The Brass Tacks of Librarianship

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By Alan Kilpatrick

Last week, Slaw posted an engaging article, Australian Study Highlights Big Bang for the Buck of Law Libraries, by Michel-Adrien Sheppard.  Michel-Adrian Sheppard is a law librarian in Ottawa and a frequent contributor to Slaw.

The Slaw article highlights a recent Australian study, Putting a Value on Priceless – An Independent Assessment of the Return on Investment of Special Libraries in Australia, promoting the value of law libraries.   As an information professional, I am confident libraries can continue to support, compliment, and add value to the legal profession.

The independent study, commissioned by a variety of Australian library associations, discusses the return on investment of special libraries.  Special libraries include law, health, corporate, and government libraries.  “The indicative result from this work is that special libraries have been found to return $5.43 for every $1 invested — and that’s a conservative estimate of their real contribution.”  The study indicates that the knowledge and expertise of a professional librarian “is essential to achieving the $5.43 for every dollar return on investment”.

The incredible return on investment made me think about how information professionals can continue to demonstrate value.  The American Association of Law Libraries explains,

Law Librarians are resource evaluators, access facilitators, expert researchers, teachers, and trainers. Law librarians possess the knowledge and skills to realize the full value of information in a changing work environment. Law librarians can bring value to organizations by reducing research time and information costs, thus saving money and resources.

On Firmer Ground is a collaborative blog created by law librarians, the Special Library Association, and the Canadian Association of Law Librarians.  The blog promotes the worth of law firm librarians and discusses the challenges they face.   On Firmer Ground’s belief is that,

In an era of information overload, law librarians possess the expertise to find those golden nuggets of information that allow law firm leaders to make actionable decisions that benefit firms and clients alike.         

When you come down to the brass tacks, librarians are a valuable commodity.  Bonnie Swoger, a science and technology librarian, firmly explains why librarians need bigger egos,

Because librarians are smart.  Damned smart.  They are talented, knowledgable, hardworking and willing to go out their way to help others out.  If you want to find something out or get something done you should definitely ask a librarian.   

What is your opinion on the value of librarians and law libraries?  Do you agree with the study?  Please post your comments!  If you have any legal research questions, please feel free to contact the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library at or 306-569-8020.

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