Making a Teachable Moment

by Christine Anne George

I had a plan. My first blog post of 2016 would be about the ORCID project I’m working on this semester. But, alas, this post isn’t going to be about ORCID. Why? Because after suffering from a “show hole” one freezing Saturday in January, I thought I’d watch the first episode of that new Netflix series everyone is talking about on Facebook. Making a Murderer wasn’t my usual fare, but occasionally one needs a break from period dramas. Needless to say, I devoured all ten episodes in binge-like fashion and realized that, like everything else I had anticipated accomplishing that weekend, the plan for my blog post had to change.

If you have somehow managed to avoid any knowledge of Making a Murderer, here’s the trailer. Netflix has also put the first episode on Youtube. It’s riveting, and I often had to remind myself that what was playing out on my screen wasn’t some scripted procedural drama. It was real. It had happened and was still happening. Over the course of the series, I felt all the feelings. There was the anger, outrage, pity, confusion, and even a bit of guilt. I started exploring online, and clearly I was not the only one with feelings post-binge. The drama playing out on the screen was just the beginning.

As I began my descent into the rabbit hole of all the Making a Murderer coverage, I found out about the petition that called for Steven Avery to be pardoned. (In case you’re not familiar, is a platform that allowed individuals to petition government decision makers. If the petition gets over 100,000 signatures within 30 days, the White House will respond. My personal favorite is the response to the petition for a Death Star.) The Avery petition garnered far beyond the minimum required signatures, and the White House responded on January 8.

The public’s response to Making a Murderer is somewhat discomfiting though. There has been a lot of debate over the portrayal of the evidence and what has been left out of the series. Also, the commenting public has a whole lot of love for the defense team. But rather than focusing on the big picture questions about a flawed system, more often than not, people opine as to the guilt of Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey. Things aren’t that simple, and there’s a huge difference between advocating for a pardon and advocating for a new trial. It’s great that thousands upon thousands of people are playing armchair detective and taking an interest in the legal system, but there is something to be said about the danger of a little bit of knowledge. Namely, you don’t know what you don’t know.

I thought that the White House’s response was excellent because it took advantage of a teachable moment. Everyone who signed the petition got an email with the White House response. If even half those people read the email, then 200,000 people now know more about the presidential pardoning power than they did before. Before all the fervor dies down, I’m sure there will be many other teachable moments. Making a Murderer could prove to be a hot topic or cautionary tale for evidence, ethics, and any other number of subjects in law schools. It could even turn out to be, as one of my colleagues suggested the other day, what inspires students to study law.

If you haven’t yet watched the series, I do recommend it. You may rage, you may sit in horror, or, at this point, you may think it has been completely overblown, but it is worth talking about.

Posted in Current Events, Legal Ethics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Presenting….five alternatives to PowerPoint

by Kris Turner

Ah, PowerPoint. The old standby, always there when you are in dire need of a professional and (relatively) simple-to-create presentation.


Everyone knows it, everyone feel comfortable with it. Well, almost everyone.


If you’re like me, you may like to break out of your comfort zone from time to time and try something new. I did a Cool Tools presentation last year on a few PowerPoint alternatives that may help you try something new and impress a few faculty members, attorneys, or staff along the way. None of these tools is completely new, but they are a nice alternative to the same old presentation style. All the tools here are free, but you may have to sign up for an account to use them.

Note that I am not including Prezi on my list. I do like Prezi and think that it is especially useful for presentations that you need to spice up, but I think enough librarians are aware of it that I can move on to other lesser-known tools.


Google Slides: The Google Mothership continues to slowly assimilate all things, including presentation tools. Slides is a very easy way to create presentations, with an intuitive interface, some nice fresh templates and designs, and most handily, a way to access your slides anywhere via the Cloud. The final look is very similar to PowerPoint, so you aren’t going to shock many people with the look of a final Slides presentation, but it is still different enough to provide a breathe of fresh air.


