Library offers resources for students, faculty and general public
In the age of Google, the use of libraries and librarians may seem obsolete. But it is worth remembering at the start of a new school year that the Lawton Chiles Legal Information Center is an invaluable print and digital resource for students, faculty and the public.
Librarians are knowledgeable in digital literacy and libraries have resources that may only be available in print.
The law library is staffed with experts in navigating online databases and electronic resources as well as the 625,000 volumes of books, journals, videos and other materials. In addition to providing comprehensive guidance for research in law, the library’s staff aids its patrons in researching related fields in the sciences, social sciences and the humanities.
“People think of a library as a quiet place where you go and look at dusty books and you sit and study, but we’re so much more than that,” said Shira Megerman, student services reference librarian.
The 78,000-square-foot building provides patrons with a wide variety of legal resources and materials on Florida, federal and international law as well as a distinguished collection of federal taxation and British Commonwealth materials.
Claire Germain, associate dean for legal information and Clarence J. TeSelle Professor of Law, describes the library’s mission as advancing legal research, scholarship, and education by providing outstanding and innovative information services and resources to the law school, the university, and the public.
As the largest academic law library in the Southeast, it aims “to prepare students for the practice of law so that they can be effective researchers and to support faculty and student scholarship,” Germain said.
The library’s name reflects the multiple formats available for legal information since the development of new technologies and the Internet, from microfiche to databases.
The librarians are authorities on how to use these databases and “offer several courses that teach students how to search the deep Web not exposed through Google, hidden materials, and unknown databases. The courses also teach students how to come up with a research methodology,” Germain said.
While reference librarians cannot give legal advice, they will guide patrons to legal resources and help them with legal research.
“We are a very open environment. We are not trying to be stogy or difficult or not supportive of their endeavors. We really want them to make this a type of home,” Megerman said. “We’re approachable. We’re knowledgeable. Use us as tools.”
The Student Library Advisory Committee is comprised of 10 students and includes 1Ls through 3Ls and LL.M. candidates. The library utilizes this committee for feedback and to develop policies that reflect their desires. SLAC discusses topics such as study rooms, food in the library and check out procedures.
The library also serves the UF Law faculty through a liaison program in which each faculty member is assigned a librarian who helps them in their research. The library benefits from this program as well through collection development.
“They are helping us buy good books for the library,” said Elizabeth Outler, associate director and head of public services.
While doing research, faculty members request books that pertain to their field and the library orders them. The books are then available for others to check out.
The library also strives to aid the public. Outler said all the resources that are available on the computers for the faculty and students, beside those that require a login, such as Lexis and Westlaw, are also available to the public.
“The difficulty that we run into, which is common for law librarians everywhere, is that they want you to give them legal advice,” Outler said.
- Marcela Suter