Print Lives! (At Least Pedagogically)

by Beau Steenken

Recently, we at University of Kentucky Law have been shedding significant portions of our print collection. We have done away with journals, state codes of jurisdictions other than Kentucky, and the regional reporters (opting only to keep the Kentucky Decisions of the South Western Reporter). A portion of our motivation for doing so is related to reducing subscription costs, but the lion’s share stems from the fact that our building will shortly be undergoing renovations. The library will be losing shelf-space under the plans for the redesigned law building. Furthermore, while the building undergoes the renovation, the entire law school will be operating in exile in “interim housing” for two years. Our physical collection will be placed in storage, and we figured why pay for storing materials that we would end up cutting anyway?

No matter how necessary the weeding, it is still somewhat shocking to walk into our stacks and see the sheer number of empty shelves. We tell ourselves that we only removed the materials that our patrons were using  electronically anyway, while maintaining print subscriptions for treatises that users are more likely to request in print. Whatever the rationale, though, it strikes a nerves with us as librarians to contemplate a future library with a significantly higher proportion of electronic to print materials.

Happily, though, I can attest to the continuing value of print sources in the realm of teaching legal research. At U.K. Law we introduce our students to the basic sources of law, statutes and cases, in their print forms before turning to electronic research techniques in week 4 of our class. The reason that we have the students engage with print before electronic is not so much that we expect that they’ll need to be able to engage in substantial print research in their future careers, as much as it is that students have an easier time recognizing bits of information on the computer if they have seen it in print first. The principal is similar to how it has been shown that students learn far better by taking notes by hand rather than by typing. My experiences this semester have reinforced the importance of this approach.

Photo by Michael Mandiberg under Creative Commons License.

I am currently teaching two sections of 1L Legal Research and also an FCIL Research course for the first time. My 1L sections are larger than usual this year. Because of the large class size, I  received more complaints about the print and more queries regarding when we will get to electronic research than I usually do. (Law students, it turns out, hate waiting.) However, once we began electronic research, I also had more students tell me how glad they were that we started with print, after feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information provided by West/Lexis. (They also pointed out, however, that they appreciated not having to take turns to use the platforms.)

Additionally, my FCIL class has really driven home the value of exposing students to print first, however briefly. In my FCIL class, I do not, in fact, expose students to print first. (U.K. Law does not have a large FCIL collection.) It’s a small sample size (the class has 7 students, 4 of whom I taught as 1Ls), but I have noticed that my FCIL students do not seem to recognize sources of law in their search results as readily as they did as 1Ls. Of course, part of this could be because of the… well… foreign… nature of foreign sources, but I spend about the same amount of time introducing FCIL sources  as I do introducing domestic sources to 1Ls (most of whom have not previously interacted with the domestic sources). And, I do feel like the same students picked up on things faster as 1Ls when I introduced the sources in print before turning to the computers.

While my experiences certainly qualify as anecdotal, I do think that perhaps we librarians can use pedagogy as a powerful shield when it comes time to insist that yes, the library should maintain at least some actual books!

Posted in Foreign & International Research, Issues in Law Librarianship, Legal Research Instruction, Library Collections | Tagged | 1 Comment

Intersection Between Culture & Emotion

by Margaret Ambrose

As part of a professional development speaker series, the Cornell Law Library recently hosted Eugenia Charles-Newton, who delivered an excellent presentation on emotional intelligence and cultural competence.


Picture by Pietro Zanarini of Flickr CC

One of the many highlights of the presentation was Eugenia’s personal narrative as a Native American woman finding that the more traditional conceptualizations of emotional intelligence, as largely filtered through the lens of the white male experience, does not, and perhaps can not, entirely reflect the experience of minorities and women.  More is needed, specifically, a greater emphasis on cultural competence.

This is especially important when considering that more and more universities and work places are culturally diverse. Whether working in academia, or in a private law firm, the components to a good reference interview are still the same. The ability to connect with patrons to better understand their needs and correctly interpret their reactions is key to satisfying the patron. At an instructional level, scanning a room to ensure comprehension and engagement is equally important, and extends beyond knowing that one should speak more slowly when dealing with an ESL audience. Last but not least, a core component of librarianship is networking with colleagues, and ensuring a safe work environment for all. Whether you are the head of reference, chairing a committee, supervising the circulation desk, or are the director of the library, being fluent in emotional intelligence and cultural competence is increasingly a necessary skill for success.

Generally speaking, if emotional intelligence is about managing and correctly interpreting your own emotions, and the emotions of others, than cultural perceptions necessarily play an important role. One example of the role that cultural perceptions can play is illustrated in a Harvard Business Review article written by Andy Molinsky. In this article, Molinsky discusses the difference between how people in the United States typically express enthusiasm (enthusiastically!) as opposed to how people in the United Kingdom and from many Eastern Asian countries typically express enthusiasm (more subdued and understated).


Picture by Kat on Flickr CC

As Molinsky concludes, managing emotions can be a “tricky business” when crossing cultures.This example of how cultural competence can play a role in emotional intelligence, while complicated, is a rather benign example. A less benign example might be a man refusing to shake a woman’s hand because of the man’s background from a religion or culture that prohibits such contact.

