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Won't someone think about the libraries?!

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The ABA’s Legal Education Council has advanced some new law school accreditation standards, which will soon be posted for notice and comment.  Is the ABA addressing something about the law school racket? Nope. Are there going to be some new disaster-related classroom hour and attendance exceptions inspired by those poor, crying NYLS students? Nope. (Probably for the best; we can only imagine the wailing that would ensue because they had to suffer through in the pre-exception era.)

So, what tough issues is the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Standards Review Committee reevaluating in regards to accreditation standards? Better sit down for this one.

Library and information resources.

Aside from providing a (theoretically) quiet space for students to study, having a law library may be becoming obsolete. When was the last time a law student used physical materials to research something that wasn’t required by a 1L research class or law journal records? As far as we can tell, the biggest “benefits” of the books are: the money publishers rake in every year with updated editions and pocket parts, that they dampen the sound of other students in the library, and may screen uglier law students from your view.

That aside, what was goal number one for reforming library and information resources accreditation? To more concretely link library performance to the mission of the law school.

Wait. What is library performance? And more importantly: what is the mission of a law school? Are we pretending it’s whatever the cutesy little catchphrases or mission statement paragraphs found on the school’s website say?

Or are we going to address the reality: that law schools are a business, and the mission of any business is to make money. If a law school just wanted to students to “lead today, lead tomorrow,” at the very least Cooley would be a not-for-profit organization, which is as close to an antonym as you can get for that institution.

Maybe someone wants to suggest the mission of a law school is to educate students? What about you, Dean Mitchell? For the July 2012 bar exam, Case Western Reserve had the second lowest pass rate for first time bar takers in the state and the second highest number of third time bar takers – only Dayton was higher for both. After doing the math ourselves, for all July 2012 Ohio bar takers from Ohio law schools, the pass rate was 82% (768 divided by 933, in case you were skeptical). That 82% is higher than Case Western Reserve’s for first time (81%), second time (0%), and third time test takers (79%). Sounds like a valuable education.

Or maybe the mission is to produce people who practice law? So does it become the law library’s responsibility to hire all of the unemployed law graduates? Except that won’t advance the mission, the practicing law librarian is a rare breed. Is it the library’s job then to help students find jobs practicing law? Isn’t that what Career Services departments are supposed to do, or is the library now stocking self-help employment books? Who Moved My Adult Child In? Everyone Poops But You Need To Get A Job. Chicken Soup Kitchen.

If the mission is to make money (and it is), the law library is likely already doing its part. Student tuition dollars are theoretically contributing to the salaries of library employees and the utility bills for the library. Not to mention there’s usually an obscurely worded fee tucked in somewhere providing for library use. Trouble is that law libraries also spend money. No doubt this is what the ABA wants to put an end to. Money spent on books and cleaning services is money not spent on summer research stipends.


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