Friday, February 28, 2014

Nerdy Librarian Friday!

I know that librarians happily tend toward the nerdy side, but this is a whole different level -- the book cart drill team.

The NYTimes recently ran a story on these drill teams, and it is something to behold.

"What sport demands the precision of synchronized swimming and the book smarts of a librarian? Book cart drills, of course, the choreographed routines performed by librarians and graduate students in library science. The activity was popularized in the mid-2000s by Demco, the book-cart manufacturer, which sponsored a world championship competition at the American Library Association’s annual conference for several years."

Why should librarian and future librarian take part in these teams? "Drill teams promote the library and build morale and teamwork, explains John Ison, who hosted competitions before retiring from Demco."

And these drill teams do take some training. "'It’s harder than it looks,' says Janelle Wertzberger, director of reference and instruction at Gettysburg College’s Musselman Library. 'You have to have hand signals and visual cues to keep everybody together.'"

"A signature Gettysburg move: the pinwheel, in which 10 carts line up, five facing forward and five backward, and pivot around a center point like a propeller. Gettysburg won the bronze cart in the 2010 world championship."


Link to image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/unirodlibrary/10536032775/
License information: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Is Law Grad Hiring Improving?

The Wall Street Journal reported on some good news for recent law school graduates.

The job-offer rate for summer-associate programs is nearly back to pre-recession levels. "The job-offer rate for those lucky enough to have landed a summer job at a law firm in 2013 is nearly as high as it was before the financial crisis."

The WSJ post gives a good summary of the traditional path of summer associates to full-time associates. "Summer-associate programs are the traditional path to employment at big law firms. Students interview with dozens of firms in the late summer and early fall of their second year. Those who are selected spend the following summer working at a law firm in hopes of being offered a permanent position after they graduate."

But "[t]he recession put a crimp in that pipeline. Many firms, facing a collapse in demand for their services, scaled back hiring programs, and summer associates faced greater competition for permanent slots. Things are looking up for the class of 2014, [however] at least by some measures, according to figures released last week by the National Association for Law Placement, a nonprofit group that tracks legal employment figures. About 92% of law students who worked as summer associates last year received job offers. In 2007, before the financial crisis upended the legal profession, the offer rate was about 93%."

In 2012, 90% of summer associates received job offers, which was still a significant jump from 2009 when the job-offer rate hit a historic low at 69%.

The caveat to this is that although the job offer rate is improving, the summer-associate classes still remain small. And "[w]hile the job-offer rate is up for law students who spent the summer after their second year working at a law firm, things look a bit gloomier for third-year law students who lack that experience."

As a law student, if you can secure a summer-associate position, it is more likely to put you the traditional path to success. But it's great news to hear that numbers are improving.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

PacerPro For Easier Searching

Anyone who uses PACER, the the federal courts' system for electronic access to records, knows that it is cumbersome and hard to maneuver. And it's expensive. Because the database is not user friendly, the costs associated with searching PACER are higher than they need to be because users spend so much time trying to find what they need.

The ABA Journal recently opined on PACER's problem:
"Part of PACER's problem is that it is actually 214 separate systems. Every appellate, district and bankruptcy court maintains its own site, each requiring a separate search. The site's partial solution to this dispersion is the Case Locator, an index for searching case information across the PACER system. But the Case Locator is updated only once daily, collects only subsets of data from court sites, and has limited functionality. What PACER needs is a whole new interface—one that provides universal search, more robust search tools, more informative search results, and better ways to manage documents and downloads."

And low and behold, a new interface does exist in a FREE resource called PacerPro. "PacerPro provides a clean, modern interface to the PACER system. But PacerPro is more than just lipstick on a pig. It actually improves on the federal site through features such as real-time universal search, aggregated search results and one-click downloads of entire dockets. To achieve real-time universal search, PacerPro bypasses PACER's Case Locator. Instead, it logs in directly to all 214 court sites. Whereas the Case Locator will not find same-day data, PacerPro will. Search PacerPro by party or attorney name or case number. Another advantage is that PacerPro aggregates key case data in a single display, whereas in PACER, this data is shown piecemeal over multiple pages."

 Other notable features of PacerPro include:

• Advanced docket searching using Boolean and proximity search.

• Automatic PDF labeling that replaces PACER's generic document names with ones that make sense.

• Bookmarking of cases so that you can easily return to them once you have found them.

