LIBRARIANS ROLE IN LEGAL PEDAGOGY
National Law School of India University
Library and Legal Pedagogy
Library is the central place where students, teachers and researchers visit to access information. In the field of law, the library is more relevant due to the nature of the discipline, which is one that has a vast number of theories and cases. It is my intention to reveal in the course of this piece about the role a librarian can play in improving the legal pedagogy. While a librarian cannot fully replace a law professor, there are many useful contributions a librarian can make towards teachers, students and researchers. In this write up, I will narrate based on my own experiences, the way in which librarians can contribute to the legal pedagogy in terms of syllabus framing, compiling of reading material, assignments, projects, seminars and other activities.
In most of the traditional law colleges, the syllabus is framed once in 5 or 10 years and the individual course teachers have no role to play in framing of the syllabus. Whereas, at the Law School, there is a freedom for the course teachers to frame their own syllabus and design the course in an innovative way. This method ensures that every year, the courses can be designed keeping in mind the recent events and updates in law. For example, the subject on Securities Market keeps changing often and there are many circulars every week. Other subjects have many important updates as well such as important judgments passed by the apex courts.
While designing the new syllabus, the course teachers, if they approach the library, are given a list of existing books and articles on the subject. We also try to find out any recent articles and cases on the subject. If there is a need for the newly published books, we place the orders directly from online vendors like Flipkart and Amazon for the procurement of the publication. In this way, we ensure that the course teacher is not deprived of the latest material in any way. If at the time of syllabus framing, the library is consulted, we can ensure that all the relevant books and materials that are prescribed in the syllabus are available in the library. The library also stores the previous years’ syllabus, which can give an idea to the new teachers for framing their syllabus.
There are different approaches in teaching law subjects. If the legal pedagogy has to be intellectually stimulating and practically relevant, the teachers may have to consult the people working with the law on the ground. Teachers of various law schools should share their syllabus and experiences. Based on their experiences, the best methods can be followed by the rest.
Compiling Reading Materials
Compiling the reading materials becomes a tedious process if the information has to be collected from various sources. For example, for sociology courses taught at the law school, we compile the materials from non-law journals and magazines. Even newspaper clippings are made a part of the reading material. When the relevant part is found in a book that is not available with our library, we contact the other law schools and procure the same. Sometimes, we have procured the necessary materials from foreign universities, thanks to our alumni network who are now studying and working in most of the leading law schools of the world.
While the law school library subscribes to many online paid databases, there may be few materials that are not a part of the databases that we subscribe to. In such situations, we contact the other institutes and get the articles. We have the practice of getting one copy of the reading material of each course and keeping it in the library. Law teachers from other institutions refer these materials and have given a positive feedback on these reading materials. Such positive feedback only means that our teaching faculty is putting a great deal of hard work in compiling these materials.
Assignment and Projects
The law school curriculum mandates the submission of a project at the end of the course. The projects are both doctrinal and empirical in nature. In subjects like Consumer Law, the projects are usually empirical. Students have to go to the field and collect data from the consumers. Such empirical projects also require the assistance of the library. Whenever students approach the library for the purpose of their projects, we provide them a list of articles that may be relevant for their project. The books and journal article search can be done by the students as well. But in case they are unable to search the material, the library staff helps them with tips that are a part of the library science profession.
We also help the students to improve on their projects to bring them to publishable quality which can then be submitted to law journals. In this regard, the faculty members guide our students meticulously. Our students have managed to publish their work in national and international journals. These publications help the students to pursue their higher studies in foreign universities and also help their job prospects. At present, the Student Bar Association (SBA) is also helping the junior batches to improvise their projects and publish in law journals as well. In many libraries, the librarians help in checking the project works for plagiarism. In the law school, the students themselves are supposed to run the plagiarism check and submit the report to the concerned faculty members.
There have been many experimental projects that have been undertaken by students. One such project was by Nick Robinson from Yale Law School. He had offered a seminar course and for the project work, he made groups and asked each group to take up one case and download the same case from different online databases and then analyze the contents based on the head note, categorization and keywords. The students concluded that among all the databases, the AIR database gave the best categorization and content. During this project work, the library staff was also involved and it was a learning experience for us about case laws.
Librarians as Teachers
At the Law School, we conduct orientation for the first year students about the library resources and usage. We conduct special workshops for the LLM and research students to help them understand the library resources in a better fashion. LLM students spend quite some time interacting and learning from us during their process of dissertation work. PhD research scholars from the law school are also given special assistance to get access to resources.
Apart from our own students, we get sizeable number of practicing advocates who come to us to find more information about a particular area of law or a certain case law. We get students from other law schools that come to collect material for their moot court work and research students from other universities as well.
Quite a few library science students coming to us for their internship. For the library science students, we impart different type of training. For them, we give hands on experience of indexing the books, preparation of Meta information for the library resources, collection of newspaper clipping, management of library and other aspects.
There are many ways in which librarians can positively contribute towards the legal pedagogy. Though we are not experts in law, we can interact with the professors and provide them with assistance for their classroom teaching and research. Meaningful collaborations and research between law researchers and librarians is hence necessary. Such exercise can give fruitful products to the legal pedagogy.