The 2014 award for the Justis Law Librarian of the Year was awarded to Kim Nayyer at the Justis pre-CALL Social Party. We hope to make the award an annual occurrence and, having recovered from a busy and productive conference, we caught up with Kim to discuss her career, anecdotes and all things library!
From lawyer to librarian
Her decision to go to law school was triggered by a chance encounter. A self-professed nerd in high school with a passion for logic and puzzles she sat one day next to someone who looked to be engrossed in a riddle. Asking him what he was doing, his response was that it was not a puzzle: he was practising for the LSAT. The LSAT intrigued her, she enjoyed the analysis of legal thinking and it prompted her to begin law school.
Years later while articling at a federal court she developed a friendship with the librarian and acquired an interest in her work. It planted a seed in Kim’s mind.
Finding research the most interesting aspect of her work Kim specialised as a research lawyer. A small law firm for whom she worked funded her to take a part-time course at library school and she began to manage the firm’s library collection. It was when she moved from Toronto to Victoria that the post at the University of Victoria caught her eye.
At the University of Victoria Kim both manages the law collection and teaches legal research and writing courses.
While it sometimes feels natural to show students the structure of hard-copy texts she recognises that her students are children who grew up with Google already in existence! In a recent class she was teaching the process of analysing a precedent-setting case. For the example case she had stated the issues, implications and facts but was hazy as to some of the facts. A student instantly clarified the details for her. Amazed that he was familiar with the case she asked him how he knew: he’d used Wikipedia.
Kim believes that the presence of sources such as Wikipedia cannot be ignored; after all, Wikipedia now has entries on almost all major Canadian cases. The importance of teaching legal research lies in training students to look at such sources with a critical eye. Furthermore, they must understand that there are specialised tools that are created by publishers especially for lawyers which show related cases and put the case in context. It is important that students recognise that to understand a case fully you cannot look at a case entry in isolation.
Throughout her career Kim has seen the transition from print to online. Working at a law firm in the 90s she oversaw the move from print to CD-Rom, noting the ease of access and space-saving benefits. While she likes the ease with which online resources can be organised she also sees the benefit hard copy can bring. Of utmost importance is that services are discoverable.
Her most important piece of advice is to be wary of assumptions and presumptions. It is not uniformly true that academics prefer hard copy or that academic institutions always prefer print. Based on years of experience, Kim states that it is important not to stereotype. The key to being a successful librarian is openly communicating, asking what people’s preferences are and always being in tune to new ideas and aware of the constantly changing world of legal information.
If you’re a law librarian interested in discovering the areas of law covered by legal publishers, then click below for a free copy of our legal publishers guide.