Let’s do it!

By , September 30, 2011 9:52 am

by Robyn Hagle

When I first got my current job directly out of library school, I was scared out of my mind.  My first professional job and I land at the biggest law firmin the region.  Despite being confident in the knowledge I acquired in the legal research courses I took during library school, I still felt unprepared.  In the weeks leading up to starting, I stayed up late into the night reading Law 101. One of its Amazon reviews described it as 3 years of law school in 368 pages and I was determined to “graduate” before my first day on the job. The first time an associate asked me about “motions in limine,” I knew the term related to evidence, even if I didn’t know what it meant!
After a year on the job, I was feeling pretty confident in my knowledge.  And not because so little of our reference was face-to-face, which frankly, saves face when you don’t know what the person in front of you is talking about!  My confidence was bred of other people’s lack of knowledge.  I was shocked that secretaries, department assistants, and client relations (the internal patrons we hear from most often) didn’t understand why King County Superior court cases weren’t published in reporters.  Or why I always got blank stares when I asked if I should be searching in state and federal courts or just one or the other.  After doing a bit (okay, my fair share) of complaining about this lack of knowledge, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I developed an Introduction to the American Legal System course to offer to legal staff.  It was a hit after the very first time I taught it and has been very popular ever since. 
Five years later, today I presented Introduction to the American Legal System to the Seattle office managers (e.g. legal staff supervisor, office services manager, etc.).  I souped it up a bit given the audience and added a few more fun anecdotes.  At the end of the presentation, it was decided that I would present to each of the individual groups within the Seattle office, spinning the class enough to make it relevant to their job functions.  There was even talk of me giving the presentation at one of the quarterly office meetings (office-wide). 
I’m thrilled that my firm thinks this is worthwhile and valuable.  Certainly, it can only improve our interactions with internal patrons because they will know more about the fundamentals of our legal system. Hopefully that will inform how they ask reference questions and respond to the reference interview.  However, the biggest win here is the exposure the Library will gain.  We are trained professionals.  We are experts.  We are comfortable public-speaking.  We educate.  We have so much more to offer than citation pulls, corporate research, and document retrievals.  We should be leveraging these roles and traits along with our unique perspectives and really making ourselves known!  Let’s do it!

2 Responses to “Let’s do it!”

  1. Brenna Louzin says:

    Bravo! Gonna run out and buy LAW 101 and see where I might have gaps!

  2. Bravo Robyn! Sounds like you’re doing an excellent job of bringing more awareness of your library’s services, and of the education & sophistication level of the librarians, to those who may wonder just what you do all day.

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