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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.
1/19/2017 10:00:00 AM

DIGITAL EXTRA "Reference Desk: The Learning Curve" | AALL Spectrum | January/February 2016 | Volume 20, Number 3


Recommendations from the Leadership Development Committee | December 2015 

As a leader, you set goals for yourself and for others in order to meet organizational and departmental objectives. You are tasked with guiding your team to meet their goals in order to achieve overall success. When you have team members with varying skills, this can be challenging.
Setting realistic goals for your team members and empowering them to successfully achieve those goals will propel you forward in your organization and in your career. To learn more, here are some suggested articles about this topic:
To encourage all of us to think about leadership, the Leadership Development Committee highlights short articles in each issue of the monthly AALL E-newsletter and Education Update. Next month our focus will be on how effective leaders keep their team members engaged and challenged. Have a suggestion or request for a topic? Email Jennifer Ash.

Posted By Cara Schillinger at 1/19/2017 10:00:00 AM  0 Comments
12/3/2015 9:24:57 AM

News From North of the Border: Like to bake? Canada’s Supreme Court Okays Medical Marijuana Cookies

When we hear about the war on drugs, we tend to think about the forbidden substances themselves and not so much about the particular forms they might come in. But a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision, R v. Smith, 2015 SCC 34, centered around this very question: why should the possession and smoking of marijuana for medicinal purposes be legal, but the possession and eating of cookies containing a cannabis derivative--for medicinal purposes—be considered illegal?

The accused, Owen Edward Smith, was an employee of the Cannabis Buyers Club of Canada, located on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia. He himself was not a marijuana user, but part of his job involved the selling of dried marijuana as well as baked cookies and manufactured gel capsules, oils, topical patches, butters and lip balms. These all contained tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”), the main active compound in cannabis. Only individuals who had a bona fide medical condition could legally purchase them. Recipe books for other cannabis derivative foods and products were also available for sale through the Club.

The regulations under the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, S.C. 1996, c. 19 (“CDSA”) allowed for the medical use of “dried marihuana” (spelled with an “h”, as was customary in European statutes, including those of Britain and France). But the regulations seemed to permit only smoking of the substance, not the extraction of the active medicinal compounds from dried plant to make other products. As a result, Smith was charged in 2009 with the possession of THC for the purpose of trafficking contrary to s. 5(2) of the CDSA, and with possession of cannabis contrary to s. 4(1) of the CDSA.

The question before the court was whether individuals who were authorized to use medical marijuana were prohibited from using it any other way than by smoking it, and whether this restriction violated section 7 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter” is part of Canada’s Constitution, somewhat similar in content to the U.S. Bill of Rights). Section 7 reads “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

The trial court, after listening to a number of experts on the matter, concluded that some patients benefitted from being able to eat or apply the marijuana. Apparently it stayed in the system longer if used in some of those forms. The Court also noted that being restricted to smoking marijuana exposed patients to carcinogenic chemicals and could bring on or aggravate bronchial disorders. The prohibition, therefore, seemed contrary to section 7 of the Charter because sufferers did not have the liberty to decide how to administer a legally permitted medication. A majority of the Court of Appeal upheld the trial court decision citing broader health and safety issues.

Canada’s Supreme Court agreed with the courts below. In their view, the restriction did indeed violate section 7 of the Charter in that Mr. Smith’s liberty interest was at risk, given that he could be incarcerated if found guilty. Those liberty interests were also at stake for patients, since they were prevented from choosing amongst methods to consume the drug even if the prohibited method gave better results. As such, the Court declared that ss. 4 and 5 of the CDSA were of “no force and effect, to the extent that they prohibit a person with a medical authorization from possessing cannabis derivatives for medical purposes.” The decision was good news for medical marijuana users and bakers alike. Mr. Smith was happy, too--the Supreme Court affirmed his earlier acquittal.

