Demystifying Law Librarianship
Educating and Diversifying the Next Generation
Keywords:law librarianship, law libraries, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), recruitment & retention
In this third decade of the 21st century, the legal information profession is engaged in dialogue about the perpetually shrinking pools of qualified candidates for law librarian positions. COVID retirements and the Great Resignation have resulted in a nationwide labor shortage and private sector hiring spree that is outpacing and outspending higher education, government, and many small businesses. This combination of factors is resulting in smaller and less qualified candidate pools, and, at times, unfilled law librarian positions. There are simply not enough new librarians coming into the field of law librarianship. While the circumstances of the last few years may be an anomaly, the demographic cliff that is upon us in higher education will only serve to worsen the situation for the foreseeable future.
Of even greater urgency, law librarians have been lamenting for decades that the legal information profession does not accurately reflect the diversity of the communities it serves. The literature shows that diversity conversations began in earnest in the 1970s and continue today. Despite efforts from a variety of entities within law librarianship, the data show the profession has not meaningfully diversified.
The panelists recognize that as a profession, we have not done enough to promote, recruit, and grow law librarianship, or to educate and diversify the next generation of law librarians. We believe that collective action and innovation are needed now. We also believe there is an opportunity at hand to collaborate amongst law libraries, law librarians, and LIS programs to leverage this shortage of law librarians to creatively recruit previously-untapped LIS students with or without a legal background.
Law libraries take many forms: academic, law firm, government, and public. Academic public services and law library director positions are the only positions that traditionally require dual-degreed (Juris Doctor (JD)/Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)) law librarians. Technical services positions in academic law libraries generally require only the MLIS, as do nearly all law firm, government, and public law library positions. Nonetheless, librarians without law degrees rarely seem to consider a career in law librarianship, and LIS programs rarely seem to promote careers in law libraries, even though fewer than 20% of law librarian positions require a JD. Nonetheless, the myth that a JD is required for a career in law librarianship permeates librarianship and LIS programs. We aim to dismantle that myth.
Copyright (c) 2023 Teresa Miguel-Stearns, Jennifer Rochelle
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.