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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Informational Professional (Librarian) and Proud of It

By Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian

I am attending the South by Southwest Interactive Conference. I am fascinated with the breadth of knowlege of the panel presenters. I am in a presentation about the semantics called Beyond Algorithms: Search and the Semantic Web. This is heady talk. These guys and the one woman panelist are the best thinkers on search engine algorithms. But I keep thinking about targeted legal information and the ability of a law librarian to take a patron's question and provide them with one or several sources leading to an answer. The web is a real add on to our tools. But for hundreds of years scholars, especially librarians, have invented ways to organize and search for information.

For example, despite Google and the other big players, it is not possible for the casual user to determine what the operative case law is on a specific legal issue in a specified jurisdiction for a specific point in time. In paper research achieving this result takes the expertise of someone who understands the structure of the legal system. In United States jurisdictions it is the common law case precedent system interfacing with statutory law. This kind of search on the web requires a subscription to very expensive databases of legal information. When a patron comes into the law library she gets the benefit of both online and paper research tools.

More later...