Powtoon: The polar opposite of Google Slides is Powtoon. With Powtoon, you can create an animated video that is very dynamic and eye-catching. Instead of a true presentation tool, this video could be played for a group to showcase an idea or embedded in a website to promote your library or services. The learning curve here is somewhat steep and the look is a little cartoony, so be aware of what tone you want to establish. But if you really want catch someone’s attention, check out Powtoon.


Zoho Docs: Zoho Docs is part of a larger suite of office tools that lives entirely in the cloud. Zoho looks and acts like an offspring of Google Slides and PowerPoint, and produces a nice, clean presentation that is very easy to use. Like Google Slides, Zoho’s final product resembles PowerPoint, so this is another good tool if you’re interested in a new production setting while producing a result that will be similar to what you’re used to seeing.


Adobe Voice: Adobe Voice is unique in this list in that you can download the App and create the entire video presentation right on your iPad. You sign up for a free account (with email, Facebook or Adobe ID) and are ready to go. You can create a video using music, photos, and animation very quickly. I saw this tool at another presentation at AALL (25 Free Technologies for Law Libraries…great session!) and had to try it. I was able to create a raw but usable video in 45 minutes (that included learning how to use the app) that night. This is good for highlighting your library  or service in a quick video that looks professional.


EMaze: This one is my personal favorite. With EMaze, you can create a presentation that follows an order much like PowerPoint, but the environment is completely different. Your template can be a 3D model of a city or outer space, a museum gallery or a wide range of other backgrounds (some free, some ‘premium,’ though there are enough free choices to keep me happy). While this one isn’t as easy to learn as Zoho Docs or Google Slides, it is still relatively painless to understand, and the end result is unique yet familiar enough that I think the learning curve is worth it.

There you have it—five new (and free!) tools to explore and use. There are many other tools out there, so please share any that you enjoy (Slideshark? Visme? Keynote? Haiku Deck?) Remember, be daring, be brave…move beyond PowerPoint. Happy presenting!


Posted in Apps (Applications), Teaching (general), Technology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching, Technology, and Tools: A Look at the RIPS Teach-In Kit Multiverse

by Ashley Ahlbrand

By now, you’ve likely seen several messages calling for contributions to the 2016 Teach-In Kit. We (the Teach-In Kit Committee) hope you’ll consider submitting materials of your own, but maybe you’re not sure what types of resources are suitable. I wondered this myself, so I dug into the submissions from past kits to see what the Teach-In Kit multiverse looks like.

Course Materials. word cloudThis is certainly the first thing that I think of when I think of the Kit: syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, etc.  And it’s true—the majority of submissions fall into this category, covering topics from basic to advanced legal research, and specialty legal research topics, ranging from foreign/international legal research to jurisdiction-specific legal research, and IP law to tax law to immigration law. In addition, you can find handouts and exercises on topics in legal research from search strategies to citators to legal abbreviations to cost-effective legal research. Yes, legal research course materials are a great topic for the Teach-In Kit.

But there is so much more.

Certification Kits. Legal certification programs are trending in law schools right now. If you’ve put together a certification program, I encourage you to consider submitting your materials, from syllabi to lecture materials to assessments.

Research Guides, Tutorials, and Handouts. Not everything we create to help others learn is for a course. Non-course-related materials in this category have ranged in the past from resources for faculty members about statistics or interdisciplinary research, to training materials for journal students or research assistants, to resources on the latest technologies for law schools, law libraries, and law practice (with topics ranging from CD-ROMs and how to use this new thing called the Internet (1990s) to cloud computing and legal apps (2010s).

Games. I counted nearly twenty research- or law-related games (from crossword puzzles to trivia) that have been submitted over the years.  What a great way to engage students’ competitive spirits!

Yes, if you look through past Kits, you’ll find so much more than course materials, and I hope you’ll consider the wide variety of things you might be able to contribute. Have you given lunch-hour talks (or even whole courses) on legal practice technology? Share! Are you a firm librarian in charge of orientation for summer clerks? Share! Has your library started a legal research workshop series for students or pro se patrons? Share! Whether in or out of the classroom, whether face-to-face or indirectly, whether in an academic setting, a courthouse, or a law firm, we law librarians do a lot of teaching, and the Teach-In Kit can serve as an excellent resource for all of us.