"Users need their own PACER account, and they still incur standard charges of 10 cents per page retrieved. However, PacerPro can reduce the federal site's charges in one way: Once any user downloads a document, that document becomes available to all users for free. When another user requests it, PacerPro retrieves its stored copy, avoiding the PACER charge."

This is a good start to updating the clunky PACER system. Kudos to Gavin McGrane and the PacerPro team.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

AALL's Principles & Standards for Legal Research Competency

Yesterday, I was reminded of AALL's Principles & Standards for Legal Research Competency. These standards are a valuable tool to help focus legal research instruction and evaluate information literacy.

From the website:
"The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) has developed a set of principles and standards for legal research competency, drawn from information professionals' deep involvement in legal research within academe, law firms, the courts, government agencies, and other related settings, as well as the literature of the legal profession indicating that research competency directly impacts professional efficiency and effectiveness."

The principles advanced by the American Association of Law Libraries are:
  • A successful legal researcher possesses foundational knowledge of the legal system and legal information sources.
  • A successful legal researcher gathers information through effective and efficient research strategies.
  • A successful legal researcher critically evaluates information.
  • A successful legal researcher applies information effectively to resolve a specific issue or need.
  • A successful legal researcher distinguishes between ethical and unethical uses of information, and understands the legal issues associated with the discovery, use, or application of information.

The wonderful thing about these principles is that each one is linked to a set of standards and competencies that the successful researcher will understand and incorporate into his or her own legal research techniques.

For example, Principle I has four standards and several competencies for each standard:

Principle I: A successful legal researcher possesses foundational knowledge of the legal system and legal information sources.

Standards: 
A. An information-literate legal professional considers the full range of potential sources of 
information, regardless of type or format. 

Competencies: 
1. Differentiates between primary and secondary sources, and recognizes how their use 
and importance vary depending upon the legal problem or issue. 
2. Identifies and uses the most effective secondary sources to obtain background 
information, to gain familiarity with terms of art, and to put primary sources in context. 
3. Recognizes differences in the weight of authority among sources and applies that 
knowledge to the legal research problem. 

With four major principles, each with several standards and many competencies, it is easy to see how useful these are to focus curriculum and evaluate if students are actually information literate. Thank you AALL for creating this wonderful resource!

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Best Law Schools For Practical Training

These days it's essential for law students to learn practical skills while in law school because law firms and clients have decided to no longer foot the bill for practical training after law school. The ABA is also considering mandating more practical skills training, so it's a good time for law schools to be proactive and take the initiative to create a practical-skills curriculum. I'm still surprised that it has taken over 20 years for practical skills training to take hold after the MacCrate Report was released in the early 90's, but better late than never!

The National Jurist recently unveiled its first honors for law schools that deliver practical training.

As The National Jurist noted, "[t]his is the first effort to try to quantify which schools are delivering on their promises to make legal education more experiential.”

As for the ranking process, "[t]he magazine based the ranking on four factors — three objective and one subjective. The three objective factors include the number of clinic positions per enrollment, the number of field placements or externships per enrollment, and the number of simulation courses per enrollment. The magazine pulled data from each school's 509 form. The magazine then contacted the 90 law schools that ranked the highest in that assessment and gathered detailed information on other practical training offerings. It then assigned a score based on the data."

Here are the top 60 schools in alphabetical order:

Baylor University School of Law
Boston University School of Law
Brigham Young University
Brooklyn Law School
Capital University
Case Western University
Catholic University
Chapman University
Cooley Law School
Duke University
Emory University
Florida Coastal School of Law
Golden Gate University
Gonzaga University
Hamline University
John Marshall Law School
Lewis & Clark Law School
Liberty University
Loyola University Chicago
Michigan State University
New York Law School
Northeastern University
Northwestern University
Pacific McGeorge School of Law
Pepperdine University
Rutgers — Camden
Saint Louis University
Santa Clara University
Seton Hall University
Southern Illinois University
Southwestern Law School
St. John's University
SUNY Buffalo Law School
Temple University
University of Arizona
University of Cincinnati
University of Colorado
University of Connecticut
University of Denver
University of Detroit
University of Georgia
University of Hawaii
University of Illinois
University of Kansas
University of Maryland
University of Massachusetts
University of Missouri — Kansas City
University of New Hampshire
University of Oregon
University of St. Thomas -  Minneapolis
University of the District of Columbia
University of Utah
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin
Washburn University
Washington and Lee University
Washington University
Whittier Law School
William Mitchell College of Law
Yale Law School

Friday, February 21, 2014

How To Find A Library Job

There are many websites out there that post various library positions. It's great to be keyed into a professional organization's job listserv to find relevant job postings for your field.

