Knowledge Management within an Academic Setting

Knowledge management or KM is a trending topic within the law library world. While KM is typically implemented within a law firm, it can also be used within a law school or government law library. How can we apply this topic as academic librarians? First, let me start off by describing KM. KM is a sharing of knowledge through the use of a database. According to Law Librarianship in the Digital Age, KM is: “The leveraging of the organization’s collective wisdom (know-how) by creating systems and processes to support and facilitate the identification, capture, dissemination and use of the organization’s knowledge to meet its business objectives.” Stephen A. Lastres & Don MacLeod, “Knowledge Management,” in Law Librarianship in the Digital Age (Ellyssa Kroski, ed., 2014), at 390.

Most of us are already engaging in knowledge management without even knowing it. We currently track our reference statistics either manually or electronically. We gather this knowledge in an effort to see how we can better assist our users. Through this collection of knowledge, we can determine patterns and commonalities. We learn from these interactions and determine what we can improve upon.

Additionally, this tracking is used by the reference staff in learning how their colleagues answered challenging research questions. What resources did they use? What were the steps that they took? We then digest these steps and think about the ways in which we might have answered this request. We use this information in any effort to learn from each other and gather more “tools” for our tool belt to better assist the next user. Through this reference tracking, we are creating a knowledge management database for the library. Perhaps we can think of ways of sharing this information outside of the library. For example, we could turn these statistics and common questions into a helpful LibGuide for our users.

LibGuides are another way we are currently sharing knowledge. Many of us create guides based on common issues or topics of the law in which are users (students/faculty) will actively engage. This is a database of knowledge based upon our expertise. Plus, this is another way the library becomes a service rather than a space, reaching our users through yet another platform.

The benefits and possibilities of KM are endless. I look forward to seeing all of the ways we use knowledge management within an academic setting. This is a unique opportunity for us to share useful information with our users in an effort to better meet their growing needs.

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Dual (but not Dueling) Roles

This week has prompted me to consider my role in the law school. Librarians occupy different roles in different schools: faculty in some, faculty of the attached university in some, staff in others. Why was I thinking about this? Because I have been teaching as an adjunct for the last two semesters within the law school – and not as an adjunct teaching research. One semester was a legal writing course, but one was a substantive law class with an exam (I still put in some research). Teaching these different subjects has altered my role in the school in various ways – some of them great, some of them less great but interesting nonetheless. Various stakeholders responded in different ways to my teaching as an adjunct, and I learned several things from each part of the school.

Full-time faculty were happy for me. Several congratulated me on the accomplishment of teaching a class. It was an interesting viewpoint. They clearly thought that I was using my librarian position to try to work my way I into a law professor job. Tactfully explaining that being a doctrinal law professor was not my goal gave me a great opportunity to explain my passion for research and excitement about being a librarian.

One of the things that surprised me was the opportunity I had as an adjunct to connect with the other adjunct professors. I was invited to and attended all the adjunct faculty events. I have attended them before as a librarian, and sometimes I’ve had adjuncts take me up on my offer to use library resources. But these past two semesters were much more productive. I felt like the cool kid in class. I knew where things were, and new (and newer) professors came to my office, called me, and emailed me for all manner of things. I answered basic resource questions, helped put together fact patterns, did research, showed how to use databases, and generally had some of the most productive interactions with adjuncts that I’ve ever had.  This also meant I had knew more about the adjunct-taught classes and could help the students in those classes

Which brings me to the students. The interactions with them were interesting. First, as the adjunct who was on campus the most, my time was in demand. My students came to see me frequently. Even full-time faculty were jealous of the amount of class related traffic I had. And, interestingly, I had far more interaction with students than when I teach a research class. Additionally, almost all of my students have come to me for research help.  A couple of them said that they never really came into the library, but now that they knew me, they felt more comfortable.

This leaves the last stakeholder – me. Prepping a new, non-research class gave me renewed appreciation for faculty members and the challenges they face. Teaching a doctrinal class and a writing class allowed me to see where research could be infused into the curriculum, and I have copious notes for proposing cooperative projects next year. Plus, although it occasionally made me more tired than I would like (gosh, I hate grading!), seeing a group of students every week when I was not teaching them research allowed them to ask me questions about research that they might have been hesitant to ask if they thought I was judging or grading them.

