At the turn of the century the role of Law Libraries and legal librarians had not changed fundamentally since their inception. Facing formidable challenges ever since, mostly by technology, their role has changed considerably.
Law Libraries can be seen as the provider and gatekeepers of legal information. This is a crucial function of a Law Library and without it a legal community cannot function optimally. Correspondingly, a Law Library is also dependent on the institution that it is embedded within. In that sense, there is a mutually beneficial relationship. There are many different types of Law Libraries, think of Law Libraries servicing government institutions like courts and legislatures, or Law Libraries in the private sector assisting law firms and academic Law Libraries that aid students and scholars.
A new belief
Until recently a Law Library used to be a space full of printed materials with an 'eccentric librarian' managing access to legal sources. That image was pervasive in public perception but it has changed under pressure from technological innovation in the 1990s and 2000s, when the availibility of online legal resources surged. A new belief emerged that everything can be found online, is easy to use and conveniently accessible outside the Law Library. The demise of physical libraries and legal librarians was a matter of time, they were to be victims of new technologies.
Despite many gloomy prognosis, Law Libraries remained and even prospered, although they have undergone dramatic changes. Law Libraries are shifting their focus to deliver services and guidance, making the role of legal librarians more important. They have become highly specialized research experts in a particular field of law, they function as gatekeepers to highly sophisticated and complex databases and they are highy-skilled librarians that can help lawyers and students find their way in the dizzying amount of digital and printed formats.
Peace Palace Reference Librarians
Concludingly, the role of Law Libraries and legal librarians will focus more on solving problems for the legal community's research questions and provide counsel during this process.
The Peace Palace Library takes pride in its high-level service and the expertise of its reference librarians. We welcome you to visit us in person or online and hope to introduce you to our resources and expertise.
The Peace Palace is an unique Law Library. Its principal objective is to service the courts that reside in the Peace Palace, the venerable International Court of Justice and Permanent Court of Arbitration as well as other international legal institutions in The Hague. The Peace Palace Library is equally open to scholars and students of International Public and Private Law and assists high-level education centers like the Hague Academy of International Law.