RIPS Standing Committees Meeting at AALL18

Join your fellow committee members at the RIPS Standing Committees Meeting on Sunday, July 15th from 12:45-2:15pm in the Hilton Holiday Ballroom 3.  Every committee will have a meeting at a time during that time slot, to meet one another, to talk about the committee’s responsibilities and timelines, and to brainstorm ideas for the year, as well as to potentially touch base with other committees with which you might want to collaborate.  Not all committees are meeting for the whole time slot (in fact, most likely won’t).

Please see below for the time that your committee(s) will be meeting; you should also be hearing from your committee chair(s) about the meeting prior to AALL.  Each committee should have its own designated table and there will be a sign on the table so you know where to report.

Teach-In Kit Committee:  12:45-1:45pm

Legal Research Competency: 12:45pm start

Patron Services: 12:45-1:30pm

Membership Task Force:  12:45pm start

Scholarship Committee:  12:45pm start

Research Instruction:  12:45pm start

Grants:  12:45pm start

PR & Recruitment Committee:  1:00-2:00pm

Program Committee:  1:30pm start

Nominations:  1:30-2:00pm

Online Training:  1:45-2:15pm

The Executive Board and your committee chairs look forward to seeing you in Baltimore!

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Join RIPS-SIS in Baltimore for Roundtables!

Join RIPS-SIS in Baltimore for Roundtables on Patron Services, Research Instruction, and Legal Research Competencies!

RIPS-SIS will be hosting three different roundtables at AALL 2018 in Baltimore.  Come talk to engaged colleagues about patron services, research instruction, and legal research assessment.  Each of the roundtables will cover a variety of topics including:

Patron Services Roundtable (Sunday, July 15th, 5:15-6:15pm in Hilton Calloway AB):

·         Diversity and inclusion on both sides of the access services desk

·         Working with patrons who are less tech-savvy

·         Best practices and software for scheduling student/part-time staffers

·         Access services for journals, moot courts, and clinics

·         Ideas for rewarding and motivating public services staff on a budget

Legal Research Competencies Roundtable (Sunday, July 15th, 5:15-6:15pm in Hilton Poe AB):

·         The 5th PSLRC Competency on Ethics and Professional Responsibility

·         Implementing Assessment in Research Courses

·         The roundtable will continue the conversations begun in the Designing and Implementing Research Competency Assessment held in late May

Research Instruction Roundtable (Monday, July 16th, 5:00-6:00pm in Hilton Poe AB):

·         Hypo/example swap for a variety of instruction topics and environments

·         Creating learning outcomes for any instruction session (such as a one-off session at a law firm, an academic class, or even teaching moments ta the reference desk)

·         Assessing instruction success outside of a classic paper/exam

·         Finding the right text for the right research instruction situation

·         Designing or finding handouts that suit your needs

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RIPS 26th National Teach-In Kit Now Available!

The RIPS 26th National Teach-In Kit for 2017-2018 is now published and available for perusing on the RIPS website.

It was a good year for the Kit – we had 28 contributors (either individually or as a group) with 40 submissions (most people submitted one item, but a few submitted two or more, resulting in 56 total items submitted).

The submissions cover quite a gamut – topical categories include:

  • Activities & Games
  • Full Courses
  • Infographics
  • Tip Sheets & Guides
  • Presentations & Course Materials
  • Syllabi

The 26th National Teach-In Kit is available here:

A huge thank you to the Teach-In Kit Committee Members:

  • Cynthia Condit
  • Gail Mathapo
  • Megan Austin
  • Stacey Etheridge
  • Sarah Lewis
  • Kerry Lohmeier
  • Kimberly Mattioli
  • Anne Mostad-Jensen
  • Eileen Santos
  • Mark Williams
  • Janeen Williams
  • Annmarie Zell
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The Case of the Torn Presidential Record and the Future of Its Library

by Brandon Wright Adler

I have broached this topic before; but, it seems more important than ever to again highlight that one of the most important functions of a librarian is helping to provide access to information. We cannot provide fair and comprehensive access to information without the preservation of information. That being said librarians are to be considered the guardians of information – especially law librarians. Recently, Politico broke the news that White House Records Management Analysts had been tasked with taping back together official Presidential records as President Trump has a bad habit of ripping up every piece of paper as soon as he’s finished with it.

