Mike Madison has a very interesting post up about Harvard Law School's recent decision to hire Berkman Center for Internet and Society Executive Director John Palfrey as the director of the law library. Palfrey, who has deep experience in information policy, lacks that one fundamental credential of (I suspect) every other law library director: a library degree.
Perhaps this is no big deal. There is no question that law libraries have changed over time. They collect material, and serve patrons, differently than they did even a decade ago. Maybe Harvard's director should be first and foremost a big picture guy. And maybe Palfrey is fully equipped to deal with the traditional concerns of a library director - everything from understanding how professors consume information to a facility with deep technical decisions. But I have to imagine that formal training in library science has some signficant benefits that Palfrey might have missed as he noodled over the big information issues at the Berkman Center. If Harvard is right that being a librarian isn't a core skill for a director, what are the broader implications? Other law schools may soon contend that at core, running a library isn't about information - it's about managing people. By this metric, the ideal library director might be an MBA who loves computers and reads a lot. At some point, I imagine the ABA may choose to weigh in.
I feel darn sure of one thing: both Palfrey and that erudite MBA will be depending heavily on some folks in the library who do have a library degree. Because while a library director may not need to be a librarian, my sense is that a librarian still needs to be...a librarian.