Tips for Solo Law Librarians

I enjoyed giving my presentation – of tips for solo law librarians – at the SEAALL 2007 Annual Meeting in Baton Rouge last week. Not being a solo law librarian, I was a bit concerned about how the presentation would go over but since most of the audience also weren’t solo librarians, it worked out all right. At the end of the day, a solo law librarian is really more like a law library director without anyone to whom to delegate, than anything else.

There appeared to have been a flurry of interest about 10 years ago in the solo librarian, the “one man band” as the solo is called in the UK, and the “one person library” or OPL as you’ll find commonly mentioned on the Web.  I couldn’t find much in the way of recent literature but may have been looking in the wrong places.  Most of what I found, including a book published last year, tended to be rather general, and emphasized the “jack of all trades” character of the solo librarians and how the challenge was to manage time so as to meet all of the demands of the job.

At the end of the day, solo law librarians probably have different issues from many other solos.  They’re probably in government, mid-size law firms, or corporate libraries and may not have the same demands on them that other one-person libraries have.  For example, payroll and benefits negotiations, technology support, and similar operational requirements may be handled by other departments in the organization.

So thanks to the Mystic Krewe of SEAALL for inviting me.  It was a fun presentation to prepare and present!

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.