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.
10/1/2014 6:08:12 PM

A Rare Book Tour at the Law Library of Congress

On Monday, September 8, a small group of members from the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington DC visited the Law Library of Congress for a Rare Book event.  We were welcomed to the LLoC by one of our most prestigious members, David Mao, Law Librarian of Congress, and then we took a tour through time and history as Jim Martin, the Acting Rare Materials Curator, spoke on ten different items from their vast collection at the LLoC.  Everything from authentic signatures of our forefathers to margin doodles from the time of the Holy Roman Empire. 

After the talk, attendees were able to stay and discuss what they had seen, along with the upcoming events surrounding the
Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor exhibition.  If you ever find yourself in the Nation’s Capital, make sure a visit to the Law Library of Congress is on your agenda.

Blog post and photos submitted by Emily Florio and Alicia Pappas.

David Mao, Law Librarian of Congress welcoming LLSDC members

This is a Fourteenth century manuscript of the Institutes of Justinian.  Many pages include notes and doodles by students.

This is a collection of the laws passed by the first session of the first Federal Congress.  Note George Washington's signature.

Jim Martin, the Acting Rare Materials Curator talks to LLSDC members about one of the rare books in their collection.

Posted By Emily Florio at 10/1/2014 6:08:12 PM  1 Comments
9/29/2014 1:21:43 PM

So You're A Law Librarian...

“What do you do exactly?”

It’s a question I hear pretty regularly - every time I see a new doctor or talk to other parents at my daughter’s school functions. Many of you probably do too. In all fairness, it’s probably not a profession non-lawyers think much about, and I certainly don’t mind being asked. The trouble comes when I try to formulate an answer.

“Well, this month I taught a lot of legal research classes…” I begin.

“Oh, so you’re a teacher?”

Oops. “Um, no, not exactly...sometimes…”

But yes, I suppose we are - maybe not always in the traditional sense, unless we teach as faculty members. Still, many law librarians are teachers, every day, both in law schools and in private libraries. We help our patrons gain knowledge of legal materials, in print and online. We teach them how to be better researchers - how to ask the questions that get them to the answers they want and need.

We are also therapists, who listen sympathetically as students and young associates confess their confusion and bemoan the wasted hours, and reassure them that they aren’t alone in their struggles. We are researchers, delving into the farthest reaches of the Internet or the dustiest shelves, looking for everything from historical codes to non-binding decisions of immigration court judges. We are inventors, using new technologies to develop tools to guide and enhance the legal research process. We are critics, using our knowledge and experience to build collections of materials that anticipate the needs of our patrons without wasting dwindling budgets.

That’s just what I do as an academic reference librarian, without even touching on the many other roles librarians play within the wide variety of institutions and positions we hold. Sometimes it’s just easier to say, “Oh, it’s just a little of this and a little of that.”

Sara Gras

Reference Librarian

Georgetown University Law Center Library

Washington, DC


Posted By Sara Gras at 9/29/2014 1:21:43 PM  0 Comments
9/26/2014 10:39:26 AM

Learning Curve of Being a New Law Library Director

For many law librarians their career goal is be the director of their own library.  To be able to lead their librarians and staff in providing resources and services to their users.  There are many lessons that librarians pick up along their career paths that prepare them for being a director.  While in law and library school they learn the building blocks for the foundations of their careers; most of their leadership skills and knowledge they acquire along the way in the school of hard knocks as they pick up more and more responsibilities in their front line and middle manager roles.  Supervisors and mentors provide direction, as well.  But the reality is that we are never truly, fully prepared for the many unknowns when we take our first director position, or even second and third directorships.  One has to be flexible and ready to jump when new opportunities present themselves.

While my career had plenty of opportunities for learning how to teach faculty and students, as well as lawyers and pro se researchers, how to use new resources or explain library polices and services to these users, I never really had to justify a new resource or policy or service to a non-librarian.  Working with my directors and colleagues, when selecting resources or establishing policies and services, we shared vocabulary, understanding, and goals.  Fundamentals not necessarily understood by those outside libraries.

For most of 2013-14 academic year, I was the lone law librarian at UNT Dallas College of Law planning for the resources, policies and services, we would implement when the school opened in August 2014.  My dean is supportive and encouraging, trusting his assistant deans’ professionalism to get the jobs done (with an eye on the budget). Still questions from administrators and faculty about my plans, would stop me in my tracks.  To answer their questions, I had to take a step back and explain in building blocks what often librarians would easily understand.  One example, was explaining the administrative support needed for spending the library’s acquisitions budget of several hundred thousand dollars.  Paying library invoices require data entry into our LMS (to avoid double entry of invoices, inventory control, and data capture) and having a role in the parent institution’s management system to oversee the transfer of payment information. This accounts payable role usually has enough volume of work to be the primary assignment for a library paraprofessional and/or acquisitions librarian or one that bridges across several people in the library and the law school’s business office.  It is not an assignment that can be knocked out in some fraction of an employee’s time on top of other assignments.

My experiences this past year helped me grow and become a better director.  I appreciated the chance to rethink the personnel structure for my library and its connections outside the library.  I also took from this specific episode the lesson that new law school administrators coming out of the academic ranks have their own learning curves.

Edward T. Hart
Assistant Dean for Law Library
UNT Dallas College of Law

Posted By Edward Hart at 9/26/2014 10:39:26 AM  2 Comments