A conversation with Janet Odetsi Twum, Law Librarian at the Ghana School of Law and Lillian Goldman Law Library Visitor, October 2022.
Please tell us a little bit about your background and what you currently do.
I am currently a Law Librarian at the Ghana School of Law and have worked in libraries for the past 20 years. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Social Work & Information Studies, LLB degree, a Master’s in Librarianship, and a Master’s in Information Technology. My role as a Law Librarian at the Ghana School of Law includes managing law library operations, monitoring budgets, allocating, organizing, and disseminating legal resources. I also provide effective access to library collections and resources, maintain, organize, and preserve library materials. I oversee the cataloging and classification of library resources and supervise and evaluate library staff. I provide research assistance and reference services to attorneys by helping them locate legal precedents and other information about cases. I collaborate with other law libraries to provide broader access to legal information.
How did you get interested in law librarianship?
I ventured into Law Librarianship after having an opportunity to set up a Law Library after my school was given accreditation to run the 3-year law degree Program. I became curious to know more about how law librarianship differs from other fields of librarianship.
We enjoyed hosting you at Yale. Please provide a short summary of your impressions and experiences at the Lillian Goldman Law Library
It was a rare privilege and an experience of a lifetime to spend time at Yale Law Library and interact with the staff. The opportunity to meet Librarians from the various departments was wonderful and a great learning experience. I learned from the sessions that, Yale Library collects materials from all over the world and I was excited to see some of the Ghanaian primary legal resources (Supreme Court of Ghana Law Reports) sitting on the shelves. Not only that but the also holds rich African collections from the length and breadth of Africa.
It was great to learn that, Yale Library does not only house legal resources from across the world in the Library but has also an offsite storage facility where law books are kept with the idea to preserve legal knowledge for the future.
The rare collections were stunning to me. When one hears ‘rare collections”, it is easy to draw a hasty conclusion that it may not be relevant and interesting. However, I had a very good time exploring the rare collections. The colorful book covers, the font type that was used in writing the books, and the small handwritten books were very enchanting. I cannot leave out the cute and tiny colorful rare books dating 1695s, they were fascinating. It is worth noting that the Rare Book Librarian in charge Kathryn James put a lot of effort into hosting exhibitions full of informative and interesting stories, including an exhibition about the Founders of Yale Law School, Race and Slavery.
The most captivating experience I had at the Yale Law Library was the beautiful fish tank situated at Level 1 of the Law Library. The noise from the fish tank gives one a calm environment to concentrate and absorb what one reads and could be therapeutic when stressed out. The conscientious effort by the assigned staff member, Shana Jackson to ensure the fish are fed and maintained was a delight to watch.
The lunch sessions with staff of the Library was very impressive. The lunch sessions provided a platform to discuss topics outside Law Library work and to meet other staff I would not have met during my visit. It was very remarkable to see the staff interested in knowing about what I do back in Ghana and the Ghanaian Legal System.
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Tour
It was striking that a magnificent building has been dedicated to collecting and preserving literary manuscripts and rare collections. The color of the monumental Beinecke edifice was attractive enough to make you wonder what it contains. Visiting the Beinecke Library was my first time seeing huge volumes of rare and archival resources well preserved and arranged. The icing on the cake for the visit was how Michael Morand (Director of Community Engagement) welcomed me to the Beinecke Library to begin the tour. He came along with a Ghanaian student and wore some paraphernalia from Ghana. It was a great learning experience for me on how to welcome guests (PR & Customer service). I hope to take a cue from it back home.
The different color shades in the Beinecke Library made the environment lovely and one can be tempted to stay until the next day, oblivious of the time. I was taken aback to see items (well preserved and documented) from Ghanaians who attended Yale School in the 1960s and some handwritten letters from the first President of Senegal, Leopold Senghor. I came in touch with the reality of seeing the Guttenberg Bible having read about in back in Junior High School. I walked out of the Beinecke library amazed at the architecture of the Library, the sheer volumes of the collections as well as the conscientious and pleasant Michael Morand.
Sterling Library Visit
Visiting the sterling Library was a dream come true after walking past the building looking like a Cathedral or Monastery for four (4) continuous days wondering what the library would look like. A look at the architecture of the building will give you lingering thoughts, whether you were entering a Library or a Cathedral.
It was such a delight when Lucie Olejnikova, Associate Director for Foreign & International Law walked me over to tour the Sterling Library. Robin Dougherty (Librarian for African Studies and Librarian for Middle East Studies), with her lovely smile made touring the Library very exciting and fun. Walking into the Library, I was impressed by the cathedral type architecture, the sculptures, the beautiful paintings, and the windows.
The circulation desk and the painting behind it made it look like an altar drawing your mind to that fact that you are in a sacred abode for knowledge. It was evident that the whole architecture, the paintings and sculptures were well thought out to make teaching and learning a very important and enjoyable activity in the academic life of the students. The idea of having subject reading rooms in the Library with also books on the subject on the shelves was very remarkable. The Islamic reading room had a lot of colored textbooks on the shelves which could save students time from combing the whole library for a book.