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Beyond the Spectrum: How AALL has benefited an international member

Beyond the Spectrum: How AALL has benefited an international member

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Published by: Shaikh Mohamed Noordin on Jan 29, 2009
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hen I accepted the job as a librarian in a medium-sized law firm in Kuala Lumpur in 1996, little didI know what I was signing up for. I knew that Ihad been entrusted to manage a law firm library, but I had noclue whatsoever of the pitfalls ahead of me.
 AALL Spectrum
April 2006
the Spectrum
How AALL has benefited an international member 
by Shaikh Mohamed Noordin
© 2006 Shaikh Mohamed Noordin 
 AALL Spectrum
April 2006
Previously a corporate librarian in theshipping and banking industries, I had noprior experience in law librarianship. There was no specific job description, except fora brief introduction to the library. InMalaysia, law firm librarians are mainly hired for generic tasks, such as purchasingand arranging books, updating statutes,and the general gopher role of locatingbooks and resources for lawyers. It is oftenthe case in Malaysia that a law librariansqualification is earned day-to-day in therunning of a law library.The image of a law librarian as amere “keeper of the books” is a commonimpression among lawyers here. Few attorneys recognize the value of anexperienced librarian as anastute custodian of knowledgeand, hence, fail to fully utilizethis resource in their practices.Sadly, that perception has ledmany law firms to hire poorly trained or professionally unqualified law librarians forthe job. It does not help thatmuch of what is tasked to alibrarian generally is clerical innature and that there may notbe a system in place to quantify the services of a law librarianvis-à-vis revenue generation. When a law firm begins torecognize that some of atrained librarian’s time can bebilled to a client, the value of a librarianstarts to be properly realized and utilized.The general segment of Malaysianlawyers do not understand the value alibrarian brings, although they may be awareof the importance of having someone totake good care of their libraries. Despitethe growing need for the expertise of law librarians in Malaysia, the number of qualified librarians is rapidly shrinking.Many of our professional law librariansare unable to sustain their interest, due tolucrative offers in other sectors or beingill-equipped for the job. Even for those who want to excel and develop themselves,there are no formal training courses in law librarianship available in Malaysia. There isalso a very limited circle of law librarians toturn to and from which to seek advice. Lossof interest due to these reasons and many other factors are commonplace among theprofessional law librarians here.It is a continuing challenge for alibrarian like me to create an impact on the job without professional guidance. How can one convince others if one is not evenconvinced oneself? Becoming a member of the one and only professional association of librarians in Malaysia is of limited help.The association itself is too small and illprepared to cater to many facets andinterests possible within the profession.Many of my curiosities in law librarianship were left unanswered. But I was determinednot to have an outdated impression of theprofession while others are out there makingtheir marks.
 AALL Fills the Void 
This situation prompted me to look outsidethe country for guidance and the possibility of emulating others in the hope of improvingmyself professionally. I found contacts forseveral leading associations of law librarianson the Internet, and one of these was AALL. After some soul searching, Ichose to join AALL, as it wasthe oldest and largest association. AALL also seemed to have anabundance of educationalresources in law librarianship.Though I may be too faraway physically to enjoy thesplendid activities offered by the Association, much of theinformation can still be accessedthrough its various publications.Many of my questions wereanswered when I receivedbrochures from AALL outliningthe benefits of membership. I amstill very excited to be associated with an organization that is sorelevant and pertinent to our common cause. AALL has provided an alternative for me andhas helped to fill the void.Psychologically, AALL has boosted my professional confidence. Just the thought of being accepted in the largest professionalorganization of this kind has changed my attitude towards the profession itself. I nolonger feel alone and professionally isolated,knowing that I can share my enthusiasmand learn a great deal from the best in theprofession. I value all the information Ihave received so far and have also startedto purchase more material for my ownreference purposes. My presence in thefirm is more visible now; my role andcontributions to the firm have been steadily attracting attention.
 AALL Inspires Professional Growth
From the time I started at my firm, Tay and Partners, my traditional role has evolvedinto one with a multitude of roles tomeet current needs. I am more fulfilledprofessionally and accountable to the firms well being. The guidance from moreexperienced members in AALL has inspiredme to where I am today. I cannot imaginedoing the same thing I did 10 years ago.My perspective of the job has changedtremendously with multiple roles outsidetraditional practice.I have been fortunate to be able to work  with lawyers who are receptive to new ideasand have an innovative approach to thepractice of law. My firm was among the firstin Malaysia to have a Web site, after therelaxation of the Publicity Rules of our BarCouncil. This led to me being among thefirst few librarians here to act as a Webmaster. The Web site has recorded thehighest hits for those seeking full-textstatutes of Laws of Malaysia. It has alsobeen linked to various popular legal researchportals, including the Law Library of Congress (www.taypartners.com.my/v_link List.asp?catid=15). AALL has helped by offering tips on how to promote the Website through its publications.It is also with much pride that I sit with other partners of the firm on theEditorial Board as co-coordinator of thefirm newsletter. My role is to ensure that thenewsletter meets its publication deadlines.I am developing my own interest in writingafter some pointers from several articles in
 A few of my own articles, such as“Facing A New Reality: the Opportunitiesand Challenges of Law Librarians inMalaysia” (
 Journal of Malaysian Bar,
INSAF(2004)), and “Legal Research Facilities inMalaysia” (
Legal Information Management,
the journal of the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians, BIALL(2005)), have seen print in both local andinternational journals.In my current projects, I am preparingarticles for the
 Australian Law Librarian  Journal 
on the accessibility of law inCommonwealth countries in Southeast Asia from the Malaysian, Singaporean, andBruneian perspectives and for the
Malaysian  Journal of Library and Information Science 
oncomputer-assisted legal research in Malaysia.I am grateful for the relevant guidancethat was available through the variouspublications of AALL, which has assistedme in no small way on my writing projects.I find many of the AALL articles onlegal research to be very encouraging and aneye-opener in enhancing my knowledge of the subject. Teaching legal research is not acommon practice for law firm librarians inMalaysia. I have begun giving legal researchtraining during library orientations for ournew lawyers and pupils (fresh graduatesundergoing training prior to being calledto the Bar). Some of our lawyers are foreigngraduates who may be unfamiliar withMalaysian legal terms. These foreign-trained
(continued on pg. 27)
Shaikh Mohamed Noordin 

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