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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. Previously, the AALL Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.

The AALL Spectrum blog is no longer published. Previous posts are archived on this page.
4/14/2016 1:40:38 PM

AALL, AALL, Wherefore Art Thou AALL?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  But would AALL be the same if it had another name? And what about the George Mason University School of Law?

I imagine most readers of this blog are familiar with the AALL name change or lack thereof.  If you're not, well, several months ago the AALL Executive Board proposed a change from "American Association of Law Libraries" to "Association for Legal Information."  A spirited debate ensued; among the issues were what the new name meant or should mean and whether the short form "ALI" would be confused with the American Law Institute.  After much discussion, the membership voted against the new name.

As for George Mason, the school recently announced large donations and a change of name to the "Antonin Scalia School of Law."  In addition to some complaints about renaming the school for a Justice perceived as very conservative, there were snickers about the acronym "ASSLaw."  While the school is still honoring Justice Scalia, it has revised the name to "Antonin Scalia Law School."

So a name is important.  Even the initials are important.  They're among the first things people see when they encounter an organization.  Names and acronyms convey meaning -- whether or not it's the meaning desired by the institution's leaders and members.

Also, members may want a say in the renaming.  AALL did give members a say, though some wanted more.  George Mason simply announced the name.  It might be George Mason's prerogative -- not to mention a requirement of the donations -- to promulgate rather than propose a name.  However, having stakeholders consider a new name before approval could avoid embarrassment and reduce resentment.

A decade ago, Berkeley Law split the difference, using both consultation and promulgation to arrive at "UC Berkeley School of Law."  But the school had a starting point of "Boalt Hall" -- so almost any name that included "Berkeley" and "Law" was destined to be a relative success.

"American Association of Law Libraries" is more informative than "Boalt Hall."  Part of the recent debate was whether it was more informative than "Association for Legal Information."  That isn't a moot point, since several members have suggested "Association of Legal Information Professionals" as a better name.  "Association of Legal Information Professionals" arguably adds to the strengths of "Association for Legal Information" by including the people involved in these legal information issues.  While I hope to see a vote eventually on "Association of Legal Information Professionals," I suppose we'll need to wait a while until the dust settles from the previous vote.

Meanwhile, the AALL rebranding effort continues.  I'm skeptical about rebranding after the vote against the name change.  Will other rebranding be more successful?  (There's a recent lesson in failed rebranding in "Rhode Island: Cooler and Warmer.")  At the same time, I know that the world of law libraries and legal information keeps changing.  We probably need some rebranding just to remain relevant.

For now, the AALL is keeping its long-standing name and the associations that people have about law libraries.  But we can show how both traditional law libraries/librarians and variations on those institutions serve the general public and specific clienteles.

We are the American Association of Law Libraries.  But, in a broader sense, we're also anyone (at least in the U.S.) who works to connect people with legal information.  I think we've always been about both law libraries and legal information, and about both law librarians and other legal information professionals.  But now we can make that clear, even if not via the name itself.

Posted By Scott Frey at 4/14/2016 1:40:38 PM  0 Comments
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
7/22/2013 12:08:11 PM

Recharge: Why Change Stalls and What You Can Do About It

Jevon K. Powell, an organizational psychologist specializing in change management, presented this session on managing large-scale change.  Powell was introduced by Madeline Cohen, who is the Director of the U.S. Courts 10th Circuit Library. 

Powell discussed what can be done to help insure a change initiative succeeds.  He stressed that employee involvement in teh process is crucial, though the involvement should be carefully structured. He also discussed reasons why change can frequently stall in organizations, including change fatigue, poor communication and planning for change, and fear of the unknown.  Powell described the common stall points that arise during change initiatives, and offered useful levers for moving the initiative past the road blocks.  He also stressed the importance of having metrics that can measure the effectiveness of the change initiative.

Powell's primary argument was that change advocates must adopt a conceptual model, or "change road map," for implementing change management systematically, in order to overcome these obstacles.  He briefly described the different models that have been developed, then focused in depth on the Head-Heart-Hands model developed by Gibson and Billings.  This is the model that he relies on in his consulting work with organizations undergoing large-scale change.  This model employs a grid, centered around thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, to insure that an organization addresses all aspects of a change initiative.  The grid allows the change leader to identify every action necessary, so that no crucial aspects of change management are missed.  This struck me as a very commonsense approach, and one that would help the change leader to make sure they focus on each of these areas in managing a new project or initiative.

Powell's provided several useful handouts, the most effective of which showed a detailed view of the Head-Heart-Hands model.  Powell was very effective at using humor to maintain interest throughout the session.  He also encouraged questions and feedback from the audience, and had the audience walk through several exercises during the program.  These efforts kept the audience engaged througout the 90 minute session.

Posted By Douglas Southard at 7/22/2013 12:08:11 PM  0 Comments