Law journal collections: accreditation issues and imperatives for law libraries.

Author:Onwudinjo, Oliver T.U.


A law library is a collection of legal materials consisting of law information organized for use of those seeking to qualify as, or who have qualified as lawyers and those enacting or administering law (Ukpanah and Afolabi, 2011). It is a special library serving the specific needs of its users. The users include members of the legal profession, that is, practicing lawyers, judges, magistrates, state counsels, law teachers, law students, members of the House of Assembly, House of Representative and Senate. The primary mission of the academic law library is to meet the information needs of the law faculty staff and students of the institution it supports.

Library collections are total accumulation of books and other information materials owned by a library, and are expected to be geared towards meeting the objectives of the parent institution. Oseghale (2008), observed that developing a balanced and useable collection is an important aspect of library services. Library collections, therefore, are built to meet the information and research needs of any academic programme. The primary objectives of the collections of any faculty law library is directed towards serving the educational, research and community needs of the faculty of law.

To show how important law libraries are, Dada (2007), said that law is a profession which is literally unable to exercise its work without the use of books. He said that it is important to conclude that as an operating theatre is important to a Surgeon, a workshop to an Engineer and a laboratory to a Scientist, so is a law library central to the work of a lawyer or a legal researcher.

The National Universities Commission as well as the Council of Legal Education made it a pre-requisite to full accreditation that all universities that offer law as a degree course must have functional well stocked law libraries, (Ejimofo & Anaeme, 2005). In the past, efforts on library development were centred on books and journals, but in recent times and since the era of Information Communication Technology (ICT), reasonable efforts have been made to include electronic materials in the list. The collections should be based on the academic programme/course contents. Failure to provide the necessary collections and in their required numbers negates the recommended minimum standards. Law journals come in frequent and regular series. It is required that no collection gaps should be created. The law library materials can be in the following forms: text books, laws and statutes, law reports, law journals, reference tools, non-legal materials, non-book materials--computer facilities, internet facilities.

The Council of Legal Education has provided university law libraries' collection standards. To ensure that faculty law libraries meet the accreditation requirements, the standard list of law library minimum requirements was released to the law faculties by the Council of Legal Education. The list has 23 law classes which was subdivided into 535 titles. The classes were broken into

* the local and foreign laws and statutes;

* local and foreign law journals (which is the subject of this study);

* local and foreign law reports and

* local and foreign law text books. These materials are expected to be built into each law library's collections through direct purchase/acquisition, donations, university/faculty publications, exchanges, subscriptions and inter-library loans.

Accreditation is the tool used around the world to monitor, assess, and evaluate the standards and quality of the education a student receives at a college, university or other institutions of higher learning (National Universities Commission, 1989). Accreditation of degree and other academic programmes by the National Universities Commission means a system for recognizing tertiary educational institutions (universities and programmes offered in these institutions) for a level of performance, integrity and quality which entitles them to the confidence of the educational community, the public they serve and the employers of labour. Accreditation is usually based on minimum acceptable standards.

During accreditation exercise on any faculty of law programme, the library plays significant and prominent role in assessing and judging the faculty. In building a law library journal collections, efforts should be made to expose collection gaps which in some cases may or may not be totally filled during such accreditation visits which usually come up every five years. For the faculty of law libraries to maintain a balanced collection, meet the demands of students, lecturers and law professionals and pass accreditations conducted by the regulatory bodies--the National Universities Commission and the Council of Legal Education, there must be adequate collections and other law programme requirements put in place.

Some institutions in the past have failed accreditation because of their inability in meeting the accreditation requirements with regards to the law libraries' collections. The failure of accreditation by any institution or faculty means loss of confidence by students, parents and the general public in the university concerned. According to National Universities Commission (1989), in any faculty of law accreditation exercise, if all the facilities, equipment and personnel are put in place and are adequate, but the law library collections are inadequate, the academic programme must fail accreditation.

For National Universities Commission and Council of Legal Education to give a pass mark or grant accreditation to any academic programme, the law library collections and/or resources must match effectively and efficiently with all the courses being taught by the department/faculty. This makes it necessary for law libraries to have collection development policy that guides one in the selection and acquisition of law materials to ensure that materials are geared towards the curriculum of the faculty.

No faculty law library can perform its functions...

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