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Building a modern law library

We start teaching LLBs at Goldsmiths in September 2019. We’ve not done so before. How then were we to build a law library from scratch? What could we do without? What were must-haves? Are there advantages to brand new collections? Are there disadvantages?

For a start, our collection, like our LLB itself, is very forward-thinking. It wouldn’t have been right if we tried to duplicate old law libraries with shelf after shelf of collections of law reports, legislation and paper journals, all gathering dust through lack of use. Buying all the physical sets needed for such a collection would have been very difficult to justify, especially in a time when, for environmental reasons amongst others, we don’t want a hugely paper-based collection. In addition, space at Goldsmiths, like in most solicitors’ firms and barristers’ chambers, is at a premium.

Going digital

Law has always been ahead of the game when it comes to digital resources and so for many years libraries in law firms have been getting larger digitally, while getting smaller physically. Our collection very much mirrors that model. As a result, we have a very real-world collection, with a strong emphasis on digital resources.

Like most academic libraries we have subscriptions to Westlaw, Lexis Library, HeinOnline and Nexis. But unlike most academic libraries we have also gone for a subscription to Practical Law – a service which is heavily used in law firms. And now that Practical Law and Westlaw are partner databases, they integrate seamlessly.

We have also gone for large collections of eJournals and eBooks from major law publishers, eg over 1,500 OUP titles, over 3,000 CUP titles and all the newly published Hart eBooks. We are also one of the first universities to buy access to Sweet & Maxwell’s set of student eTextbooks (all of which are fully integrated into Westlaw, with hyperlinks from the text directly into relevant cases and legislation).

Fully available collection

We have made sure that all the modules on the LLB have core student textbooks available digitally, so that there will be no waiting to access these textbooks and you can access them from anywhere in the world. But don’t worry if you do prefer paper copies, we do have them too for these core student textbooks.

We do also have one set of law reports, a very key set – the All England law reports – in paper, so that students can get a feel for a physical set. But, as with most solicitors and barristers, our students will mostly use digital versions of law reports and legislation from our various databases.

Preparation for the workplace

Sometimes digital collections can take a bit of know-how to be able to use them fully. Students will be given as much help and training as they need from Greg Bennett, the law librarian, who has worked at magic circle firm, Slaughter and May and the Institute of Advanced Legal studies, amongst other places. So by the end of their time at Goldsmiths, students will be fully prepared to use the kind of legal libraries that they will have in their careers ahead.

The main advantages of our new collection at Goldsmiths are that it is fully bespoke to the needs of the students; it will teach them how to use the actual resources that they are likely to encounter in their careers; and it is friendly to the environment. You might consider that there is a disadvantage in that it doesn’t “look” like a traditional law library. But then, we at Goldsmiths, like to do things differently 🙂

 

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