AALL Spectrum Blog

  • Bookmark and Share

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
11/24/2015 11:15:40 AM

Marketing Your Library: Thinking Outside the Box

“Marketing” is a ubiquitous term applied to almost anything. Market your brand. Market your name. Market your product. Market your library. “Market your library” sounds a bit odd – maybe because in academia we don’t think we need to market our library. We’re a firmly established part of the institution. We may change over time, but it’s unlikely we’ll disappear, and any “marketing” we do probably will not result in more funding from our parent institution. But marketing, even in academia, is important because it helps advertise the value we bring to our institutions. We’ve been talking about Marketing a lot over the past few years in presentations (e.g., “Twenty Dollars a Day: Marketing Your Library in Challenging Economic Times”, Marcia Dority Baker and Stefanie Pearlman, MAALL Annual Meeting, 2009) and in articles (e.g., “Tweet Treats”, 14 AALL Spectrum 18, 2009) and would like to revisit the topic and offer new suggestions.

Marketing is frequently associated with large outputs of money and long, highly strategized advertising campaigns. Are there ways to market without investing large sums of cash and placing high demands on your library’s time or space? Sure. At the Schmid Law Library we market our library in a number of relatively inexpensive – money, time and space – ways. Our marketing has helped us establish ourselves as an important part of our law school community.

We’d like to share some of our strategies. Borrowing from review services like Yelp and TripAdvisor, we’ll briefly outline what we do, then provide codes indicating how much money ($), library space (⌂), and staff time (·) was involved to help you decide if any of these activities could help you market your library. The codes relate as follows:

$0-25 ($)                                Very little space (⌂)                                                             Less than 1 hour (·)

$26-50 ($$)                            Foyer or room (⌂⌂)                                                              1-3 hours (··)

$51-100 ($$$)                       More than a room, less than a floor (⌂⌂⌂)                         Half a day (···)

$101-300 ($$$$)                   A floor (⌂⌂⌂⌂)                                                                     One day (····)

$301-??? ($$$$$)                 The entire library (⌂⌂⌂⌂⌂)                                                More than 1 day (·····)

Art Show

This year we used some blank wall space to host two art exhibits. The first show displayed faculty and staff work; the second the work of our law students. The initial cost was high since we invested in a good art hanging system. After that initial expense, the ongoing costs are relatively small and amount to staff time organizing each show and minimal printing costs. Specifically: email requests for art; collecting and hanging the art; printing labels and gallery guides; and advertising the show through emails and social media. We also spent more money with the first show by hosting an opening reception. We’ve given high money costs only because of the initial investment in the hanging system and the reception. A less expensive show could be hosted by using easels, display cases or other display options. CAVEAT: we have a relatively secure environment. If you are concerned about art theft or damage, you may want to display the works in secure areas or locked cabinets.

$$$$$  ⌂⌂  ··

 Roscoe Pound

We’re sure you’re wondering how Roscoe Pound and library marketing connect. Six degrees of Kevin Bacon anyone??  There are three fabulous busts of Nebraska alum Roscoe Pound: one at the Nebraska State Capital, one at Harvard Law School Library (Dean from 1916-1936), and one in the Schmid Law Library (Dean from 1903-1907). We have two traditions revolving around our bust of Dean Pound: (1) law students rub his nose for good luck, and (2) graduating classes, with varying degrees of participation, make “offerings” to him before finals. We’ve build upon both of those student oriented traditions by decorating the bust throughout the year to showcase events happening at the law school, at the university, or for holidays. The law school community enjoys seeing Roscoe decked out - in a mortar board and gown for example – and he is frequently photographed with students, especially when “dressed” for a specific occasion.

$  ⌂  .


We have a nice, large space in our basement occupied by three study tables. Because the space is open, relatively private and easily accessible, a group of students asked if they use it for a weekly yoga class during the academic year. The students explored other spaces in the law college and found the library basement to be the largest, quietest and perhaps most convenient for their purpose. With some trepidation about the impact the classes would have on studying, we gave the okay. It has been a positive experiment with no complaints. Each class runs approximately 90 minutes, and the students are great about returning the tables and chairs to the appropriate places after each class. This is “free” in the sense that our only output is space - no cost, no staff time, no advertising.


