As September and the new academic year bear down upon us here at Faculty of Law at Dalhousie University, my mind turns to the class that will be arriving here on the day after Labour Day. It is always amusing to look at the mindset of incoming students. Beyond the amusement, however, is a relevant point. We are now serving a generation to whom being brought up with a mouse in their hands does not entail holding a furry little creature. This generation adapts to technology rapidly (or does technology adapt to it?) and desires just about everything in an â€śeâ€? form. For those of you in firms or elsewhere in the legal profession, remember that the students who arrive here this year are going to be arriving in your office a short three years from now â€“ even sooner as summer students.
Over the past several years, all of us have seen dramatic changes in the nature of computing in our various professional communities and in our everyday lives. Computer shopping has become a regular part of “Back to School”. The number of students with laptops increases exponentially every year. Laptops are now as much a part of Law School life as casebooks and socials. This transformation has meant a number of things for our library. First, we had to get wired so that our users could use an Ethernet cord to become connected while using the library. Then we outfitted our library to enable wireless connections (those pesky shelves of books keep blocking the signal in the furthest reaches of the library); now we are dealing with the desire to print from a wireless connection. And, all along, we have been creating more electronic content and struggling with the various copyright issues (issues which are aptly documented on these Slaw pages). Of course, these efforts are never enough; as with wireless, and then wireless printing, one change leads to the need for a further improvement.
What may be coming? I have no fear that my job as an information professional is in jeopardy anytime soon. Information is information regardless of the form it is in. It will still need to be organized, arranged, understood and made accessible. Blogs, RSS, , iPods, , Podcasting, PDAs, Google Scholar and whatever happened today are all about transmitting, storing and accessing information.
How does this affect how I deliver content here at the Law School?
I am curious to see if this autumn brings an increase in the number of PDAs I see around the Law School. What will this new technology imply? Will I now have to tailor electronic documents for PDA usage? What about delivery options? Will they want to begin searching the various legal databases with PDAs? iPods have become a phenomenal success and are capable of varied uses. Will iPod usage have an impact on how I deliver information? How do I turn this technology into an asset in our classrooms? What will be the balance between what the courts are willing to accept and what technology dictates? We are currently living in a time of transformation and revolution in legal research; how does this balance with historical practice and precedent, a cornerstone of the profession? It is fascinating to imagine where this technology will lead us as legal information professionals, and how it will alter the everyday practices of the legal profession and the future generations of legal researchers and practitioners.
In the end, I am likely omitting some obvious questions. I donâ€™t know many of the answers to these questions, I have suspicions and opinions based on practice and observation. A resource such as Slaw is an ideal example of putting the technology to use in order to help determine some of the answers to these questions.