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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.
7/28/2013 7:30:15 PM

Book Review: The Accidental Law Librarian

Anthony Aycock, The Accidental Law Librarian, (Medford, New Jersey: Information Today, Inc., 2013). 247 pages.  ISBN: 9781573874779. $39.50 (Paperback).

Anthony Aycock’s The Accidental Law Librarian fills a tall order.  In less than 250 pages, Aycock covers all the crucial aspects of law librarianship.  Drawing from both his personal experiences and those that he thinks up with his creative mind, he explains key concepts such as collection development, education in law librarianship, providing services to different patron types, and, of course, legal research.  Beyond that, he does this task with a wonderful sense of humor that keeps the reader hooked to his words.  He writes with equal portions of ease and hilarity and gives a refreshing take on topics than can be considered dry, such as loose-leaf filing or conducting a legislative history. 

The book is structured in ten chapters, starting with an introduction to legal publishing, the nature of law and a librarian’s role in finding it, and how to serve patrons (especially public patrons).  Aycock then digs deep into the bread and butter of law librarianship, legal research.  He provides clear and succinct descriptions of print and electronic searching and describes how to create a research plan.  He also mentions the two main research giants in the league, LexisNexis and Westlaw, but not overly so.  He spends an entire chapter focusing on other options which are supplemental or less costly.

Next, Aycock describes how to find public information for both individuals and companies.  He also explains the ins and outs of courthouse filings and briefs.  The last few chapters of the book take a different approach than most other guidebooks on law librarianship.  Aycock takes the time to mention how administration works in law libraries, focusing mainly on law firms and public libraries.  He also advises how to market library services by reaching out to other departments, hosting events, and providing specialized service that makes the name of the library memorable.

Finally, he closes the book with a discussion on the education and qualifications necessary for law librarianship, a list of resources for career development, and his two cents on the future of law libraries.  The final word on that: innovate, innovate, innovate!  In order to remain relevant, librarians must innovate the services they offer and the way they can be used.  Those open to the public need to reach out and actively engage their clientele by providing new services designed specifically for them.  For example, he mentions partnering with local or state bar associations to host events or provide training sessions for material use by public patrons. 

Aycock maintains that the book is geared toward those who do not have law degrees and find themselves, through some walk of life, working as a law librarian; typically, someone who makes their way through a law firm, as he personally did.  However, this book would be a good resource for any law librarian’s personal collection.  As well researched as it is written, the book contains a plethora of resources and can serve as a go-to guide for newcomer librarians in all law library settings.  It would serve as a great brush up and keep current tool for the more seasoned bunch. 

The take away gems of the book are the endnotes in every chapter and Appendix A.  The endnotes are packed with helpful resources in the form of books, articles, and links to online material.  They are great to peruse through during free time and for reference in a pinch.  In Appendix A, Aycock shares some of the many questions that he has been asked while working reference.  Along with this he provides some suggested answers.  His personal favorite is the time he was asked to find an episode of the soap opera Guiding Light from 1998 to use in a products liability case.  Mine is the time a patron came up to his desk and asked for a revised Nevada statute.  His response for how librarians should answer this question?  Read it to find out.  You will not be sorry you did.

Anupama Pal is the Reference and Government Documents Librarian at the Elon University School of Law Library.

Posted By Anupama Pal at 7/28/2013 7:30:15 PM  0 Comments
TOPICS: book reviews
7/26/2013 6:42:21 PM

Program Review: F6: When Cookie Cutter Services Won’t Cut It: Brainstorming Services for Public Patrons

: Barbara Fritschel Coordinator & Moderator, U.S. Courts Library; Stina Van Patten, Speaker, Public Law Library of King County; Joanne Dugan Colvin, Speaker, University of Baltimore Law Library;  Joan M. Bellistri, Speaker, Anne Arundel County Public Law Library.

Recommended highly for public law librarians and very valuable to all other librarians.

I went to this program hoping to get a couple of new ideas for improving services to public patrons. I also brought some wariness and skepticism about the effectiveness of brainstorming in a large group. I am pleased to report that Ileft the program with dozens of new ideas for providing services to public patrons, a new adjective phrase “individuals without attorneys,” and a used new rocking brainstorming tool.

