I’m not going to talk about the pandemic today. Nope. Now, let’s move onto something else that recently troubled me. In a recent AALL community post, someone asked about interlibrary loan functions for journal students and one reply really caught my eye: “I didn’t establish anything separate for the journals as they haven’t approached us yet with their needs.”
If your library isn’t fully, proactively supporting its journal students, you’re missing out.
Truth: I worked my butt off the past five years to build a formal and highly supportive relationship with our six journals. And to be clear, I wasn’t really asked to do this either. Rather, I noticed that every year, the journal students had the same questions. They were lost despite a full-time journal administrator. Their processes were jumbled and ill-informed… So, one year, I just said “you know what? I’m going to help these students.” So, I did. Yes, I kinda fibbed to them [shh!]: I made the incoming journal board of just one journal meet with me one summer under the guise that it was required to meet with the library [me]. And what do you know, they believed me (I still can’t believe this worked)! We had a lengthy meeting about everything the library does for them as journal members. They asked ALL the questions and I gave them all the support. They were shocked that someone, this whole time, was actually there to relate and have their back.
And I never looked back.
So, if you’re not actively engaged with your school’s journals, here’s why you should be:
- Insight: Our journals conduct annual surveys of their members related to experience, suggestions, services used, and more. Most helpful, the survey includes questions about library services and whether they were helpful. Good or bad, having this data is very helpful!
- Your biggest fans: Between cite-checking and writing a case note, journal students call upon the library’s resources uniquely and often. With all of those unique needs, the library has an opportunity to create repeat happy customers and big fans. There’s no better advertisement than a positive review from a friend. In fact, this past Fall a new 1L continued to ask me for a strange amount of guidance (strange for a 1L). It turned out that the student’s cousin was a law review student and alum who told the new 1L if you remember anything, ask the library for help. I mean, does it get more heart-warming than that?!
- Many more learning opportunities: We know the wise words about teaching a man to fish. Similarly, if you teach a student to find a scarce resource in their most desperate hour, you’ll teach that student that the library can do more than provide study space. With just a little help, journal students learn to ask the library for not just cite-checks, but edited writing, work-related research, or general advice. Journal students live and breathe journal life for a full two-thirds of their law school experience, so if you help them right in the beginning, just think of all the learning opportunities ahead for them!
- Scholarly opportunities: If you’ve never taken the time to read some of the journal students’ scholarship, please do so. I’m continuously surprised by some of the ideas the journal students are exploring and writing about and why not showcase that? This Spring we intended to host an open mic event with both faculty and students sharing the stage and sharing their work. It was postponed for obvious reasons, but I was really looking forward to providing this scholarly opportunity to our students. Whatever events your library is doing to promote faculty scholarship, I encourage you to consider doing the same for students.
- Meaningful relationships: Last but not least, the relationships you create with journal students will, I promise, be some of the most meaningful. There are simply few experiences in law school that take up as much time as journal membership. And a lot can happen in two years! In fact, I often refer to them as “my” journal students. They just feel like mine, like a mother would say. I watch them grow, learn, accomplish great things, become spouses and parents… the list goes on. Honestly, I just really cherish these relationships (cue the violins!).
If you’re not currently supporting journal students proactively, but want to, let me know! I’m happy to share all my tips for how our library got to where we are today.