Community Coffees

We like to host community coffees once a semester. We purchase fruit, breakfast treats, coffee and tea. We set up a table in our foyer and “meet, greet and serve” students, faculty and staff until the food runs out – usually from around 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Our community truly enjoys the coffees, and we get many heartfelt “thank yous” – especially from those students who didn’t have time for breakfast. The cost of the food, the time getting the food, setting and cleaning up are the biggest “expenses” we incur.

$$$$  ⌂⌂  ···

Tweet Treats

During finals in the fall and spring, two of our librarians do “tweet treats” in the library. They promote library services via clues, hide a treat (usually a theater box of candy), and tweet the clue. The first student reading the tweet and figuring out the clue finds the treat. It’s a nice, inexpensive way to provide a study break for students during finals. It’s also had the added benefit of increasing the number of students following the law library on Twitter.

$  ⌂  .

Mini Golf

At the University of Nebraska College of Law we celebrate Mel Shinn Day every fall. A 5k “Race Judicata” memorializing Mel Shinn, a member of the class of 1966 who enjoyed athletics while in law school, is run annually. In addition to the race, we have an all school picnic and students can participate in a number of athletic events – the 5k, bowling, bocce ball, basketball. Approximately 10 years ago we decided to contribution to the festivities by hosting a 9-hole golf course in the library. Using packing materials accumulated during the year, old computer equipment, discarded books and a variety of other materials gathered from the library (or home), we set up nine uniquely themed holes. Initially we borrowed putters and balls from a local miniature golf course. Now, through the efforts of one of our librarians (who scoured local thrift stores), we have our own putters and golf balls. Although we did purchase golf pencils for scoring, all signage and score cards are created in house with supplies we have on hand. The course is set up the day before Mel Shinn, and we run “tee times” from approximately 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The course is a success each fall, and we frequently get requests to set it up at least once more during the year. The most “expensive” part of the event is the time involved setting up the course and taking it down.

$  ⌂⌂⌂⌂⌂  ·····


Like almost every other academic law library, we struggle to send our students out into the work world confident with their research skills. To help hone their skills, we host an all-day research review the Thursday or Friday after the last final in the spring, offering 45 or 60 minute legal research sessions. We advertise via email, create a LibGuide, and provide donuts and lunch (pizza for example) for participants. The feedback from the event is positive, and we like offering our students a research refresher before they begin work. The biggest costs are our time preparing the sessions, advertising the event, and the food.

$$$  ⌂⌂  ....

Orientation Bingo

One of the events we’ve experimented with in the past and hope to reintroduce is Orientation Bingo. Our Director learned of a version of this while visiting at Harvard Law School, and we’ve adapted for 1L orientation. We created Bingo cards using different library departments as the squares on the grid. Working from a picture of the bust of Roscoe Pound, our IT department printed nine differently colored stickers. Students fill their cards with a different colored sticker from each law library department. We solicit gift card donations from local businesses, and use those as prizes for the students; full bingo cards are deposited in a drawing to win those prizes. It’s a nice way to introduce ourselves to the students and promote local businesses.

$  ⌂⌂⌂⌂⌂  ..

The Great Pumpkin

The Great Pumpkin is legendary with our alums. It started with a simple orange, plastic Halloween pumpkin full of candy at the reference desk. It evolved into a tradition of a candy at the reference desk during various times throughout the year. Students get a sugar infusion and an opportunity to visit with the librarians. When the pumpkin is out, it’s decorated in a way befitting the time of the year: a bunny in spring; an “election hat” and “vote” sign during elections; earmuffs in January; a turkey close to Thanksgiving. It’s relatively inexpensive and a great way to encourage interaction between students and the librarians.

$  ⌂  .

