A couple of weeks ago I saw that a friend had written about my book (Practicing Reference: Thoughts for Librarians and Legal Researchers) on the SIU Law Library’s blog (Law Dawg Blawg). (The friend is Diane Murley, the coauthor of the self-help law bibliography we’ve mentioned here.) That’s nice, I thought. And then I thought: why don’t I tell people about it myself? I’m a blogger too, aren’t I?
I haven’t written before because I try to stick to the mission of the blog, and my book is not on the surface about self-help law. But I am pleased that it’s out — and, come to think of it, parts of it are quite relevant to shlep. So I will go ahead and blow my own horn.
The book is a collection of my columns from Law Library Journal. As it happens, the very first one I wrote, “Golf Buddy Reference Questions” (chapter 8 of the book) was about the policy most law librarians have of not giving legal advice. We don’t tell people what the law is, but help them use the library’s resources (and online resources) to look it up themselves. That policy can be baffling to members of the public. After all, if you call your local public library and ask how tall Mt. McKinley is, the librarian will look it up and tell you 20,320 ft. Why are legal questions different?
Other chapters would be helpful for people who help the public find legal information — not just reference librarians, but also court support staff and others. Chapter 1, “Finding Out What They Want to Know” is a good place to start. And Chapter 4, “On Asking for Help,” discusses reasons why some patrons are reluctant to ask for help and how librarians can help them anyway. Chapter 9, “On Having a Bad Day,” talks about the lives of reference librarians — but it’s applicable to everyone really.
The last third of the book discusses research techniques, challenges, and sources. Anyone who does legal research could find these chapters helpful. Chapter 24, “When Judges Scold Lawyers,” explores cases when judges chew out attorneys for sloppy research or bad writing, and the lessons there are equally applicable to the self-represented. And since we’re all online, I’ll also mention Chapter 22, “Cool Web Sites.”
Most of the columns are available on Law Library Journal‘s website as they were originally published. So why bother with the book? It brings them together in one place, and they’re updated them with some new material.
So, there it is, my little bugle call – ta-daaa! I have a book out!