Nancy McCormack, Librarian and Associate Professor, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Posted By Nancy McCormack at 12/3/2015 9:24:57 AM  0 Comments
11/24/2015 11:15:40 AM

Marketing Your Library: Thinking Outside the Box

“Marketing” is a ubiquitous term applied to almost anything. Market your brand. Market your name. Market your product. Market your library. “Market your library” sounds a bit odd – maybe because in academia we don’t think we need to market our library. We’re a firmly established part of the institution. We may change over time, but it’s unlikely we’ll disappear, and any “marketing” we do probably will not result in more funding from our parent institution. But marketing, even in academia, is important because it helps advertise the value we bring to our institutions. We’ve been talking about Marketing a lot over the past few years in presentations (e.g., “Twenty Dollars a Day: Marketing Your Library in Challenging Economic Times”, Marcia Dority Baker and Stefanie Pearlman, MAALL Annual Meeting, 2009) and in articles (e.g., “Tweet Treats”, 14 AALL Spectrum 18, 2009) and would like to revisit the topic and offer new suggestions.

Marketing is frequently associated with large outputs of money and long, highly strategized advertising campaigns. Are there ways to market without investing large sums of cash and placing high demands on your library’s time or space? Sure. At the Schmid Law Library we market our library in a number of relatively inexpensive – money, time and space – ways. Our marketing has helped us establish ourselves as an important part of our law school community.

We’d like to share some of our strategies. Borrowing from review services like Yelp and TripAdvisor, we’ll briefly outline what we do, then provide codes indicating how much money ($), library space (⌂), and staff time (·) was involved to help you decide if any of these activities could help you market your library. The codes relate as follows:

$0-25 ($)                                Very little space (⌂)                                                             Less than 1 hour (·)

$26-50 ($$)                            Foyer or room (⌂⌂)                                                              1-3 hours (··)

$51-100 ($$$)                       More than a room, less than a floor (⌂⌂⌂)                         Half a day (···)

$101-300 ($$$$)                   A floor (⌂⌂⌂⌂)                                                                     One day (····)

$301-??? ($$$$$)                 The entire library (⌂⌂⌂⌂⌂)                                                More than 1 day (·····)

Art Show

This year we used some blank wall space to host two art exhibits. The first show displayed faculty and staff work; the second the work of our law students. The initial cost was high since we invested in a good art hanging system. After that initial expense, the ongoing costs are relatively small and amount to staff time organizing each show and minimal printing costs. Specifically: email requests for art; collecting and hanging the art; printing labels and gallery guides; and advertising the show through emails and social media. We also spent more money with the first show by hosting an opening reception. We’ve given high money costs only because of the initial investment in the hanging system and the reception. A less expensive show could be hosted by using easels, display cases or other display options. CAVEAT: we have a relatively secure environment. If you are concerned about art theft or damage, you may want to display the works in secure areas or locked cabinets.

$$$$$  ⌂⌂  ··

 Roscoe Pound

We’re sure you’re wondering how Roscoe Pound and library marketing connect. Six degrees of Kevin Bacon anyone??  There are three fabulous busts of Nebraska alum Roscoe Pound: one at the Nebraska State Capital, one at Harvard Law School Library (Dean from 1916-1936), and one in the Schmid Law Library (Dean from 1903-1907). We have two traditions revolving around our bust of Dean Pound: (1) law students rub his nose for good luck, and (2) graduating classes, with varying degrees of participation, make “offerings” to him before finals. We’ve build upon both of those student oriented traditions by decorating the bust throughout the year to showcase events happening at the law school, at the university, or for holidays. The law school community enjoys seeing Roscoe decked out - in a mortar board and gown for example – and he is frequently photographed with students, especially when “dressed” for a specific occasion.

$  ⌂  .


We have a nice, large space in our basement occupied by three study tables. Because the space is open, relatively private and easily accessible, a group of students asked if they use it for a weekly yoga class during the academic year. The students explored other spaces in the law college and found the library basement to be the largest, quietest and perhaps most convenient for their purpose. With some trepidation about the impact the classes would have on studying, we gave the okay. It has been a positive experiment with no complaints. Each class runs approximately 90 minutes, and the students are great about returning the tables and chairs to the appropriate places after each class. This is “free” in the sense that our only output is space - no cost, no staff time, no advertising.