The American Library Association posts jobs on ALA JobLIST.

The Chronicle of Higher Education posts all types of academic jobs, including librarian positions, at ChronicleVitae Find Jobs.

LibGig's focus is primarily on jobs for information professionals.

The American Association of Law Libraries posts law librarian positions on its Career site.

These are just a few of the websites out there to help with a library position job search.


Image link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pstainthorp/5471415240/
Image license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Missouri & Florida Public Defenders Have The Right To Refuse Cases

It seems that all states have issues keeping up with public defense. I have written before about Florida & Michigan's troubles, and now it seems to be Missouri's turn. The NYTimes recently ran a story about the troubles facing Missouri's public defender system.

At this point, public defenders in both Missouri and Miami (Florida) have won the right to refuse cases because of the extremely high caseloads. "Chronically understaffed, and reeling from caseloads several times larger than those managed by private lawyers, public defenders here and in many parts of the country have started trying to force legislators to respond. In the last two years, defender agencies in Missouri and Miami have won, in state Supreme Courts, the right to refuse new cases they cannot responsibly handle."

"In Missouri, where public defenders say they are especially burdened, many legal experts hope that an exhaustive new analysis of workloads and needs, sponsored by the American Bar Association, will strengthen their multiyear battle for change. [This new report shows that] "[f]or serious felonies, defenders spent an average of only nine hours preparing their cases, compared with the 47 hours they needed, the study found. For misdemeanors, they spent only two hours while 12 were called for."

And as many other "legal experts say, the daily triage required of public lawyers is unconstitutional and forces them to violate their ethical obligations to clients." In other words, they just can't do it all.

"Translating the bar association report’s numbers into staffing and budget, the state defender office has requested a funding increase of about $25 million, phased in over four years, to allow the hiring of 206 more lawyers and, crucially, 412 more clerks and investigators. It has requested an additional $4 million, among other increases, to cover about 4,000 cases annually in which juvenile offenders receive no representation."

I can't help but think about the constant arguments of the oversupply of lawyers when these public defense lawyers obviously have too much to handle. It's not necessarily that there is an oversupply of lawyers, but there is a gap in those who are served.

Although the states are currently lacking funding and resources, there has been some good news on the federal front. "The federal judiciary has restored hourly pay rates that had been reduced by $15 an hour for lawyers in private practice who accept appointments to defend indigent defendants in criminal cases. For work starting March 1, hourly rates will be $126. For defending clients in death penalty cases, the rate will be $180."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Shushing Librarian

Should librarians still be expected to police the library and shush out any noise? I think that it depends on the type of library, but it appears from a Pew poll that the public still seeks out the solace of a library for its quiet nature.

A Salon article notes "[a] recent survey by the Pew Research Center, “Library Services in the Digital Age,” [which] polled a nationally representative sample of 2,252 Americans about what they get, and want, from public libraries. The two services that patrons regard as most essential in a library are 'librarians to help people find information' and 'borrowing books,' each rated as 'very important' by 80 percent of respondents. Next comes 'free access to computers and the Internet,' rated very important by 77 percent of those surveyed."

And "'[q]uiet study spaces for adults and children' comes in fourth. The percentage of people who consider quiet spaces to be a very important element in any public library is 76, only one percentage point less than the value given to computer and Internet access."

I work in a serious academic law library, which is very different from a public library. The law library is a place where the patrons expect a very quiet setting. Here's where things get hairy, though. Many libraries and librarians have to do more with less in today's economic climate. What that means is that when I am sitting at the reference desk, I have my hands full of all sorts of other work. I am researching for faculty, prepping for classes, reviewing articles, working on collection development, and trying to answer the random questions that come my way. If I am also expected to constantly police the room, the other important parts of my job suffer because there is just not enough hours in the day to complete it all.

So although I do think that a law library should be quiet, and librarians are in the best position to keep it quiet, the patrons should not be overly sensitive to the types of noise that are reasonable to the study of the law -- like typing, or pens clicking, or gum chewing (yes, this has really been a complaint), or chatter at the reference desk.


Link to image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/calamity_sal/3338947904/
Image license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Using Images For Blogs

As a lawyer-librarian, I thought that it would be prudent to fully research using images for a blog. Previously, I had been doing a Google Image search, finding an image that I liked, and posting it to my blog. I found out that this is a very bad (and often costly) idea.

