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The AALL Spectrum® Blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. The previous Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
4/24/2015 4:45:00 PM

Law Library Interns: How to Make Them Work for You


For aspiring law librarians, the most useful aspects of library school are often those that afford the opportunity for practical experience. In most instances, these opportunities take the form of internships. Sometimes done for pay, sometimes done for academic credit, and sometimes done just for the experience itself, internship opportunities allow aspiring law librarians to get a better sense of what sort of work they hope to do post-graduation. They also act as an excellent means of differentiating themselves from their job-seeking peers.

Those same internships create new opportunities for the law libraries themselves. Interns can benefit law libraries in a number of ways - they can bring a fresh perspective to a project that has stalled; they may be more familiar with new and developing technologies; they may have a skillset that is helpful but not duplicated on the full-time staff (e.g., foreign-language skills, a background in a particular legal practice area).

Done properly, both intern and law library can benefit greatly from these opportunities, either as a one-time occurrence, or as the beginning of an established intern program.  But doing it properly and avoiding common problems does take some planning, effort, and foresight.

This summer at AALL, this topic will be explored in far more depth as part of the Law Library Interns: How to Make Them Work for You program. Representatives from academic (Kelly Leong), government (Peter Roudik), and court (Daniel Cordova) law libraries will discuss their own successful internship programs and the growing pains they experienced making those programs succeed – including the identification of the most-common pitfalls of such programs.

I’ll be moderating and offering my own perspective as someone who had the chance to complete invaluable internships at the Peking University School of Transnational Law, Legal Research Center and the National Indian Law Library.

As a bit of a preview, here are some issues worth considering:

  • Do you have projects or assignments to work on that are suitable for your intern? 
If, for example, the intern knows that she only wants to work in technical services and has a background to support that, having her sit reference is less likely to result in a worthwhile experience for anyone involved. If she has a substantive expertise in an area of law, working on a cataloging project in that area or preparing a research guide would allow her to showcase that expertise while also resulting in high quality work that benefits the law library.

  • Can your existing staff provide guidance and the required supervision to the intern?
As tempting as it can be to think of interns as “warm bodies” to fill existing gaps in coverage, you should still keep in mind that the legal guidelines regarding internships and work, both at the federal and state levels. The U.S. Department of Labor has created a useful Fact Sheet with good basic information – Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act – including the six criteria that apply.

  • Have you had the opportunity to have a nuts-and-bolts talk with your intern before the internship begins?
Making sure the institution clearly communicates about things like deadlines, attire, and scheduling/punctuality are very important: good communication can go a long way to eliminating issues before they become problems. In some cases, established internship programs have competitive selection processes, but even less formal opportunities should use a phone call and email documentation to make sure the institution and the intern are on the same page.

These issues and others will be discussed in more depth, with examples from the speakers on how their own programs deal with them.

What issues have you come across, either from the perspective of the institution or as an intern yourself? Please share and discuss in the comments below!

Finally, if your institution is at all interested in possibly hosting an international internship or exchange, I encourage you to complete the Internships & International Exchanges Survey. It can be a very useful way to facilitate internships and exchanges across borders. International internships and exchanges can bring with them an additional layer of logistical challenges (e.g., passports, visas, international flights) but they can also be the most rewarding. Also, if you’ve actually completed an international internship or exchange and would be willing to write it up briefly for our website or a newsletter, the FCIL-SIS Internships & International Exchanges program would love to hear from you!

Posted By R. Martin Witt at 4/24/2015 4:45:00 PM  0 Comments
3/13/2015 6:42:02 PM

Review: Constitute, “The World’s Constitutions to Read, Search, and Compare”

Constitute (https://www.constituteproject.org/) is a free website developed by the Comparative Constitutions Project, which is based at the University of Texas at Austin. It contains 194 constitutions that are accessible three ways: from an A-Z list, a full-text search, or selecting from a list of topics.

A useful feature is the ability to compare two or more nations’ constitutions by topic. To do so, click on the Compare button next to the applicable nations on the A-Z list and click on the Compare icon in the left frame of the screen. The texts of the constitutions will display side by side. To compare provisions in specific areas, do a full-text search in the box under the Compare icon in the left frame, or select from a list of topics located below the search box.

Below is a comparison of U.S. and Japanese constitutional provisions on the topic Rights and Duties/Legal Procedural Rights/Protection from Self-incrimination:



To find which nations’ constitutions address particular areas, be sure you’re in the List view (as opposed to Compare view) before using the search box or topics outline. A sample topic selection, Culture and Identity/Citizenship/Requirements for Naturalization shows that 118 constitutions have relevant provisions.

If you wish to preserve your search results, you can click on the pin icon near the top of the page, then click on the Pinned icon in the left frame, and then export to Google Docs, download as a PDF, or save as a .csv file. It appears that once you’ve pinned your search results you must take any of the above actions before closing your tab or window, as I saw no option for creating an account that would enable saving your results. Also, I discovered that my pinned search was gone once I closed the page and then returned, so the site doesn’t remember IP addresses.

While I enjoyed exploring Constitute, I encountered a couple of issues that would concern me if I were relying on it for research:

1.  When comparing the U.S. and Japanese constitutions, I clicked through the topic menu Rights and Duties/Legal Procedural Rights/Due Process. The one U.S. match was the 5th Amendment, but the 14th Amendment also contains the phrase “due process.”

2.  On the bottom left of Constitute’s main page there is a box that contains teasers of the site’s content. One was “Scotland, Catalunya, Who’s Next? 22 constitutions contain provisions on secession. Click here to see which.” When I clicked, I was directed to a search result list of the 22 nations, and the full-text box was populated with the phrase “secession of territory.” However, when I did a separate full-text search for just “secession,” I got 11 results that didn’t overlap. A search algorithm expert may know why this is, but I expect most users won't.

Posted By Colleen Williams at 3/13/2015 6:42:02 PM  0 Comments
6/9/2014 9:14:41 PM

Spring Issue of FCIL Newsletter Available

The Spring 2014 issue of the FCIL Newsletter is out now!  In it you'll find a really great story by Teresa Miguel-Stearns and Lucie Olejnikova about how the FCIL Schaffer Grant positively impacts the U.S.  You'll also find a review of the ILRIG's program, Connecting the Dots: Visualizing International Law, which was presented at the ILA-ASIL Joint Biennial Conference, a comparison of a free MOOC and a fee-based certificate program for continuing education, and a lot of updates and chapter news.  You can find the newsletter here!

Posted By Kristen Moore at 6/9/2014 9:14:41 PM  0 Comments