On behalf of the Teach-In Kit Committee, I ask that you consider submitting materials to this year’s Kit. Submissions are due by Monday, February 22nd, and can be sent via email to Kerry Lohmeier at If you have any questions about the Kits or the submission process, I would be happy to answer them.

Thank you for submitting to this year’s Kit!


Posted in Information Literacy, Legal Research Instruction, Legal Technology, RIPS Teach-In Kit, Teaching (general), Training, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

It’s time to get into the law review game

by Margaret Jane Ambrose
18th century bulgaria

Watch the interview with the Chief Justice.

Bear with me; I know it’s an old wound. It was back in 2011 that Chief Justice Roberts lobbed a bomb at the academic community by deriding law reviews for being esoteric to the point of having little to no value for judges and practicing lawyers. Since 2011 there have been a variety of responses, ranging from strident defenses put forth by law professors, to agreement from other judges, to critiques that Justice Roberts does in fact cite law review articles despite his criticism. The Chief Justice’s use of law review articles aside, one study shows that only 43% of law reviews have ever been cited.  Another indicates a drop in Supreme Court opinions that cite law review articles from 50% in the 1970s and 80s to 37% since 2000. Even more studies indicate that law professors themselves are dissatisfied with the current process, and that this problem was identified by others including Fred Rodell in 1936 and Harry T. Edwards in 1992, long before Justice Roberts stirred the pot in 2011.

Given this history of grievances with law reviews, it is important to focus on solutions moving forward—specifically, the solutions that law librarians are uniquely situated to offer.

trouble with lawyers

Click here to learn more.

Take, for example, the recommendation by Deborah L. Rhode in The Trouble with Lawyers. Although Rhode spends most of her time on other issues, she does recommend better training for student editors in the area of article selection and editing. Her main bone to pick with law reviews is that student editors are often overly enamored with “erudition in excess” and tedious footnotes that make for “ostentatious displays” but are no guarantee that the author has “actually read the sources cited or that they represent the best thinking in the field.”

Many law librarians currently work with law reviews to teach new journal members about access to materials and research skills to help them with their source citations. But perhaps more can be done. Law librarians could work with the editors themselves, to give them pointers on how to spot good research from bad, and even cue them into the current problems with the law review editorial process. This could open doors to other changes such as blind peer review and open access.

Yet another recommendation for law librarians is to encourage a focus on issues that would help lawyers and judges. Of course, there is probably no circumstance in which a law librarian would tell a law faculty member what they should be researching and writing about, but the fact remains that law librarians have a very real connection with the “real world” of lawyers and judges through colleagues working in law firms and court libraries. Academic law librarians have two avenues through which they can use this knowledge to exercise influence. The first is through collection development and communication with the faculty about resources that can help them conduct research into topics that lawyers and judges would find useful. The second avenue is to lead by example. I am sure I am not the only librarian who has a new life-long goal to publish an article that is cited by the SCOTUS, as did John Cannan, whose article was cited by the court in King v. Burwell.

Of course, like all the recommendations about improving the utility and relevance of law reviews, my suggestions are easier said than done and, most likely, have already been tried to a certain degree. I am sure there are other recommendations out there that are even more worthy.  Please comment below and add any ideas or experiences in working with law review editors and faculty on improving law reviews.



Video | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Millennials in the Workplace…And the Classroom?

by Christina Glon

“They are entitled.”

“They are coddled by overbearing parents.”

“They do not want to work hard.”

“They are not loyal to their employers.”

So starts the book You Raised Us – Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams by Lauren Stiller Rikleen, an attorney and nationally recognized expert in developing successful multi-generational workplaces, and founder of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership.

As the Millennial generation moves into the workplace in increasing numbers, this evolving narrative is now becoming a fixed description. These descriptions form the themes that the media seizes upon and that employers use when frustrated by behaviors they do not understand.

These are also unfair characterizations that miss the mark and negatively impact a multi-generational workforce. When leaders in the workplace adopt this view without further analysis, they lose opportunities to develop the extraordinary potential of a generation that, as a result of current demographics, will be thrust into leadership roles at a younger age than their predecessors. They also miss important research about ways to engage this generation of future workplace leaders.

