AALL Spectrum Blog


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.
10/23/2014 2:26:48 PM

Librarian Is Just a Keyword

I’ve been reviewing my librarian responsibilities in preparation of my tenure and promotion file. Trying to explain what I do as the Access Services Librarian can be a challenge as I work in the Circulation, Reference and Information Technology (IT) departments. To visualize my activities for 2013-2014 Academic Year, I turned my annual report into a Wordle infograph or word cloud.

A few things jump out when looking at my job from this perspective. First, the “law” keyword or portion of being a law librarian is the biggest component of my position. This was a bit of a surprise to me as I’ve often thought myself a librarian, not a law librarian. The second large portion of my job is the “library” keyword, as my access services job title suggests. Or maybe, I should stop looking at all the departments I have responsibilities in and instead focus on the big picture – the Library. This is a good reminder that my job is to enhance the services provided by Schmid Law Library and that I’m one staff among a dozen that work towards this mission. Finally, an annual report should celebrate accomplishments. When I read the many keywords in this word cloud, I see the cool things I did this past year as a professional librarian and with colleagues in the field. This list includes the presentations and programs I gave; the scholarship that was published, projects completed, the conferences attended and the many people helped when using my library.

The big picture view is Schmid Law Library providing excellent service to our faculty members and students by supporting the teaching and research mission of the University of Nebraska College of Law. My contribution to that goal is helping connect people to the information they need. An annual report is more than a document recording service, outreach, teaching and scholarship. An annual report is a benchmark for what we do as librarians, demonstrating how our law libraries provide relevant support to the mission of the organization.


Marcia L. Dority Baker is the Access Services Librarian at the University of Nebraska College of Law, Schmid Law Library in Lincoln, Nebraska. She can be reached via email; mdoritybaker@unl.edu 

Posted By Marcia Dority Baker at 10/23/2014 2:26:48 PM  0 Comments
9/29/2014 1:21:43 PM

So You're A Law Librarian...

“What do you do exactly?”

It’s a question I hear pretty regularly - every time I see a new doctor or talk to other parents at my daughter’s school functions. Many of you probably do too. In all fairness, it’s probably not a profession non-lawyers think much about, and I certainly don’t mind being asked. The trouble comes when I try to formulate an answer.

“Well, this month I taught a lot of legal research classes…” I begin.

“Oh, so you’re a teacher?”

Oops. “Um, no, not exactly...sometimes…”

But yes, I suppose we are - maybe not always in the traditional sense, unless we teach as faculty members. Still, many law librarians are teachers, every day, both in law schools and in private libraries. We help our patrons gain knowledge of legal materials, in print and online. We teach them how to be better researchers - how to ask the questions that get them to the answers they want and need.

We are also therapists, who listen sympathetically as students and young associates confess their confusion and bemoan the wasted hours, and reassure them that they aren’t alone in their struggles. We are researchers, delving into the farthest reaches of the Internet or the dustiest shelves, looking for everything from historical codes to non-binding decisions of immigration court judges. We are inventors, using new technologies to develop tools to guide and enhance the legal research process. We are critics, using our knowledge and experience to build collections of materials that anticipate the needs of our patrons without wasting dwindling budgets.

That’s just what I do as an academic reference librarian, without even touching on the many other roles librarians play within the wide variety of institutions and positions we hold. Sometimes it’s just easier to say, “Oh, it’s just a little of this and a little of that.”

Sara Gras

Reference Librarian

Georgetown University Law Center Library

Washington, DC


Posted By Sara Gras at 9/29/2014 1:21:43 PM  0 Comments
9/9/2014 10:25:30 AM

We Want You! Why You Should Join Your Local Library Association

How many library membership cards are in your wallet? I’m pretty sure you’re a member of AALL (American Association of Law Libraries) if you’re reading this blog but are you a member of your state library association and/or your regional law library association? If not, you should be!

I started my library career in public libraries where I was encouraged to become a member of the Nebraska Library Association (NLA). It was some of the best advice I ever received, my library supervisor at the time knew the value of NLA and most likely, saw a potential volunteer for committee work! Joining my state library association was like being invited to sit at the cool table at lunch, I had an instant connection with fellow library members across 500 miles of Nebraska. I’ve been member of NLA since 2001; have served on several committees, the C&U (College & University) section, presented at many NLA annual conferences and have published in the association’s journal. In a nutshell, my NLA membership has provided me with a strong foundation on how to be a librarian. If you’re not a member of your state library association - do it today!

I’ve been at the University of Nebraska College of Law, Schmid Law Library for ten years! I’m not sure how long I’ve been a member of MAALL (Mid-America Association of Law Libraries) but long enough to know it’s a great law library association well worth my membership. If you have yet to attend a MAALL annual meeting, you’re missing out on professional friendships, great conference speakers, the chance to visit regional states and, a healthy network of law librarians and libraries similar in nature to where one works. MAALL is an official chapter of AALL; there are 31 total chapters and I know each of these chapters would love to have new members! A few highlights of my MAALL membership include presenting at several annual meetings – if someone asks you to be on the “Cool Tools” panel, just say “yes” and committee work. I have the privilege of chairing the MAALL Library School Liaison Committee and have served on the MAALL Education Committee where I helped plan our 2014 meeting in Chicago. Both committees are excellent to work with and most important: have members excited about being law librarians and are willing to speak up on how we can encourage fellow and future law librarians to be part of the profession.

I’m proud to be a librarian, it’s cheesy to say but I like to go to work in the morning! If you want more out being a librarian, join your state library association and/or regional law library chapter – it will make you a better librarian and open the door to a new group of friends at the lunch table.


Marcia L. Dority Baker is the Access Services Librarian at the University of Nebraska College of Law, Schmid Law Library in Lincoln, Nebraska. She can be reached via email; mdoritybaker@unl.edu

Posted By Marcia Dority Baker at 9/9/2014 10:25:30 AM  0 Comments