We Met in the Middle: A Review of ORALL’s Annual Meeting

orall-meeting-logoThough a faithful attendee at AALL’s Annual Meeting each summer, I had not immersed myself in the regional associations. So I was pleased to attend the Annual Meeting of the Ohio Regional Association of Law Libraries this month to experience programming and networking opportunities at a more local level. This year’s ORALL Annual Meeting was held in Columbus, Ohio, October 15-17, and attendees were privileged to attend programming and events at the Ohio Statehouse and the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center (home of the Ohio Supreme Court), both striking locations.

Day One

The opening dinner reception at the Statehouse featured the Honorable Charles Schneider of the Franklin County (Ohio) Court of Common Pleas. A long-time friend to county law libraries, Judge Schneider sits on the board of the Consortium of Ohio County Law Libraries. He spoke of the history of this consortium and the current endeavors and achievements of the Ohio county law libraries.

Day Two

The bulk of the programming occurred on October 16th. I first attended a session on Services to the Public. The panelists represented an academic law library (Chase College of Law), a county law library (Hamilton County), and the Ohio Supreme Court Law Library. The panel covered a variety of issues common to any law library that serves the public including where to draw the line on service to avoid the unauthorized practice of law; what facilities and materials are made available to the public; and what to do with aggressive or belligerent pro se patrons. I was interested to hear how many libraries – of all types – have panic buttons or code words to alert the police or colleagues of a troublesome patron. (Personally, I’m glad we don’t have a panic button at my library – I’d be liable to set that thing off accidentally!) Troublesome patrons are something that all libraries deal with, and having measures in place to handle the situation is a conversation all libraries need to have. I was also very interested to hear about the Hamilton County Law Library’s landing page on public access computers. They’ve created a web page of links to free legal research sites, the Ohio courts, and other sites popular for pro se research. This creates a quick reference research portal as the first thing patrons see when they open the web browser. Setting default home pages is easy enough, and for those of us with subscriptions to LibGuides or the like, it would be very easy to replicate that project for our own patrons.

While most programming for the conference was on a dual-track format, the second program of the day was stand-alone: Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict. At conferences, I usually focus on programs about teaching or technology, but practical, workplace-focused programs like this are beneficial to everyone. The speaker discussed common reactions to workplace conflict and how to properly address the situation.

Another stand-alone program at ORALL was the Cool Tools Café, familiar to attendees of AALL. Demonstrations included Excel/Millennium Mash-up, Zopim Chat Reference, Neota Logic, QR Codes, Ravel Law, iPad Productivity Apps, Canva, and LibGuides2 (which I presented – you can see my sample guide here).

The remainder of the day returned to the dual-track format. I attended a session on Teaching Legal Technology Courses, a curricular development that’s garnering a lot of steam in legal academia today. The speakers – from Northwestern Law and Valparaiso Law – gave practical advice and lessons learned from teaching and evolving this course at Valpo over the past few years.

Finally, I sat in on the second part of a two-part session on License Negotiation Strategy. The audience was divided into firm librarians, county law librarians, and academic law librarians. Each group was tasked to review a sample license agreement to pick out troublesome clauses and discuss strategies for negotiation on these points. This was an eye-opening session for everyone involved; we learned how license negotiation differs by type of library, and how license provisions and flexibility differ depending on your type of library.

Day Three

The final program I attended, on the 17th, discussed accommodations for students with disabilities in an online learning environment. Although we may not all be teaching online, these days, it is safe to say that the majority of us are at least using online learning management systems to post course content. This session offered a wealth of practical advice, tools, and simple changes that will benefit all students, including those with various disabilities. If you’re making any kind of content available online, patrons will benefit from these modifications, most of which take little extra effort on the librarian’s part.

Wrapping Up

Overall, ORALL offered an excellent slate of programming and local arrangements. Also, I noticed how much more interaction I had with firm and county law librarians than I do at AALL. Many of the programs were designed to apply to all types of law libraries or to have county, firm, and academic law librarians share experiences with each other. And of course, given the smaller size, I also got to know a greater variety of conference attendees as well.

As a newer law librarian, I am so glad to have attended ORALL, and I look forward to getting involved at the regional level. Regional associations are an excellent avenue for networking and leadership, and I look forward to seeing what programming awaits us next year at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne.

If you’d like to see more information about the programming at this year’s Annual Meeting, you can find it on the ORALL website.

Posted in Continuing Education, Issues in Law Librarianship, Issues in Librarianship (generally), Regional meetings | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Public Health and the Reference Desk

Statistically speaking, you are extremely unlikely to catch Ebola while working a reference shift. You’ve probably seen some version of a chart of things more likely to kill you than Ebola, which has become somewhat of an internet meme. These charts tend to include lots of potentially lethal things that people encounter regularly, such as bees or lightning. (As someone with an irrational fear of bees and an unduly-large-but-entirely-rational fear of lightning, I’m not sure I’m comforted.) In point of fact, you are much more likely to be killed crossing a street on your way to your reference shift than you are by catching Ebola Continue reading

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Cool Teaching Tools

I recently attended the Mid-America Association of Law Libraries (MAALL) Annual Meeting. As at most law library conferences these days, there was a program on cool technology tools that we could use in the office and classroom. Here are some that caught my attention this time around.


Move over Prezi — there is a new presentation program available. With emaze, you can seamlessly toggle back and forth between a multitude of media such as slides, videos, and in-class demonstrations. This is perfect for demonstrating your favorite online resource in your legal research course. When students go back to review your slides, they can also view recorded class content.


