AALL Conferences lawlibrary Legal Technology

AALL Annual Meeting Roundup: WEB 2.0 and Pro Bono

I was able to highlight the library’s wiki as a co-presenter at the LISP sponsored program, “A Web 2.0 Collaboration: Mapping a Path for Pro Bono Partnerships.”  I created the AACPLL wiki in order to more easily share information on Pro Bono opportunities and referrals with the Anne Arundel Pro Bono Committee.  The wiki became a great place for providing links to information resources for attorney volunteers in the “Ask a Lawyer” program.  The wiki is also used in the administration of the “Ask a Lawyer” program.  Schedules, PR materials and a chart of pro bono statistics can be found there.  It has been used by the Pro Bono Committee to collaborate on press releases and committee goal statements.

My portion of the program concentrated on explaining just what a wiki is  (a collaborative, easy to use website) and how a wiki works.  The presentation slides and program handouts are available at this Google site:

Two private law librarians from Minnesota, Jennifer Doyle and Trudi Busch, demonstrated the Volunteer Librarians Coalition wiki.  This wiki was created to “to facilitate the access to information needed by the Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) attorneys in representing economically disadvantaged people with legal problems.”  It is truly a collaborative project with a group of law librarians managing the content for use by pro bono attorneys.  Librarians are able to provide research services and Westlaw access is also available for certain volunteer attorneys through the wiki.

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AALL Annual Meeting Roundup: Working With Public Libraries

Two programs at the meeting dealt with the role of public libraries in providing access to legal information: “Partnering with Pubic Libraries to Expand Services” and “Statutes, Cases and Codes, Oh My! Easing Public Librarians Down the Road to Legal Reference.”

Many states do not have an extensive system of court libraries and public libraries can fill the gap.  Where court law libraries are available, public libraries can supplement with additional hours and locations.

Marcia Koslov, of the Los Angeles Law Library, began the “Partnering” program by stating that law libraries are a  means of bridging the gap between the courts and public libraries.  Public libraries and court libraries can complement each other. Public libraries can make legal resources more available to the public with better hours and more locations and have an established user population.  Court law libraries have trained staff, access to extensive legal material and are located within or adjacent to the court building.

Court law libraries can expand service to the public by partnering with public libraries to provide collection support, online services and staff training for public libraries.  Public libraries, in turn,  can provide additional space and extended hours.  Understanding the legal system, legal materials and the difference between legal information and advice can be a challenge for public librarians.

Los Angeles has a model outreach program consisting of three parts:  an introduction to the courts, access to legal information which includes a “civics” lesson, and legal materials in the public library collection.

While there might be concerns that this model could lead to competition, it must be considered that the public library will not be able to provide the extensive law collection or staff expertise found in a court library.  This model of partnering will allow the public library to provide better service to patrons needing legal information.

Liz Reppe, of the Dakota Law Library in Minnesota, described the partnership between the public libraries and law libraries in Minnesota.  You can find law libraries embedded in public libraries there.  This model provides the advantage of having public library substitutes when the law librarian is out of the library.  Other ways in which libraries partner in Minnesota include attorney legal information sessions in public libraries, guides to legal resources on the Internet created by law librarians, self help terminals in public libraries and legal clinics.

Sara Galligan, of the Ramsey Law Library in Minnesota, presented information on grant opportunities that Minnesota has taken advantage of to fund partnerships between public and law libraries.  LSTA grants are a source of federal funds implemented by the State Librarian.  The Gates Foundation is another source mentioned.

The program, “Statutes, Cases…” provided examples of programs developed by law librarians for training public librarians in legal reference.

Brian Huffman, a law librarian in a Minnesota public library, spoke about the “Austin” Conference held earlier this year.  Teams representing states from across the country met in Austin, Texas to address the needs and methods of training public libraries in providing legal information to the public.  He shared a FAQ and template resulting from that conference that could be used by public librarians to develop materials for use in providing access to legal information.  He provided a link to the conference materials:  His overview of Minnesota efforts in developing materials for public libraries included MALL‘s resources, a MLA 2009 Handout, “Access to Justice for All: The Public Library’s Role,” and the Ramsey County Law Library Guide.  Other resources mentioned included a training program for public librarians that deals with the unauthorized practice of law, “What Public Librarians Can Do,” and a handout on the topic for patrons.

In Georgia, the ALLA offers a Legal Research Institute that provides training to public librarians.

Terrye Conroy, of the University of South Carolina Coleman Karesh Law Library, described  South Carolina as a very rural state without a state law library and only a few public law libraries.  Public libraries are needed to fill the gap.  The need for the training of public librarians called upon to provide legal reference service to the public is being addressed by the  Circuit Riders Outreach Program. South Carolina law librarians travel the state to deliver the program and provide the presentation materials online for reference.

