Wednesday, May 18, 2011

CALL Conference - Interdisciplinarity in Law Libraries

On Monday afternoon at the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries, I attended a session on interdisciplinarity.

It was called "Thinking Beyond the Law" and featured 3 speakers: Maryvon Cote (McGill), Clare Mauro (Torys LLP Toronto) and Katie Thomas (Bank of Montreal - Toronto).

They all agreed that law librarians in all environments are increasingly being asked to expand their work and their collections into other disciplines, from history to psychology, from applied sciences to religious studies, from business research to philosophy. The pressure to adopt an interdisciplinary perspective can come from trends in academia as well as from new regulatory pressures in industries like banking (which have to take into account environmental, aboriginal and human rights issues).

The panelists described a variety of ways in which they support interdisciplinarity:

1) inter-library loan
2) tapping into in-house expertise of lawyers who have a background in other fields
3) training users in the use of non-legal databases
4) at McGill, agreements with other specialized university libraries, and modifying collection development practices to more closely track the curriculum interests of professors doing interdisciplinarity research
5) document delivery

The panelists also offered tips relating to the tools they use to keep abreast:

1) subject guides from other faculties (McGill)
2) Twitter and RSS feeds
3) the UK-based newsletter FreePint which regularly publishes resource guides on different topics and disciplines
4) info aggregators like CBCA or ABI Inform
5) free sources like Google Scholar. PubMed and SSRN
6) listservs
7) colleagues, colleagues, colleagues - have a good network in other libraries.

They also described the challenges of interdisciplinarity. The biggest one being information overload. As well, if the library is able to provide answers outside of the institution's or faculty's area of expertise on one occasion, the pressure mounts for perfection the next time.

But by and large, the speakers assured that successes are numerous and that the one thing to remember is that multidisciplinarity is here to stay.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 11:57 am


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