Guide on the Side – National Library Week: What’s the Point?

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Marie Wallace has enjoyed a fulfilling career as a librarian, beginning in 1951 in academia with the University of California and transitioning in 1971 into the private law library world until her 1995 retirement from O’Melveny & Myers. She is the 1997 recipient of the American Association of Law Libraries’ highest honor, the Marian Gould Gallagher Distinguished Service Award. Throughout her professional life, Marie has been a guiding force in the Southern California Association of Law Libraries, Practising Law Institute’s programs for law librarians and Teaching Legal Research in Private Law Libraries (TRIPLL).

Today, Marie has commenced on a new path she terms “Life in Progress,” which enables her to pursue a diversity of interests as a master swimmer, law librarian, trainer, storyboarder and designer of wearable art. She continues to be a dynamic speaker and prolific writer on such topics as private law library management, presentations and training. She is a member of Toastmasters International and is active with the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) and in continuing education for private law librarians. She devotes her “free” time to various non-profit and civic activities. Always open to new ideas, Marie can be reached at: [email protected].

We know that change is a given and that law libraries are no exception. How about your perception of National Library Week (NLW)? Are you in the “ho-hum” or the “gung-ho” camp? The “ho-hums” ask what’s the point of encouraging law students, lawyers or judges to read but the “gung-hos” jump at a chance to assert their influence.

What’s the Point?

Active observation of NLW can provide law librarians with a variety of opportunities to affirm and celebrate change in their organizations. They can make the invisible visible in a single well planned and publicized NLW event plus:

  • Celebrate their success
  • Position themselves as a strategic partner
  • Build coalitions
  • Redefine their position within their organization
  • Exhibit the role of reward strategy in their organizational design
  • Leverage their legal information expertise
  • Promote a knowledge-conscious environment in their organization
  • Demonstrate the value of their contribution to their organization.

Also, observing NLW is the ultimate exercise in packaging and presenting information. Knowing how to inform, persuade or entertain are vital Information Age skills and if not mastered, law library users may be unaware that law librarians are in a leadership role.

Viewing NLW as a presentation, you can use the post-it note technique described in . Articulate your point of view (POV), the audience’s main interest, the benefit of NLW to the audience and the results or actions anticipated. Identify one main objective and limit any secondary objectives to no more than two. Organize ideas by objectives. Use banners, posters, Web pages or the Intranet as media.


A critical step in planning a NLW event is to align your objective(s) with your those of the larger organization. What is main the purpose? Objectives might be:

  • Highlight the service/expertise your library provides to your organization
  • Introduce and promote a new product or technology, perhaps in conjunction with another department
  • Publicize a new member of the library or other service staff
  • Recognize the library or related staff
  • Encourage a new library user information-seeking behavior
  • Celebrate a milestone or the completion of a major project
  • Have fun–a new spin on infotainment
  • Clarify customers relation to legal information
  • Create a different atmosphere
  • Assess user needs
  • Recognize the Decision Makers (Library Partner/Committee, Board of Directors, Dean)
  • Reward information/knowledge users
  • Raise awareness of your supporting organization: firm, law school, county of bar association
  • Spotlight national/international issues pertaining to legal information

Event ideas

Use the entire week to publicize your NLW event but schedule the culmination on the last day. Keep it short. Serve simple refreshments. Reward participation.

1. Hold an informal educational program in the library, followed by refreshments, on a law-related topic of general interest to people in or clients of your organization. Use an inhouse expert (maybe the librarian) with excellent presentation skills to speak. Library staff provides a handout and/or exhibits related print or electronic resources.

In a law firm or corporation, for support staff or clients

  • Legal pitfalls in buying a house
  • Why write a will
  • Selecting an elder care facility

In a law school, for law students

  • What to expect in you first job clerking for a law firm
  • What you can do with a law degree other than practice
  • How to find career information on the Internet

In a law school, for campus faculty or in a court library, for judges

  • Legal issues related to publishing
  • How to survive a tax audit

In a county law library, for the public

  • How to select a lawyer
  • How to go to small claims court
  • Drawbacks to representing yourself in pro per

2. Meet the information celebrities: library staff and decision makers. Combine with autograph signing. Many law librarians are authors of books, articles and chapters in PLI Course Handbooks. If there are no authors in your information services chain, recruit from elsewhere within your organization.

3. Trivia contest about your library. Include questions about the staff, user patterns, costs, and technology. Publicize contest via print, Intranet, or Email. Culminate in a social gathering for answers and awards. If the organization is too large and geographically distributed, publicize the winner and answers via best broadcast technology at hand. Who participates and what they know provides user profiles. Event reaffirms your presence and achievements.

4. “How the Edible and Electronic Cookie Crumbles.” Library staff provides the edibles and contest is to find the most cases related to cookies. Festivities are supplemented with a handout on the Internet and its cookies.

5. Create an exhibit in a display case on contemporary legal issue, such as intellectual property, privacy, biotechnology. At the end of week, provide a librarian/docent tour of the display. Incorporate contest to identify hidden clue in the exhibit.

6. Publicize new Web sites for legal and business information via home page. Take a poll on which one users think is most valuable or solicit volunteers to participate in a focus group for needs assessment and planning .

7. Complement a MCLE event held in your organization with a library demonstration related to research on the topic. Distribute a pathfinder on the subject.

8. Take the library staff to lunch. Get a library/information intern to staff the library. Profile library staff members on the Intranet of Library Web page.

9. Organize a fashion show. Spoof what the cyber law librarian, information provider, and law library user should wear for success. Embellish live models with imaginative vitrual photographs using Powerpoint.

10. Combine any of the above with a milestone in your organization or department, for instance, a new Dean, promotion of a judge or winning a major case.


Keep the time and money budget on a small scale.

Get approval from your Decision-maker(s) regarding the event, use of facilities and the creating alliances with them or your organization’s clients. Propose it as a benefit to organizational goals.

Hold the main event when service is disrupted least. Provide for skeletal service during the event.

Prizes should be fun and relate to your objectives.

Assess the appropriate level of levity for your organization.

Conserve your creative ideas on the first event. Save some for an annual NLW.

Posted in: Guide on the Side, Law Library Management