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Janet Odetsi-Twum

Bitner Fellow
2016
Janet Odetsi-Twum joined the Cornell Law Library in October 2016 from the Ghana School of Law where she serves as Head Librarian. There she manages the planning, administrative, personnel, and budgetary functions of the library. The Ghana School of Law is the only school in Ghana that offers professional legal training. A report of her experiences is set forth below: My experience at the Law Library went beyond my expectations. I expected to finish my fellowship with an idea on how to create legal guides online for students use, but I left Cornell Law Library with so many ideas and innovations to try my hands at in my library. Having had a rousing welcoming reception from staff, I started the day with my scheduled activity. In the beginning, it was overwhelming but it got exciting and insightful as the day went by. I had exposure to the vast collections in the Library and saw some reference books I have never seen before. I learnt also how to keep library collections up to date using online subscriber’s databases. This gives one opportunity to know what has been published around the globe with just a click. The interaction with the technology services librarian reinforced the need to have such personnel in the library to solve the library technology needs. My interaction with the reference librarian gave me much broader perspective on reference work as not only asking questions but also entailing both legal and Library work at some points. My interaction with the references services and research services librarians also gave me some information on a lot of services my library can provide which it is currently not providing. For instance, the reference service does not only answer reference queries but helps users with research work and does some referral services as well. The scanner for students to scan their own copies, for instance, is worth emulating. It is worth mentioning that the rare and manuscripts collection was interesting to see. The unique collections and the technology to ensure its safety and the tour librarian were worth emulating. It was also encouraging to see library traditional services such as Circulation and Cataloguing Departments metamorphosed into Access Services (Circulation) and Information Management (Cataloguing, Classification and Acquisitions) which I intend also to innovate in the Ghana School of Law Library. For instance not only could students access books in the library online, but could have access to laptops for use in the library and both educating and entertaining videos related to law. I learnt a lot from the seminars (Continuous Professional Development) organised in the Law Library. I was privileged to sit in the seminar titled “Creating a digital strategy for the Harvard Library”. Until the seminar, I have only ideas on getting the Ghana School of Law Library on the internet and going digital for most services since the school runs a multi-tier campus. The seminar was, therefore, an eye opener in having a digital strategy in the law library. It was my first time to see meetings held for follow ups and feedback on projects not only with law Librarians but across the departments in the law school. In the meeting of Digital Scholarship & Preservation Services, I learnt the various ways digital scholarship are being preserved as well as challenges staff face with use and preservation of digital scholarship. The presentation drew my attention to the need to continuously develop library staff to meet the changing needs of the user in the age of rapid technology advancement. Again it educated me on the need to take digital scholarship preservation seriously, given the challenge with information overload. The opportunity accorded me to make a presentation to the Cornell Law Library Staff about the Ghanaian Legal System and the School of law library was a test for me especially with the kind of audience (Professional Law Librarians). It, however, boosted my confidence after and gave me a strong moral to heed to some “call for papers” in Ghana. The fellowship was not all work in the library but included some lunch meetings with some library staff and notable scholars in the Law School. Lunch with library staff afforded me the opportunity to probe more into library work processes and procedures not clearly understood informally, and it was a great way to connect to staff. One memorable lunch was with Professor Muna Ndulo and Professor Winnie Taylor. It was full of education of developments in Africa and also the developed countries. The climax to the lunches was my meeting with the sponsors of the Bitner Fellowship. My meeting with the Legal Information Institute staff was a dream come true and a privilege after having to browse their website for considerable years. The institute being one of the pioneers to initiate free access to case laws online gave me some clues as to how I can be an instrument for bringing into fruition the free access to case laws in Ghana and African as a whole. A library service is not only about providing user information needs but also creating a congenial environment for learning and examinations. I can’t imagine having a therapy llama or dog at the Ghana School of Law Library but it is one innovation that had a lasting impression on me during my two-week work in the Law Library. Thus the library saw the need to provide some sort of relaxation for students during exams and hence created the opportunity for students to play with a llama and various dogs. I am still brainstorming as to what to replace with a llama in the Ghana School of Law Library. In summing up, the Cornell experience has been insightful, educational, fun and a great opportunity to connect with the best law librarians in an Ivy league school. I learnt a lot from the interaction from one department to the other, such as focusing all library services towards users’ needs, operating both traditional and digital library services, creating free access to case laws online, digital Scholarship preservation and the need for a digital strategy. Services such as student’s scanning copies of items they need in the library are also worth mentioning. I am especially grateful to all the librarians who planned this fellowship, the sponsors and all staff. It was indeed a first-hand experience of a developed and well-resourced