Want to be a Law Librarian?

Love the smell of legal texts in the morning? Maybe you should consider becoming a law librarian! Law librarians work in law schools, law firms, and government law libraries; and even though the word “librarian” may also bring to mind the word “boring,” the job of a law librarian is anything but dull.

Trained in legal research (including the use of online databases such as Westlaw, Lexis, and Dialog), administration, legal information systems, bibliography, and the organization of legal resources, law librarians are the well-trained professionals working behind the scenes on every major court case, for every major corporation, and at every law school across the nation.

How, exactly, do you become a law librarian? The most common way is to get a library science master's degree from a program accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). Some law librarians also have J.D. degrees, and some programs even give students the option of earning a J.D. and a library science degree at the same time.

While you don't need a J.D. to work as a librarian in a law firm, corporation, or government library, you do need one if you aspire to be the director of the law library at a law school. Also, reference librarians at law schools are sometimes required to have J.D.s. You should check with the particular school you are interested in working at for more information. Simply having a J.D. will not qualify you for all law librarianship positions.

Some of the common library science degrees are the Master of Library and Information Science (M.L.S.) degree, Master of Library and Information Studies (M.L.I.S.) degree, Master of Science in Information Systems (M.S. in I.S.) degree, and Master of Arts in Library Science (M.A. in L.S.) degree. Any of these degrees would satisfy the basic requirements for becoming an entry-level law librarian.

All in all, there are 51 ALA-approved library science programs to choose from. The top three, according to the 2007 U.S. News and World Report directory entitled America's Best Graduate Schools, are at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Syracuse University in New York.

When applying to library science programs, you should check the individual schools' admission requirements. Generally, you will be required to have a bachelor's degree and at least a “B” grade point average. Some schools also require you to earn a certain score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). However, some schools will accept LSAT test scores in the place of GRE scores, and some schools do not require you to take any entrance exams at all. You may also have to provide letters of recommendation or take part in entrance interviews.

When it comes to financing your library science degree, there are a number of scholarship options available. The American Association of Law Libraries, the Special Libraries Association, and the ALA all offer scholarships to library science students. More information on these scholarships can be found on the associations' websites.

[thanks to lawcrossing]