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Why Law Librarians Matter: Fostering Equity in Legal Research for Law Students and Faculty

August 17, 2023 (4 min read)
librarian and student looking over a book

Law Librarians and Equity

In the world of legal education, law librarians stand as the champions of curation, organization, and dissemination of legal information for first-year law students, seniors studying for the bar, and seasoned law professors alike.

One aspect of this relationship that can often go unnoticed, however, is the dedication to ensuring that law students and professors have access to the tools they need to succeed -- regardless of where they are in their legal educational journey.

To see an example of a law library that is taking steps to ensure equitable access to legal resources look to the Florida International University College of Law Library.

Lisa Davis, Assistant Dean for Legal Information Services and Director of the Florida International University College of Law Library, says this means being accessible for any need that arises.

For 1Ls, that might mean becoming familiarized with the “lay of the land" and getting advice from the librarians on how to study.

“Our librarians are speaking to students about their future and what the library has to offer, and also instructing them on how to access and authenticate their library resources,” says Davis. “On the first day of law school, you are hitting the ground running, right? So, before they ever step into their first class, we have already shown them first week reading assignments and how to access the tools they need for each class.”

FIU takes this concept a step further and leverages the library space itself as a resource for students; a safe space to support their academic success, particularly at the outset of their law school careers.

“We do a lot of outreach to make sure the students know the resources that are available,” says Davis. “Not only their academic resources but library itself, the physical space of the building, becomes a resource for students to take refuge and to have a safe, quiet place to study.

We want to be here for them to make sure that they feel comfortable to take breaks … If they are stressed out, they will not be their best selves when you go to take an exam, and that is where we want to make an impact. We are going do what we can to support them throughout their legal education.”

LexisNexis Digital Library

The FIU Law Library uses the LexisNexis Digital Library and has expanded its offerings over the past several years by purchasing ad-hoc collections, additional casebooks, hornbooks, and other resources the faculty needed as required materials in their courses.

Davis says this flexibility is an integral part of what the FIU Law Library strives to create for all its students and professors alike – Equity.

“Recently, I had a situation with a faculty member who saw a newly released edition of a book, but they want to continue using certain parts of older editions … You can see all those editions and interact with those editions within the resource itself without having to lug-around different versions of the text. You have so much content in the palm of your hand that you can access anywhere.”

The intuitive nature of the resource, its user-friendly interface, and the strength of the content is what makes LexisNexis Digital Library such a powerful tool for law students, professors, and librarians.

Law School Academic Support

The Study Guides package within the LexisNexis Digital Library is an asset to students, not just in their research activities, but also in academic success, particularly at the outset of their law school careers.

“The LexisNexis Study Guide package is so much more than that phrase makes it out to be,” says Davis. “You have the high hitters, you have the Understanding Series, you have the Question & Answer Series, the different audio content, and it grows from there.”

In short, Davis says, the LexisNexis Digital Library Study Guide package is a great tool for any law library that needs a consistent, faculty-tested resource for its students.

“We try to balance everybody's needs,” Davis says. “We have been very successful in working directly with our faculty to get all that content as part of their course reserves so that students feel comfortable using those resources.”

Law libraries that strive to create an environment in which anyone looking for accessible, equitable legal research and study aids can comfortably find it at FIU’s Law Library, and the LexisNexis Digital Library plays an integral role in that experience.

“It has really helped us with relationship building over the years,” Davis says. “To say ‘this is a great resource’ is one thing -- but it is another thing entirely to say ‘hey, this is a really great resource, and all your professors recommend that you use it.’ To have buy-in and to see it make an impact is what we do.”

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