Maryland is one of the states that sent a team to the Austin Conference. The team was made up of  Sarah Frush, a Legal Aid attorney who heads the Glen Burnie District Court Self Help Center, Julie Strange who administers Maryland’s Ask Us Now service and Cathy Ashby, the director of the Ruth Enlow Library of Garrett County.  They are now collaborating with the staff of the Maryland State Law Library to create a three part webinar on legal information for public librarians.

On a local level, I recently worked with Catherine McGuire of the Maryland State Law Library to present a program to Anne Arundel County public librarians on legal information.  Catherine provided an in depth overview of law and legal materials.  I was able to highlight resources and referrals  specific to Anne Arundel County.

As a result of meeting Wanda Wagner, the director of  the North Area County Library,  at this training we can now offer the “Ask a Lawyer” program in north county on a regular basis beginning  in January of 2011.  Without taking part in that training, the AACPLL would still be an unknown resource to many Anne Arundel County public librarians and it would not have been so easy to expand the program.  The public can only benefit from such partnerships.

AALL Conferences lawlibrary

AALL Annual Meeting Roundup: The Practical – Accounting and Reference Statistics

When the responsibility of library accounts transferred from the Clerk of the Court to the county’s finance department, I was exposed to a new way of talking about library finances.  I decided to attend the program, “Accounting: Prepare for  Your Future,” to get a better understanding of finance.  As a result I now have a better understanding of the vocabulary and some of the concepts.  Still, I am more than aware that I belong in the information world and not the world of accounting.

The program, “Lies, Damned Lies, and Reference Statistics: Maximizing Your Data Efficiency,” was more library practical.  Jennifer Behrens of Duke University provided a good overview of the hows and whys of collecting reference statistics.  Though she may have been speaking from an academic perspective, the information was useful for any type of law library.

A library might keep statistics because it is required or for use in decision making and planning.  Statistics can be collected in a variety of ways from simply making hash marks on a page, “the prison wall method,” for each transaction to recording every question and answer in a database.  Duke uses a form that records whether a transaction is in person, by phone, email or an appointment longer than ten minutes.  In addition, it is recorded whether the transaction involved faculty, students, other university, non-university or if is directional.  With the information collected in this way patterns can be seen over time as long as data is collected in a consistent manner.  The continuous recording of questions and answers can result in more qualitative data.  Collected reference data can become a database of reference questions.  This allows the library to track types of questions and make use of past transactions in aid in answering future reference questions.  A hybrid approach might combine the two methods.  All transactions could be logged with the more substantive questions recorded in a knowledge base.  Statistics can be collected daily or via sampling.  If using a sample to compile statistics it should be decided whether the sample period will be a week or a day and how often, weekly or monthly or some other regular time period.

Reference statistics can be used to evaluate the success of a reference transaction, to develop information packets for frequently ask questions or plan to staff the reference when use is higher.  No matter how a library collects reference statistics, it is important that the information is used.

The AACPLL has been recording all substantive reference transactions in an askSam database.  All questions are assigned a subject area and, for most, a category within the subject.  In addition, it is indicated if the question was initiated by a non-attorney, via phone or email.  We can use the database to help in answering repeat questions.  We can track the types of questions asked most often and by whom.  This information aids in making collection development decisions.

A record of the library’s questions can provide evidence of the value of a public court law library by illustrating the breadth or information provided by the library to meet the legal information needs of a variety of users.

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AALL Annual Meeting Roundup: Authentication and Preservation of Online Legal Material

“It’s all online.”  We hear that often in the law library here.  The problem is that it is not true.  The truth is that “it” comes and goes quite quickly.  What was online yesterday may not be there today.  Other problems with  “it’s all online” is that it is difficult to be sure that information found online is even a reliable source.

These are issues addressed in the program, “A Vision for the Future: Authenticated and Official Online Legal Resources.”  Mary Alice Baish, executive director of  AALL’s Government Relations Office, began the program by reviewing AALL’s vision: “to ensure equitable and permanent public access to authentic legal information.”  Through advocacy efforts AALL strives to “ensure the authentication and preservation of official digital legal resources” and AALL will advocate that government information must be in the public domain, and that information on government Web sites must be permanently available to the public at no charge.”  Mary Alice outlined components of a solution:  “Protect the official original as produced by the official publisher, without changing the file in any way and regardless of file type, protect the official copy made publicly available, and have easy an easy method for public to verify and warrant the chain of custody between the official original and the official copy, and have an easy for public to verify.”

