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Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, has highlighted the critical role qualified law librarians play in providing information required in the legal profession.
Speaking at the 21st annual conference of the Caribbean Association of Law Librarians (CARALL) today (July 7), at the Hilton Kingston Hotel, Senator Lightbourne said “there is a particular importance in having qualified librarians in terms of the growing need for legal research and the dissemination of that information.”
She pointed out, however, that in Jamaica, “we have a very limited number of fully trained law librarians, and our lawyers depend mostly on library assistants, some of whom have no formal training in this area of law.” She added that this was of concern to the legal fraternity.
The Minister said that apart from the Norman Manley Law School, the Supreme Court and some of the wealthier law firms, quality legal information available to lawyers could not be ascertained.
Senator Lightbourne said it was important for law librarians to continue their education, due to the dynamism of law. “It is essential for you (law librarians) to devote substantial efforts to continue your education, including reading professional publications, monitoring discussions and attending training sessions,” she told the participants.
She explained that law librarians have critical roles to play in national and regional issues relating to justice, security and trade policies. “We have to study the legal implication of new regional policies and the fact is that we cannot continue to rely on untrained or unqualified persons to provide the kind of legal information to support the region’s legal machinery,” the Minister said.
“I am fully aware of the importance of your profession, as well as the need for more recognition of the services you provide and for increased access to professional training to make you better able to meet these challenges,” the Senator added.
The Minister pointed out that there is a problem in attracting more young librarians, not only to the service, but also in the local and regional bodies representing the interests of law librarians.
Senator Lightbourne noted that she would be working with the local representatives of the Association to improve the treatment of law librarians, to increase training opportunities for them and to make the profession more attractive to young persons who might have an interest in training in law library services or in law.
The Minister said she hoped her participation in the conference would “signal a new era in terms of co-operation between my Ministry and your association (CARALL). I am convinced that we need each other and that we must work together to identify the areas of mutual support.”
In her remarks, Chief Justice, Zaila McCalla said she was grateful to the “very resourceful librarians and library staff who work tirelessly and sometimes beyond the call of duty to assist us in our search for critical information. In this regard, you have demonstrated your skill in getting information speedily. You have been of invaluable help to us.”
The CARALL was inaugurated in 1984 and is the only legal information association which covers the entire English-speaking Caribbean. It promotes the development and use of law libraries in the region by fostering a spirit of co-operation among members of the law library profession. The association also encourages the acquisition and organization of legal information through the appropriate technology.
Jamaica is hosting the association’s annual conference for the first time in 21 years. It is being held under the theme: ‘Viable, Vital and Vibrant – Be Prepared to Succeed’ and will last from July 7 to 10.