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.
11/22/2015 2:35:10 PM

DIGITAL EXTRA “Shelf Life” | AALL Spectrum | November/December 2015 | Volume 20, Number 2

AALL Spectrum asked members:
What book influenced your management or leadership style?


Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times
by Donald T. Phillips (Warner Books, Inc.; Reprint edition, 1993)

It's an incredibly easy read but is very insightful, and contains examples on leadership techniques from Lincoln. I’ve recommended it to many people whom I've mentored, and I keep it close by for reference and inspiration.

—Kurt Mattson; President; Union Legal Research; Chandler, Arizona

The Buddha Walks Into the Office: A Guide to Livelihood for a New Generation 
by Lodro Rinzler (Shambala, 2014)

This book reminds me to be patient and compassionate throughout the day and mindful in my interactions with those around me. The strategies and tools Lodro offers help me to be present to my team and facilitate cooperation while we meet our goals and deal with change. It¹s helped me run meetings and supervise people and tasks by reminding me of how to really listen to those around me and be patient in the face of frustration. A great book for those hoping to foster a compassionate and empathetic workplace.

—Anna Lawless-Collins; Collection Development Librarian; Fineman and Pappas Law Libraries; Boston University School of Law; Boston, Massachusetts

Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager 
by Michael Lopp (Apress, 2012)

While librarians aren’t engineers, they share many of the same traits–an affinity for correct information, attention to detail, and deep passion about the things they care about. Managing Humans talked a lot about how to handle difficult conversations, how to run meetings, the importance of one-on-ones, and many other areas that have changed how I look at management. 

—Rebecca Rich; Senior Associate Director; Nova Southeastern University; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership 
by Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal (Jossey-Bass, 5th edition, 2013)

This book outlines four “frames” (structural, human resources, political, and symbolic) that underpin any organization. It influenced my leadership style by providing me with a conceptual framework to look at the big picture and shift my focus from individuals themselves to their fit in the organization as a whole.

—Diane Paszkowski; Legal Researcher; Crowley Fleck PLLP; Billings, Montan


A Civil Action
by Jonathan Harr

—Robert Brunn; Reference Librarian; Cook County Law Library; Chicago, Illinois

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind 
by Shunryu Suzuki (Shambhala, 2011)

From the text: “The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in its wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy.  To ignore them is not good; that is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them.”

—Kevin Coakley-Welch; Law Librarian; Executive Bureau Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General; Boston, Massachusetts

First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently 
by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman (Simon & Schuster)

This book first appeared on my radar in early 2000s. While a bit dated, a copy of it still remains in my home library.

 —Eric M. Kaufman; Assistant Director of Research & Knowledge Management Services; Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP; New York City, New York

Never Check E-Mail in the Morning
by Julie Morgenstern (Touchstone) 

Lots of good, practical  time management  tips. Her best tip, however,  is derived directly from the title of the book. I am a morning person and I start many mornings with good ideas and creative thoughts. But if I go immediately to my e-mail, it quickly begins to feel like I am bogged down in quicksand. I am no longer in charge of anything. “Once you begin opening your e-mail, you distract your brain with a million other issues. Once that happens, prolonged concentration on anything, critical or not, is nearly impossible.” Don’t let technology take away your time to think and apply yourself to higher-level tasks.

—Mark Mackler; Supervising Librarian; California Department of Justice Office of the Attorney General Law Library; San Francisco, California

The Functions of the Executive
by Chester Barnard (Harvard University Press, 1938)

While this book is dated, the wisdom Barnard conveys is an enduring blend of practical and theoretical. To me it is the high water mark for understanding how organizations really operate. I return to my copy frequently for refreshment.

—Paul McKenna; Dalhousie University; Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

The Least Dangerous Branch
by Alexander Bickel (Yale University Press)

The book that most influenced my management style was The Least Dangerous Branch by Alexander Bickel. After I read this for an Administrative Law class many years ago, I realized that the "passive virtues" he described for the Supreme Court could be applied to many of the management decisions one must make. Sometimes the issue presented is not yet ripe for a substantive decision that could have far-reaching consequences, and it would be best to resolve the issue in some more "passive" way that deals only with the instant dilemma. The same is true for many decisions presented to a library director. Rather than resolving a minor issue or staff conflict by establishing a major new policy for the entire library, it is sometimes better to wait for a clearer situation that would call for a new policy. A change in direction might be better accepted and seem more logical under other circumstances. So, not making a decision (cert denied) or deciding on grounds unique to that problem (deciding the case on narrow grounds) might be the best course of action in some situations.

—Scott B. Pagel; Director of the Law Library and Professor of Law; Jacob Burns Law Library; The George Washington University; Washington, D.C.

The Tipping Point 
by Malcolm Gladwell (Hachette Book Group USA, 2006)

The Tipping Point describes three types of leaders who play important roles in spreading ideas. I immediately identified with his description of mavens, who love deep dives into information. But his description of connectors and persuaders also rang true to me as equally necessary. Connectors’ large social networks enable them to bring the right mix of people together, and persuaders know how to package an idea so people will want to know more. The book motivated me to team up with and learn from people whose strengths are connecting and persuading, and to work on those leadership qualities in myself.