Mary Alice reported that AALL State Working Groups are on the lookout for attempts to eliminate print and replace with online only without a means of authentication and for preservation for permanent public access.  These State Working Groups are taking on a large national project as well: the National Inventory of Primary Legal Information.  When completed information such as cost, copyright, official status, permanent public access, digital authentication and preservation will be known for all of the states, counties and municipalities in the U.S.

Handouts for the program included AALL issue briefs which contain more information on these topics of significance to AALL.  “AALL Leadership on the Authentication and Preservation of Online Legal Resources” and “AALL State Working Groups to Ensure Access to Electronic Legal Information” can be found at

The program included an update on the “2009-10 Updates to State-by- State Report of Online Legal Information” and the status of the draft of the Uniform State Law “Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials Act.”  (Since the meeting Joyce Janto reported in the July AALL E-Newsletter that the Committee of the Whole of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) accepted the draft on July 15.)

At the GD-SIS program, “FDLP Law Libraries in the 21st Century” I learned of the preservation efforts of the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group ( “to preserve our digital legal heritage for generations to come.”  Already they have found that as time progresses more URLs are disappearing at a great rate illustrating the urgency of this project.  It is comforting to  now that our Maryland State Law Library is a member of this preservation group and that the MSLL is preserving Maryland’s digital legal information.

AALL Conferences lawlibrary

AALL Annual Meeting Roundup: Summit News

It seems I have been traveling all summer.  I haven’t been home or in the law library.  Still, I am determined to finish my summary of  my AALL Annual Meeting experience.  As a I prepare for one more trip I am providing a link to the final edition of the Conference newspaper containing “Golden FCIL Nuggets from Denver” (on page 5).

AALL Conferences lawlibrary

AALL Roundup: The future of libraries and/or librarians discussed in keynote address

I know there are those who see the library only as a place where books are stored and that the librarian’s job is to  see that all of the books are shelved correctly.  And so, if  “everything is online” there is nothing left for the librarian to do.

In his keynote address, “Take a Right at the Obelisk,” David Lankes stated  that the future of librarianship is bright and that it is the librarian that makes the library.  He stated that  “the best days of librarianship are ahead of us.”

Lankes puts the emphasis on the librarian rather than the library and the books contained there.  He speaks of the mission of librarians which is “to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.”  Knowledge creation does not lie in books and materials or online resources in the library.  As information professionals, librarians must be active in the communities that they serve.  Librarians must know what its community is doing and how we can facilitate that endeavor.  Librarians cannot just sit at the information desk and wait for the next question to be asked.  Librarians must take an active role in their community and become a vital part of that community.

Lankes speaks of knowledge creation through conversation where we seek agreements as to facts or opinions.  Memory of these conversations allow us to not repeat the process in the future.  It is the librarian’s value and ability to create this  knowledge that will allow more information to make their communities better.

I highly recommend taking advantage of the link to David Lankes’ presentation to hear the entire address.  I found it energizing and challenging and of course, hopeful for the future of librarianship.

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AALL Roundup: Law Library Advocacy and the Value of a Public Law Library

My conference experience began even before the opening event Saturday evening with the Legislative Advocacy Training 2010: Raising the Bar in Your State on Saturday morning.  AALL’s Government Relations Office organized the training.  Participants came away with a good summary of AALL’s advocacy goals and efforts, the progress of the draft model NCCUSL law, Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials Act and were provided an opportunity to participate in one of two breakout sessions: Proving the Value of Public Law Libraries during the Recession and Beyond for an overview of the status of court libraries around the country and to brainstorm on the creation of tools needed  or AALL State Working Groups to discuss the activities of the working groups and the building of the national inventory of legal primary material.

Mary Alice Baish, Director of the GRO, reiterated AALL’s Strategic Directions 2010-2013 regarding advocacy: to promote the value of public law libraries, to ensure the authentication and preservation of official digital legal resources and that government information be in the public domain and that information on government websites be permanently available at no charge.  Mary Alice informed the group of the many tools available on the GRO website.  The AALL Advocacy Toolkit and Issue Briefs are great resources for members.  The toolkit now contains materials from the training session in addition to a host of material for Chapter Government Relations Committees including case studies and chapter letters used in advocacy campaigns.

In addition, members can keep informed about the issues important to AALL and law libraries through the Advocacy Listserv, the Washington Blawg and the monthly Washington E-Bulletin available on the webpage.