Marketing your library and promoting your services can be done creatively on a budget. Each of these ideas came about because we wanted to try something new (art show) or be more involved in law school events (Mel Shinn; orientation). We hope our ideas inspire you to “market” your library in a different way. Let your creativity out. Get rid of those stale marking plans. Demonstrate the value your library provides to your institution.

Sandy Placzek (splaczek2@unl.edu) is a Professor of Law Library and the Associate Director at the Schmid Law Library, University of Nebraska College of Law, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Marcia L. Dority Baker (mdoritybaker@unl.edu) is an Associate Professor of Law Library and Access Services Librarian at the Schmid Law Library, University of Nebraska College of Law, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Posted By Marcia Dority Baker at 11/24/2015 11:15:40 AM  0 Comments
5/15/2015 10:20:07 AM

Library Outreach Inside the Building

Library Outreach. Does this phrase strike fear in your core? What does it mean? How does a library “outreach” and to whom? Like many academic law libraries, Schmid Law Library (University of Nebraska College of Law) strives to connect with our law students by building good relationships and providing a positive environment for the students during law school and beyond. This semester we’ve informally outreached to our law students via March Madness, National Library Week and research review for student’s working as summer clerks and associates. I’d like to share these programs as examples of successful library outreach opportunities inside the building. 


Law Review March Madness


This is a new program for Schmid Law Library; we borrowed the idea from Klutznik Law Library (Creighton Law School). On the library’s first floor is an under-used bulletin board. It’s been a personal goal to put up a display to improve the space – the “Law Review Madness” event was a perfect fit (and took up almost a month of display needs). Our promotion to the law school included:


Which Law Review will win?! Schmid Law Library is offering Law Review Madness 2015 during this season’s March Madness tournament. We’ll have brackets available on Monday afternoon at the circulation desk for those who want to play along. Completed brackets are due by noon on Wednesday, March 18th to the law library circulation desk. The grand prize is a Golden Ticket for all-day use of a study room of your choice AND bragging rights for winning the first Law Review Madness tourney hosted by Schmid Law Library.


We wanted the entire law school to participate even though students benefitted from winning an all-day use of a study-room. There were 15 total participants, including three faculty and staff. The bulletin board was a hit; many people were impressed with the large bracket and clever law review modification. For example, the Villanova team became the Villanova Law Review, as did Arkansas (Arkansas Law Review). If a March Madness team had a law review associated with the school, we modified the team name only.


National Library Week Celebration


Schmid Law Library hosts a community coffee for the law school each semester, usually on Halloween and Valentine’s Day. This year we decided to host the spring semester community coffee during National Library Week (April 13-17, 2015) to celebrate libraries and connect with our students, faculty and staff. The community coffee involves fruit, breakfast goodies and coffee or tea set up in the library foyer for a meet and greet event. To promote library services, we created a daily quiz highlighting a particular department; Monday was technical services, Tuesday was circulation, Wednesday was Inter-Library Loan (ILL) - even the IT department created a quiz! We gave away a prize box each day including; gift cards to local bookstore, giveaways from our vendors, and office supplies like highlighters. The prize box was a hit, especially with finals around the corner; food is always appreciated and we promoted library services in a creative format. The feedback we’ve received from students has been positive and the quiz winners were excited about the great prize box.




We’ve offered a daylong research event to our students the past four years. This is a refresher on basic legal research skills necessary for their summer jobs as clerks and associates. The training involves several sessions including: starting research tips, administrative law, Nebraska and Federal legislative history research, free and low-cost alternative legal research on the web, and practical tools and tips. The library provides donuts and coffee during the morning and a pizza lunch for students who pre-register. We use a LibGuide for each ResearchPalooza event; it includes the day’s agenda, links to relevant resources, the registration form to RSVP for the event (and lunch) and contact information for the librarians.


Outreach programming can be successful in the building! Fortunately we have a captured audience as our law students spend hours each day in the library. These events are valuable opportunities to continue building good relationships with our law school community by tweaking established programs (the community coffee), trying timely programming (Law Review Madness) and continuing to support our student’s professional careers (ResearchPalooza).



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 5/15/2015 10:20:07 AM  0 Comments