First with the good.
It can be very exciting.
Some people who don't work in libraries think I have chosen a path of seclusion, where I can escape from the real world in the quiet and calm of the library. But for me in this law firm library, it's not like that all. I don't know if any real working library is such a mythical haven of peace.
The majority of my job is reference work. Every new question - whether it's a phone call or email or somebody approaching the reference desk - is an amazing unknown. It could be from a partner (by refusing to capitalize partner I am rebelling, just a little bit) or a paralegal or from a lawyer or another librarian. It could be in an area I know a lot about and will allow me to test and expand that expertise, or it could be about something I know next to nothing about, in which case I'll learn even more. It could be something challenging and interesting, or kind of dull and tedious. I have been answering reference questions in some shape or form for almost ten years now, and even after all this time, there's a frisson of fear. What if I can't answer the question or find anything useful? What if there's a totally unrealistic deadline? What if the man or woman asking the question is a jerk? Of course, once I get the question, all those thoughts dissipate.
Of course I would prefer that I only received interesting but challenging questions from nice and helpful users with very reasonable deadlines, but it's the random nature of my job which makes it so exciting, and keeps me on my toes.
And now to the bad, which is an excuse for me to have a little rant.
I hesitate to use the word "luddite", but law firms in Australia are extremely conservative when it comes to implementing new technologies - or at least the information sharing technologies I care about. I feel like I've taken a trip back to 2004, when I had just returned to Australia from the US, and nobody was familiar with blogs or RSS, let alone anything as radical as a wiki. A part of this is the fault of the judges.
They're appointed for life, they're not going to lose their jobs if they thumb their noses at the last 30 years of technology like anyone else would. They can do what they like - including insisting that cases used as authorities be photocopied from the hard copy rather than from the legal databases which law firm libraries pay gigabucks for.
The concern is that if I cite a case, let's call it A vs. B, everybody else - the other side, the judge - should be able to look that up and see exactly the same thing. The judges are worried that that if I submit to Court an electronic version of this case, then it would be easy for someone to change the words ever so slightly, so they're in my favour. That would open a terrible can of worms and create this dreadful question mark about the authenticity of materials cited.
The judges don't realise that that question mark is already there. With an image editing programme, I could tamper with a photocopy of a printed case, and change the words, and have it look totally authentic. That cat is already out of the bag. At least with electronic materials, it's easier to do comparisions between different online copies and find any differences in the text. It seems that the NSW judges are particularly conservative when it comes to this sort of thing. I despair of seeing any reform in this area of the law until the Baby Boomer judges have all retired.