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Leaky Boundaries and the Decline of the Autonomous Law School Library

James G. Milles

SUNY Buffalo Law School

Law Library Journal, Vol. 96, pp. 387-423, 2004
Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2005-06

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.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 39

Keywords: law libraries, legal information, legal research, legal education, autonomous discipline

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Date posted: August 10, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Milles, James G., Leaky Boundaries and the Decline of the Autonomous Law School Library. Law Library Journal, Vol. 96, pp. 387-423, 2004; Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2005-06. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=772350

Contact Information

James G. Milles (Contact Author)
SUNY Buffalo Law School ( email )
419 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States
716-553-9154 (Phone)

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