May 10, 2011
NOCALL Members Respond to Question: "How widespread is WestlawNext?"
21 law librarians representing firm, county and court libraries replied to the question Paul Lomio posed on the NOCALL listserv about WestlawNext use. Check out the results of his informal survey on Legal Research Plus. [JH]
O'Grady's Three Mythbusting Axioms on Cost Effective Legal Research Training
Jeffrey Brandt, editor of PinHawk Law Technology Daily Digest calls attention to a post published in my newest favorite law librarian blog, DLA Piper's Jean O'Grady's Dewey B Stragegic. O'Grady calls it like she sees it in each and every post she publishes. Take the damn RSS feed -- take it even if you are an academic law librarian because academic law libraries don't move the marketplace -- the private sector does. Take it if you are a public sector law librarian because we have much more in common with the private sector than the academic law library sector even if we don't have BigLaw's purchasing power.
Quoting Brandt's PinHawk Law Technology Daily Digest e-newsletter summary, which also covered other recent interesting developments:
Jean O'Grady has a great post at Dewey B Strategic. So good I will just quote her three axioms. "1) Cost effective research training is a hopeless exercise." "2) Cost effective legal research training is counter-productive." "3) Subscribing to the myth of cost effective research training keeps the focus off the true culprits and keeps us from demanding real solutions." Read more here and demand a solution: The Myth and the Madness of Cost Effective Lexis and Westlaw Research Training.
I couldn't resist adding Rees Morrison's quick post on the subject of worthless reports. He comes at it from the corporate law department perspective, but law firms have them too. In one of my old firms they were called 'Monday reports.' They justified their own high end printer in the accounting department. Hundreds of trees were killed to produce them. Hours of staff time to burst, staple and deliver them to the lawyers. And the majority went straight into the trash can. Read more here: Have you stopped sending reports that people have stopped reading?
We all have too many passwords, PINs and more to manage. Some people cope by using the same password everywhere. Others prefer the Post-It Note approach. Still others use password vault software (my approach), or use a cloud service. But what do you do if your cloud service gets compromised? According to The New York Times, LassPass, a cloud service for managing passwords thinks they got hacked. Read more here: Bits: Password Service Warns of Possible Hacking Attack
Thanks PinHawk. I did read more because I am way behind in reading my RSS feeds.
I agree with O'Grady's teaching cost-effective online search analysis with one caveat and completely agree with O'Grady's criticism of WEXIS pricing. Two snips:
Since most law firms have a unique menu of “included” content, unique pricing plans and unique billing policies for the identical content – academic librarians are faced with the impossible challenge of training students for a universe in which there is likely 100% inconsistency in the pricing and billing policies across the firms where they will be summer associates.
When Lexis and Westlaw deliver simplified and rational billing systems we could actually develop cost effective legal research methods and classes that could prepare associates to perform cost effective research while remaining focused on the real goal: delivering the best result to their client.
It is, as O'Grady writes "an impossible challege to instruct law schools on pricing and billing where there is 100% inconsistency." It is not, however, an impossible challenge to wean law students from suckling on the WEXIS nipple provided to them in the legal academy.
Teaching Cost Efficient WEXIS Training in the Legal Academy by Illustrations. While WEXIS reps could provide boilerplate licensing agreements to law students to study, does anyone expect that to happen?
Instead, grab a couple of well-redacted, even out-of-date, different private sector licensing agreements if you can obtain them for a class assignment in 1L LRW and ALR courses about the costs of "real world" online WEXIS research. The assignment:
- Perform an online search, where a research assignment requiring the use of primary and secondary sources is assigned;
- Instruct students to take step-by-steps notes of their research trail; and
- Then require the students to apply the cost structures under the terms of the provided Ks in writing.
Hopefully one can obtain WEXIS Ks that are structured to include pricing for access to out-of-plan databases. If academic law libraians can't obtain private sector WEXIS Ks because, well you know why, public sector WEXIS licences are available by federal FOIA and state open records act requests.
While I suggest that O'Grady's first axiom may need to be qualifed by the above so as to state "'Cost effective research training is a hopeless exercise but teaching students to analyze WEXIS Ks in law schools may be a teachable moment in very expensive online legal search." I completely agree with O'Grady's other two axioms:
Cost effective legal research training is counter-productive.
Subscribing to the myth of cost effective research training keeps the focus off the true culprits and keeps us from demanding real solutions.
Two CYAs. I don't republish an entire article or e-newsletter alert summary (etc.), since that may violate copyright in a commerical blog network like the Law Professor Blogs Network. So I hope my you-know-what is covered by mentioning that I've watched PinHawk since its launch several years ago, thinking it was a crap-shoot if it survived because selling ads was required. It has succeeded in garnering ads and expanding its daily e-mail alert topical offerings business model. Love the wacky Einstein-inspired law prof banner ads from Lexis!
