What is a librarian without a library? – another perspective

By Felicity Cross of the Scottish Law Librarians Group

Recently whenever I have been thinking about being a law librarian and what that means the issue of space has kept popping up. How much space a library takes up? Do we need a physical space for a library anymore? I think in an increasingly digital world as e-books become more popular and more legal text books become available in a digital format the issue of space becomes more and more important for law librarians. But for me the focus should not just be on physical space, but also on mental space.

I have noticed over the past five years that my work has become more and more virtual. First I was based in a physical library where people visited and asked questions and borrowed books. It’s funny how odd this sounds to me now. Next I was in a much larger, older library, which was and still is a very impressive space, much more so than the first library I was in. However, the direction we were going in was very much towards remote services as fewer and fewer people made the journey away from their desks to come to the library. We loaned a lot more books out through the mail than we ever did in person. It felt a bit like being Amazon at times – a gross overstatement of our work load but you get the picture.

Now I don’t have a library at all; it’s in one of our other offices about 300 miles away. My work is entirely virtual. I can’t help thinking; am I still a Librarian? And if I am, what is a Librarian without a library?

My job title is Information Specialist, this definitely does not make things any clearer. I suspect that a lot of people would think Researcher is nearer the mark. But as well as providing research for our solicitors I also provide current awareness and assist with collection management.

To try and come to some conclusions about what it is exactly that I do, I thought about the different parts of my job role. And distilling them all down to their smallest common denominator; I found that it is to provide our fee earners with time and space. This may sound a little bit grandiose but bear with me.

We save time for our fee earner by analysing and searching through the best resources to make sure they have the right information at the right time, that it is up-to-date and reliable. We provide space by filtering that information, providing them with only what is relevant to their specific circumstances; clearing a space for them to think in a world filled with seemingly endless amounts of information. We give them the space and time that they need to provide the best service possible to our clients.

So librarians are also dealers in time and space… very Doctor Who; my 11-year-old niece will be pleased.

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2 thoughts on “What is a librarian without a library? – another perspective

  1. Felicity: Thank you for also exploring this question. I believe many libraries do still need space (some, a lot of space) so I wouldn’t want to give the impression we can do without. But, as we have both shown, as librarians we do not need libraries necessarily to function. It is a good question, therefore, whether we should be calling ourselves something else.

  2. Pingback: Things I’ve been reading – September 2012 « Libraries, the universe and everything

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