CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Kayleigh McGarry, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS)

Category: Meet our Members

The following is a guest blog post from Kayleigh McGarry as part of our focus on sectors.


Kayleigh McGarry head shotWhenever I introduce myself as the Supreme Courts Librarian for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS), I feel I need to qualify it with a “it’s not as grand as it sounds”.  However, the role is challenging and varied as our library service is required to provide legal research support to the senior judiciary as well as the Supreme Courts staff and other employees of SCTS such as the solicitors and policy officers drafting reforms in court procedure.   In addition to this function, I am also responsible for:

  • providing training to staff and judiciary on the use of online legal resources;
  • managing a publications budget;
  • having oversight of a new Library Management System and classification scheme;
  • deciding how to develop our collection in line with changing user needs – picking which books to purchase or serials to subscribe to and which items to weed out of the collection;
  • maintaining one staffed and four unstaffed physical library sites;
  • writing library policies and business cases to secure support internally to develop the library service and invest or make cuts where needed.

Luckily, I am not working as a solo librarian.  We have a dedicated small team of five in the SCTS Library Service, headed by our Library Services Manager.  Our Assistant Librarians provide most of the front line support such as handling helpdesk enquiries, checking in serials, cataloguing new books, and processing loans.

As a government library, one of the most challenging aspects of my work is trying to maintain resources with a flat or decreasing budget.  Every year the main legal publishers are raising the costs of their publications by around 8%, however our budget does not increase to accommodate this.  Even with the best negotiation skills, something has to give and that means cancellations.  At the same time our library users want access to more resources, both physical and digital, so it can be difficult to make decisions on where to make these cuts while also maintaining good relationships with our users.   This is further complicated by the disparate digital literacy skills of our users meaning we service a hybrid of users: some who are happy to exchange physical resources for digital versions; and others who do not have the confidence or the trust in our internal IT resources to go digital.

I find the most interesting part of my job is providing legal research support. Requests can range from simply locating a legal case right through to more complex legal research such as trying to find the legal basis for Christmas Day being a public holiday! I also find teaching others how to conduct legal research online rewarding, allowing them to feel empowered to conduct their own work more effectively which impacts the organisation as a whole.

For those interested in law librarianship as a career, a legal background is useful for enquiry work but not essential.  I personally have a law degree however none of the other members of the SCTS Library Service have this background and they have been able to learn about legal information research on the job.  Many law library jobs involve working solo or in small teams which means you have to be a bit of a ‘Jack of all trades’, as such if you want to work in a law library it helps if you have a broad experience of library skills for example enquiry research, delivering training, cataloguing, collection development and budgeting.  Law library jobs are not always well advertised so it is worth joining the LIS-LAW JISC mailing list and professional networks such as the BIALL, the Scottish Law Librarians Group and CILIP’s Commercial, Legal & Scientific Information Group (CLSIG) to get alerted to opportunities.