A Library Student’s First Law Library Experience
By Kate Stockert, MLIS
As the Metro bus expeditiously transported me downtown for the first day of my directed fieldwork at King County Law Library (KCLL), I found myself both giddy and nervous, wondering whether my skills and education would be sufficient for the role. Fortunately, from the first moment I stepped into the library, the KCLL staff welcomed me, sharing their breadth of knowledge, support, and patience. Each staff member took time to explain to me the intricacies of the library and his or her respective role within it. Looking back I realize how invaluable my time at KCLL will prove when I next step out into the job market.
Early Spring Quarter, resume in hand, I met with my advisor Penny Hazelton to discuss the process for setting up a directed fieldwork. Since Penny is a prominent member of the law library community, she was able to put me in contact with libraries interested in hosting me for the summer. Once we found a host library and I had registered for the course, Lorraine Bruce provided the necessary paperwork and instructions.
The first step of the directed fieldwork program required KCLL and me to agree upon five learning objectives as a means of anchoring my experience to achievable goals. The KCLL staff tailored the five objectives to my future career aspirations of working as an instructional and reference librarian, providing me with opportunities to co-teach legal research classes, and a chance to jump on board the technological superhighway by engaging in new Web 2.0 technologies. Each objective offered a good balance of autonomy and guidance, allowing me to spend time on my own to complete projects, and ask for help when needed.
Though learning reference requires several months of intense training and endless practice, KCLL found a way to help me get my feet wet by allowing me to respond to questions generated by members of the public via the library’s electronic QuestionPoint system. After I formulated responses, the KCLL staff reviewed my work and offered suggestions for improvement. These asynchronous email correspondences allowed me room to learn legal reference, since the responses were not needed immediately.
KCLL also provided me with the opportunity to contribute to the Library’s high-tech projects such as podcasting (KCLL’s SideBar) and composing a “Tech Tip” for the quarterly e-News. I particularly enjoyed writing the Tech Tip since it increases the information literacy levels of patrons, and is a great marketing tool for the library. Both the podcast and e-News helped me appreciate the law library’s need to market services and resources to patrons, and explore the multiple avenues available to libraries to “get the word out.” KCLL’s ingenuity with modern technologies helped me see the future of law libraries and the need for creativity and global thinking.
Overall, I found this experience inspiring and motivating, and it equipped me with new tools to use in class this coming school year. Thanks KCLL for a wonderful summer!