Our Canadian lawbrarian friends at the University of Calgary Bennett Jones Law Library are currently in a (heated?) debate over SNAILS (“Students-Not-Actually-In-Law-School” – their term, not mine) using the library. Their issue: the non-law students are loud and take up too much space.
Although I am still in lawbrarian infancy, I have heard similar debates carry over about public patrons using academic law libraries. Obviously, if any patron is disruptive, they can be shown the door. However, it’s no secret that helping some public patrons can be time-consuming and quite stressful, especially if they are self-represented and in dire need of legal information.
I believe most academic law libraries prioritize students and faculty, but there was one instance in particular where I had to ask a law student to wait while I assisted a frazzled and confused public patron for an extended period of time (I, like many newbie librarians, have not quite mastered the Closing/Follow Up portion of reference encounters.) The law student, while gracious, ended up leaving and coming back on a different day.
A former UC lawbrarian caught wind of the debate over SNAILS (such an unfortunate acronym) and decided to write a short response over what he calls the elitism at play:
For 15 years, I have heard these complaints go on incessantly, and frankly, they just reek of elitism. The fact that they complain about the mere existence of non-law students in their library is quite pathetic. My job was to ensure that the rules were applied fairly to everyone, and that includes the non-law students who they have such disdain for.