Note to FTC, yes I receive free email alerts because LLB is and has been featured in relevant e-newsletters since the launch of Pinhawk. I find Pinhawk email alerts to be very useful. Am I grandfathered in because this was agreed upon long before the FTC blogger requirement? If not, a second CYA. [JH]
May 02, 2011
Still Time for Private Law Libraries to Contribute to Collection Rebalancing Survey for a New Resource Guide
It appears that private law librarians (one per instiutional buyer) still has time to respond to the survey on collection rebalancing for a new AALL resource guide. Check this link to the survey. All things considered, I think this is a very important survey, the findings of which hopefully will be widely available to all law librarians. The results could make for very interesting conversations at Philly 2011: Cream Cheese, Cheesesteak or Karaoke. [JH]
March 15, 2011
Calling All East Coast Private Law Librarians (And Others Attending AALL)
Last year's PLL Summit was, for me, the best programming in Denver. And quite a few other private law librarians agreed. So, I was eagerly anticipating this year's Summit and wondering what PLL had planned this year. The Summit is scheduled for Saturday July 23rd from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.
So, why calling all East Coast private law librarians? Because even if your firm won't pony up the cash to attend AALL, the PLL Summit is a low cost one day program close to home. Many can come in, attend the program, and go home the same day or stay over only one night. What does the program cost? $145 which includes breakfast, lunch, all the programs and handouts and a Friday night reception and an invitation to a Saturday evening party. Less than an AALL day long workshop!
In the morning one of the featured speakers is Jim Jones of Hildebrandt talking about law firm trends and how they will affect your library. The keynote speaker is Esther Dyson speaking about technology changes in business and libraries. Esther Dyson is a journalist and commentator on emerging digital technology as well as being a businesswomen and philanthropist. Kudos to Wolters Kluwer for the sponsorship that provided the means for PLL to get Esther Dyson.
In the afternoon there will be three tracks of programming focusing on skills in Library Administration, Research Services and Tech Services. Joelle Coachman of McKenna will be talking about integrating change in your library using social media. Joan Axelroth of Axelroth & Associates will be doing a session on project management. Sabrina Pacifici (Founder, Editor and Publisher of LLRX.com and BeSpacific will be talking about using social media in your library to keep both you and your lawyers current. There are also sessions planned on evaluating databases, social cataloging and trends in legal publishing.
For those coming in on Friday night, there will be an evening reception sponsored by BNA to kickoff the Summit. On Saturday evening Summit attendees will be invited to the annual Westlaw Business party (always one of my favorite social events at the Conference). Don't have any details yet on either of these events, stay tuned.
i urge all private law librarians on the East Coast (and not just library directors and managers) and all private law librarians planning to attend AALL to register and attend the PLL Summit. This one day Summit is jam packed with worthwhile programs and great networking opportunities. I hope to see you there!
January 13, 2011
Moving Beyond the Library Walls to Support Strategic Knowledge Management: A Not Just for Private Sector Law Librarians AALL Webinar; Registration Due by Feb. 10
Julie Bozzell, Chief Research and Knowledge Services Officer of the Information Resource Center, Hogan Lovells US LLP, and Toby Brown, Client Teams / Alternative Fees / KM Manager, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, will be conducting an AALL-sponsored webinar on KM as applied in law firm practice and the contributions law librarians can make in this increasingly important area. Greg Lambert, Library and Records Manager, King & Spalding, and Steve Lastres, Director of Library & Knowledge Resources, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, will be serving as moderators.
Moving Beyond the Library Walls to Support Strategic Knowledge Management
Date: Thursday, February 17, 2011
Time: 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM - Central Time (U.S. and Canada)
Cost: $45 for AALL members and $60 for non-members
Webinar details here, register here. Space is limited so you might want to register sooner rather than later for what offers to be a very interesting webinar and by that I mean, not just interesting to private sector law librarians. Registration must be completed by February 10, 2010 at 5:00 pm (CDT). [JH]
January 12, 2011
Initial Thoughts on a Plan to Restore FTC Oversight of Publisher Trade Practices
Bryan Carson has recently made a compelling case to reinstate a contemporary version of former FTC Guides for the Law Book Industry [Download Text of FTC Guidelines]. In fact, he suggests expanding reinstated guides to cover publishers in "medical and other fields that need current information." Expanded guides would therefore concern unfair business practices of publishers of legal, scientific, medical, and technical (LSMT) literature. Because such guides would not address excessive price increases for subscriptions and new purchases, Bryan also suggests that library associations seek an antitrust exemption. The exemption would allow them to leverage threats of boycotts against specific LSMT publishers that continue to gouge prices. While I favor all of these proposals, I will limit my comments to how "we" - a coalition of AALL, other library associations, and allied organizations - might engage the FTC to end unfair business practices of LSMT publishers.
