Word on the Law School “Streets”… Librarians are Helpful

Image courtesy seanbjack, some rights reserved <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/deed.en&gt;

My smile is my most often used tool for encouraging students to approach me and professors to want to work with me. I am beginning to realize that I cannot hide in my office and send emails and expect students to flock to the library for tours, mini-classes and research help. To reach the students, word of mouth and a reputation for being friendly and helpful are invaluable. I watch my friend, the Director of News & Media Relations, in the elevator. Relaxed and happy, he engages with the students by telling them an unexpectedly silly joke. He emboldens me to do the same sometimes.

One of the haphazardly applied tactics that I have for reaching more students is to reach out to the moot court teams. If I were to do it in an organized manner, I would create a schedule for all the moot court competitions that our students regularly enter. I would ask the helpful staff in the Academics department to let me know who is the faculty adviser to these moot court teams. Then I would contact these advisers and offer to provide the moot court team with research training before they get the moot court competition materials.

What I actually ended up doing took two generations of Jessup teams to come to fruition. In Spring 2011, we moved from the old school buildings in Old Town to the brand new school building in downtown, San Diego. I was invited by the Jessup Team to participate in their practice session, held in the brand new moot court room on the 2nd floor. I was thrilled. Even though it wasn’t technically a legal research training opportunity, my enthusiastic participation as a judge during their practice session led to my explaining to them that they could have come to me much sooner, and I would have given them some research training to make their research process faster and easier.

One of the team members also happened to be a part-time student worker in the library. His prior experience and familiarity with me also contributed to the positive experience that I had interacting with the moot court team. When the next group was ready to begin researching for their Jessup competition the following Fall, they had already heard of me from the prior team and had been told to contact me.

In Fall 2011, the faculty adviser for the moot court team invited me to give them two hours of legal research training over the course of two class periods. I created a research guide for them with an emphasis on researching the particular type of International law subtopics that they were focusing on. I asked each team member what they were responsible for and where they were in their research, and I offered my insight where possible to make their research process more efficient. I also pointed them to library resources on International law, oral advocacy and appellate advocacy. When their formal training was over, I made myself available to them by email, and in person whenever they needed research advice.

Word of mouth from the first Jessup Team was enough to get other moot court team members into my office. They have been contacting me, telling me they heard that I was able to help the Jessup team and wondering if I have time to create a research guide for them or to give them some research advice. Some team members still turn down my offers of legal research training because they are “too busy” writing memos and meeting deadlines. I try to help those who come to me and hope that those who do get help find their training useful. I try to keep smiling, and keep offering help and keep being appreciative of the students who do come to get help.

  • What do you do to keep track of when student groups might be in need of your help?
  • How does your library reach out to student groups?
  • How do you convince busy patrons (new associates, etc.) that a little legal research training now can save so much time and money later?
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About Catherine "Deane" Deane

Catherine Deane is the full-time Reference Librarian at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law Library. She performs in depth research for the faculty in support of their scholarship, and assists students with their legal research. She will be teaching the Advanced Legal Research course beginning in Fall 2011. She is also responsible for developing topical legal research guides for the TJSL community. She has created eight research guides since arriving at TJSL in November 2010, and has updated several more. She is also a regular contributor to ThomChat, the Thomas Jefferson School of Law Library Blog. Catherine Deane spent two years working closely with Vincent Moyer, Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian at the University of California, Hastings School of Law, where she created and curated ten research guides on varying topics in U.S., foreign, and international law. With Mr. Moyer, she published two book reviews and a foreign law research guide on the Laws of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (her home country). Prior to working at UC Hastings, she spent a year and a half doing contract work at an international law firm in downtown Los Angeles and she spent a year teaching academic writing at the University of California, San Diego. She has a J.D. with a Certificate in comparative and international law, which she acquired while studying abroad in Ireland, England and Belgium. She also has an M.L.I.S., an M.A. in Sociocultural Anthropology, and a B.A. from Princeton University in Cultural Anthropology with a Certificate in Latin American Studies. Her research interests include Native American Legal Issues, Domestic Violence, and Legal Information Literacy.
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