You can read the ideas generated during the brainstorming session in the new member created community, “Services to the Public” on AALLNET, in the document library, http://community.aallnet.org/Communities/Resources/ViewDocument/?DocumentKey=6fb1fd5d-505c-4b48-86d2-b96ea2902d32 

Stina Van Patten from King County public law library gave a nice overview of the challenges involved with creating podcasts. A podcast of her presentation, “Wonder What it Takes to Produce a Podcast?” is available on the King County Law Library site http://www.kcll.org/podcasts/wonder-what-it-takes-produce-podcast . Time constraints did not permit her to go into great detail of the actual workflow of producing and editing a podcast. She did however include references to applications for editing podcasts, GarageBand and Audacity.

Joanne Colvin proposed that we take the individuals from where they are when we began teaching them legal research. Namely recognize and accept the widespread familiarity with Google, embrace Google as a starting point. Teach them how to do legal research on Google, how to evaluate sites, etc. Then instruct them how to use premium databases.

John Bellilstri described how her law library developed a lawyer in the library program for her county law library in Maryland. While this portion provided a good road map for starting a lawyer in the library program I had hoped for something about encouraging bundled legal services. 

Barbara Fritschel wrapped up the presentations with brainstorming using a tool brainwriting. Brainwriting is a quiet brainstorming exercise because only the timekeeper talks. Instead of everyone talking with a scribe recording the ideas, each person writes down three or more ideas on a sheet of paper. At the end of the three minutes the timekeeper tells everyone to stop writing and pass their sheet one person to the left. Then, each person is to add ideas to the new sheet of paper they have in front of them. The ideas can build from ideas on the sheet or can be the same ideas the individual wrote earlier. The timekeeper calls time after three minutes and the process repeats until either everyone has written on every piece of paper or the available time has elapsed. In this manner multiple ideas are collected on each sheet of paper from different individuals in a manner that doesn’t penalize individuals who are reluctant to speak in a group setting.

Note: this portion of the program worked because (1) the room was arranged with round tables instead of theater-style seating, (2) audience members complied with the request to move so that there were 7 people at each table, (3) there was blank sheets of paper at each table.

Instead of having each table report a couple of ideas, the audience agreed to give all their sheets to Barbara with their email addresses so that the work-product could be scanned and emailed to each of the audience members.

In an attempt to continue and build the discussion, I’ve created a member community, "Service to the Public," http://community.aallnet.org/Communities/ViewCommunities/CommunityDetails/?CommunityKey=158 where the documents are posted in the document library. Please visit and join the community, post suggestions and questions - and of course success stories or failures.

This program offered something for all types of law libraries: techniques for reaching their users, teaching legal research to new law clerks and associates, and working with the local bar association and public libraries or public law libraries to create a “lawyers in the library” program in their community.

Posted By Mark Estes at 7/26/2013 6:42:21 PM  0 Comments
7/26/2013 4:49:07 PM

Session Review: B6: Linked Data: The New Bibliographic Framework in the Post-MARC World

As a public services librarian who never took a cataloging course, this session was both interesting and a little intimidating. Fortunately, the speakers explained linked data in a way I could understand and even get excited about. Linked data is information that standardized in such a way that computers can connect bits of information that are distributed across a variety of databases. Linked data can be reused in ways other than for which the information was originally collected. With linked data, librarians could pull in additional information to augment catalog records and, since the data is standardized, search across more databases.

To make this possible, the Bibliographic Framework Initiative (BIBFRAME) is working develop a new model for catalog data so that the information in library catalogs can be used as linked data. This will require changes for catalogers and integrated library systems. The only shortcoming of this otherwise great session was that it appears BIBFRAME is not yet fully developed or supported by most ILSs. I think librarians should learn more about linked data and watch for future developments so they are prepared when it is time to take more concrete steps to realize linked data's potential. 

Posted By Benjamin Keele at 7/26/2013 4:49:07 PM  0 Comments