Recognition and Praise

It’s awards season in the law library community. Associations are asking us to nominate our colleagues for excellence in writing, marketing, service, leadership, and law librarianship in general. We have occasion to reflect on who among us is deserving or has stepped up to the plate. And who we want to encourage to lead us. It’s caused me to ponder why being chosen, recognized, and praised on large and small scales is important to the health of the legal information profession. 

Mainly, it inspires us. We are professionals. We all strive to provide excellent service, but it’s nice when our colleagues recognize our service, reward us for a job well done. We can recognize our colleagues and their work in different ways. The recognition can be the nomination for an award itself. When we choose a colleague to lead a group, a project, an initiative, we recognize that colleague’s prior contributions. We recognize a colleague when we choose her or him for an oral history project, for a biographical piece, for an interview. Asking a colleague to write a memorial or edit or contribute to a Festchrift in honor of a retired or retiring colleague recognizes both the retiring colleague and the person asked to contribute. The recognition can be a simple thank-you letter or email to the colleague, or to institutional stakeholders about the colleague’s work. It can be a “congrats” on completing a project, on having an article or book published, or on something non-work-related like fitness goals hit, sweater knitted, quilt sold, poetry slammed, or marathon run. Because a life outside of work is an achievement!

Remember to thank your colleagues. We want to celebrate our achievements. Have a party. Give away wine, books, fun things. Hand out certificates. Present plaques. And recognize new members to our profession. In my area of specialty, foreign, comparative, and international law librarianship, we’ve been fortunate to have a great mentor of new FCIL librarians, Dan Wade at Yale. He came up with the idea of having senior members of our group pitch in together to buy a bottle of wine to give to the newest member of our profession each year. It’s been a hit. And very welcoming to new FCIL SIS members who’ve achieved the distinction of choosing our wonderful specialty at the start of their careers.

An example of another type of recognition is the Canadian Association of Law Libraries/Association canadienne des bibliothèques de droit Denis Marshall Memorial Award for Excellence in Law Librarianship. The Denis Marshall Award honors a CALL/ACBD member who embodies the following qualities he had:

  • a continued commitment to excellence in law librarianship;
  • a strong service ethic;
  • a commitment to continuous learning;
  • a pursuit of innovation and innovative solutions;
  • a significant contributor to scholarship in the library profession;
  • a mentor who encourages those who seek a profession in law librarianship;
  • and a leader in the law library profession.

Each time the Award is granted, we are reminded of Denis Marshall. It strengthens CALL’s institutional memory and binds the membership in a historical thread – a continuing tradition of excellence. It makes us proud to be a member of an Association that had such a great leader. And it encourages us to follow in his footsteps. By seeking to emulate him, we are better legal information professionals.

An Association can provide various types of awards. The awards can recognize short-term or long-term achievements in the profession. They can be for newer members or retirees. They can facilitate specialized work. They can encourage diversity in the profession. They can be awards, scholarships, and grants in partnership with vendors and other legal content providers. Some associations such as the International Association of Law Libraries (IALL) provide scholarships and internships, but also lifetime and honorary memberships as forms of recognition. Juriconnexion also has honorary members and awards the Cd Rom Juridique d’or for outstanding service to the Association. The British & Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) has bursaries and the Wallace Breem Memorial Award. The Australian Law Librarians’Association (ALLA) has an Outstanding Achievement Award, the Ted Glasson Australian Law Librarian Award, the ALLA Certificate of Appreciation, and the relatively new, Pacific Assistance Award.

The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) has the following at the national level:

Interest groups within AALL have their own awards. For example, the Technical Services Special Interest Section (TS-SIS) has the Renee D. Chapman Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributions in Technical Services Law Librarianship. The Foreign, Comparative, and International Law section has the Spirit of the FCIL SIS Award, the Reynolds and Flores Publication Award, and the Daniel L. Wade Outstanding Service Award. The Computing Services SIS has the Kenneth J. Hirsh Distinguished Service Award. And the Private Law Libraries SIS has the Emerging Leader and Service to PLL awards.

These are just a few of the many ways we can recognize legal information professionals. The forms of recognition can be tried and true and be part of a formal, institutionalized association process. But you too can praise your colleagues. You can take steps to personally recognize your colleagues (including your vendor partners). Take the opportunity to nominate them for awards. Establish awards at your own institution. Welcome interns. Establish fellowships. And, in the meantime, look for ways to thank your law librarian colleagues for their every day, year round excellent work and service to users and the profession.

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