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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.
5/22/2015 5:27:34 PM

Boalt Hall Law Library Summer Reading List

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Just in time for the long weekend, Berkeley Law has compiled its semi-annual pleasure reading list. Take a look, and find something good to read!

Posted By Christina Tarr at 5/22/2015 5:27:34 PM  0 Comments
5/18/2015 7:29:09 PM

Conversations From the Trenches: Review of "A Handbook for Corporate Information Professionals."

Schopflin, Katharine (ed.). A handbook for corporate information professionals. London: Facet Publishing, 2015. viii, 184 p. £59.95. ISBN 978-1-85604-968-9.

 Book Cover: A Handbook for Corporate Information ProfessionalsThis edited collection of ten chapter length essays, authored by thirteen experienced information professionals working in the UK, Canada, Australia, and the US, is both conversational and informative.  Each chapter focuses on a unique aspect of the information professional’s work and related role in the organization.

Schopflin sets the stage for the collection in Chapter 1 with her essay on the history and development of the “corporate information service.” Her definition of the modern corporate information service as “the unit within the corporate body that [provides] the information that staff need to carry out the work of the organization” (1) sets the tone for the entire book. The theory underlying this definition is reflected in each chapter as the authors urge information professionals to continually reevaluate their roles, step up to provide value for their organizations that goes beyond providing access to resources, and learn to take credit for such added value. As Lippell writes in chapter 5, “the challenge for all of us who are passionate about organizing and using information is to spot the opportunities and sell ourselves, inside the organization and beyond.” (Lippell, 76)

As indicated by its title, the book is practical in its tone and advice. The chapters that focus on developing and managing the organization’s intranet (chapter 2) or knowledge management program (chapter 6), building a corporate taxonomy (chapter 5), working with suppliers and licensing for e-libraries (chapter 9), and training end-users (chapter 10) are filled with implementation recommendations and tips that the reader can easily adapt to his or her own workplace.  Chapter 9 on e-resources includes a helpful afterword written from the vendor’s point of view. Any information professional investigating these roles for him or herself will appreciate that the content in these chapters is delivered in a straight-forward, introductory, you “can-do-it” manner.

Chapter 3 on internal and external marketing efforts, Chapter 4 on the relationship between the information professional and corporate IT, and Chapter 7 on managing and leading change are important reads for any information professional. Chapter 3 addresses the importance of developing a professional reputation and network that can be leveraged to benefit both the information professional and the organization. Chapter 4 highlights the sometimes contentious relationship between IT and the information profession and how to best resolve these issues and improve this important relationship to the benefit of the organization. Chapter 7 includes the usual advice on how to successfully manage change and position the information services unit during times of change. Similar to the rest of the book, these three chapters include practical implementable advice on how to take on these important career building opportunities. Information professionals working in any environment will find the advice and guidance in these chapters very helpful.  

Chapter 8 with its focus on the successful management of insight, intelligence and information on a global level is the outlier of the book. Although it is similar in structure in that it identifies a career arena in which information professionals can step up and provides what appears to be common sense practical advice about how to go about it, the chapter’s appeal will likely be limited to a select few interested in or already working in this type of high-level career. However, most readers will enjoy and find applicable the discussion of big data, information mining, and clients who simply cannot believe that the desired information does not exist.

A Handbook for Corporate Information Professionals is a well written and accessible introduction to the important issues facing information professionals. The work is an excellent selection for corporate libraries as well as those academic libraries that support information science programs. In addition, it has significant potential for use in courses in information science programs. Chapter 3 on networking and developing a professional reputation should be read by any student considering a career in information science. The chapters are short, topical and accessible, making it easy to insert one or more into the syllabus. More importantly, all are sure to generate classroom and water-cooler conversations among future and current information professionals.   

Catherine A. Lemmer, Assistant Director of Information Services, Ruth Lilly Law Library, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, calemmer@iupui.edu

Posted By Catherine Lemmer at 5/18/2015 7:29:09 PM  0 Comments
5/18/2015 12:19:00 PM

Serving Prisoners

I get a lot (A LOT) of letters from people in prison – over 1000 in the last year. And I respond to every one. No, I am not a prison pen pal – I manage Georgetown Law Library’s Prison Mail Program. While this program had been around for many years, we experienced a tremendous increase in the amount of mail we received during the summer of 2014. I bear most of the responsibility for this, having expanded our policy on what and how much legal information we are able to provide. I also reached out to the other departments in the Law Center who receive mail from prisoners and encouraged them to send requests for materials to me. Regardless of the cause, the letters come in stacks an inch high every few days.

Rather than spend all day, every day, responding to them, I partnered with our Office of Public Interest and Community Service to recruit students looking for pro bono opportunities to work on the program. I have been fortunate enough to have 5-6 students each semester retrieving documents, addressing envelopes, writing response letters, and organizing all the mail we receive. I still personally answer dozens of letters each month and review all the student responses before they are sent. And I think constantly about the program – how to make it a better opportunity for the students, more helpful to the prisoners, less costly for the library.

I get asked sometimes – why do you spend so much time and energy trying to help “these people”? In response, I could cite statistics about wrongful convictions and the more than 1500 people who have been exonerated since 1989 of the crimes for which they were imprisoned. I could link to articles about the inhumane and unconstitutional conditions in so many of our nation’s prisons that go unnoticed and unaddressed even when prisoners die. But I have found the greatest resonance in the explanation given by Robin Steinberg, founder and executive director of The Bronx Defenders, in writing about what drives her as a public criminal defense attorney:

“Unfairness pervades our criminal justice system…The American criminal justice system applies unfair rules, in unfair ways, to those every other system in our society have already failed…There is no fair fight; it’s a slaughter.”1

Unequal access to information is part of this fundamental unfairness. Whether they are protesting the conditions of their confinement or the circumstances of their incarceration, indigent prisoners are tremendously restricted in their ability to access legal materials. They cannot afford counsel or books. No one can assist them in drafting documents or filling out grievance paperwork. Time in prison libraries is tightly regulated and books may be out-of-date, damaged, or insufficient. Most prisoners do not have access to online legal research tools, and may not have friends or family outside of prison to do even basic Google searches for them. The cost and process of acquiring writing materials and postage to ask for information may even be an obstacle.

I feel fortunate to have a library director who supports me in continuing and even expanding this project. But the letters will keep coming, and I worry we won’t be able to keep it up – just like every institution, our resources are finite. If more libraries are able to provide this type of service, the burden on any one of us will be lessened. I recognize that budgets are strained and time is scarce, but I also believe that a system weighted so heavily against those without wealth and knowledge will fail at administering anything that could properly be called justice.

For those who are interested in learning more, please check out AALL’s SR-SIS Standing Committee on Law Library Services to Prisoners for resources and publications. You can also attend a program at this year’s AALL Annual Meeting entitled, The Jail Mail Blues - How Law Libraries Support Access to Justice for Prisoners, where I will be presenting about my prison mail experiences with Stacy Etheredge (West Virginia University) and Michael Tillman-Davis (11th Circuit Court of Appeals).

 

1 Robin Steinberg’s essay, Fair Play, appears in a collection of essays edited by Professors Abbe Smith and Monroe Freedman entitled, How Can You Represent Those People?

Posted By Sara Gras at 5/18/2015 12:19:00 PM  0 Comments