White House aides, in an effort to make sure the President is not breaking the law and remains in compliance with the Presidential Records Act, collect the pieces of paper and have them sent to Records Management Analysts who are tasked with putting the puzzle back together and forwarding the taped up document to the National Archives who then files the document away. Let it be noted, these guardians (record management analysts) were very recently terminated. This is the perfect opportunity to look at whether Presidential Libraries are required institutions, after all, where better to house legally mandated Presidential records?

To start, what is the Presidential Records Act? The Presidential Records Act requires that the President of the United shall take all steps necessary to assure, “that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of the President’s constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented and that such records are preserved and maintained as Presidential records… .”

In addition, the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 was enacted two decades before the Presidential Records Act. Congress understood librarians and their libraries to be the guardians of information because the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955, as it was established, encouraged Presidents to donate their historical materials to the government in an effort to ensure preservation and access to Presidential documents. The Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 permits former presidents to build libraries, at no expense to the government, and then later transfer ownership of these buildings, as well as materials and memorabilia within, to the federal government. Interestingly, “the origins of the act… stem from the uncertain status of presidential records after a President left office. Until the passage of the act, it had been customary for Presidents to take these records with them as their personal property. The records were often passed from one generation to the next with little concern for their value to the history of the nation. Some presidential collections were well preserved by their heirs, but others were broken up and dispersed, or were partially destroyed.”[1]  Based on this very basic information: Are former President’s required to build a Presidential Library in their name and the turn it over to the federal government? No. They are only encouraged to so.

Most recently, former-President Barack Obama’s “Obama Presidential Center,” has decided to part with the tradition of the last several Presidents, and he has chosen to keep the library privately operated, although it will comply completely with the Presidential Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act. With the news that President Trump has a habit of ripping up Presidential papers, more questions about Presidential Libraries in the future arise, especially with Presidents that like to break from tradition (or the law).

If President Trump has a hard time following a law that requires him to preserve Presidential records, is he going to care about or even find necessary a facility to house said records? Or, will he, like Obama, want to maintain some modicum of control over his Presidential Library and therefore opt to keep his library privately operated? What can we say about privately operated Presidential libraries? Would such a library and museum be curated as the private owner wishes or will it be a foundation that holds history, scholarship, and fact in the highest regard? To answer these questions, this post could turn into a very large article studying the law and history of the Presidential Libraries Act (of 1955 and 1986) and the Presidential Records Act. Unfortunately, we will not discover that here—but hopefully I have left you with something to ponder.

[1]Raymond Geselbracht and Timothy Walch, Prologue Magazine, National Archives, Summer 2005,

Posted in Access to Justice, Current Events, Issues in Law Librarianship, Issues in Librarianship (generally), Legal Ethics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Increasing Empathy in Lawyers through Reading

by Emily Siess Donnellan

The idea that reading makes people more empathetic is not new. A 2006 study from University of Toronto found a connection between reading fiction and increased sensitivity to others. A 2013 study confirmed that reading fiction increases the ability to detect and understand the emotions of others. This study concluded, though, that while genre fiction and non-fiction have little effect on empathy, literary and other fiction, which requires readers to guess character’s motivations, increased empathy among study participants.

There are multiple news articles, and law reviews that suggest a connection between reading and empathy. It is also suggested that lawyers should be more empathetic and that law schools should be training the next crop of lawyers in this area of emotional understanding. There are numerous benefits of emotionally attuned lawyers including client satisfaction, better professional relationships, and the ability to retain clients.

Law librarians sit at the intersection between reading and empathy. We have vast library collections and are training law students and lawyers right now. So, what can we do to foster more empathetic lawyers and law students?

woman on hammock reading book

Photo by andres chaparro on

Incorporating Fiction Reading into Courses

I’m teaching a condensed advanced legal research (ALR) course this summer. I completely understand what it’s like to feel there is not enough time in the semester to get through all of the material you. Still, I believe assigning a literary fiction book, relating to the law of course, would add depth to the ALR curriculum. I plan to add a fiction reading selection the next time I teach ALR. I’ll be incorporating the novel by having students write a reflection paper discussing issues of ethics, empathy, and how the novel shaped their understanding of what it is to be a member of the legal profession.