How can interested parties form a coalition of library associations and organizations whose members buy LSMT publications and services? Obstacles abound. AALL and its Chapters require ethical and other reforms to more effectively protect consumers of legal publication, and so may other library associations to protect consumers of LSMT publication. Perhaps these internal reforms can wait, as activist members of the respective associations enlist sufficient support to form a coalition, with the reforms to follow as a consequence. At any rate, librarians and their allies can build a coalition, no matter how formidable the obstacles. So while I defer the question of coalition-building, I aim to prompt further discussion of all our options, not just the three that I am about to identify. Moreover, any library association can independently pursue one (or more) of the options, even if a coalition would raise the odds of success.
First, we can take actions independently of the FTC to prompt its own initiation of an investigation. The FTC may investigate industries (16 CFR §2.1), and individual businesses and persons (15 U.S.C. § 46(a)), for alleged violations of laws under its jurisdiction, including the prohibition of "unfair or deceptive acts or practices." (15 U.S.C. § 45(a)(1)) It may undertake these investigations to develop guides or rules, or to decide whether it has justification to pursue enforcement proceedings. The FTC initiated its own investigation of legal publishers as result of widely publicized findings of their unfair and deceptive practices. Prompted by Raymond Taylor's article, Law Book Consumers Need Protection, 55 A.B.A.J. 553 (1969), the FTC launched an investigation of legal publishers in 1969. (See Peter M.Kempel, New Guides for the Law Book Industry, 54 Mich. B.J. 938 (1975), cited by Kendall F. Svengalis, Legal Information Buyer's Guide & Reference Manual, 2008 ed., at 22, n.6.) The ABA, two state bar associations, and AALL also pursued investigations or made recommendations. The FTC then proposed "Guides for the Law Book Publishing Industry" (38 Fed. Reg. 5351 (1973)), and adopted the Guides two years later (40 Fed. Reg. 33436, as corrected, 40 Fed. Reg 36116 (1975)). [Download Text of FTC Guidelines] We could try to expand the precedent of Taylor and his supporters. We could pursue our own investigations of anti-consumer practices by LSMT publishers, using or creating consumer advocacy committees to review past complaints, receive new ones, and hold hearings. We could focus on practices common to the entire LSMT publishing industry, and report our findings in professional publications, blogs, and news outlets. We could even run a "rapid response" operation if LSMT publishers spread disinformation. We could thus create grounds for the FTC to initiate an investigation.
Second, under 16 CFR §2.1 and §2.2, we have a right to petition the FTC for an investigation. Under 16 CFR §2.1, we may also engage sympathetic members of Congress to request investigation on our behalf, at least if (at this stage) we do not also allege antitrust violations. (Either the House or the Senate may direct the FTC to investigate antitrust violations. See 15 U.S.C. § 46(d).) Our petition should specify the unfair and deceptive business practices common to LSMT publishers, and include a robust record of evidence. As Bryan and Greg Lambert (here) point out, an obvious example involves the requirement of non-disclosure clauses in our subscription contracts. Evidence would include an affidavit by James Tonna, Reed Elsevier's Vice President for Marketing and Sales in the Americas. He states that
"Elsevier representatives apply pricing formulae and methods which are not generally known (to our competitors or potential customers), which proprietary information reflects Elsevier's pricing/business methods and constitutes data unique to its products and services." (Affidavit, Elsevier Inc v. Washington State University, Case No. 09-2-00137-3 (Wash. Whitman County Super. Ct. Jun,. 11, 2009))
Third, to protect ourselves from unfair or deceptive acts or practices by LSMT publishers, we may petition the FTC for guides (16 CFR § 1.6) or trade practice rules (16 CFR § 1.9). A petition for guides must convince the agency that legal guidance on particular practices "would be beneficial in the public interest and would serve to bring about more widespread and equitable observance of laws administered by the Commission." Trade practice rules would give the FTC authority to regulate LSMT publishers in advertising, billing, shipping, selling, and producing their publications and services. We could ask the FTC to adopt a contemporary successor to the "Trade Practice Rules for the Subscription and Mail Order Book Publishing Industry," (rescinded, among 41 sets of trade practice rules, at 43 Fed. Reg. 44483 (1978)). A petition for such regulation would presumably have to show that guides would not suffice to achieve the protection consumers need. That standard raises a high bar, especially under present political circumstances. The FTC would face a powerful deterrent - the likely prospect of a Congress ready to impose a moratorium on such rulemaking, or to ban the rule altogether.
Of course, all of these options carry risks of failure. The first option strikes me as the least risky, and the third as riskiest. If we fail, we may embolden LSMT publishers to continue practices that have been so costly to their customers. But if we do not try, they will continue these practices anyhow.
