RIPS Law Librarian
vol. 20, no. 4
Message From The Chair
Kory D. Staheli
Its hard to believe that my year as Chair will soon be over.
The time has gone by quickly, but the experience has been rewarding, and
I am pleased to report that we have been able to accomplish most of what
we set out to. My first goal for the year was to get a RIPS
web page up and functioning. Thanks to the hard work of Bobbie Studwell
and her committee, that goal has become a reality. Those of you who haven't
visited the site yet should do so. It looks terrific, and contains
some very helpful information. The URL is http:www.aallnet.org/sis/ripssis/.
One of the agenda items for the RIPS Executive Board Meeting in Anaheim
is the future of the web page and how we can use it to better serve our
members. If you would like to have input on this topic, please contact
a member of the Board.
A second goal was to attract new members to the SIS by keeping RIPS
in the public view through effective publicity. Kristin Gerdy our
Public Relations and Recruitment Committee Chair, and Gail Partin, Board
Liaison, have worked hard to help us meet this goal. Hopefully you
read about the SIS during the year in the Special Interest Section News
of the AALL Spectrum. Likewise, the Legal Research
Teach-in once again provided us with great publicity. An additional
measure we will be using in Anaheim to generate interest in RIPS is the
embroidered stickers I discussed briefly in the last issue of this newsletter.
These simple stickers, containing only the letters R-I-P-S, will be handed
out to SIS members and non-members alike, along with a request that they
be worn on convention name tags where they can be clearly seen. Hopefully
these stickers will get people talking about RIPS, and maybe even result
in a few
A third goal was to continue developing and
sponsoring quality programs of interest to RIPS
members. Under the effective leadership of Kelly
Browne, Program Committee Chair, this goal has
clearly been met. Thanks to all members of the
Program Committee for a very successful year.
A fourth goal was to carry on the excellent work
started by the Research Instruction Caucus,
particularly with regard to their working draft "Core
Legal Research Competencies: A Compendium of
Skills and Values as Defined in the ABA's
MacCrate Report". Darcy Kirk, Research
Instruction Committee Chair, and her committee
have made some progress in formulating
recommendations on issues relating to the
document, however, this is a huge task that will
require further work from the Committee at least
through the coming year.
A final goal was to be more responsive to member
needs and concerns particularly in the area of patron
services. Mark Silverman, Patron Services
Committee Chair, has done a super job helping us
meet this goal by organizing round table discussions
to be held at the annual meeting in Anaheim. These
round tables are listed in the index of the
preliminary program, and also later in this
newsletter. Please make a note of the round tables
you are interested in attending now, since the RIPS
Business Meeting is not scheduled until after the
round tables are over, and there will not be another
opportunity for reminders. Gail Partin's superb
work in providing us with a more substantive RIPS
Newsletter has also contributed to our efforts to
respond to member needs. Thanks Gail for a job
I continue to be amazed by the dedication of
members of this SIS, and would like to thank
everyone who worked on projects during the year. I
would particularly like to thank those of you I have
not mentioned, but who worked quietly behind the
scenes throughout the year. We couldn't have
accomplished all we have without you. I look
forward to seeing many of you in Anaheim, and to
being rejuvenated once again by our common
enthusiasm for this wonderful profession.
DESIGNING THE LEGAL REFERENCE WEB PAGE
Why Design a Web Page?
Experience is a great teacher.
Developing your own reference/research web page will not only teach you
some basic web design elements, but it will
also help refine your reference skills. With some pre-planning, the
entire site will probably only take you five to ten hours to develop. Oh,
come on, you say? Why should I?
One key reason is to share your expertise
with other reference librarians and researchers. Over the years,
many of you have developed skills in a variety
of subject areas. Some of you have been faculty research liaisons
and others have worked with research specialists in your firm. Your
level of expertise may seem trivial to you, but your recommendations for
key starting and stopping points for specialized research topics are bound
someone just stumbling into some new (to them)
Another good reason to consider designing
a web page is to refine your subject area expertise. If you don't
feel like an expert now, after using your web page to "teach" someone else
about a topic you're likely to become an expert.
One final reason, among many others,
is to get your creative juices going. Do you feel like you'll scream
you have to answer that same research question
for the hundredth time? Get out of that rut and go do something about
it. Go ask your favorite computer technician about web design software
tools they'd recommend and ask them to train you. You could also
click on Netscape Navigator Gold's menu options and teach yourself (there's
even a Wizard and canned templates to guide you through each step).
Click on File; New Document; Blank on Netscape's opening screen to get
started. If you insist on seeing and editing the HTML code, most
of these easy to use Web editors provide that too. In the Netscape
Composer, click on View; View Document Source.