Purchasing and Displaying Fiction in the Collection

It is a reality for many law libraries that budgets are tight. Fiction gets pushed to the very bottom of the buy list when budgets are crunched. Fiction novels are often fairly inexpensive. Perhaps libraries can consider purchasing used copies from local bookstores, or through amazon, to slowly add a fiction element to the collection. I hope libraries across the country can find even $50/year to spend on supplementing our small fiction collections. A great place to browse ideas for novels to consider adding to your course or collection is the ABA’s list of the 25 greatest law novels.

Encouraging Reading for Fun  

Let’s face it, law school can be a lonely time. Many of our students come from out of state and this may be their first time away from home and their support systems. We do a lot to make our library feel like our students “3rd space,” but we could also expand our services by offering a librarian or student led book group to foster reading for fun.

white ceramic teacup with saucer near two books above gray floral textile

Photo by Thought Catalog on

There is a link between reading and empathy and librarians are uniquely situated to foster that connection and use it to create more emotionally intelligent lawyers. Comment with other ideas about how libraries may be able to use this research to encourage students and lawyers to read more!

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RIPS Annual Meeting on 6/14

Join Us for the RIPS Annual Meeting This Thursday!

Please join the RIPS Executive Board and our RIPS committee leaders for the second annual RIPS Virtual Business Meeting, this Thursday, June 14th at 12:00pm CST/1:00pm EST.  Our committee chairs will be sharing what they’ve been up to since July and our Executive Board will let you know what projects we’ve been up to, as well as give you a preview for what RIPS events are happening in Baltimore.

We hope you’ll join us to support your fellow RIPS law librarians and for your chance to win two tickets to the Maryland Zoo—perfect for a fun side trip if you’re in Baltimore this summer, or anytime.

You can register for the business meeting here:

We hope to see you all there!

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Laziness, Impatience, and Hubris in Patron Services

by Erik Adams

This is my last post for the RIPS-SIS blog, and as I’ve been training a new group of summer associates, I’ve been thinking about an idea that computer programmers take for granted: that laziness, impatience, and hubris are virtues, and when properly applied can be forces for good.

CC License

This idea is usually attributed to Larry Wall, who created the Perl programming language. I first encountered it in the book Programming Perl, where authors Larry Wall, Tom Christiansen, and Randal Schwartz offer very specific definitions for each “virtue.” Laziness “makes you write labor-saving programs that other people will find useful.”  Impatience “makes you write programs that don’t just react to your needs, but actually anticipate them.” And hubris “makes you write … programs that other people won’t want to say bad things about.”

In short, a well written program should be useful, flexible, and easy enough to operate that you can give it to someone else and they won’t curse your name every time they use it.

I realized that laziness, impatience, and hubris are behind the key points we present during summer associate training. We assume that they know how to use Lexis and Westlaw, and therefore every research problem is a Lexis or Westlaw query. They don’t know about other resources my firm has available, so our training emphasizes that summer associates should contact the library at the beginning of a project, before logging in and hammering out a half dozen queries. “Call us first,” we say, “and we’ll help you figure out the best search strategy. It may be Lexis or Westlaw, but it might be something else. You’ll save time, and it will be less work.” We are asking them to be lazy. At least until they’ve figured out what we have to offer.

Our training also stresses the need for efficiency. I’ve found that although summer associates have a lot of experience with the big, “everything and the kitchen sink” resources like Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law, they often have little or no experience with more specialized resources like (for example) Docket Navigator or Lex Machina. You can research patent litigation on Lexis or Westlaw, but for many tasks something else will be quicker and probably easier to use. We literally tell summer associates that if they spend more than half an hour looking for something and do not find anything, they should take that as a sign that they’re doing something wrong. We tell them that we have worked hard to subscribe to the research products that will meet research needs. In other words, we tell them we have anticipated their research needs. We teach impatience.

Lastly, our training emphasizes economy. My firm bills clients for most Lexis and Westlaw research, but not for other web sites. We want our associates to know when is the best time to use a resource that will be billed, and when it is time to use something else. If Lexis or Westlaw are the best tool for the job, they should use it and be confident that they’ve made the best choice for the client. We want them to be proud of their research skills, and perform the research such that no one will question them. We teach hubris.

Some of them get it. For those that don’t, we’ll get a second crack at them when they return with their freshly printed degrees. Things are a little more real then, and results that are easily obtained (laziness), quickly found (impatience), and good enough to present to a partner (hubris) have a little more significance.

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