Who among us doesn’t love the start of the new school year? Recently I’ve seen librarians’ Facebook walls discussing 1L orientation and the preparation that we undertake in the library, and as part of the law school, to welcome students and prepare them for the coming years of education. Many of us count down the days until orientation and classes begin.
Leading up to this fall, I have heard whispers of concern about law school enrollment. Will it be down? How far will it be down? As the economic downturn and questions about the employability of law graduates linger, people are having not just second but third and fourth thoughts about whether they want to take on the challenge associated with a quality law school education.
As I prepared to teach my fall course (a required one-credit class for 1L students) I considered the larger economic situation and the costs of law school. It raised several questions that I thought might provide interesting fodder for discussion on the RIPS blog. How do I make law school “worth it?” How can I fulfill my obligation to best teach the students?
There are self-evident things my colleagues and I do to make law school “worth it.” We put forward our best efforts to make decisions about the collection and services that support education. At the reference desk I actively greet the students and other patrons as they walk past; reminding them that they can stop and talk with a librarian any time we’re on duty whether they simply want to say hi, have reference questions, or offer library suggestions. Hopefully students graduate feeling welcome in the library and that they have had a voice in the management of the library because their suggestions have been duly considered.
When it comes to teaching, there are the obvious things we can do to fulfill our duties as instructors. Value arises when I spend adequate time planning and preparing for class, have clear learning objectives, engage with the students, and demonstrate enthusiasm for the subject matter. Is my teaching more valuable if I can make it fun? I suspect the answer is yes, but I don’t know. Is it more valuable if it is memorable? Probably. I hope they will be able to remember (and use) what we teach them.
Of course I want to do a great job of teaching. But how much should I be teaching? In her award-winning article “Best Practices: What First-Year Law Students Should Learn in a Legal Research Class,” Nancy Johnson draws some lines and encourages legal research teachers to recognize that we can’t teach everything in a first year legal research course. It may feel more valuable to try to teach the students everything, but they are not necessarily in a position where they can make meaning out of everything we could teach about legal research. I think it is also worth considering the AALL Legal Research Competencies and Standards for Law Student Information Literacy when generating teaching goals.
What do you do to make students see and find value in the library? In your teaching?