Statements on University of Saskatchewan Libraries Deliberations

Thanks to Associate Professor of Law at the University of Saskatchewan Michael Plaxton for his discussion here on Slaw.ca earlier today. He alluded to some other discussion, so I thought it would be helpful to pull together some of those pieces for everyone.

Below is the letter from Annette Demers on behalf of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL/ACBD) and John Papadopoulos and Jeanne Maddix on behalf of the Canadian Council of Academic Law Library Directors which was also endorsed by Robert Thomas on behalf of the Saskatchewan Library Association. This was published on the CALL/ACBD website:

Ken Ladd, Acting Dean,
University of Saskatchewan Library, Dean’s Office

May 9 2014

Dear Acting Dean Ladd,

We write to you today with grave concerns and sadness about your future plans to consolidate the branch libraries, including the law library, at the University of Saskatchewan.
It is our opinion that any decision to close, or to dissociate qualified staff from the law library undermines the delivery of educational services to students within the College of Law JD program.

According to the 2009 Report of the Federation of Law Societies on the Common Law Degree:

“The law school must maintain a law library in electronic and/or paper form that permits it to foster and attain its teaching, learning and research objectives.”

Lawyers only do justice to their clients when their advice and actions are supported by the best information possible. The Federation report recognizes the increasing need for legal research skills to be instilled in our law school graduates. Accordingly some law schools have actually been improving their curriculum in this area. A robust legal research and writing program can only be successful with dedicated law librarians selecting, organizing, and enabling access to the best information services and resources.

As you are no doubt aware, Canada’s legal system is based on a common law system where precedent is foundational. In other words, Canada’s legal system has historical underpinnings, evidenced by a complex array of primary historical legal materials. Although a few collections of primary materials are available online, a substantial portion of these materials are not available online at all. These are the collections that you are proposing to put into remote storage, out of the direct reach of your law students, faculty and the local bar in Saskatchewan.

In most provinces, and in particular, in Saskatchewan, the university law library is the primary archive of provincial legal materials that are needed by not only faculty and students, but also by the local bar, judiciary and the public. In other words, your law library is the provincial steward of legal materials that are essential to our democracy. The ownership of vital print resources is enduring but once removed or destroyed, print resources can never be replaced.

It is important to understand that e-books are not generally widely available from law publishers as of now. This means that both print and digital materials are still relevant, and will be for some time yet. The bulk of historical primary materials for Canada are not yet digitized, and current secondary sources for law are by no means available for free online. Although online resources are very attractive as space savers and convenience searching, if their cost becomes prohibitive in future and licences not renewed, or if service providers disappear, all access to such resources is entirely lost, despite the fact that they are paid for each year. Some libraries in Saskatchewan may also have reduced their print collections based on the knowledge that your library holds those titles.

This shifting landscape of access to legal information makes the role of the law librarian more vital today than ever, as they are the only ones in our institutions charged with the task of staying abreast of these changes and helping users navigate the complexity of the subject matter. Ultimately, they are most vital in ensuring that the next generation of lawyers have sufficient knowledge and skills to carry forward with them in to their professional careers.

A decision to consolidate services outside of the law library will have significant impact on access to justice in Saskatchewan, not just at your University. There are several law libraries in the country which have made modifications to their operations so as to withstand substantial and crippling budget cuts, while continuing to provide vital services, support and teaching to their faculty and students. Closure of a library is a low value option. Instead, budget cutbacks are an opportunity for us to think creatively about how best to align our services more closely with user needs. Diverting money from collections (just in case) to services (just in time) is a viable alternative that should be explored.

We sincerely hope that you will consider these points in your deliberations. Please understand that decisions such as these have far-reaching impacts on our profession as well. As library leaders, we must be cognizant of the impact of our decisions on other libraries both now and into the future across the country.

Sincerely,
Annette Demers BA LLB MLIS
President, CALL/ACBD

AND

John Papadopoulos and Jeanne Maddix, Chairs
Canadian Council of Academic Law Library Directors

cc.
Vicki Williamson
University Library

Sanjeev Anand, Dean, College of Law
Law Building

Brett Fairbairn, Provost
University of Saskatchewan

Robert Heinrichs, President
Law Society of Saskatchewan

Kylie Head, QC
CBA Saskatchewan Branch President

Fred Headon, President
Canadian Bar Association

Relevant Excerpts from the Federation Report

The Task Force recommends that the law societies in common law jurisdictions in Canada adopt forthwith a uniform national requirement for entry to their bar admission programs (“national requirement”).

2. The Task Force recommends that the National Committee on Accreditation (“NCA”) apply this national requirement in assessing the credentials of applicants educated outside Canada.
3. The Task Force recommends that this national requirement be applied in considering applications for new Canadian law schools.
4. The Task Force recommends that the following constitute the national requirement:
B. Competency Requirements
1. Skills Competencies
The applicant must have demonstrated the following competencies:
1.1 Problem-Solving
In solving legal problems, the applicant must have demonstrated the ability to,
a. identify relevant facts;
b. identify legal, practical, and policy issues and conduct the necessary research arising from those issues;
c. analyze the results of research;
d. apply the law to the facts; and
e. identify and evaluate the appropriateness of alternatives for resolution of the issue or dispute.
1.2 Legal Research
The applicant must have demonstrated the ability to,
a. identify legal issues;
b. select sources and methods and conduct legal research relevant to Canadian law;
c. use techniques of legal reasoning and argument, such as case analysis and statutory interpretation, to analyze legal issues;
d. identify, interpret and apply results of research; and
e. effectively communicate the results of research.

Signed and referenced copy was attached to the original communication.

The Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians also put out the following statement on May 15, 2014:

Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians (CAPAL)

CAPAL’s Statement Regarding the Proposed Reconfiguration of University of Saskatchewan Specialty Libraries

May 15, 2014

The Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians / Association canadienne des bibliothécaires académiques professionnels (CAPAL/ACBAP)recognizes and supports the concerns raised by the Canadian Association of Law Libraries and the Saskatchewan Library Association regarding the proposed reconfiguration of the University of Saskatchewan campus libraries to consolidate print collections and services. Specifically, CAPAL/ACBAP would like to express grave concerns about the impact that consolidating four specialty academic libraries will have on the availability of professional subject expertise. Academic legal research is a complex process that requires a deep knowledge of Canada’s legal system, legal sources of information and a set of current skills in order to retrieve information effectively and efficiently. Law librarians specialize in this kind of legal research, and understand the legal bibliography and scholarship in law. University and academic libraries are charged with providing research support to students and faculty, and to members of the public and the legal community at large. CAPAL/ACBAP is concerned about the loss of professional legal research expertise if and when these library services are consolidated, and the inevitable move towards more generalist models of service versus the specialized approaches that are the sine qua non of academic legal research services.

The Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians is a national non-governmental membership organization representing academic librarians and the profession of academic librarianship in Canada. Our mission is to promote, advance and support the profession of academic librarianship for the advancement of research, teaching and learning at accredited post-secondary institutions and to further the professional interests of our members.

Sincerely,

On behalf of the CAPAL Steering Committee

Eva Revitt

It should also be noted a message was put out on the University of Saskatchewan TransformUS project blog on May 8, 2014: http://words.usask.ca/transformus/2014/05/08/clarifyingthelibraryproject/.

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