Stepping outside of the traditional role, whether it is in an adjunct role, or perhaps in a different staff responsibility or student adviser role, can give librarians valuable information about our students and our libraries. It can be, and was for me, a great opportunity. Has anyone else had a similar or different experience when assuming other roles in your school or organization?

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A.B.A. Standard 302 or How I learned to stop worrying and love outcomes-based assessment

The A.B.A.’s new version of Standard 302 requires law schools to identify specific learning outcomes that students should be able to demonstrate upon graduation. This is part of the A.B.A.’s turn towards emphasizing legal skills in an attempt to promote more “practice-ready” law graduates. The ability to conduct legal research is explicitly listed as a required learning outcome by Standard 302(b). While the fact that students will need to be able to conduct legal research in order to practice law shocks precisely no one in legal academia, law schools will now need to account for this outcome by “mapping” it to particular Continue reading

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How creative is your legal research instruction?

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a law librarian colleague who is developing a new class. It is similar in scope to a class I have taught several times, and I was glad to forward my lectures, homework assignments and other miscellaneous documents.  As I was reviewing the materials, I found everything to be very traditional, and to me, with two years of hindsight since I last taught the class, rather stale.  It prompted me to re-evaluate how I will address this material in the future and made me wonder how creative I am with my legal research instruction.

I have tended to be old-fashioned with my instructional methods.  This often includes lectures, in-class demonstrations, scavenger hunt style homework assignments, and research guide final assignments.  The material is getting across but maybe not in the most exciting of ways.  Whenever I read anything on legal research instruction, it shows there are so many librarians out there doing great and creative things.  Topics of particular interest have included achievement awards and the concept of storytellingContinue reading

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Developing Community in an Online Learning Environment

My school is preparing to welcome its first hybrid J.D. cohort this January, when the students will be on campus for a full-to-bursting “Preparation Week.” As we figure out the best way to disseminate important information to our students before they arrive, I have been immersed in the question of how to create communities for online students. During Prep Week, hybrid students will undergo an intense, immersive, and incredibly busy week of law school education more akin to a non-stop, 40+ hour mediation certification course than the very first week of law school. Thus, they need to be able to hit the ground running as soon as they arrive in a way our more typical 1Ls do not. We will have no time to walk these students through signing up for Wexis, to make sure their email and network passwords are synced, to introduce them to the financial aid office, etc. Continue reading

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Keeping tabs on your virtual resume

RIPs blog post snip

My smartphone is beeping and chirping every few moments. My laptop and iPad are engaging in inappropriate behavior. More importantly my online research and scholarship pages (IUPUI ScholarWorks, SSRN) and professional sites (Faculty Bio, LinkedIn) are out of date! Teaching, professional travel, conference presentations, and publishing obligations in the last few months led me to accept every app upgrade, ignore notices of changes to platforms, download program upgrades without pre-screening, and simply select click here when instructed to do. In short, I’ve been an absentee owner of my virtual existence during the last few months.

In an act of desperation, I set aside a morning to wrangle my electronic life back in order, or at least back to a state of controlled chaos. I decided to first tackle updating the online posting of my research and scholarship. All it took was 2.5 hours and the closing of my mind to the oddity that all those cut-and-paste clicks were simply duplicating the same information in a variety of venues. When it was done, I was singularly unsatisfied.  LinkedIn required that I truncate or arbitrarily arrange the content to prevent bumping up against character limits; SSRN rejected my AALL Spectrum editorial writing and recent book reviews for lack of “research;” and IUPUI ScholarWorks may not be the best place to preserve my blog posts.

Putting off the planned tech audit of the rest of my virtual life, I went in search of a better solution for managing and preserving online my research and scholarship. Here are a few of the options I explored.

figshare. This repository allows researchers to share figures, datasets, media (including video), papers (including pre-prints), posters, and filesets. Once uploaded, the content is available for use by others under the most liberal Creative Commons license.  figshare is also seeding the repository with open access publications. Similar to other repositories, it is easy to create an account, upload, and/or claim any materials that may already be in the repository.

Google Scholar. Clicking the “My Citations” link (located at the top center of the page) opens a profile automatically created by Google.  Although not very attractive, you could easily use this page to keep track of your publications. It is easy to claim and customize your profile (i.e., add a professional photograph and current employer). It is also easy to delete items so it isn’t all that troublesome that Google picks up a wide variety of content. For example, my list of publications included committee minutes and materials that I authored. Your portfolio may also include duplicate entries for the same publication if you maintain pages in both SSRN and a personal or university repository.