BlogHer posted a great article about using copyrighted images on blogs. From the post:
"Like most of you, I'm a casual blogger and learned my way into blogging by watching others. And one of the things I learned early on was that a post with a photo always looked nicer than one with just text. So I looked at what other people were doing for pictures. And mostly it seemed that everyone was grabbing pics from Google Images and pasting them on their sites. Sometimes with attribution, most of the time without. And when I asked others (or looked at disclaimers on websites and Tumblrs), it seemed that everyone agreed using pics that way was okay under Fair Use standards."

But as BlogHer recently found out. "It doesn't matter...

  • if you link back to the source and list the photographer's name
  • if the picture is not full-sized
  • if you did it innocently
  • if your site is non-commercial and you made no money from the use of the photo
  • if you didn't claim the photo was yours
  • if you've added commentary in addition to having the pic in the post
  • if the picture is embedded and not saved on your server
  • if you have a disclaimer on your site
  • if you immediately take down a pic if someone sends you a DMCA notice (you do have to take it down, but it doesn't absolve you.)

NONE OF THAT releases you from liability. You are violating copyright if you have not gotten express PERMISSION from the copyright holder OR are using pics that are public domain, creative commons, etc. (more on that below.)"

So what is a blogger to do? BlogHer goes on to share some great tips for using images:

Search for photos that are approved for use.
Creative Commons licensed pics -- You can search for photos that are free to use (with some restrictions) through Creative Commons. Usually this means you have to attribute the photo to the owner and link back to their site.
Wikimedia Commons offers free media files anyone can use.
Buy a subscription to a stock photo site -- This can be pricey up front but then you have access all year.
Use photos that are in the public domain.

Take your own photos and share the love.
Take picture and open up a Flickr account and list your own images as creative commons so that you can share the love.

Use sites like Pinterest and Tumblr with caution.
Both Pinterest and Tumblr (and most other social sites) say that if you load something into their site (i.e. Pin It or Tumble it) YOU are claiming that YOU have a legal right to that picture. And if the owner of that photo comes after the company, you will be the responsible party. And Pinterest goes so far as to say if you REpin something, you're saying you have the right to that photo.

Assume that something is copyrighted until proven otherwise.
That's your safest bet. If you're not 100% sure it's okay to use, don't. This includes things like celebrity photos. Someone owns those. There are enough free pics out there that you don't need to risk violating someone's copyright.

Spread the word to your fellow bloggers.

I took BlogHer's advice, and I removed any image from this blog that was either copyrighted or any image that I wasn't sure about. For all others, I searched Creative Commons to find images that I could use. I then attributed the image and linked back to the original.

Thanks BlogHer for the wealth of information, and other bloggers beware!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Goonie Becomes Entertainment Lawyer

It's a nice affirmation when one of your childhood heroes (term used loosely) grows up to work in a similar field as an adult. The Goonies (1985) was one of my all-time favorite movies as a kid, and the ABAJournal recently wrote an article about 'Chunk' becoming an entertainment lawyer.

Jeff Cohen, the man who played 'Chunk,' had the great opportunity to work with "legendary film director Richard Donner, who directed Cohen in The Goonies. Donner introduced Cohen to the business side of Hollywood, and Cohen parlayed that introduction into summer jobs at movie studios during college. Cohen discovered that many of the most respected agents, studio executives, producers and managers had law degrees, and he followed suit."

"After graduating from UCLA’s law school in 2000, Cohen worked at an entertainment law firm before starting his own firm in Beverly Hills. Cohen Gardner, his six-lawyer office, represents actors, media companies, directors, writers, producers and production companies."

Who knew that the truffle shuffle would take him this far?

Image info: http://www.flickr.com/photos/43605821@N08/4206200738/
Image License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Friday, February 14, 2014

Library Innovation In The Digital Age

The Wall Street Journal blog recently posted a great article about the need for library innovation in the digital age in order for libraries to remain relevant. It also gives a nice history of The Great Library of Alexandra and an inclusion of recent Pew statistics on the use and trends in libraries.

The whole idea is that if libraries don't innovate in the digital age, they will fall by the wayside. "Barbara K.  Stripling, president of the ALA, contends that libraries and  librarians can reboot for the digital age. She wants ebook prices to come down, but says ebook offerings by libraries are nonetheless going up. She believes that libraries and librarians can use their expertise to become digital guides, helping people to refine their questions, identify authoritative sources, and learn how to find the best answers on their own. Sort of an even more advanced advanced search. 'The constantly changing and disorganized nature of the information explosion can be overwhelming to individuals."

