On 9th March, I met my fellow graduate trainees in front of the imposing Ministry of Justice buildings. We all signed and swiped in and it all struck me as very cloak and dagger. Then we were met by Rachel Robbins, the Customer Services Librarian who would be showing us around the library.
The Ministry of Justice was formed on 9th May 2007 and replaces the Department for Constitutional Affairs. It is the largest governmental department and employs around 95,000 people. The Jlis (Ministry of Justice Library and Information Service) provides services, not only for the MoJ HQ, but also for the Judiciary, Tribunals Service, Law Commission and Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. They provide publications in print, access to on-line databases and a comprehensive enquiry service.
We were first taken to the library through a warren of corridors and were given a tour of the library. The library, despite its collection size being small, does have an extensive collection of books and journals, covering: Law, Constitutional Reform, Electoral Reform, Parliament, Management, Criminal Justice, Mental disorders, Prisons and Probation. I found the prison reports, particularly interesting.
Rachel Robbins and her colleague Kathy then answered our questions about the library and every-day work. I found their stories about the move from the Home Office into the purpose-built MOJ building very interesting, as it sounds as if it involved a lot of organisation and a lot of patience. They impressed me with their enthusiasm for their jobs and the constantly changing nature of working in a governmental library, as new departments are created and closed down with every change of government.
A librarian then came to talk to us about the Electronic Library and Information Service (Elis). This is a password-protected virtual library of on-line legal and reference resources and provides a one-stop access to a range of premium subscription databases as well as links to important free sites. It provides access to online legal libraries produced by the major legal publishers, Butterworths, Sweet and Maxwell and Justis.
We finished the session with the librarians telling us their career history and giving us advice about getting into the government sector. The visit encouraged me to think about working in a government library, as the sector is constantly changing and exciting one.
by Hannah Dare
This was an opportunity to find out more about the role of librarians within the government service. There are some 600 librarians employed across government doing a wide variety of jobs, ranging from more traditional library work to working with information databases, research and record management roles.
The Ministry of Justice library is the result of a merger of two libraries in March 2007– the former Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor’s Office and the part of the Home Office library that related to the divisions which became part of the Ministry of Justice. Rachel Robbins, the Customer Services Librarian and her colleagues Kathy and Jason, who showed us around and answered our questions, formerly worked for the Home Office.
One of the challenges for government librarians is to make sure that the people requesting their services are in fact their customers. Because of changes in responsibilities arising out of the machinery of government, both the issue of who your customers are and providing service for them is something they need to be constantly aware of. A lot of their queries are sent by email and they are often asked to do research for customers. Each librarian we spoke to said that they found this aspect was a particularly interesting part of their job. Awareness of their customer’s needs and the nature of their customers work is an important consideration and from time to time visits to meet customers are arranged.
The enthusiasm for the work they were doing and the feeling that their work made an important contribution to the service provided by their ministry impressed us as we talked to all the librarians we met on our visit.