Why Your Library Needs to Proactively Support Journal Students

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.”


Creator: comiccreatorsproject

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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?!
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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!).


credit: reactiongifs.com

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.

This entry was posted in Law Reviews, Outreach, Reference Services and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Why Your Library Needs to Proactively Support Journal Students

  1. Christy says:

    Hi Cassie, this is a very timely topic for me. Our 2 law reviews now how their grade-ons and it’s time for training. We do have an established law review training for our law review students. I took over this responsibility when the librarian who did it retired last year. Our training is mandatory, which I think is great because, like you said, it gives me a chance to connect with the students. I’ve been in the process of revamping the training. It used to be just a PowerPoint presentation, now I include a hands-on aspect to training. I have them look for articles, books, & newspapers. They all think they know it until they have to actually do the search. But I am always looking for ways to improve training and connecting with students.

    • Cassie Rae Walker says:

      Hi Christy, thanks for your reply! Something I shifted to over the years is “small group training.” Instead of doing one large session for all incoming 2Ls, I instead meet with them the DAY they are assigned their first cite-check assignment. This requires a good relationship with the Board member/3L who distributes the assignments, but if you can get this communication working, it really works much better this way (at least for us).
      In this format, the 2Ls have much greater incentive to pay attention to the training since they have a daunting assignment right in front of them. I also use real examples from their assignments (little freebies!). I can also tailor the training to the articles assigned (e.g. if the Smith article has loads of international sources, I’ll cover that more than I normally would).
      I meet with the students for their first assignment only and this results in about 5 small group trainings all year. For us, some 2Ls receive their first assignment in January or later – there’s just no way I can expect them to still remember what we cover in September.
      Oh, and I also give them a FAQ manual to get them through the “easy” citations so that they can save the sneaky citations for a visit with me. Happy to share that manual if you’d like!

  2. Concerned Alum says:

    Good post, Cassie, but there’s more than meets the eye behind that community post. There are other librarians there that care about providing quality service!!

    • Cassie Rae Walker says:

      Absolutely! As librarians, I am pretty confident we all care, and greatly. My post was meant to encourage libraries to proactively serve journals in a formal role, if possible. Time or circumstances don’t always allow that though, understandably.

  3. Mary Rumsey says:

    Speaking of supporting journals, does anyone know if the Texas Law Review might make its style manual available online (other than through the $15 iPhone app) for students working on write-on competitions off-campus? I emailed them, but got no response.

    • Cassie Rae Walker says:

      Hi Mary: I actually recently looked into this for one of our students. Unfortunately, I was referred to the app as well and told there were no other plans for electronic access. We tried to order a physical copy and have it mailed to the student, but then that same day they reversed and stopped shipping. We never heard back either, and ended up buying a copy on Amazon.

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