Community Coffees

We like to host community coffees once a semester. We purchase fruit, breakfast treats, coffee and tea. We set up a table in our foyer and “meet, greet and serve” students, faculty and staff until the food runs out – usually from around 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Our community truly enjoys the coffees, and we get many heartfelt “thank yous” – especially from those students who didn’t have time for breakfast. The cost of the food, the time getting the food, setting and cleaning up are the biggest “expenses” we incur.

$$$$  ⌂⌂  ···

Tweet Treats

During finals in the fall and spring, two of our librarians do “tweet treats” in the library. They promote library services via clues, hide a treat (usually a theater box of candy), and tweet the clue. The first student reading the tweet and figuring out the clue finds the treat. It’s a nice, inexpensive way to provide a study break for students during finals. It’s also had the added benefit of increasing the number of students following the law library on Twitter.

$  ⌂  .

Mini Golf

At the University of Nebraska College of Law we celebrate Mel Shinn Day every fall. A 5k “Race Judicata” memorializing Mel Shinn, a member of the class of 1966 who enjoyed athletics while in law school, is run annually. In addition to the race, we have an all school picnic and students can participate in a number of athletic events – the 5k, bowling, bocce ball, basketball. Approximately 10 years ago we decided to contribution to the festivities by hosting a 9-hole golf course in the library. Using packing materials accumulated during the year, old computer equipment, discarded books and a variety of other materials gathered from the library (or home), we set up nine uniquely themed holes. Initially we borrowed putters and balls from a local miniature golf course. Now, through the efforts of one of our librarians (who scoured local thrift stores), we have our own putters and golf balls. Although we did purchase golf pencils for scoring, all signage and score cards are created in house with supplies we have on hand. The course is set up the day before Mel Shinn, and we run “tee times” from approximately 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The course is a success each fall, and we frequently get requests to set it up at least once more during the year. The most “expensive” part of the event is the time involved setting up the course and taking it down.

$  ⌂⌂⌂⌂⌂  ·····


Like almost every other academic law library, we struggle to send our students out into the work world confident with their research skills. To help hone their skills, we host an all-day research review the Thursday or Friday after the last final in the spring, offering 45 or 60 minute legal research sessions. We advertise via email, create a LibGuide, and provide donuts and lunch (pizza for example) for participants. The feedback from the event is positive, and we like offering our students a research refresher before they begin work. The biggest costs are our time preparing the sessions, advertising the event, and the food.

$$$  ⌂⌂  ....

Orientation Bingo

One of the events we’ve experimented with in the past and hope to reintroduce is Orientation Bingo. Our Director learned of a version of this while visiting at Harvard Law School, and we’ve adapted for 1L orientation. We created Bingo cards using different library departments as the squares on the grid. Working from a picture of the bust of Roscoe Pound, our IT department printed nine differently colored stickers. Students fill their cards with a different colored sticker from each law library department. We solicit gift card donations from local businesses, and use those as prizes for the students; full bingo cards are deposited in a drawing to win those prizes. It’s a nice way to introduce ourselves to the students and promote local businesses.

$  ⌂⌂⌂⌂⌂  ..

The Great Pumpkin

The Great Pumpkin is legendary with our alums. It started with a simple orange, plastic Halloween pumpkin full of candy at the reference desk. It evolved into a tradition of a candy at the reference desk during various times throughout the year. Students get a sugar infusion and an opportunity to visit with the librarians. When the pumpkin is out, it’s decorated in a way befitting the time of the year: a bunny in spring; an “election hat” and “vote” sign during elections; earmuffs in January; a turkey close to Thanksgiving. It’s relatively inexpensive and a great way to encourage interaction between students and the librarians.

$  ⌂  .

Marketing your library and promoting your services can be done creatively on a budget. Each of these ideas came about because we wanted to try something new (art show) or be more involved in law school events (Mel Shinn; orientation). We hope our ideas inspire you to “market” your library in a different way. Let your creativity out. Get rid of those stale marking plans. Demonstrate the value your library provides to your institution.

Sandy Placzek (splaczek2@unl.edu) is a Professor of Law Library and the Associate Director at the Schmid Law Library, University of Nebraska College of Law, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Marcia L. Dority Baker (mdoritybaker@unl.edu) is an Associate Professor of Law Library and Access Services Librarian at the Schmid Law Library, University of Nebraska College of Law, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Posted By Marcia Dority Baker at 11/24/2015 11:15:40 AM  0 Comments