A report out yesterday provides further evidence of a trend I have written about several times in recent years — the increasingly instrumental role law librarians play in innovation and technology adoption.

The 2021 AALL State of the Profession Report, the second such report published by the American Association of Law  Libraries, compiles data from three surveys to provide quantitative insights on such issues as the impact of COVID-19 in law libraries, diversity, budgets, user services, operations, collections, preservation, partnerships, and technology.

A key finding is that law firm and corporate law librarians are instrumental in innovation. More than 95% of such organizations say that law librarians are involved in testing new technology and research products, 97% say they are involved in recommending new products for purchase, and 100% say they are involved in negotiating contracts for products.

I wrote about this trend last year in a column at Above the Law, The Increasingly Essential Role of the Law Librarian, and a year earlier in an Above the Law column about the first AALL State of the Profession Report, New Report Underscores the Evolving Role of the Law Librarian, and earlier again in the column, Law Librarians: Keeping the Industry Honest.

This latest report— of which I have seen only the executive summary — shows that this trend applies across law librarian specialties. It conducted surveys for each of the three main legal information library types: academic, firm/corporate, and government.

While roles vary at the different types of institutions, technology and innovation are common threads among them.

As noted, nearly all law librarians at firm/corporate law libraries play central roles in testing, recommending and licensing products.

In academic law libraries, law librarians are responsible for managing technology platforms and services internally as well as throughout the law school, the report finds.

Over 90 percent of academic law librarians manage research platforms and databases and the library website. In addition, 79.1 percent oversee their organization’s integrated library system, 48.8 percent are responsible for the library management system, and 18.6 percent oversee course management systems, classroom technology, and blog platforms.

Across all three types of organizations, law librarians provide value and expertise in ways that extend well beyond traditional notions of their job, the report finds.

At law firms and corporations, law librarians carry responsibility for curated newsletters (35.8%), competitive intelligence (35.2%), and conflicts/new business intake (31.5%). They also play roles in marketing (55.8%), business development (52.7%), management (50.0%), litigation (44.2%), professional development (38.9%), and information technology (32.7%).

Government law librarians play important roles in access to justice, the report says, including by providing assistance and training to self-represented litigants. More than 40 percent of government law libraries offer a self-help center and 31.0 percent provide educational programs and legal clinics to self-represented litigants.

At law schools, law librarians were instrumental in helping their institutions adapt to the pandemic. More than 80 percent (81.8%) created new services and 78.2 percent took on additional responsibilities.

Academic law librarians felt the impact of the pandemic in their working conditions, saying that during the pandemic, many did not take vacation time (47.3%), some worked longer hours (29.1%), and some even resigned (16.3%).

The report was prepared by the AALL’s State of the Profession Special Committee, which surveyed director-level individuals at each of the three library types: 94 academic, 107 firm/corporate, and 117 government.

The executive summary is available free from AALL. )—in the legal information
community. The full report is available for purchase, with pricing starting at $149 for AALL members and $249 for nonmembers.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.