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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.
7/14/2014 11:55:21 AM

AALL Session Review: Deans and Directors Roundtable: Reinventing Law School Libraries for the Digital Age

Reinventing law schools for the digital age is a perpetual hot topic, and the panel put together by Richard Bales of Northern Ohio University took on various potentially tense topics head-on during this hour long session.  The Library Directors were forthright about their varied visions for law libraries and the challenges that they see in implementing these changes which would keep libraries vital.

Mike Chiorazzi of the University of Arizona was the first to speak, discussing mostly the contentious issue of library space. One well-put point that he had was that libraries have shifted from "libraries as space" to "libraries as service", meaning that space is at a premium and valued by everyone, including faculty.  Some solutions for valuable real estate that he suggested was leasing space in a different part of town or working with law firms (alums) that may be able to supply a space for a classroom, which would serve the dual purpose of reaching out to alums and giving the libraries some much-desired space.

Next, Emily Janoski-Haehlen from Valparaiso Law took on the topic of shifting staff responsibilities.  Technical Services, due to retirements, has largely been re-purposed towards more IT-friendly roles and more service-oriented goals as opposed to collection and other more traditional technical services. She also discussed cross-training and how it has made some of her staff more valuable to the law school, with an English major that is on the library staff now proof-reading law school announcements and IT being trained for work on Briefs databases and building an institutional repository.

Eric Young, from Nova Southeastern University, focused largely on e-books, but did add that his goal to have all of his staff be dual-degreed with an MLS and JD, since they are "on the front lines of a war, and these degrees are the ammunition". He also briefly discussed how he lets space go as long as he doesn't have a need for it.  He had an empty floor due to weeding and his thoughts were someone should take it since it was sitting empty and unused. The weeding was a result of moving towards an entirely digital book collection. With fewer check-ins, cataloging and traditional technical services, his technical services staff has gone from 9 staff four years ago to 3 presently. He advocates for e-books as he sees them as saving staff time, allows for lending to alumni more easily and also allows for rapid "just-in-time" acquisitions if a book is proving popular.  When asked about user preference for print, Young discussed how he believes that the money saved outweighs the user preference.  Young explained that faculty that want print books may change their mind if the money that it costs to catalog that book may mean less of a summer stipend for the faculty.

Mary Anne Neary, an associate director at Boston College spoke about staff and space concerns, noting how fortunate BC was in having a newer building that is flexible for spacing needs.  BC has not had a TS department for 9 years and has been combining TS and technological needs in it's wake. Upper level research and LRW classes are being taken over by librarians, which law students are appreciative of.  The bottom line is that team-work and working with other departments in the law school has allowed the library to stay flexible in the face of large-scale changes.

Barbara Bintliff from Texas spoke at length at how to show the values of libraries to deans and financial officers.  Libraries have long relied on surveys and quantitative measures, but that doesn't give the whole picture, of course.  One interesting suggestion to showcase library value was to employ "Return on Investment" (ROI), which qualifies various services in terms of dollars spent.  For example, a consortium in Australia found that it was returning $5.43 for every dollar spent on it.  This figure is very powerful, especially when financial officers see something that appears to be a more concrete dollar figure when determining the fate of library budgets. AALL is working with HBR consulting to develop practice and best-use tools for members to use to conduct their own ROI studies that will help customize a a description of worth to our bosses.  It will be available in late 2014 or early 2015.

Finally, Dean Vincent Rougeau of Boston College helped frame all these concerns and issues by explaining how deans see it.  The biggest takeaway was that deans are being told to do it all differently, and so they in turn pass that on to the library. Every other year or so, financial officers see the large budget for law libraries and wonder if the library really needs that amount.  Being able to argue for the library means having competent and professional librarians to back him up.  A keyword of his discussion was 'nimbleness', something law schools and law libraries aren't traditionally known for. Thinking ahead and trying to determine where the questions will arise is crucial and creativity in service and costs will be watchwords of the future.

The session provided great insight into what challenges library directors across the country are facing.  While the problems are not surprising, it was refreshing to hear frank talk about what solutions may work and the addition of Dean Rougeau provided extra useful help for librarians that want to keep the law library relevant further into the 21st century and beyond.   

Posted By Kris Turner at 7/14/2014 11:55:21 AM  0 Comments
7/8/2014 11:51:01 AM

Spring 2014 Issue of The ALL-SIS Newsletter Available Now

The Spring 2014 issue of The ALL-SIS Newsletter is available now!  Are you considering adding chat reference to your reference toolbox?  Then you may want to checkout Ingrid Mattson’s article “Chat Service in Academic Law Libraries.”  Curious about what other law libraries are doing?  Then read Ruth Levor’s “Great Ideas from the Halls of Academe.”  Want to know what ALL-SIS is doing at this year’s AALL Annual Meeting?  Leah Sandwell-Weiss has compiled a list of the ALL-SIS events, roundtables, and programs.  And, this is just a small sample of the information you’ll find in this issue!

Posted By Kristen Moore at 7/8/2014 11:51:01 AM  0 Comments
7/7/2014 9:09:00 AM

Book Review: The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government

The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government

by Philip K. Howard  W.W. Norton & Company 2014. Hardback. ISBN 978-0-393-08282-1. $23.95. 256 pages.

The Rule of Nobody challenges the reader to engage in reforming the American legal system to remove old and unneeded laws; streamline the regulatory and judicial review process; and return executive power to the presidency. Recommended for law firm libraries, law school libraries, and budget permitting in county law libraries too. Law firm librarians can prepare their attorneys to talk with clients about the problems and solutions described by Howard. Law faculty teaching administrative law or legislative process will surely use examples from the book. The Rule of Nobody urges reforms that will improve access to justice and so the public law library would do well to acquire it and encourage their users to read it.

Howard, founder and chair of the Common Good a non-partisan legal reform group, and a partner in the New York office of Covington & Burling, describes the many ways our legal system fails us, from sometimes seemingly endless environmental review to overly prescriptive limits instead of proscribed goals or behaviors and by failing to repeal outdated laws. He offers possible reforms in a  series of 18 propositions ranging from greater personal responsibility to proposing a Bill of Responsibilities -  five constitutional amendments requiring a regular, periodic review of almost all legislation and among others, establishing a “Council of Citizens” as “an oversight body on the workings of government.”

I learned of this book on The Daily Show where Jon Stewart interviewed him. When I checked the book out from one of my local public libraries I found Stewart quote on the book jacket: “Philip K. Howard has always struck me as an eminently reasonable, articulate advocate for commonsense solutions. No wonder no one listens to him.” I agree, Howard proposes commonsense solutions  - and he acknowledges the contributions of Covington’s library director Karen Schubart.

Posted By Mark Estes at 7/7/2014 9:09:00 AM  0 Comments