Give Law Librarians Their Due Recognition

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Deputy Prime Minister, Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Freundel Stuart, has affirmed that "librarians as a group, and especially those working in special libraries such as law librarians, are often taken for granted by library users".

Delivering remarks during an official opening ceremony for the Caribbean Association of Law Libraries’ (CARALL) 24th annual conference, Mr. Stuart said: "Many persons do not know that a law librarian, properly so called, is a person who has a degree or some other professional qualification in librarianship, as well as a law degree; and some have even been called to the bar."

"Some law librarians are also legal researchers in their own right, publishing and contributing to legal discussions in their countries," he added.

According to the Minister, the current perception on librarians will not be easily amended, because "most [persons in that profession] do not seek to draw attention to themselves".

"Few librarians are into branding, and are happy merely to impart knowledge to others and to be thanked for a job well done."

But Mr. Stuart was adamant that "this [approach] is not enough, if the profession is to attract more young persons into its ranks. It must be seen as both dynamic and rewarding".

"Perhaps, librarians can do a bit more to enhance their image by speaking out on matters which affect their profession and the dissemination of information in general," he suggested.

Pointing to the important role of law librarians, "both for relevant collection development and assisting users in exploiting available resources", the Attorney General said that "of all the professions, law is probably and understandably the one most dependent on the availability of legal resources for its practice."

"This is so because of the doctrine of precedent, according to which judges and other legal scholars not only adopt and are mindful of principles set out in previous decisions, but also are bound to be guided by the decisions of superior courts."??????

He noted that a good law library comprises information such as "law reports, legislation, case digests, periodicals, textbooks and other legal treaties, in which legislation, decided cases and the legal principles enunciated in them are discussed".

Mr. Stuart also highlighted recent efforts by some governments in the region, in devoting large budgets to law libraries so that their legal departments and the courts could have access to reasonable collections.

One draw back, however, was that "most of our governments have not invested in training our librarians in book preservation, which means that sometimes we have difficulties not only in expanding and keeping our collections current, but in knowing how to preserve them from mould, dust and other environmental problems".

The Attorney General regarded this as a "deficiency in the training of our librarians which must be made good."

"It is not all of them who must be trained in book preservation; one or two within the Civil Service should suffice. These, along with archivists who have received specialised training, should be available for consultation in the event that some libraries experience problems," said Mr. Stuart.

The four-day conference concludes today, June 24, at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus.

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