Librarians have a proud tradition of defending their values. We have opposed censorship and surveillance provisions of the PATRIOT Act, supported openness and transparency in government, and promoted the availability and preservation of government documents. But we have not done enough, as consumer advocates, to confront challenges to other of our defining values. For we also value the widest public access to copyrighted publication, consistent with copyright compliance and costs related to publishers' competitive, and fair, business conduct. And we value the highest editorial standards of accuracy and currency. As Bryan has said, anti-consumer practices by legal publishers cost "lawyers, firms, and libraries hundreds of thousands of dollars every year," and the same may be said of similar practices by SMT publishers. In aggregate, such costs may annually reach millions of dollars, and over time they exact a heavy cumulative toll on public access. Consumers of LSMT publication also depend on rigorous editorial standards. Profit-driven departures from these standards, if widespread, cause them significant harm from reliance on defective products. By championing consumer advocacy, we champion our core values, whatever the risks of failure.
Guest post by Michael Ginsborg. Michael Ginsborg (email@example.com) has been a law librarian and AALL member since 1989.
January 12, 2011 in Academic Law Libraries, Administration, Collection Development, Current Affairs, Firm & Corporate Law Libraries, Government & Public Law Libraries, Library Associations, Publishing Industry | Permalink | Comments (2)
December 17, 2010
Outsourcing the Law Library in the Private Sector
In Outsourcing Legal Information, Karen Sawatzky wrote
I tend to live in the future. I think about what it will be like when I’ve paid off all my debts, how I’m going to celebrate a significant event coming up next year, and what my next job will look like. So last December, when the legal outsourcing firm Integreon announced the first “Shared Information Service”, or outsourced law library services, I was very intrigued.
That post resulted in an interview with Integreon's Vice President, Knowledge and Business Development Services, Eleanor Windsor. The results of the interview are published at Law library outsourcing. Ah ... perhaps required reading for Gen X and Gen Y private sector law librarians.
Well, at least this is one thing we aging and decrepit Boomer law librarians don't have to worry about as we muddle through the closing chapter of our professional careers. Back to the spreadsheets for institutional budgets and vendor annual price increases. [JH]
November 17, 2010
The Way I See It
I heard some shocking news about the West Librarian Relations team. Mark Schwartz's position as Director of the team was eliminated and it is my understanding that Mark has been given his walking papers. With Mark goes the heart and soul of West Librarian Relations. Following on the heels of that was news that four West Librarian Relations Managers were also given their walking papers. That leaves five Librarian Relations Managers plus Anne Ellis (Senior Director) and Lori Hedstrom (Marketing Manager).
I have known Mark Schwartz for many years. He is a consummate professional who succeeded in making the customer experience better. I could always count on Mark's assistance when I had a Westlaw problem. Nothing was not within the purview of his job and I know from others that when I called upon him for help he would often go from office to office in Eagan looking for and finding someone to solve the problem. I know Mark is held in very high regard by his Librarian Relations Managers and imagine they are devastated to lose Mark's invaluable guidance. I know I am. Mark, your presence at TR will be sorely missed by me and I suspect many others.
I am concerned about the fate of Librarian Relations at the big vendors. Last year TR cut one third of its team and LexisNexis also made huge cuts. The biggest ambassadors for TR and LexisNexis are its Librarian Relations team. They showcase products to librarians (who play a huge role in deciding whether these products should be purchased). They train librarians on the products, who then train the lawyers. They take feedback from the librarians on these products, which oftentimes results in improvements to the products. They act as troubleshooters when the librarians have a problem, often easily solving a problem that the librarian might have otherwise had to spend hours just finding the right person to go to.
So why is Librarian Relations being cut? I think it is economics. I think it's the fact that Librarian Relations team members don't directly make sales to the customers. But the truth of the matter is that they are making sales to the customers. You may not be able to directly point to a sale, but believe me, its Librarian Relations who makes me interested in a product and comfortable with a product. And it's the personal touch that does that. The visit, the phone call, the librarian showcases where we get to see the product and hear about it from Librarian Relations, ask questions, and network with other librarians about the product. I am a big believer in technology and the web ex but it is no replacement for the personal touch. So the way I see it is that TR and LexisNexis should invest in expanding Librarian Relations, not contracting it.
November 09, 2010
PLL Change as Opportunity Summit
As I have previously blogged, the PLL Summit will be held on Saturday, July 23, 2011 in Philadelphia. The theme of the Summit is Change as Opportunity. Plans for the Summit are proceeding quickly and the keynote speaker has been selected. PLL leadership has shared that Jim Jones, Senior Vice President and Co-Managing Director at Hildebrandt Baker Robbins will be our keynote speaker. I had the privilege of working with Jim on the AALL Hot Topic Program in 2009 and am very excited to hear him speak again. Jim will be sharing with us his insights on where the legal profession is headed, and the challenges and opportunities that exist for law librarians and how we can best position ourselves. Hildebrandt provides management consulting services to law firms and corporate law departments. This is a not to be missed program. Stay tuned for further details on the Summit.
