around HE libraries<br />Increased pressure on budgets - staffing and collection development<br />Are we visible enough to our institutions as services move online? <br />Are we seen? <br /><ul><li>User expectation vs. reality: </li></ul> e.g. what is wanted vs. what it is possible to supply <br /><ul><li>Space split: Social vs. study
    3. 3. Librarian role – What are we doing? Where do we fit?</li></li></ul><li>Birkbeck<br /><ul><li>Founded 1823, joined the University of London 1913
    4. 4. 98% students are part-time, 50% post graduate
    5. 5. Law school formed in 1991
    6. 6. Around 1200 students (800 FTEs) on CertHE, LLB, LLM, MRes and PhD, programmes
    7. 7. Research has a socio-legal focus
    8. 8. Library – 70+ staff, in terms of budget and physical space below average (1994 group figures)</li></li></ul><li>City<br />City University founded in 1894 – now have 21,000 students from 160+ countries<br />Law teaching began at Northampton Square in 1976 (CPE course) and Inns of Court School of Law at Grays Inn Place (1852)<br />Becoming The City Law School in 2004.<br />Around 1400 students: covering LLB, GDL, LLM, LPC & BTPC. Growing PhD.<br />
    9. 9. London School of Economics<br />Institution founded 1895 by Webbs, & G.B Shaw for research in social sciences<br />1900 ->Univ. of London<br />2011: 9,000 students from 140 countries; high postgraduate population<br />Library est. 1896; new development 2001<br />Law always part of LSE teaching <br />2010-11:<br /><ul><li> 800 LLB, LLM & PhD
    10. 10. 80 staff</li></li></ul><li>Where we fit…not just law librarians anymore!<br />Pulled in all directions…<br />
    11. 11. Relationships are key!<br />
    12. 12. Teaching and learning<br />Our relationships with: <br />Academics<br />Students<br />Academic support officers<br />Learning technologists<br />IT<br />Teaching and learning staff<br />
    13. 13. Information Skills Teaching<br />
    14. 14. City<br />LLB1 – Teach core module Legal Method in tandem with lecturer - planning content together.<br />Lectures, workshops <br />Set/mark compulsory assessments<br />Ad hoc teaching for other programmes <br />PhD seminar series <br />Occasional staff teaching<br />
    15. 15. LSE<br />LLB<br />Legal research lectures early in term in collaboration with academic staff<br />Work with individual academic staff to deliver legal research skills<br />LLM <br />Lunchtime seminars mid year for dissertation prep.<br />PhD<br />Research skills seminars in Michaelmas term<br />Legal research skills on info skills programme – sign up classes<br />Varies depending on engagement of academic staff. Improvements each year in integrating skills teaching. <br /> Challenge is to keep momentum going.<br />
    16. 16. Birkbeck<br />LLB – lecture & sign-up sessions<br />LLM – no formal slot but sign-up popular<br />Academic Support Officer <br />= successful relationship<br />
    17. 17. Resource provision<br />Collection<br />VLE<br />E-packs<br />
    18. 18. Supporting Academics<br />Find out what their research interests are, and keeping them up to date with relevant information<br />Distribute information of forthcoming events to staff and students<br />Offer 1-2-1 training in their offices to showcase resources <br />Plug in to the wider School community – mooting, law clinic work etc. <br />
    19. 19. Research<br />Great potential!<br />Forging relationship with research divisions<br />Showing extent of skills<br />Traditional skills <br /> given new lease of life<br />Repositories <br />REF<br />
    20. 20. Law School Administration<br />Ideal partners<br />Good way in to department<br />
    21. 21. Central services<br />External Relations (incl. alumni) / Marketing<br />Careers<br />Other departments in the library <br />Learning technologists<br />IT<br />
    22. 22. Your turn…<br />==DISCUSS==<br />1.Your most successful &<br />2. Your most challenging<br /> relationships.<br /> Why did they work/not work? <br />
    23. 23. Example of post-its<br />
    24. 24. Successful relationships<br />Timing<br />Accept that often things ‘just happen’<br />Respond to things quickly<br />Have something to show<br />Chemistry<br />Get involved socially<br />
    25. 25. Tensions / issues that negatively affect relationships<br />Lack of time<br />Institutional / departmental politics<br />Copyright law! <br />Money – or the lack of it<br />
    26. 26. Relationships with each other<br />How do we build and maintain these? <br />Could we be more effective in developing relationships and if so how? <br />Law and beyond<br />Have we got time, given increased pressures within day to day?<br />
    27. 27. Thanks for listening!<br />
    28. 28. Thanks for the images!<br />Slide 1: ‘Butterfly and Wallflowers 1’ by sylvanfae<br />Slide 2: ‘Perfekte Tarnung’ by DocSnyder <br />Slide 3: ‘London pubs’ by Not forgotten<br />Slide 5: Library International Law Reading Room, 1964<br />Michael Peacock Atrium, 2001<br />Slide 6: ‘Tug of war’ Toffehoff<br />Slide 7: ‘close connection’ by alles-schlumpf<br />Slide 8: ‘Sharon Allen visits Mays’ by Mays Business School<br />Slide 11: Students in computer room, c1990s<br />Slide 12: ‘Plagiarism 3 - Michael Brunsden’ by photoeditorvision<br />Slide 13: ‘Crimson, Indeed….’ by corydalus<br />Slide 14: ‘Project 365 - Day 151 - 04/12/08’ by Peter Gerdes<br />Slide 16: ‘keyboard’ by mactitioner<br />Slide 18: ‘We want you’ by Jelle Vermeiren<br />Slide 21: ‘ausgefranst’ by derpunk<br />Slide 22: LSE Dinner in the Refectory, c1930s<br />