Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Tale of Two Professions

I recently went to a luncheon hosted by the Vancouver Association of Law Librarians (VALL) with whom the talented Eugene Barsky gave a talk on Wiki's. The similarities between medical librarianship and law librarianship caught my attention. After freshly returning from a conference in Seattle from the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Medical Library Association where I spoke to medical librarians about the salient issues of the day, I was intrigued to hear similar discussion echoed among law librarians (and technicians).

Conclusion? Things aren't so different between these two supposedly very different areas of librarianship. Social software, Web 2.0, recruitment, employment forecasts all came up during discussion. (In fact, Christina Tribe of Harper Grey tells me that 50% of her time is spent on medical databases and CISTI). One person who participated at the luncheon has a blog entry which has striking relevance to medical librarianship and echoes a similar problem. I'd like to share with you an excerpt:

So who must pay attention to this? Well first of all - VALL. We (I speak as a member of the Executive) have to prepare our membership. Mentoring and training are goingnto be more important than ever. Next up, UBC SLAIS. The legal bibliography course needs to be offered regularly, and we need to support it (be it Teresa Gleave or another local Librarian who takes on this huge task).

Replace the legal terms/people with medical terms/people and you'd find the above arguments to be highly relevant and interchangeable in both areas. In my opinion, because both professions - law and medicine - are so specialized, they require talented and creative individuals to fill its posts, especially one which requires information retrieval. Answer? Librarians of the future.


Dean Giustini said...

Hi Allan,

Due to the complexities of law, a SLAIS course on legal bibliography would be essential for any new grad wanting to work in this area. More and more though, I wonder if an LLB is also required?

In business and medicine, advanced degrees are likely helpful if not essential. In medicine, I think it's great when someone has a science background (or even a health background) but what's critical is an ability to immerse yourself in library sources and services to support health care. (ie. LIBR534)

What I would like to see is a separate course that would combine business, law and medicine for basic reference services, taught by three experts in the field. Maybe something I should broach with Mary Sue. Dean

Allan said...


That'd be an excellent idea. You're probably referring to what Langara College's LibTech program is doing (in which you teach, too).

Instead of having trouble finding practitioners for a full 13 weeks, it might be best to have a 4-weeker taught by different people.

This would help everyone out in the process. And would not compromise too much on the quality of the course. In fact, it'd guarantee that all three areas are covered for each semester. Right now, it's a "luck of the draw" at SLAIS as to who can get into the Health Sciences and Legal Bibliography courses. It's quite unfortunate.

I'd be glad to see you part of such a program - you'd be the perfect driver for it!