There will also be a series of PLL webinars (held in concert with AALL) leading up to the Summit. The first webinar will be held on December 8, 2010 at noon ET. This webinar is entitled "What Law Firm Administrators Want Librarians to Know" and features as speakers the Executive Director and Director of Finance at Sterne Kessler, Goldstein & Fox P.L.L.C., Robert Burger and Thomas Annick, respectively along with Joan Axelroth who is a consultant/owner at Axelroth & Associates. They will discuss the administrative and financial issues that determine a law firm's success. The cost is $45 for members and $60 for non-members. To register for the Webinar go to: http://www.aallnet.org/calendar/eventdisplay.asp?eid=333&arc=no [CB]
September 22, 2010
Outcomes-Based Approaches to Articulating Library Value to External Audiences
The primary objective of ACRL's The Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report (September 2010) "is to provide academic librarians and institutional leaders with a clearer understanding of what research about the performance of academic libraries already exists and where gaps in this research occur. The report additionally identifies the most promising best practices and measures correlated to performance and represents a starting point to assist college, university and community college librarians in gathering evidence to tell the story of their libraries and promote dialogue on the value of the academic library in higher education." [Press Release] Report author Megan Oakleaf of the iSchool at Syracuse University and ACRL President Lisa Hinchliffe discuss the Report in a podcast available from this web page.
From the Executive Summary:
This report is intended to describe the current state of the research on community college, college, and university library value and suggest focus areas for future research. The report emphasizes library value within the context of overarching institutions. ... [T]his report includes significant research from other library types: school, public, and special (e.g., corporate, medical, law) libraries. The literature of school, public, and special libraries offers examples of numerous library value approaches and lessons learned from each. Academic libraries in universities, colleges, and community colleges would do well to learn from those experiences. Furthermore, because this report is focused on the articulation of library value to external audiences, this report does not emphasize measures of internal library processes such as input and output measures, external perceptions of quality, and satisfaction with library services. Internal, service quality, and satisfaction measures are of great utility to librarians who seek to manage library services and resources, but they may not resonate with institutional leaders as well as outcomes-based approaches.
The Report's Special Libraries Section. "Special libraries have found that they must demonstrate their value in terms meaningful to organizational management." Law librarians may find the Report's Special Libraries Section (pp 84-93) interesting. It provides a review of the literature on working with managers, economic and impact studies, and reporting results that communicate library value within the context of the institution's mission and outcomes.
Hat tip to Digital Koans. [JH]
September 20, 2010
Summer's Over, Time to Get Back to Work (Really?)
"September is a time of change—the more relaxed dress codes and slightly slower pace of summer have given way to the normal hustle and bustle of our workday lives." Quoting "From the Desk of," yup, our association president's latest message. What relaxed dress code? What slightly slower pace? What back to normal workday lives? I must have missed the memo. Does anyone look over these messages before they get published?
There are no relaxed dress codes in either the private or public sectors (well, maybe Fridays). The summer is the busiest season of the year in the private sector because those law librarians have to deal with the arrival of students who are summer associates and grads who are first year associates ill-prepared by the legal academy for the real world. Vacations? Well, if you call attending AALL a "vacation," perhaps.
The "normal hustle and bustle of our workday lives" does not change one iota for public sector law librarians during the summer. While one season of the year may not be busier than another, the government remains open for business. So if some public sector library staffers are taking vacations, others are pulling double duty to get the work done.
Oh wait, our president's statement may represent the rhythm of academic law library work from early May to early August. Students have migrated after taking their finals. Profs are more likely to be working on their next law review article at home or staring at a stack of ungraded exams behind closed office doors. A collective sigh of relief is heard in the law library because it's summertime, time, time, the living's easy. Or so it seems.
Yes, there is no denying the fact that particularly the public services staff are counting down the days to reading-and-exams weeks by early April. But most academic law librarians start the summer off gazing at their offices and wondering if the collective debris of the academic year can be cleared away before their 9-month long patrons return. Many do head off to take as much of their four weeks per year vacation as possible because the typical academic law library is too short staffed for vacations any other time of the year (expect during December and January). Some actually use the summer's opportunity to get more work done. They do not allow themselves to fall into the trap that there's nothing to do because there's no patrons in the law library. Those are the "keepers," the ones who are self-motivated.
Alas, for a minority, the pace does slow down, down to a crawl unless management has been paying attention and has come up with a to-do list of summer break projects. Of course, the same sort of "non-keepers" can also be found in the private and public sectors as well. It's just less likely to not be so seasonal because there is no decline in foot traffic, phone calls, emails, deadlines. In those sectors, catch-up time or to-do list managerial moments are occasional day-long events when courts are closed, not an entire season of the year.