Not only is information disorganized and in need of sorting, so is the vast amount of personal digital data that we create. One suggestion for library innovation is that "perhaps [librarians] should move into advising [the public] on how to wrestle with our personal digital data too, as we become increasingly overwhelmed with unsorted emails and camera phone photos." I like this idea for public libraries where the librarians often organize classes around using social media, etc.... It would be great if they offered sessions on organizing personal digital data.

The innovation in this article goes so far as to imagining drone use for libraries. "Imagine if the holdings of a local library included the holdings of everyone who had a library card for the library who could be reached by a drone." That's a level of innovation that my librarian-mind hadn't even considered, but why not?

The article goes on to say that "[i]n a digital age, we need librarians more than ever to help sort through it all. Libraries of the future shouldn’t be bookless because, like endangered species, the nondigitized physical texts of the past, and the ones that are still being printed, need a protected space. The presence of books reminds of the importance of librarians as curators and custodians, of libraries as connections to the past and future, of libraries as safehouses for nerds and bookworms."

And libraries are also important as community cultural and intellectual centers. "The Pew Research Center found that 90 percent of Americans ages 16 and older said closing their local public library would have an impact on their community. {This is because] people know that their communities need a cultural and intellectual center." And there isn't much else to take a library's place in the community.

Many libraries currently stick to tried and true practices. But, as this article presupposes, if libraries don't innovate, the use of libraries will continue to decline until libraries are irrelevant. The good news is that there is still time, but if we keep dragging our feet, the future will be upon us, and it will be too late.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Research Guides & Researching Tariffs

Researching tariffs is a very niche topic. One librarian at the University of Washington School of Law had a professor recently ask the librarian to show the professor's students how to research tariff bindings.

Neither the professor nor the librarian knew about the topic, so the librarian set out to do her initial research and found that there were no guides out there on how to research tariff bindings.

So the librarian, Mary Whisner, took it upon herself to create a research guide on tariffs and shared it with the rest of the American Association of Law Libraries community. 

The University of Washington Gallagher Law Library's research guide on researching tariffs can be found here

This is a good time to mention that librarians create research guides in nearly all areas imaginable. It's one of our main functions. So if you are having a hard time performing research on a topic, you might Google '[topic] research guide' to find a starting place for research. 

For example, I had a student email me recently to ask about some initial information on how to write a case note. The student had never taken Scholarly Writing nor was he on law review. I gave him some information but also told him to Google 'case note research guide' for more information. This Google search brought up guide by Monash University.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Alternative Credentials -- Librarians Learning Web Design

I read an article from a long-time librarian about the state of librarianship today. The librarian's advice was to (1) avoid librarianship, but if you must enter the profession (2) learn useful skills that they don't teach in library school like how to code websites.

Some library schools probably offer this as a course of study. Mine did not. My library school required a self-created webpage portfolio at the end of the program. In order to create this portfolio, we had to code the webpage from scratch. There was not a lot of instruction in coding, and we were mostly left to our own devices. While I did learn some valuable information at the time, I couldn't code a webpage today if I tried.

And I do think that coding is a skill that is more and more useful for librarians. Librarians needs to be agile in their positions to remain relevant. We need to possess more skills than ever before and take on more responsibilities in a time of return-on-investment thinking in higher education and the seemingly constant cycle of reduced budgets.

Because my library school did not really teach me how to code, and I see at as a necessary skill for librarians, I decided to take advantage of one of the free massive open online courses or MOOCs to help me along.

The Chronicle of Higher Education first turned me onto Codecademy, "a free, interactive web platform designed to help teach even the most unlikely candidates programming languages likes JavaScript."

There are also many other online courses for learning web design.

The beauty of this is that most of this information is free and open to anyone with the dedication to learn. And a certificate from these free courses may even be considered a legitimate alternative credential one day as more and more people earn certificates and show that they have the requisite skills.

The Census is event starting to track alternative credentials to gauge the education level of the American population. "The federal government for the first time has data on the 50 million U.S. adults who hold some form of educational credential that isn't a college degree."

The time has come to take advantage of free online learning.