Keith Ann Stiverson provided an update on the NCCUSL draft uniform law, Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials Act.  Keith Ann as the AALL Observer to the Drafting Committee related how the committee adheres to strict standards in drafting uniform laws.  If all progresses as expected we might see a uniform law ready for states to adopt within the next year or two.  Having this uniform law to present to state lawmakers will be a welcome tool in our goal of ensuring the authentication and preservation of state legal materials.

The first breakout session, Proving the Value of Public Law Libraries during the Recession and Beyond, began with panelists from 4 different libraries reporting on issues and accomplishments in their states.

Laura Orr of the Washington County Law Library in Hillsboro, Oregon has been involved in dealing with numerous bills in the Oregon legislature that threatened Oregon county law library funding.  Laura offered some tips such as be ready with a 1,000 ways to educate,  create relationships with other organizations such as bar and library associations, know the opposition and stay ahead of the issue.  Laura has made her handouts for the session available on her website.  The handouts include examples of fact sheets and a list of what is not online used to distribute to legislators,  a list of sample reference questions and sample letters.  Larry Meyer, Director of the Law Library for San Bernardino County , related how California county law libraries blocked legislation that would have allowed the AOC to “sweep” law library funding.  (The whole story can be found in the Advocacy Toolkit case studies.)  Larry’s lessons for the group were to be on top of the issue and be ready to respond, have constant contact with legislators which the California Council of Law Libraries is able to do so with a lobbyist, and to make annual legislative visits  in order to have contacts at the ready when issues arise.  Jonathan Stock, retired Connecticut law librarian, worked with SNELLA this year to save four of six Connecticut law libraries that were to close due to budget problems.  This story can also be found in the Advocacy Toolkit case studies section.  Jonathan stressed the importance of building relationships and alliances.  Grace Holloway of the Gwinnett County Law Library reported how Georgia law libraries were able to have favorable legislation related to law library funding passed.

There was much discussion and sharing of information and strategies for law library advocacy during these presentations.  Ideas included exhibiting at the meetings of other professional associations, active public relations campaigns and providing CLE programs.  There were five topics that, as moderator, I hoped to cover in the discussions: the updating of the SCCLL publication, “The Value of a Public Law Library,” collecting data, online testimonials, building lasting alliances and sharing of grant opportunities and grant writing skills with the goal of developing new advocacy tools for public law libraries.  The Value of a Public Law Library, though written in 2004, still covers issues of significance. However, it might be worthwhile to update with some authors who are now active professionally as many of the contributors have retired.  It was suggested that testimonials be collected online or in person using a form.  Alliances can be built with bar and library associations.  Relationships with legislators should be developed.  Information on grant opportunities and how law libraries can take advantage of grant resources was suggested as a possible addition to the SCCLL website.  Although we may not have followed our outline, the session provided participants with a forum in which to discuss and share their advocacy stories and strategies.

The second breakout session, AALL State Working Groups, consisted of a panel discussion on the activities of some of the state working groups already formed.  Janet Camillo described the Maryland  group’s recent efforts to stop the Maryland Register to discontinue print and to publish it only as a non-sharable pdf  to be sent via email.  Emily Janoski-Haehlen reported on the work of the Kentucky Working Group.  The bulk of the session was devoted to the building of the national inventory of United States primary law materials.  A review of the State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources found on the AALL Authentication in the Digital Age page was recommended before beginning the state inventory work.  Other suggestions were to start small, recruit, prioritize and assign the work.  The target for completion of the inventory is the end of October.  Those that attended the inventory session came back enthused and ready to start work on this exciting national project.

All of the  legislative advocacy trainings offered at the AALL Annual meeting that I have attended over the years have always provided me with a wealth of information.  This year’s program was no exception.

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AALL Annual Meeting Roundup: My Experience

The Annual Meeting and Conference of the American Association of  Law Libraries (AALL) was held July 10 to July 13 in Denver.  I was fortunate to receive a grant from the LISP-SIS (Legal Information to the Public Special Interest Section) making the travel cost less burdensome as the court could not pay any travel expenses this year.    Attendance at the AALL annual meeting is a valuable experience that I felt worthwhile enough for me to still foot a large part of the bill for attendance.

The obvious benefit of attendance is the many educational programs but the meeting and getting to know other law librarians from across the country is invaluable as well.  The contacts made at this and past AALL conferences have come in handy here in Anne Arundel County and Maryland.  Most recently contacts made with librarians in other states have helped in the creation of our “Ask a Lawyer in the Law Library” program.  The Conference of Maryland Court Law Library Directors was created after following the example of other states with the input of the librarians involved.

Now that I have returned to work after taking some additional personal time  I will report on my experience in Denver over the next few days.