I know this to be the case because between being a BigLaw firm librarian and a public sector law librarian, I was an academic law librarian. But one doesn't need have worked in all three major library sectors to know better than sending out this "summer's over, time to get back to work" message. It is, however, time to cue the music video (Janis but I doubt it's Jimi) for the "keepers" who have to put up with the "slightly slower pace of summer" notion that gives many the impression that academic law librarians just hang a "gone fishing" sign on their doors for three months of the year because "fish are jumping out and the cotton's so high." [JH]
September 14, 2010
AALL Petition for By-Law Amendments Regarding SIS Fees
Here is a petition asking AALL for a vote by distributed ballot (simple majority of those voting) to:
1. Increase the percentage of SIS fees given to each SIS to 80% (this allows AALL 20% as an administrative fee) and provides that it be paid quarterly instead of once a year.
2. Requires any changes to SIS fees be voted on by the members of AALL.
Why make this proposal? See my LLB post, Results of Law Librarian Blog SIS Fees Poll.
AALL requires original petition signatures. Only members in good standing may sign the petition.
Please feel free to pass this petition along. All signed petitions should be returned to me by snail mail at the below address.
Caren J. Biberman
Director of Library and Information Services
Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP
80 Pine Street, Room 1829
New York, NY 10005
September 08, 2010
PLL Summit II Coming to Philadelphia: Calling All Private Law Librarians
Exciting news! There will be an all day PLL Summit II in Philadelphia on Saturday, July 23, 2011. Stay tuned for information on theme, speakers and the webinars that will be held leading up to the summit. If you would like to volunteer to assist with the summit please contact Kate Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 18, 2010
Results of Law Librarian Blog SIS Fees Poll
We asked law librarians to weigh in on two questions with regard to Special Interest Section (SIS) fees.
1. Who should have the authority to increase SIS fees?
We had three answers to choose from and a total of 352 people weighed in on this question.
20% of the people answering said that the AALL Executive Board should continue to have the authority to increase SIS fees without the approval of members.
21% percent of the people answering said that a simple voting majority of AALL members as a whole should decide whether SIS fees should increase.
59% percent of the people answering said that whether to increase SIS fees should be left up to a vote of the individual SIS membership (by a simple voting majority).
2. To whom should your SIS fees go?
We had three answers to choose from and a total of 333 people weighed in on this question.
22% percent said that the status quo should remain with 50% going to AALL and 50% going to the SIS.
44% percent said that the amount going to the SIS should be increased to 80% and only 20% should go to AALL.
34% percent said the entire amount of the SIS fees should go to the SIS.
A few caveats first. I recognize that this is not a scientific poll and that we only had between 333 to 352 people answering each question. (Poll results displayed below) However, this is one of the largest responses the Law Librarian Blog has ever had to a poll so its clear that this issue resonates with its readers. Two, to those that would say this poll is without meaning I point to the AALL poll which, in part, led to the creation of the vendor liasion position. That poll had approximately 465 people responding.
As to the breakdown of the people responding. 31% percent said they were members of the Academic SIS. 16% percent said they were members of the State, County and Court SIS. And 51% percent said they were a member of the private law librarians SIS. When you look at the SIS membership figures the percentage of State, County and Court members responding is proportionate to their membership as compared to the other two SIS. However, as between the Academics and Private Law librarians the response rate is disproportionate. Approximately 9% more Academics should have responded and 9% less Private Law librarians should have responded.
So what does this tell us?
First, as to the breakdown I think it makes it crystal clear that this is a very important issue to private law librarians. Perhaps because some feel a disconnect between themselves and AALL and that their issues are not being addressed, Perhaps because PLL felt the need to do a pre-conference Summit in order to provide the type of programming needed by its members and had to charge $195 for librarians to attend. That is not to say that this issue wasn't important to state, county and court librarians (a proportionate number answered). Nor to say this issue isn't important to Academics (perhaps here it was the timing of the poll being in the summer when many are on vacation).
The poll indicates that a clear majority believe each SIS should determine whether its own fees should be increased by a simple voting majority of its members. There are issues with each SIS determining its own increases, I do recognize that and I invite readers to weigh in. But based on the poll results I do think its clear that SIS fees should not be raised by the AALL Executive Board without some form of member approval.
As to where the SIS fees should go? Only twenty two percent think the status quo is okay. So I think a clear indication that something needs to change. Thirty four percent say it should all go the SIS and forty four percent say it should go 80% to the SIS and 20% to AALL. I happen to think 80-20% is a reasonable compromise. It gives AALL something towards its administrative expenses in collecting the fees and other things it does on behalf of the SIS but still gives the SIS more dollars to be used for programming, grants, scholarships etc.
So where do we go from here?
I think a bylaw amendment proposal is in order. For those that feel change is necessary this gives you the opportunity to vote to effectuate that change. For those that feel no change is needed this also gives you the opportunity to vote against change.