LibGuides are a library web publishing service offered through Springshare. This service provides its users with a platform for creating, managing, and publishing electronic research and resource guides. While this product may not be new to many, Springshare’s new LibGuides v2.0 may be! V2.0 offers more efficient searching, the LibAnswers widget, more user account restrictions, an improved line checker and tags, and other new features. Already have LibGuides v1.0? Good news! You will be able to migrate your v1 guides into v2. You can find out more about this process and more here: http://blog.springshare.com/2014/08/11/libguides-2-major-update/


What is i>clicker? It is a tool that allows instructors to interact with their students through a remote control. You can take attendance, take polls, quiz students, and facilitate discussion all through the click of a button. Instructors can also display the results instantaneously within their presentation. Students can also turn their smartphone or laptops into an i>clicker. This encourages students to become more involved in class without having to raise their hand.

Have you tried any of these cool tools in your classroom? Do you have any tips or feedback to share? Or do you know of other cool tools worth sharing? Let us know!

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The Pitfalls of Video Presentations – and a Suggestion for Avoiding Them

A traditional librarian duty is to create guides for students and other patrons.  As better technology has become available, libraries moved from paper booklets to online guides like LibGuides. To further assist in classes and training, especially in academic libraries, many librarians have created podcasts or videos. These are all effective ways to disseminate information and give guidance on resources to a wide variety of patrons, including those who cannot physically get to the library, but there have always been problems with services provided in this way as well.

There is a lot of advice about how to get the most out of research guides, as they may not be read or used as much as they should be, but one of the biggest concerns is that they have to be updated. Updating takes significant time and effort, and this problem has been Continue reading

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Working with non-law students from your university

For the last few months, the unique reference situation has been the norm. It started with some unexpected questions and has continued with an uptick in requests by non-law students from across our greater campus. While it is always our intent to help as much as possible, these students bring their own set of challenges and questions.

Where are they getting the referral to us?

At Emory Law, we have a research consultation request form on our website that we market to our law students. Although many of our student requests for assistance still come via the more traditional methods (in person at the reference desk or emailing a familiar librarian), we do see 5 – 7 requests via the consultation request form from law students per month. Recently, we have noticed an increase in requests-via-form from students across campus. While the form is not exactly buried on our website, the student would still have to search to find it.

We have learned from discussions with other librarians on campus that they are familiar with our system and are referring students to  the form for research questions. Some of these questions are clearly law related, while others only touch the edges of legal information. It is flattering to know we have a good reputation across campus and that we are known as the best resource for legal research questions.  But is there another issue?  Could we do more to help other librarians better handle these questions?  Our law librarians are quite adept at interdisciplinary research; could we help our colleagues become more comfortable with the basics of legal research?

How much do they know about what we are providing?

I am sure most of you have gotten the request for access to one of the password-protected databases from a non-law student and found a way to politely explain our licensing agreements, with the next paragraph in the discussion providing information on access to alternatives including the lite versions of Westlaw and Lexis. But even then, how much do non-law students know about what they are researching? A recurring request for us comes from graduate students needing federal court docket information for empirical research projects. After explaining the nuances of what is available, I often try to talk about what they will find within the dockets such as the myriad of motions, orders and other filings. But I can’t spend forever with them. Even with access to what they need, is there going to be real comprehension of what they find?

How much time can you allocate to them?

From the example above, you can imagine that these encounters can be time consuming. Non-law students are not our primary patrons,  but we still want to provide quality guidance. I have found that providing the basics and leaving the conversation open for additional email communication works well. It gets the student started, gives them a chance to work with the resources and materials, and then lets them know that they won’t be on their own if questions arise.

As we see interdisciplinary research become more common, these requests from non-law students will continue to increase. The students bring fascinating questions but also present their own logistical issues. We have our best practices for working with them – how does your library help your non-law student patrons?

Posted in Information Literacy, Issues in Law Librarianship, Patron Services, Reference Services, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

WGDLLE: The Hardest-Working Working Group You’ve (Maybe) Never Heard Of  

A couple of weeks ago, William Mitchell College of Law hosted the Working Group for Distance Learning in Legal Education (or WGDLLE, as we are currently and affectionately calling it) for its fall meeting. This is what the weather was like:

Fall in MN

Don’t you wish you had been here?

A rogue group of professors, educational technologists/instructional designers and academic law librarians, WGDLLE is an eclectic bunch, with the state of distance learning in legal education as their common thread. I should say, “you should check us out,” and, “we are an eclectic bunch,” as I am a member of the group, but I feel rather odd saying that, as I’ve only been at the last three meetings.

“Officially organized in November, 2011, the Working Group is an outgrowth of the Program for the Legal Profession’s Future Ed Series,” WGDLLE’s website informs us. Many of the members of the group work at law schools which offer online LL.M. or certificate-type programs. Others are experimenting with the limits Continue reading

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AALL Hackathon – July 2014

A guest contribution from Jenny Wondracek, RIPS-SIS Chair

At the AALL Annual Meeting this past July, RIPS-SIS joined together with GD-SIS, CS-SIS, and SR-SIS to sponsor the AALL Hackathon. The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) also provided much time, many ideas, and moral support in planning the hackathon, plus they gave us a web portal to post information about the hackathon and the datasets that we recommended.

What is a Hackathon?

At a Hackathon, people who are well versed in the public’s information needs get together with those who can program, build Continue reading

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