Citations are counted and linked, which is always helpful. My serendipitous find was a book review that I had written and submitted some time ago showing up as a November 2014 publication!  I quickly backtracked and uploaded it to LinkedIn, SSRN, ScholarWorks, and my faculty page.

You can easily add publications that have not been automatically pulled to your page. It is interesting to see the timing of when publications are pulled in by Google Scholar. I plan to watch the page for awhile to better understand how to better code my work to enable Google to identify and pull it to my site. Click here if you are curious to see my in-progress site. A site dedicated to measuring the impact of your research, ImpactStory discovers and shares how your research is “read, cited, tweeted, bookmarked, and more.” There is a 30-day free trial and on-going annual fee of $60. You can link directly to your Google Scholar account and other repository pages to upload articles, datasets, posters, presentations, and other research. I’ve created a free 30-day account to see if my ImpactStory page picks up data that differs from my Google Scholar page.

ORCID.  The “My Citations” option on Google Scholar revealed another author named “Catherine Lemmer.” I find it ironic that she lives and works in Pretoria, South Africa, a short drive from Johannesburg. It would have been fun to meet her when I was in South Africa last year. As a result of finding my digital doppelganger, I investigated an Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID). ORCID’s goal is to prevent name ambiguity through the use of a central registry of unique identifiers.  My ORCID is 0000-0003-3296-6603. Although it takes just a few clicks to create a profile, you still have to key (cut & paste) in all your information (biography, education, and scholarship). I liked the interface and how easy it was to upload the information so I am going to put all my information in over time because it seems to be the most likely option for a universally accepted site that might cross-pollinate with other sites in the future.  How can one resist a site that describes itself as follows: “ exists to let researchers and research organizations maintain a reliable web-based record of their academic output without any fuss.” This repository site serves as a free hosting site for individuals; it supports links to standard bibliographic sites and provides host space for full text versions of papers.  See the sample site created by

SSRN. The Social Science Research Network (SSRN) is a great place to house PDFs of your publications. Both abstract views and downloads statistics are tracked. You may upload any materials to the database. The content managers will associate all publications with your account for display on your author page, but what they deem “non-research work” will not display in subject or author search results. See comment above regarding book reviews and AALL Spectrum editorial essays.

WordPress. Free and easy to use, WordPress is my go-to option. It offers any number of visually appealing templates, and even the free options can be customized a bit.  Many of the templates also offer a static (non-blog) home page option. It took me a matter of minutes to paste a static resume into the pages. I plan to fully develop the site (spend the time adding links for all my presentations and publications) because the WordPress site gives me the flexibility to add Work in Progress, Teaching, and Service information. I can easily update to a low-cost option if any unwanted advertisements become problematic. For a fully developed site, see the WordPress site of my colleague Ben Keele. I created a Perma account. is a service that allows users to create stable citation links. When a user creates a Perma link, archives a copy of the referenced content, and generates a link to an unalterable hosted instance of the site. The archived version will always be available through the link. I plan to use Perma to archive all the blog posts and other digital native content that is part of my portfolio.

I briefly looked at Microsoft’s beta project, Microsoft Academic Search. The lack of a “law” discipline discouraged me from exploring it too deeply.

It was an interesting exercise to explore the various options. The planning challenge going forward is to decide which link will control. If you use more than one depository or site, you may dilute your downloads and page views. I plan to use, whenever possible, the SSRN url across the various platforms. In the end, it is your individual online resume, and you need to find the one option that works best for you.

I plan to use those few halcyon days between Thanksgiving and the year-end holidays to complete the WordPress and ORCID sites and Perma work. In the coming weeks, I also hope to find another bit of time to complete a tech audit on the rest of my virtual life:  Facebook, email, Flickr, and Instagram privacy settings, site stored credit card information, and password control. I can hardly wait!

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Law Library Involvement in Law School Incubators

In recent years, many law schools have started incubator programs to help graduates transition to practice. According to the ABA, the City University of New York started the first incubator program over 10 years ago, and incubator programs have really started to pop up since 2012. Currently, there are around 30 programs nationwide.

The Akron Legal News recently reported on Cleveland-Marshall College of Law’s new incubator program. See Sherry Karabin, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law helps graduates transition to solo practice, Akron Legal News (Aug. 1, 2014). Like other institutions, Cleveland-Marshall decided to create an incubator Continue reading

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