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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.
5/15/2015 7:48:39 AM

Up, Up and Away

Last Friday, May 8, I was lucky enough to have a great seat for the WWII-era plane flyover of the National Mall.  My office is in the part of Washington known as Penn Quarter, only a few blocks from the Natural History Museum, so I could go to the building rooftop and, with the help of binoculars that one of my attorney friends had the foresight to bring, I could not only see the planes, but could get a great up-close view of the markings on them.

It was a fun time; several of my colleagues came up to watch, and I was able to chat with both attorneys and staff that I might not otherwise see in the normal course of my workday.   One of the attorneys who came up is new to our office, and I hadn’t really gotten a chance to talk with her at any length.  Because we happened to be sitting next to each other, I was able to hear about her travels in her prior job, and to find out that she had attended Georgetown Law School when I was a reference librarian there.

My positive experience with the flyover has given me a new perspective on a change that’s coming to my work situation.  I’ll be moving out of the library and heading to an attorney floor.  I’ll still be the librarian, and the firm will still have a physical library; I just won’t be sitting in it.  The firm has rented out my office to a sub-tenant, so for lack of another office on that floor (the library is on 2; the attorneys are on 6-8), I’ll be leaving my collection and joining my patrons.

I confess, my first reaction to this move was, “What?  You’re not serious?  That makes no sense!”  I wasn’t sure exactly how I could do my job without ready access to my collection.  Not wanting to sound like I wasn’t a team player, I tried to put a good face on it, but in reality, my head was spinning:  How would I get my work done?  How would I handle the technical services aspects of my job (routing, check-in, shelving books)?  How would I know if a book was on the shelf or not if an attorney asked?  How would I do reference if my collection was an elevator ride away?

Of course, once I’d had some time to think it over, I realized a lot of my job I do in my office.  Most of my reference requests come over the phone or through email, and the few people that come to me in person can just come to a different office.  In fact, they’ll be happy that they don’t have to walk as far to find me!

The tasks that really require me to be handling materials I can do in the morning when I first arrive at work, before most of the attorneys are in need of reference assistance.  As for whether a book is on the shelf or not, well, that will be a bit of an inconvenience, but that’s not an everyday occurrence.

I’ve been paying attention to how often I really need to use the collection since I heard this news a few weeks ago, and it turns out, I mostly use online tools.  Don’t misunderstand me, I still like to page through sets like the U.S. Code or C.F.R. in paper, but I don’t need to do that terribly often.

I also took advantage of the move to clean out a lot of old files.  I smiled as I thought about the classes I’d taught five or ten years ago, but the materials went into the recycling bin all the same.  As it turns out, almost everything I need for that part of my life is online too!  I’m sure when moving day arrives, there will be plenty of boxes and books (not to mention knickknacks) to make the upward journey, but I’ll be flying with a lighter payload, to continue the plane analogy.

Perhaps most importantly, I’ll be much closer to my patrons.  Rather than having to wait for a big event to see people, I’ll run into them on a regular basis.  I’m hoping that this will allow me to be a more integrated part of their team, rather than someone they have to remember to call or email.

Once I’ve settled into my new digs, I’ll give you an update on how this new arrangement is working out.  Whether I’m flying high, or have crashed and burned, I’ll let you know my lessons learned.

For more information on the flyover, including photos and video clips, see this site: http://ww2flyover.org/.

©Susan Ryan, 2015, Librarian, Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, Washington, DC

Posted By Susan Ryan at 5/15/2015 7:48:39 AM  0 Comments
5/8/2015 5:16:57 PM

Recycling De-Selected Materials

Books on a Table Under Free Books SignWith another school year coming to a close many librarians are gearing up for those exciting summer projects that had to wait until a lull in activity after final exams. Libraries are facing increased pressure to slim down collections, thus librarians may find themselves engaged in the process of de-selection this summer. While few librarians take joy and pleasure in weeding collections, the exercise can have certain benefits to the library. Yet it raises a question, what do we do with all those discarded volumes? Few images are as upsetting to a librarian as books stacked in a dumpster headed to a landfill. But what are the alternatives?

  • The May 2008 Member to Member column offered a list of creative suggestions for what to do with undesired books, directed specifically toward law libraries. The lamp made out of law books and other things to do with law books are an unexpected and entertaining option.
  • The Prison Book Program requests donations of "legal dictionaries and basic criminal law" materials, though they cannot accept "legal journals and attorney-level legal reference" materials.
  • Sarah Penniman & Lisa McColl published an excellent article in the Library Journal entitled “Green Weeding: Promoting Ecofriendly Options for Library Discards” (Lexis Academic). This article contains suggestions for libraries including traditional methods such as book fairs, swaps, and donations to local organizations, sending books to Books for America, Books Through Bars, or Better World Books, and trading up through Bookmooch.
  • Discover Books is a service that takes books that libraries no longer want and then determines how the book might best be reused, sold, redistributed, or recycled as a last resort it if there is no other option. By taking charge of this process, Discover Books frees up staff time that librarians might otherwise spend finding books a new home.
  • Weeding on a small scale? At the University of Miami Law Library we have a freebies table (pictured above) near the reference desk. Try starting your own! The library’s discard may be someone else’s treasured new find. And who knows what interesting summer reading students might happen upon as they leave for summer break?

© AJ Blechner, 2015. Reference/Outreach Librarian, University of Miami Law Library, Coral Gables, Florida. ablechner@law.miami.edu.

Posted By AJ Blechner at 5/8/2015 5:16:57 PM  1 Comments
5/6/2015 4:53:29 PM

The May Issue of Spectrum - Featuring the Final Architecture Series - is available on AALLNET

The May 2015 issue of Spectrum is now available on AALLNET. You should receive your print copy in the mail soon. Please post any feedback you may have in the comments section below!

Posted By Ashley St. John at 5/6/2015 4:53:29 PM  0 Comments