Leaky Boundaries and the Decline of the Autonomous Law School Library
Law Library Journal, Vol. 96, pp. 387-423, 2004
39 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2005
Academic law librarians have long insisted on the value of autonomy from the university library system, usually basing their arguments on strict adherence to ABA standards. However, law librarians have failed to construct an explicit and consistent definition of autonomy. Lacking such a definition, they have tended to rely on an outmoded Langdellian view of the law as a closed system. This view has long been discredited, as approaches such as law and economics and sociolegal research have become mainstream, and courts increasingly resort to nonlegal sources of information. Blind attachment to autonomy as a goal rather than a means no longer serves the law library's users, and that continued insistence on total law library autonomy may have the effect of seriously compromising the quality of law library service to legal education and scholarship. Fundamental changes in the nature of legal scholarship, the increasingly digital information environment, and the economics of information mean that cooperative and collaborative relationships among law libraries, university libraries, and other information providers will be just as important as autonomy, and should be recognized as such in law library planning and in the ABA standards for law school accreditation. Continued insistence on total autonomy risks a failure to meet all the information needs of the academic legal community.
Keywords: law libraries, legal information, legal research, legal education, autonomous discipline
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