Okay, you say, I'm game, but what about the
content of my page? How do I create this beast? Content is
key to any Web page you'll produce. Most of the advice you'll get
from the professionals centers around giving your potential users good
information and thinking about several key elements; audience/purpose,
content/format, and feedback. There's
one more to consider as well; marketing your page.
On any given day, a number of web surfers
could visit your page. Your page will either immediately engage
them or they will quickly move on. By
designing your page with a target audience in mind - even if you are
unsure of exactly who will take a look - you
are bound to capture the attention of those using your page to get the
benefit of your reference advice or those who want to solve a problem.
Are you providing information for
librarians, students, attorneys, judges, lay
people, or someone else? Some of these groups will need more
explanation, annotated comments, and/or links
to related sites than others.
A site that tries to be all things to all
readers and is too broad in its scope is likely to prove unwieldy.
web designer should narrow or broaden a topic
based on the needs of the prospective audience. A page designed for
lay people might cover a broad topic like constitutional law very generally
and could be organized to provide links and pointers to other sites that
go beyond a novice level. A site designed for attorneys on a topic
like homicide is more likely to require recent citations to cases dealing
with the various elements of the crime in a particular state. The
site is also more likely to need constant updating.
As you begin to design your page you'll discover
that some sub-topics need more explanation and coverage
than others. In addition, your readers
will appreciate seeing a quick listing of the sub-topics you've covered
without having to surf through screen after
screen of information. Therefore, many designers resolve this
problem by giving readers a choice of entry
points into the information provided on the first page. They often
supply a list of sub-topics. They may
break this information out into separate pages they create and hyperlink
to them. They may also link to documents created by other web authors.
In other words, they create a series of documents that are all linked back
to the beginning page; the focus of the target reader's attention.
This also allows the designer to meet
the information needs of readers who need an overview to brush up on
a topic and who then want to quickly move
into more substantive sub-topics. The designer can meet both needs
by providing an overview (or a hyperlink to another document presenting
the overview) and links to other more comprehensive information.
As the page designer you can set this information out in a way that is
likely to catch and keep the attention of readers.
There are a number of ways you can retrieve
information about how readers are using your web page. Counters and
log files are one way. Guest books and messages to the Webmaster
(whose e-mail address is included somewhere on the first page) are another.
You can also ask for input. If you provide a survey form
once every few months, you're likely to get readers'
comments about the design and the usefulness of the information
Probably one of the most difficult tasks
you'll encounter is letting people know your site exists. You can
wait for a Web crawler to index your site or you
can be more proactive. Visit the search engine sites and seek
out their "add URL section" so you can add your
URL to their site. Check out the major indexers; AltaVista,
Excite, HotBot, InfoSeek, Lycos, Open Text, and
Web Crawler, or other favorites.
You can also design your page to make
it relevant to search engines trolling the web for new information to
add to their indexes. By using larger
fonts for your topics and sub-topics, you're likely to increase the chance
that those words will be matched against users'
search queries. Again, many of the design tools, like Netscape
Navigator Gold, allow you to do this easily.
Finally, you can also incorporate metadata
elements into your site that provide your indexing terms for your
site. You, as the designer, create and submit
a web-generated form that insures your site is accurately indexed
and retrieved by the search engines. Use
your software design tools to do this or see www.ukoln.ac.uk/metadata/dcdot/
for more information.
If you've waded through most of this
article, then you're probably interested in creating a web page.
The design process is truly the easy
part nowadays. Decisions about content are what makes or breaks your
web page. If you don't know what
reference topic to write about, go browse a few web pages and see what
others have done. I'll lay odds
that you can create something more useful than what you find out there
Bobbie Studwell is Associate Dean of
Library and Information Services, Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
Report from the Sixth Annual Innovative
Users Group Conference
by Celeste Feather
At least 131 representatives from law
libraries attended the 1998 Innovative Users
Group conference in Nashville, Tennessee, the
first weekend of May. Most academic law
libraries in this country now are online system
clients of Innovative Interfaces, Inc., and the
number of private and government law library
clients is growing. Total conference registration exceeded
900 this year, and the conference programs spanned three full days plus
an additional day for new users of the system. If you are seeking
educational programs that are of direct benefit to your work and are a
user of the Innopac system, you might consider attending this conference.
The programs this year included a healthy component of public services
topics, and the number of conference attendees from public service positions
continues to expand each year. One of the most popular sessions focused
on a staff training program to assure knowledge of core competencies on
an Innopac system. Another session on technobabble was useful for
everyone to pick up some additional knowledge
about terminology that we hear frequently and aren't quite sure
what it means. There were sessions about advanced uses of the course
reserve module, strategies for printing customized reports from an Innopac
system, circulation tasks that have been enhanced by outside programming
that interfaces with
Innopac, and a holds function forum.