—Eve Ross; Assistant Librarian/Research Specialist; McNair Law Firm, P.A.; Columbia, South Carolina

Take the Stairs
by Roger Looyenga

Looyenga is a former CEO of Auto Owners Insurance which is based only a few miles from our library. He spoke at one of our in-services and was inspirational. I like his team effort approach to many things with the realization that as an individual you are a reflection of what your are doing even within the team. We all can affect change but must take the steps to do so. There is no easy way and taking the stairs always makes you a better person.

—Duane A. Strojny; Associate Dean for Library and Instructional Support; Western Michigan University - Thomas M. Cooley Law School; Lansing, Michigan

Working with Emotional Intelligence
by Daniel Goleman (Bantam)

Working with Emotional Intelligence has had the most impact on my varied experiences as a manager. Learning to teach myself to operate in emotionally intelligent ways in order to set an example for staff has proven to be challenging at times. It’s also helped me to focus on some of the “self-management” issues that I’ve had to face during emotionally charged times in workplaces. When I need to be reminded of the five sets of EQ skills that I need to refocus on in order  to help me function at a higher level, the book is always on my shelf, ready to consult.

—Bobbie (Roberta) Studwell; Associate Dean of Law Library & Information Services and Professor; Barry University School of Law Library; Orlando, Florida

Posted By Cara Schillinger at 11/22/2015 2:35:10 PM  0 Comments
10/11/2015 3:16:17 PM

A Review of "The Poetics of Information Overload" by Paul Stephens

Stephens, Paul. The Poetics of Information Overload. Univ. Minnesota Press, 240 pages, 25.00 (Paper). ISBN 978-0-8166-9441-9

You should not buy this book for your law library, but you may want to read this book if you enjoy the avant-garde.  I enjoy the avant-garde, but I picked up this book because I optimistically thought it may be of interest to librarians or copyright scholars. The book’s value for these fields is tenuous, at best, even though information overload is an important topic for librarians (i.e. patrons are constantly bombarded with an abundance of information in their research) and it discusses a literary field made distinct by its use of appropriation. The Poetics of Information Overload focuses on a number of works of American modernism, discussing how the authors of those works deal with information overload. While connected by the theme of information overload, the chapters felt disconnected and did not attempt to provide solutions.

Lack of “law” notwithstanding,* there are number of references to libraries and areas relevance to libraries, such as preserving history; it poses questions such as “what information needs to be stored,” however doesn’t attempt to answer them. For information professionals, then, this book’s value may be in how these references are presented. To see how those outside our field understand it. I found the tone of the work to be, at times, critical of libraries, perhaps because libraries, as stewards of information, reach into the past; the modernists, in contrast, wish to live in the moment. Where libraries are not directly critiqued, they are often by proxy, simply by alleging the profusion of information obstructs knowledge. Stephens points out that what frustrates the modernists is the abundance of history and that, with less and less places untapped by people, unique discovery is becoming a rarity.

In discussing Gertrude Stein, Stephens writes, “Stein was concerned that the expansion of organizational knowledge threatened individualism” (pg. 47). If this were true, libraries would be ironic institutions indeed. Stephens discusses how Stein wanted to create the sense of a continuous present in a reader’s minds. Relatedly, he shows how her works demonstrate the concept of attentive inattentiveness, or continuous partial attention—without focusing on anything, keeping tabs on everything—a more in depth exploration of this topic may have been of utility to librarians. Part of the job of the reference librarian is being interrupted, and I believe “continuous partial attention” is a skill vital to our success. Other concepts of interest are discussed, such as “infinite reading machines” (accessible to all, directly into the reader’s minds) and the futility of cataloging because of over information and the endlessness of cross-referencing, and these discussions might be of interest to information professionals, but I did not find that they were discussed in a meaningful way.

I found that the sixth chapter, “Vanguard Total Index: Conceptual Writing, Information Asymmetry, and the Data Glut,” contained the most relevant information for our field. It specifically concerned conceptual writing in the form of an index. Stephens writes that “restructuring and reframing aggregate data” raises questions regarding “privacy, authenticity, identity, and information asymmetry” (pg. 154). Indexes accumulate data as it comes, while containing its creators’ values and biases, and conceptual writing renews conversations on how we categorize. Summarized by Marjorie Perloff, “only by adopting the language of the library and the database—the language of facts, dates, historical ledger, map, dictionary, biographical entry, literary quotation—can the contemporary poet create what is paradoxically a new poetic sphere, citing Marjorie Perloff, Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 11. By collecting interesting excerpts such as this, Stephens is at his best as a bibliographer.

* Admittedly the law did pop its head a couple times in ways that may be of interest to those in the Law and Literature field. Stephens describes 1. a poem that uses a Montana Supreme Court opinion dealing with privacy to show that one cannot escape government and corporate data systems (pg. 171) and 2. Vanessa Place’s “Statement of Facts,” the work of a criminal appellate attorney who specializes in defending sex offenders, which raises questions about the objectivity of legal narratives (pg. 173).


Reviewed by Justin Abbasi, M.L.I.S. candidate at the University of Washington, Law Library Intern at the Gallagher Law Library, and Adjunct Law Librarian at the Seattle University Law Library.

Posted By Justin Abbasi at 10/11/2015 3:16:17 PM  0 Comments
10/7/2015 4:14:41 PM

AALL Lexis/Nexis Call for Papers!

Posted By Catherine Lemmer at 10/7/2015 4:14:41 PM  0 Comments