On the last day of the conference I attended a program, “Court Technology on a Tight Budget,” in the CLCT or the Center for Legal Court Technology, formerly Courtroom 21, courtroom. A technologically equipped courtroom was on the stage while Martin E. Gruen, Deputy Director of CLCT, provided advice on meeting the constant demand for new technology with a limited budget. It is important to plan and evaluate the plan. Some considerations would be to make sure that the need is understood and that the results will be achieved. He then illustrated acquisitions of evidence presentation equipment as an example.
“New Horizons: Cloud Computing” defined “the cloud” and discussed the benefits and risks of cloud computing. There is no way to avoid the cloud as it is the “new normal.” Thomas Kooy,Vice President, Product Development, PDSG/OpenCDX thought the definition to be “nebulous'” but settled on “democratized distributed computing.” In the cloud can be found SaaS or Software as Service, PaaS or Platform as Service, and IaaS, Infrastructure as Service. The term “cloud” was said to come from IT architecture drawings that would depict these services as a cloud. The benefits include the ability to get something big with little management resources. Alan Carlson, Chief Executive Officer, Orange County Superior Court, began with outlining considerations that must be made before going to the cloud: performance, safety and access. Timely access, response time and pricing all have an effect on performance. Safety concerns are loss of data and backup abilities, corruption and hacking, location of the data (i.e., are there laws that require it be in the state or country?), and access to data when the contract ends. Access concerns include will the provider expect to share the data, who controls the discarded data and the consideration that third party management of data could lead to the data being subpoenaed. Iveta Toplova, Architect, Microsoft and a member of the IJIS Institute Technical Advisory Committee, stressed that standards for the cloud are critical for security, portability and interoperability.
With the cloud IT can shift focus from the physical maintenance to business services. This statement lead me to the next program, “Transitioning from an IT Shop to a Technology Services Shop.” In this program I almost felt as though I was spying on the IT world. Here the speakers spoke of the trials and tribulations of the IT department in the way that librarians might talk about problem patrons. It was good to get some insight to issues of concern to the IT profession. They spoke of the problem of being considered the place for the answers on the workings of anything with a cord or wire. The computerization of so many building functions has even led to IT controlling HVAC systems. But I still found that their concerns were still much the same as those of the librarian profession and, I am sure, most other professions. The importance of establishing policies and procedures to define the scope of IT was stressed. They discussed strategic planning, core competencies, quality and customer service.
Overall, I saw a common thread in the programs I attended. The same question was asked: What effect will the introduction of new technology have on existing court departments? What will happen to employees in the clerk’s office when there is no more paper to process? What will IT do when everything moves to the cloud? Questions not unlike, “who needs a library when everything is online?” And just as the introduction of online legal material has not meant the end of the law library, e-filing will not eliminate the need for the clerk’s office or the move to the cloud will not eliminate the need for IT. The function of law libraries, the clerk’s office and IT are not changing but the how and what of those departments is. Clerk’s will still manage filing but through an e-filing system. One speaker suggested that the clerk of the future may require more skills than before. The programs I attended on the cloud and IT suggested that IT would have fewer physical “boxes” to maintain and would be able to concentrate on service. As a law librarian of over 30 years, I have experienced the changes that technology has brought to the library world. Still the function of the library in providing access to legal information has remained the same. There are just more ways to access and deliver that legal information. Librarians are still essential in getting to the needed legal information no matter what the format. Technology may be the key in the ability of courts to do more with less as the economy is insisting.
I would recommend the Court Technology Conference to all those involved in the workings of the courts especially to other law librarians. I can say that I was able to find programs of interest to me in terms of the law library and in terms of learning more about other court functions. CTC2013 will be held in Baltimore, September 17 – 19, and I look forward to seeing everyone there.