I wrote a post about three years ago for the old Law Librarian Blog on why new law students should make friends with a law librarian. That post was deleted along with all the other LLB posts after the “trouble.” I found a copy recently, and given that this is the time of year for orientation, I thought it would be worth it to post again. I think it’s still relevant today. Here goes:
U.S. News & World Report has a short post out for new law students who will start their law school career in the next few weeks. It offers four points for navigating law school:
- Come prepared
- Focus on finals
- Make friends
- Remove distractions
I’d like to focus for a moment on the third one. The author suggests making connections within the law school and the wider university through activities and other diversions as a break from the law school routine. That’s great advice as law school can be a highly competitive grind. I’d like to make one other suggestion that may help the new student: get to know a librarian. Why? Because we know stuff that students do not.
We know the cycle of the law school academic year. It normally doesn’t shock us when 1Ls invade the library for the legal writing treasure hunt. It’s not exactly the running of the bulls, but there are certain parallels. For students it’s a new experience. For us, it’s “been there done that.” Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even for the simple stuff. There’s usually a ready answer that can make a student’s life easier.
We also know the resources. It may be nice to have all of those apps on tablets and phones. And I’m sure there are plenty of new law students who have a lot of experience doing research in college. Legal research, however, is a different animal. Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law are not free in the wild. The mechanics can be a challenge despite the trend to provide Google-style interfaces. Librarians understand how this stuff works and can help.
I’ll offer related word of advice: not everything is online. More important, not everything is online and is free. It’s more often than not a pay for play world. Luckily the law library has licensed a lot of the good stuff. We can tell students what information is easily accessible and what is not. We can also ex plain how to get remote access to stuff, like articles, hard to find documents, exams, and other materials.
Librarians know the law school. We’re not the concierge for the school, but we know how it works. We can tell you generally which office likely handles what responsibility. We can tell you where are public copiers, scanners, microform readers (yes, they are still necessary) and other useful resources may be. We can also tell you generally what your expectations should be in using them. The library is probably the friendliest location in the law school. Students use the library facility regularly in spite of the integration of technology into the curriculum. We try to make the place a comfortable and quiet space to study. Take advantage of that.
So, make friends with a librarian. We won’t break the rules for you. But our institutional knowledge of the law program and legal information can make a student’s life easier. We even know where the bathrooms are located. Don’t be afraid to ask.