AALL Spectrum Blog

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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.
10/30/2014 8:53:32 AM

Knowledge Management

Knowledge management is a trending topic within the law library world. What exactly is knowledge management or KM? I would describe KM as the connection of your users to the right resources through use of a shared database where knowledge is used collaboratively among a particular community. According to Law Librarianship in the Digital Age, KM is: “The leveraging of the organization’s collective wisdom (know-how) by creating systems and processes to support and facilitate the identification, capture, dissemination and use of the organization’s knowledge to meet its business objectives” (Lastres & MacLeod 390).

Why does KM matter? KM is currently being used within law firms as a way of collecting and sharing knowledge. Sharing knowledge can help facilitate client relationships, collaboration among IT, marketing, attorneys, librarians and more. KM will also secure valuable information for the future as attorneys retire and pass down their forms, templates and experience to newer attorneys within their firm.

While KM can be highly useful, it does come with its own set of challenges. One of the hardest obstacles law firms need to overcome is attaining attorney buy-in. As we know, attorneys are busy and may not have the time needed to dedicate to knowledge management.

This presents a unique opportunity for librarians. Law librarians can use this as a chance to extend their services to include knowledge management. Currently, most firms engaging in KM are using SharePoint in order to develop collaboration sites for their various practice area teams. Librarians can become involved by creating research guides for attorneys to place on their site. This is another way of the library becoming a service and not a space, reaching their users in yet another platform. With this step into the KM door can come more opportunities for librarians, whether it be developing deeper relationships with attorneys who then might become comfortable asking for more help with research or other pieces of the KM puzzle.

Not only can KM be used within a law firm, but also within a law school or government law library. KM would be highly useful to implement at the reference desk in tracking statistics and previous questions and resources used in those interactions.  Therefore, while there may be a few obstacles to overcome in developing KM within your institution, the benefits and possibilities are endless.   

I am happy to share that I was hired as a Knowledge Management Analyst/Reference Librarian at a top law firm and have helped to develop a collaboration site for nearly every practice area team we have. It’s been a great experience and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for KM within our firm. 

Posted By Lindsey Carpino at 10/30/2014 8:53:32 AM  0 Comments
10/23/2014 2:26:48 PM

Librarian Is Just a Keyword

I’ve been reviewing my librarian responsibilities in preparation of my tenure and promotion file. Trying to explain what I do as the Access Services Librarian can be a challenge as I work in the Circulation, Reference and Information Technology (IT) departments. To visualize my activities for 2013-2014 Academic Year, I turned my annual report into a Wordle infograph or word cloud.

A few things jump out when looking at my job from this perspective. First, the “law” keyword or portion of being a law librarian is the biggest component of my position. This was a bit of a surprise to me as I’ve often thought myself a librarian, not a law librarian. The second large portion of my job is the “library” keyword, as my access services job title suggests. Or maybe, I should stop looking at all the departments I have responsibilities in and instead focus on the big picture – the Library. This is a good reminder that my job is to enhance the services provided by Schmid Law Library and that I’m one staff among a dozen that work towards this mission. Finally, an annual report should celebrate accomplishments. When I read the many keywords in this word cloud, I see the cool things I did this past year as a professional librarian and with colleagues in the field. This list includes the presentations and programs I gave; the scholarship that was published, projects completed, the conferences attended and the many people helped when using my library.

The big picture view is Schmid Law Library providing excellent service to our faculty members and students by supporting the teaching and research mission of the University of Nebraska College of Law. My contribution to that goal is helping connect people to the information they need. An annual report is more than a document recording service, outreach, teaching and scholarship. An annual report is a benchmark for what we do as librarians, demonstrating how our law libraries provide relevant support to the mission of the organization.


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 10/23/2014 2:26:48 PM  0 Comments
10/17/2014 6:32:33 PM

A Tale of Two (or More) Headings

On March 3, 2013, the following note appeared on the list for the Library of Congress’s Program for Cooperative Cataloging:

I would like to enter a plea that access points for treaties not be changed to the form presently called for by RDA.  Law librarians find the instruction in RDA (access points starting with the first-named government, including for multilateral treaties) to be unacceptable.  The American Association of Law Libraries is working on a proposal to revise RDA to produce better outcomes for treaties.  This proposal will be submitted to ALA’s CC:DA and hopefully forwarded to the Joint Steering Committee for RDA.  Meanwhile, existing authority records probably can’t be changed by machine processes, and it would be nice if NACO members avoided changing them manually until this is settled.

I apologize if that paragraph seems incomprehensible to non-catalogers -- the gist of it is that the new cataloging code we have all adopted, Resource Description & Access (RDA), instructed us to list treaties in our catalogs under the jurisdiction named first on whatever copy of the treaty the first institution to catalog it happened to have in their possession. This was deemed unacceptable because the order of governments listed on any given copy of a treaty is completely meaningless. A group of librarians from AALL’s Technical Services SIS was attempting to go through channels to address the problem.  In the meantime, catalogers should just leave the old AACR2 headings for treaties alone – and not convert them to the new RDA-approved headings.

RDA, for all its difficulties, has a number of strong points, and one of them is the idea that specialized groups of libraries would form communities to adapt RDA to deal with the kinds of materials that they know best, i.e. film librarians would join together to come up with templates for dealing with films, music librarians would be responsible for  figuring out how best RDA could deal with scores, and law librarians, through the American Association of Law Libraries, would figure out how best to deal with legal materials.

And that is exactly what happened. John Hostage, TS-SIS’s official representative to ALA's Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access (CC:DA), solicited input from TS-SIS members and others (chiefly members of FCIL-SIS). He then wrote a proposal calling for all treaties to be entered in a way that made sense -- under title.  He presented his proposal to CC:DA. They approved it, with some modifications, and forwarded it on to RDA’s Joint Steering Committee for Revision, and by April of 2014, RDA was changed. RDA now asks that we record the preferred title of a treaty under its official name. (Naturally, it’s slightly more complicated, but never mind about that!)

Of course, it was a huge amount of work for John and the librarians who helped him. But it was a success, both for the system, and for AALL, which is recognized as the organization that speaks nationally for the catalogers of legal materials. This same group of catalogers is now addressing questions from the Joint Steering Committee about what the word “jurisdiction” means to legal experts, as well as setting up templates for things like how much information about authors we want in our catalog records (i.e., do we want to include in our records the entire list of an author’s affiliations as they appear on title pages?)  Frankly, I think RDA is lucky to have such a dedicated and knowledgeable group as the law catalogers of AALL.

Posted By Christina Tarr at 10/17/2014 6:32:33 PM  1 Comments