Image info: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Html-source-code.png#filelinks

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Courageous & Agile Millennial Lawyer

Law Deans posted a piece of Dean van Cleave's essay on the courage of law students today:

"Current students and recent graduates are exceptionally brave and optimistic. They are coming to law school because they really want a legal education. In the face of a difficult job market, a profession that is in a period of dramatic transformation, and even with the prospect of incurring significant debt, they want to study law, become lawyers, and have fulfilling careers. They are going against the grain, against the advice of commentators, some pre-law advisors, and probably friends and family. That takes a lot of courage, real courage. Amelia Earhart said, 'The most difficult thing is to act, the rest is merely tenacity ... You can act to change and control your life, and the procedure, the process is its own reward.' The decision to act also takes optimism."

This is a good point. Law students today must be braver than law students at any other time in history. This profession once produced a guaranteed outcome of a stable and generally high-earning career. Today, that is not the case.

The ABA recently ran an article about the rise of the agile lawyer and noted the decline of available traditional legal jobs and the overall drop in law school applicants. "Over the past few years, only about 55 percent of law school graduates have been finding full-time, law-related work nine months after graduation. Would-be lawyers have taken the hint, and first-year enrollment in U.S. law schools has dropped to its lowest level since the 1970s.

The author goes on to ask, "[i]s this the end of lawyers? Hardly. But I do think we’re seeing the probably irreversible decline of the traditional 'lawyer job,' which performs a range of tasks with defined responsibilities in a single location during specified hours at an agreed salary. In its place, we should expect to see the rise of agile 'lawyer employment'—the multidimensional, customized application of a lawyer’s skills and talents to provide client value when and where it’s required."

For this new agile lawyer, law schools need to "help lawyers develop the skills, experience, and confidence to thrive in a marketplace that will increasingly turn to them for niche opportunities, project work, mobile and flex-time engagements."

These new skills include:
• Agility, requiring flexible availability and multiple short-term engagements.
• Technology-enabled, using tools that automate or streamline repetitive processes.
• Multidisciplinary, delivered in conjunction with other professionals and trades.
• Creative, invoking rarely used skills and talents that, as it turns out, we actually have in abundance.

This may be the perfect time for the courageous Millennial to enter the legal field because "Millennial lawyers are on record as seeking customizable, flex-time employment that allows them to accommodate work within a larger set of priorities." And this is exactly where the legal profession is headed.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Questions For An Academic Library

InsideHigherEd recently ran a post from an academic who is about to embark on a slew of college-campus tours with his daughter.

Although he admitted that his daughter would be interested in "the classrooms, sampling the food, and investigating the student center and athletic facilities," he is going to head to the library because he is "of the belief that the academic library is the heart of the academic enterprise."

He said he would have the following questions in mind:

  • What is the vibe of the space? Light-filled? Positive? Whimsical? Curious? Serious? Collaborative? Open?  
  • What is the density of human interaction in the library? Does the space feel like where the campus comes to study, research, and learn?
  • Are there lots of space for groups of students to study together?   
  • Are there quiet places where students can read, write, research, and think in solitude?
  • How visible are librarians at the library? Does it seem easy to get help with research projects? How many conversations between students and librarians are in evidence?
  • Does the physical layout of the library match the academic culture of the institution?  
  • Is the library designed in a way that seems planned out and integrated, or does the physical layout and architecture feel more stuck together without an overarching philosophy or purpose?
  • What sorts of creative and collaborative study and learning spaces have been created in the library? Is there evidence that the institution has incorporated the library into its model of teaching and learning?
  • Are faculty and staff, in addition to students and librarians, present in the library?   Does the place of the library feel like a community learning space?
  • Can you get a good cup of coffee, and maybe a snack, while studying at the library?
  • Does the library feel like the hub of the intellectual campus community?  
  • How does the library deal with the challenge of providing a space for collaboration and study, a social learning space, with its history as a place where we went to find information contained in books?   How is the tension between people space and paper space mediated?  
  • What does the design of the library signal about the transition from information scarcity to information abundance?  How does the architecture and the layout of the library traverse the information landscape?
  • Is the library an enhanced and magical place?   

These questions are wonderful questions for anyone doing campus visits. I found myself contemplating the answers to these questions for my own library and finding areas to improve. I remember my undergraduate library being closer to a place I would want to spend an enormous amount of time as compared to my current law library.

As the author went on, "[h]ow can I explain how important the library will become in her higher ed journey? How can I best pass on my love for the academic library?"

These are the questions that every librarian asks themselves in terms of the students at their institution. We all want the students to come and use our space and ask us research questions and see the library as the heart of the academic institution. But with more ways to access information remotely and with coffee shops competing for their attention, students don't seem to be using the library like they used to.

These questions can be a good starting point to analyze the students' wants and needs for a good library experience.