The Seasons of Law Librarianship

by Maggie Ambrose
Winter

Photo credit: Cornell Law School

In Ithaca, we are known for our winters.  After weeks and months of gray skies, it is easy to forget the few months every year when we are blessed with sun-filled days, blue skies, cherry blossoms, and emerald green grass.

I like to think the icy, slush-filled months make me appreciate the gold-filled months more, and I’m not sure if I would ever be able to acclimate to living in a place where there are no seasons (although if you ask me in February I might give a different answer).

Spring

Photo credit: Cornell Law School

There are analogies to be drawn between the changing seasons and law librarianship in both the work cycle and the profession itself.  In terms of the work cycle, with the end of the semester in sight, spring is the time to collect and begin planting the seeds of the ideas stored up over the long winter months. Random thoughts and ideas for improvements and projects you didn’t have time to execute fully while running the marathon during the rest of the year are now gathered, and decisions are made on which seeds should be planted so as to maximize the harvest later on.

The collection and selection of ideas continues over the summer during the conference season. You not only collect seeds for the coming year but also get to see the fruits of your labor when you present your projects to others. You work within the community to compare notes and make additional improvements. It is a season of both celebration and reinvention, and the rejuvenation you feel helps get you through another long winter.

Seed

Photo credit: the yes man | Used under CC BY 2.0

It is also one of the most important times of the year, for without a productive summer, the winter months are all the harder. This is of course another way to emphasize the importance of the conference season. As a student, I didn’t always see the value of spending what little money I had to travel to conferences. I am writing this piece in part to impress upon those just entering the field to understand how important this time of year is for career development and the profession as a whole.

Fall

Photo credit: Cornell Law School

This brings me to how the analogy extends to the profession as a whole.  As a new(ish) law librarian, it can at times appear daunting (if not downright alarming) to see article after article about how the profession is either: 1) dying or 2) not dying. Yes, even the articles about how the profession is actually thriving are cause for concern considering the sheer number or them (i.e. “the lady doth protest too much” or “no smoke without fire”).

Taking the long view, perhaps the best response is that the profession as a whole is weathering a particularly nasty storm in a long winter. But that does not mean spring and summer will not come to the profession. Taking the analogy one step further, while spring and summer will inevitably come, the ability of the profession to weather this particular storm (and future winters) depends greatly on the spring and summer months, and the preparation and the seeding of new crops to get the profession through harder times.

7834037780_9c938fb16e_z

Photo credit: TumblingRun | Used under CC BY-ND-NC 2.0

Thus, we must certainly revel in the spring and the summer months, but we cannot afford to be lazy grasshoppers. As inevitable as the changing of the seasons are, so too it is inevitable that the profession is bound to go through harsh winters and must necessarily prove its relevance through hard work and innovation.

grasshopper

Photo credit: Evan Kane | Used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Come to this conference season with the work ethic of a farmer that knows a hard winter is just around the corner, and of course, don’t forget your business cards!

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