I plan on drafting a petition for bylaw amendments.to be voted on by distributed ballot. In order for that to happen at least 5% of the Association members will need to sign the petition. If you would like to participate in the effort please contact me via email at email@example.com. The proposed bylaw amendments will be published on the Law Librarian Blog and readers will have an opportunity to comment before the petition is distributed.
July 23, 2010
Answering Sarah's Question--What is my goal with all these Blog posts?
In a comment to my blog post yesterday Sarah Glassmeyer wrote "Speaking of wondering, I have been wondering what your end goal is in writing your series of posts about AALL." She went on to say "But all of this information has been public for years. Why the surprise at it?"
It is true that much of what I am writing about is public information (e.g. where SIS dues go, the invitees to the Leadership Academy and Management Institute). But just because something is public information it does not necessarily follow that it is widely known. Many librarians expressed surprise at the fact that SIS fees go 50% to the SIS and 50% to AALL. So, what I am doing is publicizing this information to spread awareness among the librarian community. I want to start a dialog among librarians about the way their professional organization is operating. I personally think some changes are needed in order for us to thrive in the coming years. But that's my opinion and I am only one librarian. To accomplish change you need many librarians. And, of course, that means many different opinions as to what type of change and indeed if there should be any change in the first place.
Sarah also asked me if I wanted to have a private law librarian organization separate and apart from AALL. I understand why she would ask that since I am a private law librarian and most of what I have written about is from that viewpoint. But my answer to Sarah is an emphatic "no!" I think we need more collaboration between academic and firm librarians, not less. I think there are so many different opportunities for us to work together and make our profession stronger and better regarded. We have started a group in New York that aims to do just that and I hope to write more about that soon.
So my goal is very simple: start a dialog, contribute my ideas, and hope that some good comes from it.
July 02, 2010
Moving Forward? New Vendor Liaison Search.AALL President, Catherine Lemann, formally announced the resignation of the Vendor Liaison and stated:
"The Executive Board remains committed to moving forward, and we will announce details of a search for a new vendor liaison in the coming weeks."
Nothing like taking some time to re-evaluate and perhaps get feedback from the membership at the Annual Conference.
Resignation by Vendor Liaison
I received an email from an academic librarian informing me that "Marian [Parker] resigned the position a week ago and does not deserve your continued ire." My concerns about the Vendor Liaison were more about the position itself than the person filling it. With regard to the person in the position I simply quoted from what she had herself written in her report to the AALL Executive Board. It was done to make the point that what the AALL Board had done in creating this position was to eviscerate a committee that was held in high regard by the members of AALL. A fellow blogger reminded me that when you serve in an official AALL capacity there needs to be transparency and accountability. I am hoping that the AALL Executive Board takes a step back and re-evaluates this position.
July 01, 2010
Follow Up on the Composition of the Colloquium Committee
After I posted this morning I received some information on who has been appointed to the Colloquium Committee. If the information I received is correct then no CRIV members were indeed appointed. The composition is five vendor representatives (from BNA, Wolters Kluwer, LexisNexis, Thomson Reuters and Hein), Marian Parker, Steve Anderson from the Maryland State Law Library (Chair) and a court librarian, an academic librarian and a law firm librarian (from what I would class as a medium sized firm). So the big law librarians with considerable vendor budgets and issues are not represented on this committee.
June 28, 2010
Dream Big or Comments on "A "Modest Proposal on Programming at AALL" and the Report of the AALL Annual Meeting Review Special Committee
I read with great interest the recent blog post "A "Modest Proposal" on Programming at AALL". In that post Mark Gediman suggested that the PLL Summit be folded into the Annual Meeting. I agree that would be good. However, that was tried this year. The organizers of the Summit proposed it as an AALL Workshop. It was turned down by the Annual Meeting Program Committee. So it was organized as an independent preconference event. Despite the two extra hotel days, the additional time off from work and the $195 cost I, and almost 100 other PLL members, have chosen to attend the Summit. How many more would have attended if the Annual Meeting Program Committee would have made it a part of the conference? By the way, there is still time to sign up by contacting the PLL President, Kate Martin.
The PLL Special Interest Section ("PLL SIS") has 1445 members. We are the largest SIS. Yet many of our programs are rejected as official AALL programs and we are forced to schedule them as SIS programs in competition with other events and programs.
In the April 2010 AALL Spectrum, in a column entitled "A New Look at the AALL Annual Meeting", Catherine Lemann, President of AALL stated "I've asked the AMRSC to dream big and come up with ideas for ways to transform the meeting." Ms. Lemann also stated "We strive to provide educational programming that is relevant to particular audiences and programming that has universal appeal."
So did the Annual Meeting Review Special Committee ("AMRSC") dream big? NO!
Here is some of what they proposed regarding programming:
1. Annual Meeting Program Committee (AMPC) should remain as is with current charge and selection process.
2. Special interest sections should continue ranking their programs.
3. They endorsed the concept of identifying programs by "tracks" which should encompass the competencies of law librarianship.