Another program focused on usability and communication in public
catalog design, which was of particular interest to those developing a
Web catalog. Presentations on the interlibrary loan module, circulation
statistics, and unlocking Innopac catalog secrets for patrons also drew
large audiences. A special luncheon for law library users sponsored
by the Innovative Law Users Group drew a crowd of nearly 100 conference
attendees. Jerry Kline, President and
CEO of Innovative Interfaces, Inc., addressed the law library users
at that lunch.
If you are seeking educational programs that are of direct benefit
to your work and are a user of the Innopac system, you might consider attending
this conference next year in Oakland, California. This year's meeting
certainly was full of quality programming and helpful informational sharing.
Preliminary 1999 conference information is available at the IUG
Celeste Feather is the Access Services Librarian at
Georgetown University Law Library.
I'm not spending time in Anaheim! Alternative
Professional Development & Training Opportunities
by Duane Strojny
Well, it has finally happened. For the first time
in ten years I will not be attending the annual convention of
AALL. It's not that I haven't thought about skipping the meeting
before. In 1996, I was there for only two days. Last year,
we attended as a family. This year, however, as we wait for our second
child, who is due in the middle of July, it's really not that practical
for me to leave home for a week. There are a lot of benefits.
Mail won't pile up at the office. I can access e- mail in the normal
way. There won't be distractions such as the Exhibit Hall or vendor
sponsored events to prevent me from conducting my day to day business.
I can work some extra hours at the Reference Desk. But maybe one
of the best benefits is that I have taken a little time to review other
types of professional development opportunities available to librarians
and will actually be trying a few new things this year.
It is important to keep an open mind when looking at things that
come across your desk. There are things
sponsored by non-law librarian groups that contain useful information.
Networking with non-law librarians is very useful.
Look at programs and training in how it relates to your work processes
and general job responsibilities. Things do not always have to be
law related! The rapid changes in technology alone have created many
types of educational opportunities. Here are some of the possibilities
you may want to consider.
First, there are other national librarian organizations that offer
great conventions. Our library is sending someone to the Special
Libraries Association Annual Meeting in Indianapolis this year. We
also are sending someone to ALA and NASIG. Check out the web sites
for these organizations to determine if the programming is applicable to
Just because you are not traveling to Anaheim, does
not mean you should not try to learn new skills or enhance existing
ones. There are also regional meetings to attend. I'll be going
to my first regional AALL meeting in October. Sponsored by CALL,
MALL, MichALL, ORALL, and LLAW, the meeting brings together some of the
great programming of AALL along with the ability of more local people attending
the gathering. I know that in 1996 the Northeast Regional Meeting
in Toronto was a very successful event. What about taking a look
at specialty programs that run a day or two?
Depending on your budget, you could fly to one or search out something
within driving distance. I recently attended a leadership conference
in Boston sponsored by ACRL. Two of our librarians just came back
from a day long conference on metadata that was here in Lansing.
There are numerous types of programming sponsored by local or state library
groups. If nothing else, at least try to get to some of your local
library association programming. If you are lucky, you have an AALL
chapter in your city or nearby. Take advantage of their low cost
programming for learning new things and the ever important networking with
other law librarians. SFALL used to have a full day seminar
once a year (they are less regular now, but the one in 1996 had a librarian
from Harvard presenting information about
the European Economic Community) and I know that is what MichALL
currently does on an annual basis.
There may be some other type of local library group that has regular
meetings with programming as well. One interesting, free program
that I recently attended was given by the Library of Michigan (our
state library). There was a roundtable of services available to the
public and a tour of the collection. It was geared towards local
librarians who could then refer their patrons to the Library of Michigan
for appropriate assistance. If you are not spending a fortune to
attend a national convention, the dollar goes a lot farther.
Even national conventions being held nearby are more affordable if
travel expenses are kept down. Also, there is some reciprocity for
AALL members to attend at membership rates of other organizations.
Our librarian attending the SLA convention is attending at a SLA membership
rate thereby saving us over $100 on registration. Next year, the
ACRL National Meeting is in Detroit. Just an hour away in the car
makes this an interesting opportunity.
In summary, it looks like there will be plenty to do while not attending
the annual convention this year. The opportunities to try different
professional development programs are endless. I recommend that if
you are staying close to home this summer you might want to check out something
new as well. Just because you are not traveling to Anaheim, does
not mean you should not try to learn new skills or enhance existing ones.
Duane A. Strojny is Associate Director for Library and Information
Services, Thomas M. Cooley Law School.