As ageing Baby Boomer law firm library directors retire, there seems to be a growing trend to eliminate the Library Director position and either run the department by committee, or move responsibility for the law library to the Chief Information Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, or to existing Directors of other departments such as Knowledge Management. So far, I’ve seen very little reaction from the associations that represent law librarians (whether it is AALL, SLA, or local associations) in protest of these moves. I now know of at least three AmLaw 100 firms that no longer have a Library Director, and have no plans to rehire those positions because they do not see the value that this position brings to their firms. So, are law firm Library Directors passé? If we don’t start doing something about this trend right now they sure as hell soon will be.
How many law schools are out there that do not have a law librarian as director (usually with an Associate Dean title) running the library?
Zero! One!! Why?? Because the ABA guidelines specifically say there must be a director, and even goes further to suggest that the Director hold a law degree and a library degree. Here are the standards for Law Library Director that the ABA places on all law schools:
Standard 603. DIRECTOR OF THE LAW LIBRARY
(a) A law library shall be administered by a full-time director whose principal responsibility is the management of the law library.
(b) The selection and retention of the director of the law library shall be determined by the law school.
(c) A director of a law library should have a law degree and a degree in library or information science and shall have a sound knowledge of and experience in library administration.
(d) Except in extraordinary circumstances, a law library director shall hold a law faculty appointment with security of faculty position.
The director of the law library is responsible for all aspects of the management of the law library including budgeting, staff, collections, services and facilities.
The dean and faculty of the law school shall select the director of the law library.
The granting of faculty appointment to the director of the law library under this Standard normally is a tenure or tenure-track appointment. If a director is granted tenure, this tenure is not in the administrative position of director.
It is not a violation of Standard 603(a) for the director of the law library also to have other administrative or teaching responsibilities, provided suf cient resources and staff support are available to ensure effective management of library operations.
For law firms, even those in the AmLaw 100, 200 or NLJ 250, there is no such requirement or suggested qualifications for someone managing the firm’s law library. Therefore, law firms have absolutely no pressure put on them to place qualified professionals in charge of their libraries. The only thing that law librarians seem to have is the American Lawyer’s annual Law Librarian Survey, but that has no effect upon any of the AmLaw 100 or AmLaw 200 rankings.
The simple fact is that even large AmLaw 100 firms have absolutely no requirement to have a law library director position. And as far as I know, there is no movement within the ABA, AALL, SLA, American Lawyer, National Law Journal, or any other organization to set a requirement similar to Standard 603 for law firms. Is it time to push for such a standard for large law firms? Or did law librarians miss the opportunity to solidify their roles within law firms and are now watching as the top library positions disappear forever?