Book Review: Legal Information Specialists

23Aug12

Legal Information Specialists : A Guide to Launching and Building Your Career. General Editor: Annette L. Demers. LexisNexis Canada, 2012. xxiii, 217 p. ; ISBN: 9780433468875, $75.00

At the CALL 2012 conference in Toronto this May, all attendees received a copy of this book. At the time, I glanced at it, and then set it aside, thinking it wouldn’t have anything of interest to me.

Curiosity got the better of me, though, and over the summer I have been reading it. Contrary to my first impression, there is a ton of great information in this book, both for new librarians and library technicians and seasoned veterans. The contributing authors are a who’s who of the law library world who have shared their career stories in an engaging, even entertaining style. I like to think that I am constantly reinventing myself, but I have nothing on these people.

All types of law libraries are represented: law firm, academic, courthouse, legislative, law society as well as different law library careers, such as research support, law school faculty, library management consultant and publisher’s representative. Some chapters are collaborations while others are written by individuals. Since I know a number of the authors personally, I was thrilled to hear their backstory. 

One of the most interesting chapters (to me) was Kirsten Wurmann’s Public Legal Education Librarianship (Ch. 10). Kirsten wrote about the Legal Resource Centre in Edmonton (now called the Centre for Public Legal Education of Alberta). This organization’s mandate is to “contribute to, advance and promote the legal knowledge and education of the people of Canada”. It has been around since the mid-1970s, well before access to justice became the huge issue it now is. One reason I’m so interested in this chapter is Winnipeg recently opened a Legal Help Centre and I keep feeling like there’s something I could contribute to it.

I read this text almost cover to cover – I skipped the academic library and law faculty chapters, as those avenues aren’t open to me. The very last chapter is titled Career Development Tips for Legal Information Professionals, but it is applicable to almost any career.

As to be expected of a book written by librarians, it is impeccably organized. The table of contents is extremely detailed. There is an Appendix of helpful resources and a glossary of acronyms. And of course, there is an index.

This book should be in the library of all library schools in Canada, both university masters programs and college library technician programs. One of my colleagues calls working in a law library the “accidental career” – even a lot of librarians don’t realize it’s a career option. We need to do a better job of getting our career path out there and this book has taken a big step forward in realizing this.

~ Karen

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