I’ve been wondering when “Millennials” would finally work their way into law school and ultimately into my classroom. Much to my surprise, they are already here. Traditionally defined as born between 1980 and 2000, Millennials currently range from age 15 to 36.  Apparently, they’ve been in law school for quite a few years now!  Each spring, I teach “Technology in Legal Practice.” One of my goals with the course is to help the next generation of lawyers understand that perhaps the current generation of lawyers are not as technologically savvy as they would hope and to prepare them for some of the conversations they are bound to have once they join their new firm. So, last spring I asked my students, “Are you Millennials?”  The reaction was underwhelming.  Most shook their heads no or just looked at me with confusion, as if I just asked them for the square root of pi. I fear that some “Millennials” don’t even know they are Millennials.

Last week, I “attended” a conference call / brown bag session titled “You Raised Us – Now Work With Us: Demystifying Generational Differences and Strengthening Workplace Relationships,” sponsored by the ABA’s Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division. I invited my friend and head of our Access Services Department to join me, as she manages our student workers and is always on the front line with our patrons. We had very different reactions: I was fascinated by the program, while she was bored. It turns out that an early Millennial (born in 1982) and a solid Gen-Xer (born in 1970) don’t see things the same way. In fact, this was evident when we created a display case together last fall, but we didn’t realize why until last week’s program. Luckily, because we are close friends, the display turned into more of a sitcom-style project that we often laugh about (“remember when we tried to do that display case together?!?  Haha!”). But, I digress. Back to the Millennials in the classroom…

I found the ABA program especially interesting because so many of the new behaviors I’ve seen in our students were explained logically and reasonably.  For example, actions I perceived as reflecting the “entitled” stereotype could also been seen as the image of “self-confidence” and “self-respect” this generation has been taught to project. This is a misunderstanding that I can see my way through. On the other hand, some of the anecdotes Ms. Rikleen wrote about in her book were startling to me, and I am still unsure of the appropriate solutions. In one, she told the story of a new associate who was asked by a partner to call the client and provide an update on their case.  Much to the horror of the partner, the Millennial associate actually sent an email to the client with an update and was stunned to learn of the partner’s anger and disappointment. Apparently the root of the problem was the partner’s use of a “vague” phrase such as “call the client.” To the new associate, “call the client” meant “communicate with the client,” which is precisely what the associate did. In the most comfortable and familiar form available.

I do not consider “call the client” a vague phrase. Ms. Rikleen suggested that the partner could have been more precise about his or her expectations, and the associate could have confirmed prior to sending the email that any communication would be acceptable. But I see both these suggestions as problematic. If I asked an associate to “call the client,” and they asked if email was okay, my immediate response would be, “No, that’s why I said CALL the client and not EMAIL the client.” Is this just me being an old curmudgeon?  And by questioning my instructions, isn’t the new associate displaying the opposite of being “self-confident” and a “real go-getter?” Don’t we (employers) want them (employees) to take some initiative (while still following our instructions)?

So, what are we to do?  First, nobody panic. The sky is not falling. Second, understand that a new, radical generation is not really new. We’ve transitioned generations before. Remember how appalling Elvis was?  And those crazy Beatles and their long hair?? We will all (Millennials, too) survive this transition as well.

The population of the Millennials in the United States is estimated at 86 million and is the largest cohort in history – 7% larger than the Baby Boomers.  . . .  Overall, Millennials are expected to comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025.

I plan to assign parts of Ms. Rikleen’s book as required reading for my technology students this semester, and I am going to recommend it to everyone I know, young and old alike.  Better communication starts with better understanding and an openness to learn about the other side. We all have much to learn as we begin to pass the torch to the next generation. After all, who  knew my friend and colleague was a Millennial?  I certainly didn’t.

Posted in Legal Research Instruction, Legal Technology, Reference Services, RIPS blog, Teaching (general), Technology | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Nominations needed!


by Kathleen Zarubin, | used under CC BY 20.

Hello from the RIPS Nominations Committee!

