n Mousaion - Legal knowledge and expertise : what law librarians should know

Volume 21, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0027-2639



This article investigates the current experiences of law librarians who are already part of the Information Science profession. The focus is on their educational and training background, that is, tertiary education (formal qualifications in library science or law) and the in-service training offered by employers to law librarians. The reasons why legal knowledge and expertise are crucial to practising librarians are discussed in detail. From a legal perspective, Library and Information Science should not be treated in isolation, but as an interdisciplinary field. In South Africa no tertiary qualifications are offered for students who intend to become law librarians. This poses a serious challenge to the profession and the institutions offering Library and Information Science education. The services offered by librarians may pose legal and ethical problems, specifically regarding copyright and the Access to Information and Security Acts. The way in which librarians should deal with these problems, for example how librarians can contribute to making the existing regulations known to communities, their practical application and what happens in the case of infringements of the law is discussed briefly. Technological developments have changed the way we perform our duties both at work and at home. Law librarians access information through different databases - for example, Butterworth's Weekly Legislation update, which is one of the most significant information tools that keep South Africans up-to-date. The question addressed here is 'who trains law librarians on how to use these databases?' The current progress made in practice both in the field of law and Information Science is mentioned. The involvement of the Organisation for South African Law Libraries (OSALL) in applying the ideas or solutions suggested during conferences, symposiums and workshops, for instance, is crucial. These are the most critical issues that need clarity and expertise. In conclusion recommendations to address the challenges identified are made.

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