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.
1/13/2015 12:47:33 PM

What I Did On My December 9th Lunch Hour

My favorite thing to do is go to a museum.  Whether it’s fine art or historical artifacts, I’m never happier then when I’m walking into a great building devoted to the display of human endeavor and learning.  I am particularly fortunate in my location, as Washington, D.C. is home not only to the world-class Smithsonian Institution, but also to the National Gallery of Art, as well as many other fine, although admission-charging, institutions.  Not only do I live in the D.C. area, but my office is located walking distance from the Mall, home to the National Gallery and to most of the Smithsonian museums.  This means, when the weight of the world is on my shoulders (meaning, I've had one too many requests from attorneys), I can stroll a few blocks down the street at lunch time to soothe my soul and clear my head.

So imagine my delight at being able to combine my profession and my great passion and take a guided tour of the library of the National Gallery of Art!  Arranged by Andrew Martin, librarian at the National Labor Relations Board, under the auspices of the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C., a group of law librarians took a tour of the National Gallery’s library last month.  Our group met with several of the library’s staff members, including Gregory Most, who was kind enough to spend a lot of time showing us the library’s fantastic image collection.  Note that, unlike those of us in the law library world, the National Gallery is not moving from print to digital resources!  They will go on acquiring art books as long as they are around to be collected; many of them are works of art themselves.

Located in the East Building, the library is still open to visitors while much of the rest of the building is undergoing construction for the next several years.  Although most of the people who enter the library come to do research, there is also a display case in the reading room area with rotating small exhibits throughout the year that is open without an appointment.  There’s a guard at the entrance, a feature I wish I had at my library, but you can just tell him or her that you’re there to see the display and in you go.  For more information on the library, visit their website located here: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/research/library.html.

So why am I telling you about this?  Sure, it’s a nice story: law librarians venture out and make a new friend, but it’s not exactly “breaking news.”  What I got out of it was an opportunity to expand my horizons, to see how another library works, how it’s different from and similar to a law library.  It’s easy to become insular in law librarianship - there are enough of us that you can always talk to another person who does the same thing you do, and the specialized jargon is often incomprehensible to someone without a legal background.  In these times of chaos (really, “change” doesn't do the situation justice), reaching out to other librarians, to see how they do things in their library, how they handle patron requests, how they make collection development decisions, is a rich (and free!) source of new ideas.  The more connections we can make, the better off we’ll all be.  So if your local law library organization offers tours of other types of libraries - by all means, make the time and go.  If not, suggest that they start.  

Susan Ryan, 2015
Librarian, Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, Washington, DC  sryan@seyfarth.com

Posted By Susan Ryan at 1/13/2015 12:47:33 PM  0 Comments
1/2/2015 9:38:23 AM

Magna Carta: Muse & Mentor – Exhibition at the Library of Congress

One of the benefits of working in the nation’s capital is easy access to cultural treasures like the Library of Congress. Not only is it astoundingly beautiful inside and out, but it is also hosts fascinating exhibitions like the current Magna Carta: Muse & Mentor exhibition commemorating the 800th anniversary of the creation of Magna Carta.

While the centerpiece of the exhibition is the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta, one of four existing copies that date to 1215, the year of its creation, it includes much more. In addition to documents, books, letters, newspapers, judicial decisions, and images that provide an account of the initial granting of Magna Carta and its many confirmations by kings and parliament, it also explores Magna Carta’s impact on principles and protections of American law such as due process, trial by jury, and the writ of habeas corpus. One section even features Magna Carta in Culture with an array of items from commemorative stamps to Jay-Z’s recent album, Magna Carta Holy Grail.

Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta

Blackstone's Magna Carta

Commemorative Magna Carta stamps

While the standing exhibition will only be at the Library of Congress until January 19th, a traveling exhibition has been touring the country and will continue to make its way to different cities throughout 2015. Exhibition dates and locations can be found on the ABA’s website. If it happens to be coming to a city near you, I highly recommend you take the opportunity to check it out.

Sara Gras, Reference Librarian

Georgetown University Law Center

Washington, D.C.


Posted By Sara Gras at 1/2/2015 9:38:23 AM  0 Comments
5/8/2013 11:49:09 AM

Book Review: The Librarian's Copyright Companion, 2nd Edition

James S. Heller, Paul Hellyer, & Benjamin Keele,  The Librarian’s Copyright Companion, 2nd Edition (Buffalo, NY: William S. Hein & Co., Inc., 2012), 324 pp., incl. appendices and index.  Paperback, $49.00, ISBN: 978-0-8377-3872-7.

This book, an update of 2004’s first edition, was authored by three academic law librarians, all of whom hold both law and library degrees.  Each of the eight chapters from the first edition has been updated, and a ninth chapter on the library as publisher has been added.  There are also sixteen appendices that range from suggested online copyright resources to model policies to selected provisions from Title 17 of the USC.  If your library staff has any interest in creating or updating policies related to copyright, the convenience of the appendices alone is probably enough to justify purchasing this title, since it contains many of the resources that a well-informed librarian would want to consider in creating institutional copyright norms.

Law firm librarians may find this title especially appealing.  The authors explicitly address issues from the perspectives of not only government or academic libraries, which are favored by the principles of fair use, but also private libraries, where the boundaries of copyright can be more restrictive.  This book provides commentary on specific hypothetical situations that librarians in many kinds of libraries might face – a refreshing approach, as library-centric copyright scholarship tends to focus on academic and public libraries.

Although The Librarian’s Copyright Companion is organized in a way that makes it easy to look up specific topics in copyright, it reads more as a treatise than as a reference resource; ideas introduced in one section are referred to in later ones, making it difficult to take a section out of context for quick answers to specific questions.  However, as an introduction to copyright for librarians or as a refresher for those who aren’t up to date on recent developments, it works very nicely.  Some particularly helpful organizational choices are the inclusion of  “The Bottom Line,” a concluding note at the end of some sections that summarizes more complex legal issues; Question and Answer sections on topics of frequent interest; and Comments on examples, offering suggestions and opinions when black letter law is not available.

 The tone is conversational, with occasional quippy comments and creative examples that generally make the book more engaging (although this reviewer will admit to being a little distracted by the apparent classification of Rhett Butler as a “northern gunrunner”[1]).  The text (minus appendices) is a quick but comprehensive overview at 185 pages—a very readable length as it allows enough depth to explore certain topics in sufficient detail while not bogging the reader down with tangential issues.  Overall, this title provides helpful information for both copyright novices and those more seasoned in the subject, and while applicable to libraries in general, it is especially relevant to law libraries of all kinds.  Recommended.

Andrea Alexander is a reference librarian and assistant professor at Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law's Taggart Law Library.

[1] Pg. 5.  Actually, Rhett Butler was from Charleston and brought many supplies besides guns across the blockades.  Therefore, classifying him as “northern” is incorrect, and “gunrunner” is unnecessarily narrow.  This reviewer is vaguely embarrassed to have read Gone With the Wind so many times as a child that she knew these specific details off the top of her head. 

Posted By Andrea Alexander at 5/8/2013 11:49:09 AM  0 Comments