The start of the winter term means a happy return to the University of Toronto Faculty of Information where I am again part of the team that teaches the perennially oversubscribed Legal Literature and Librarianship class. This year I am co-teaching with two of my colleagues Susan Barker and John Bolan and we will once again feature a guest lecture from Ted Tjaden who taught this course from 1998-2004. (Ted has blogged about his impressions of the class here , here and here).
It might strike some of my non-librarian colleagues odd or quaint that such a course continues to exist. Legal Literature and Librarianship is one of a handful of masters-level courses at Canadian library and information schools that teach future librarians about the literature and tools of legal research as well as the practice of law librarianship. While students in this class obviously do not learn about legal writing and analysis, they do learn a lot about research and the literature. By the end of the course their ability to find just about anything and quickly identify the best secondary sources on any topic, coupled with their ability to advise others on research strategy, impresses me every year.
With it becoming ever easier for any novice legal researcher to muddle through and find something relevant, we continue to need people who can identify the best sources and know how and when to use them. In fact, given how easy it is to find just something there is less incentive to learn the tools and sources well enough to find everything when required. Getting new librarians on the road to becoming this kind of expert is exactly why classes like Legal Literature and Librarianship continue to exist.