law library as well as the calibre of staff. The Library staff were full of enthusiasm in helping users and made my stay there a worthwhile learning experience erasing all the bias I have had.My experience at the Law Library went beyond my expectations. I expected to finish my fellowship with an idea on how to create legal guides online for students use, but I left Cornell Law Library with so many ideas and innovations to try my hands at in my library. Having had a rousing welcoming reception from staff, I started the day with my scheduled activity. In the beginning, it was overwhelming but it got exciting and insightful as the day went by. I had exposure to the vast collections in the Library and saw some reference books I have never seen before. I learnt also how to keep library collections up to date using online subscriber’s databases. This gives one opportunity to know what has been published around the globe with just a click. The interaction with the technology services librarian reinforced the need to have such personnel in the library to solve the library technology needs. My interaction with the reference librarian gave me much broader perspective on reference work as not only asking questions but also entailing both legal and Library work at some points. My interaction with the references services and research services librarians also gave me some information on a lot of services my library can provide which it is currently not providing. For instance, the reference service does not only answer reference queries but helps users with research work and does some referral services as well. The scanner for students to scan their own copies, for instance, is worth emulating. It is worth mentioning that the rare and manuscripts collection was interesting to see. The unique collections and the technology to ensure its safety and the tour librarian were worth emulating. It was also encouraging to see library traditional services such as Circulation and Cataloguing Departments metamorphosed into Access Services (Circulation) and Information Management (Cataloguing, Classification and Acquisitions) which I intend also to innovate in the Ghana School of Law Library. For instance not only could students access books in the library online, but could have access to laptops for use in the library and both educating and entertaining videos related to law. I learnt a lot from the seminars (Continuous Professional Development) organised in the Law Library. I was privileged to sit in the seminar titled “Creating a digital strategy for the Harvard Library”. Until the seminar, I have only ideas on getting the Ghana School of Law Library on the internet and going digital for most services since the school runs a multi-tier campus. The seminar was, therefore, an eye opener in having a digital strategy in the law library. It was my first time to see meetings held for follow ups and feedback on projects not only with law Librarians but across the departments in the law school. In the meeting of Digital Scholarship & Preservation Services, I learnt the various ways digital scholarship are being preserved as well as challenges staff face with use and preservation of digital scholarship. The presentation drew my attention to the need to continuously develop library staff to meet the changing needs of the user in the age of rapid technology advancement. Again it educated me on the need to take digital scholarship preservation seriously, given the challenge with information overload. The opportunity accorded me to make a presentation to the Cornell Law Library Staff about the Ghanaian Legal System and the School of law library was a test for me especially with the kind of audience (Professional Law Librarians). It, however, boosted my confidence after and gave me a strong moral to heed to some “call for papers” in Ghana. The fellowship was not all work in the library but included some lunch meetings with some library staff and notable scholars in the Law School. Lunch with library staff afforded me the opportunity to probe more into library work processes and procedures not clearly understood informally, and it was a great way to connect to staff. One memorable lunch was with Professor Muna Ndulo and Professor Winnie Taylor. It was full of education of developments in Africa and also the developed countries. The climax to the lunches was my meeting with the sponsors of the Bitner Fellowship. My meeting with the Legal Information Institute staff was a dream come true and a privilege after having to browse their website for considerable years. The institute being one of the pioneers to initiate free access to case laws online gave me some clues as to how I can be an instrument for bringing into fruition the free access to case laws in Ghana and African as a whole. A library service is not only about providing user information needs but also creating a congenial environment for learning and examinations. I can’t imagine having a therapy llama or dog at the Ghana School of Law Library but it is one innovation that had a lasting impression on me during my two-week work in the Law Library. Thus the library saw the need to provide some sort of relaxation for students during exams and hence created the opportunity for students to play with a llama and various dogs. I am still brainstorming as to what to replace with a llama in the Ghana School of Law Library. In summing up, the Cornell experience has been insightful, educational, fun and a great opportunity to connect with the best law librarians in an Ivy league school. I learnt a lot from the interaction from one department to the other, such as focusing all library services towards users’ needs, operating both traditional and digital library services, creating free access to case laws online, digital Scholarship preservation and the need for a digital strategy. Services such as student’s scanning copies of items they need in the library are also worth mentioning. I am especially grateful to all the librarians who planned this fellowship, the sponsors and all staff. It was indeed a first-hand experience of a developed and well-resourced law library as well as the calibre of staff. The Library staff were full of enthusiasm in helping users and made my stay there a worthwhile learning experience erasing all the bias I have had. https://law.library.cornell.edu/sites/default/files/JanetOdetsiTwumReport.pdf