On Friday, I took a tour of the NC Supreme Court Library with around 6 other students in my MLS program. It was organized by the Special Library Association student chapter. Although I don’t plan on going into special libraries, it was great to see what is possible within the field of librarianship. The library was about medium-sized for what I expected to be in a courthouse and they had a staff of 4. The director explained that the people who work there stay for a very long time, like 25-30 and so on years. It was also nice to hear that everyone except the director got their degree from NCCU. It’s always nice to know that people are working with the degree that I am in the process of getting. As we got a tour of the library, the Assistant Librarian (I believe that was his title) Garrett gave us a great quote, ” Reference is about convenience”. It was a different and very practical way to look at reference services. He mentioned it in reference to the fact that they keep some of the more highly used books behind the reference desk for easy and quick access.
They all spoke of the problem of licensing of reference materials. Apparently, it’s hard to buy information, so publishers have developed the practice of licensing out electronic reference materials, which you have to pay for per a contract. The problem comes when if you don’t pay to renew your license, you no longer have that information. This really gave me a different side to the importance of not relying on electronic information and the importance of retaining print materials. This was especially pertinent for the court library because if a court case cites a certain resource, the library has to have that source. Because of this, they generally keep EVERYTHING. As you probably guessed, this presents an issue of space. Even with compact shelving, it’s a big issue.
One super interesting tidbit that Garrett showed us was in the Special Collections room. They have old Colonial law books from way back when and he showed us why. In North Carolina, because it is one of the original colonial states, a lot of the laws originate from old British law. The example he showed us was a murder law from around the 1800s. It was cited in a present day law, so they keep the old Colonial law book for reference. I thought that was really interesting and made history kind of fun (except for the fact that my allergies were not enjoying the Special Collections room).
Lastly, we got to see a courtroom and the history room. It had a history of women in the court, which was really interesting to see.
Now I’m not swearing by any of the dates or names or anything because I didn’t get to typing that into my iPhone, but I’m pretty sure they’re accurate enough. 🙂
Overall, I’m really glad I went. It’s nice to see the breadth of careers that are under the umbrella of librarianship.