The Law Librarian Blog’s (LLB) Joe Hodnicki pointed out the newest National Jurist’s academic law library ranking and what a colossal waste of time it was for everyone involved.  Joe warned his readers that it wasn’t even worth browsing the results because the way the schools were scored were out of whack with what really makes a library great.  Currently, National Jurist uses the following scoring methodology to determine “who’s got the best law library.”

Using data gathered by the ABA:
   50% = Number of volumes and unique titles
   20% = Ratio of library study seating to enrollment
   15% = Ratio of full-time professional librarians to enrollment
   15% = Number of hours open per week

I haven’t been an academic law librarian in over ten years, but I’m a little disturbed by the definition that the National Jurist used to describe what makes a great law library:

“What makes a good law library in the 21st century includes a variety of factors: comfort, accessibility, convenience and most of all, availability of the latest technology tools.”

This definition is mentioned, not once, but twice in the article.  I’m thinking this describes what makes a Barnes & Noble good, not a law library.  I understand that this is a survey of how National Jurist thinks that law students like their libraries to look and feel, but do we really want a definition of a ‘good library’ that doesn’t include any mention of ability to retrieve relevant legal materials in an expedient manner?  Call me old fashioned, but I thought the main objective of a law library was to point its users to the best resources to answer their legal research needs.  I could care less if there are twice as many seats available for me to sit in than there are students enrolled at the school.  I’d rather have access to legal databases over access to an onsite Starbucks.
When I go into a law library, there are five things I’m looking for:

  1. Legal materials (be they print or electronic) that I can access easily and quickly
  2. Reference librarians that can assist me in my search for resources I cannot find on my own
  3. For items that are not available within the law library, I want the law librarians to tell me where I can locate it (either by driving to another local library, or through an Interlibrary Loan)
  4. A chair and table to sit down and read (basic wood works fine for me)
  5. A copy machine or copy shop that takes a credit card and gives me a receipt
Again, I’m not a student, so my objectives for a law library are different from someone that is looking for a quite place so I can brief a case for my Con Law II class.  But really…  comfort, accessibility, convenience and latest technology tools should be further down the list for anyone that is making the practice of law his or her profession… shouldn’t it??