We recently sent out an email about nominating someone (including yourself) for a position on the RIPS-SIS Board (details below). Here are 5 reasons to seek a position on the board:

  1. Gain a new perspective by working with people in a different setting.
  2. Not just people from a different setting, but also a fun and hardworking group (
  3. Practice your leadership skills, such as communication, problem-solving, time management, decision making, and others.
  4. Give back to a community that offers many helpful resources, including the National Research Teach-in Instructional Resources Kit, and many others.
  5. Plus lots of other general benefits, like providing new networking opportunities, building on your resume, developing your personal interests, etc.

Nominations for Vice-Chairperson/Chairperson-Elect and a Member-at-Large position can be sent to Robin Schard,, by Monday, January 25, 2016. Self-nominations are welcome.

After a slate of candidates is determined (early February), the election will take place in March via the AALL online balloting platform. Results will be shared with RIPS-SIS members by the end of March.

If you have any questions about the nominations and election process, please feel free to contact either of the Nominations Committee Co-Chairs: Laura McKinnon ( or Robin Schard (


RIPS Nominations Committee

Laura McKinnon, Co-Chair
Robin Schard, Co-Chair
Rachel Gordon
Deborah Heller
Shannon Kemen

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A “Catalog of Ideas”

Pinterest-badge-144pxby Cynthia Condit

Pinterest has been called a social scrapbooking site, a social media network, a content sharing platform, and a visual bookmarking and discovery platform. For many, it brings to mind crafts, recipes, and weddings. But in an interview with Fortune magazine in July 2015, Ben Silbermann, Pinterest CEO, said Pinterest is a “catalog of ideas,” a characterization that does seem to capture the Pinterest of today.

Pinterest has come a long way since it debuted five years ago. In September 2015, the company announced it had surpassed 100 million monthly active users. That’s growth that rivals Facebook (four years) and equals Twitter. Forecasters predict the number of users to reach 329 million by 2018. The Pew Research Center reports that since 2012, Pinterest usage (along with Instagram) has doubled while other platforms (Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter) have slowed.

After reading about the surge of users on Pinterest, I was curious to learn to what extent law libraries have engaged in using this “catalog of ideas.”  After I ran a quick search on Pinterest, I found only a handful of law libraries with Pinterest sites. These include Ross-Blakely Law Library (ASU),  Cleveland-Marshall Law LibraryFlorida State University Law Research Center, Jerome Hall Law Library (Maurer School of Law), Oklahoma City University School of Law, Stetson Law Library, UCLA Law Library, and University of Wisconsin Law Library.  The organization and number of boards (categories, if you will) vary, but most include something about the following:

  • The law library, law school, and associated university, if there is one
  • City and state
  • Faculty
  • Alumni
  • Students
  • Events
  • Legal research/guides
  • Careers
  • New books/archives
  • Humor

Others in the legal knowledge sphere have a presence on Pinterest as well.  Arizona Law for instance, has a well-curated Pinterest board promoting the law school. The Library of Congress offers 50 boards covering a range of topics and has 5,500 followers. Legal information vendors also have Pinterest sites. Proquest, for example, has a site that includes a collection of infographics for libraries and librarians.

Educators from elementary schools to universities have embraced Pinterest as an educational tool. An article in Slate notes that “there’s a big hole in how teachers build skills and Pinterest is helping to fill it.” Murray State University reported in Internet Reference Services Quarterly how they are using Pinterest to create a credible reference library. Wayne State University’s School of Library and Information Science offers a series of blog posts on Pinterest and how to use it to promote libraries. The University of Texas Libraries, the fifth largest academic library system in the nation, has an informative guide to using Pinterest in marketing the academic library.  Laura Gentry, a librarian at the Birmingham Public Library, has created a Pinterest baord devoted to examples of how academic and special libraries and archives are using Pinterest.

It’s interesting that law libraries have not embraced Pinterest to the same degree as other educators and institutions. By no means is any one resource the be-all and end-all, but it might be time to revisit what Pinterest can do for us.

Posted in Library Displays, Inspiration and Design Ideas, Marketing, Social Media & Web 2.0 | Tagged , | Leave a comment