4. Continue to allow and encourage un-conferences.
5. Make known existing options available re Special Interest Section programming including, but not limited to, the possibility of ticketed programs to help defray costs.
In other words, nothing is changing and if you want relevant and out of the box programming you have to go outside the AALL Conference to get it and/or you may have to pay extra for it.
I do like Mark Gediman's suggestion of a series of program tracks for each SIS with an extra track for cross-disciplinary programs. However, I am concerned that will lead to isolation from the other Special Interest Sections. I, for one, think we need more collaboration, not less. But if the joint programs were not scheduled against other programs it could work. I also reiterate my call to expand our focus to the world around us and not limit our programming to traditional skills. We really do need to dream big.
June 21, 2010
Some Thoughts on Programming at the AALL Conference
I'm Caren Biberman, the newest contributing editor to this Blog. I've been in the legal field for 30 years, first as a practicing attorney and then for the last 17 years as a law librarian. My first full time job as a law librarian was with AT&T. Then I moved on to various law firms in NJ and NY.
I am concerned and angry about the lack of respect for the law librarian profession and the many recent layoffs of colleagues. I agreed to blog so I can talk about issues relating to the profession that I and many of my colleagues feel are pressing. Today's post's subject is the programming at the upcoming AALL Conference.
At AT&T I attended the conference sporadically but for the last six or seven years I have faithfully attended. In the early years I sent justification emails to my boss. I listed each program I planned to attend with an explanation of why attending these programs would be good for my professional development and the company. I remember listing at least 8-10 programs.
This year when I registered I was hard pressed to find more than 2 or 3 that I wanted to attend when I saw programs like: Making Sense of the Federal Census?; Water Water Everywhere; After Hotel Rwanda & Welcome to Sarajevo: Preserving Trial Evidence & Documentation in a Multi Media Age; Hillmon's Bones: Solving a 19th Century Legal Mystery with 21st Century Research. And then there was Glass Half Full Explore Techniques for Putting Optimism to Work as a Management Tool in Difficult Times. Okay, I admit it, I am a born and bred pessimist. But in these challenging times I frankly think you need a whole lot more than optimism to get you through and that's what these programs should be focusing on.
I am not saying these programs aren't interesting. And I know I am infuriating some really great people who have worked hard on these programs. But too many of the programs appeal to a very small subset of the librarian population. Many programs seem to be repeats of programs done at prior conferences. We need to provide programming that focuses on the skills librarians need today. We need to do programs looking at the big picture and not just librarianship. We need to have new and more advanced programming for the members who come each year. Can we really afford to be spending time and our organizations' funds attending programs that don't directly have some tangible benefit? Not in these times.
Frankly, I gave up writing emails based on AALL's programming. Now I focus on the other valuable aspects of the conference. I set up 2-3 sit-downs with vendors to discuss issues that arose during the year. I troll the Exhibit Hall looking for new vendors and products that might be of interest to my firm. I network with other librarians. Fortunately, I work for a boss who finds value in these activities. Unfortunately, that's not the case for a lot of librarians. It is now much harder to get firms to pay for conferences. The lack of relevant programming is a major issue. Quite a few librarians have said the programming at the AALL Conference has declined in recent years and they too are lucky if they can find 2 to 3 programs to attend. Some have simply decided not to attend.
Having done so, I know it is very time intensive to put together a program and applaud all who do. But we need to scratch the programming model and start anew. PLL took steps on its own this year and created a day and one half Summit for private law librarians prior to the conference. It focuses on the business of law, change agency, staffing, etc. and features outside speakers including a law firm consultant, a business librarian and an analyst in the legal publishing arena. It provides a ray of light for law firm librarians. I have signed up for it, if you are a PLL member I hope you did as well.
If the PLL Summit lives up to its promise why go to the AALL Conference? Why not expand it and create our own conference? Well, I would miss out on the interaction with the academic and the state, county and court librarians. There is an untapped synergy among the groups and this is what we need to focus on in our programming--programs that appeal to more than just one type of law librarian and that encourage the groups to work together to keep our profession relevant. We should also reach out to speakers outside of the law librarian community to talk about issues of importance to large groups of law librarians.
We need to expand our focus to the world around us--the law firms, the law schools, the courts and the local governments and talk about the issues facing them. We need to have a clear understanding of what is happening in the organizations we support and be able to react so we become a highly regarded and sought after profession that is relevant to our organizations. Focusing on actual law librarian skills is just part of the story.
I don't pretend to have all the answers. And I do not believe we can do this alone. We need a educational programming professional to work with us. I ask all of you to reach out to AALL and voice your opinion (good or bad) on the programming. Sitting back and grumbling will change nothing.
The opinions expressed in this post are mine alone.