I have to admit something on a personal level – when I first heard this example I was shocked on behalf of the woman who had experienced what I perceived to be a disrespectful interaction, cultural differences or no.  Eugenia’s presentation, however, inspired me to look into the issue a little bit further, and this is what I found.  In Jewish and Muslim cultures, the prohibition of handshaking between the sexes is not due to a perception of ‘uncleanliness’ – rather the rationale is deeply rooted in respect for the familial relationships between men and women, and respect for the other person.

Knowing what I know now, I can only hope that if faced with a similar experience, rather than being unsettled, I would be better equipped to handle the situation with an open mind. I would try to understand how my own cultural perceptions as an adopted American-Asian woman, might be distorting what is actually going on. As Eugenia’s presentation highlighted, it isn’t enough to be aware of other people’s emotions and cultures, you also need to be aware of how your own cultural background may be affecting your own perceptions and emotions as you react in real time to situations and circumstances.

At the end of the day, while recognizing and respecting cultural differences is an important component to emotional intelligence, so too is recognizing the similarities that cut across gender, culture, and religion. I have inherited my late grandmother’s love of Norman Rockwell so I will end this article with a link to Norman Rockwell’s The Golden Rulewhich due to recent developments, is perhaps even more relevant today than it was when it first appeared in 1961.

Posted in Current Events, Customer Service, Issues in Law Librarianship, Patron Services | Tagged , | Leave a comment

New RIPS-SIS Members

by Katie Crandall, RIPS Chair

On behalf of the RIPS Executive Board, we want to extend a warm welcome to our newest members:

  • Kristen Arnett (Barry University School of Law)
  • Samantha Blanquart (Maricopa County Superior Court Law Library)
  • Alex Ferguson (Texas Tech University School of Law)
  • Marilyn French (Oliver B. Spellman Law Library)
  • Lisa Heidenreich (Mitchell Hamline School of Law)
  • Bryan Kohnen (Maricopa County Superior Court Law Library)
  • Tara Long (Texas Southern University)
  • Damon Martin (State Law Library of Montana)
  • Annalee Moser (Brigham Young University)
  • Emily Ngo (Thomas Jefferson School of Law)
  • Tammy Pettinato (University of North Dakota School of Law)

We are very pleased that you have joined RIPS and welcome you as a valuable member of our organization. If you have any questions about the organization, including how to get involved, all of our committee and executive board members are here to assist.

I invite all RIPS members to reach out to our colleagues and say “hello!”

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Staying Organized in a Disorganized World

by Ashley Ahlbrand

There are myriad organization systems and tools out there today, even entire books and classes dedicated to the topic. From project management sites to list-making apps to the tried-and-true pencil-to-paper to-do lists, there are any number of options out there to help you get organized. Finding the right fit for you is the real challenge.

During my time as the Educational Technology Librarian at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, my job responsibilities have grown and changed over time – increased teaching, new technologies, evolving patron needs. Early on this change happened fairly organically and was easy to stay on top of. During the first year, my reference requests increased, as did my activities outside of my job – presentations, articles, committee work; as my activities grew, things became a little harder to keep track of. I looked into various organization tools and stumbled onto Trello. Trello allows you to organize content by creating various boards and cards. I create boards by month, with each board having a series of to-do cards by topic, such as Teaching or Reference Requests.

trello-exampleWhile I am a fan of Trello overall, it’s not without its imperfections. The feature I least like is that you cannot create multiple rows of cards on a board – they continue to be placed side by side, off screen, so you have to scroll right, rather than down, to see them. However, Trello continues to be an excellent tool for my annual reports. It has been helpful to go through these monthly boards and see what my calendar may not tell me, such as major faculty reference projects I undertook or articles I have been working on.

This summer, my workload expanded into new areas. First, I decided to enroll in a certificate program in instructional design, so I had to dive back into the world of homework deadlines. With the departure of a colleague at the end of the summer, I also assumed new job responsibilities. To top it all off, I have been working on a writing project for several months, and I have a desperate desire to finish it. All of these new experiences combined to create an overwhelming start to the Fall semester – a lot of change, a lot of seeming chaos, and a lot of concern that I was going to neglect something because there was so much more to wrangle. I was having trouble figuring out how to keep track of it all in Trello. I needed a better way to visualize it at a glance. I went to my favorite visualization tool, Canva, and created a visual for myself.

canva visualI charted out 7 vertical bars for each day of the week, and started blocking off chunks of time each day to work on a particular task – teaching preparation, LibGuides work, website work, electronic resources work, committee work, writing, digital signage, social media, and coursework. Apart from Friday, which I’ve tried to set aside solely for writing, and Sunday, which I’ve tried to set aside as a day to relax, I plugged in different activities for each day of the week. The idea is that I could get to work on, say, Monday, look at the chart, and see that I should spend at least a couple of hours prepping to teach and a couple of hours editing and authoring LibGuides. Each day had some room for flexibility, because most days are unpredictable and pop-up tasks arise that take precedence no matter how carefully you try to plan out your day. The result? As often happens with efforts like this, the original idea was a little too regimented and idealistic for me. I don’t think I’ve had a day yet this semester where I have strictly adhered to this schedule. Clearly, it’s time to re-conceptualize.

There are aspects of the initial visual that I would like to keep – for instance, I like being able to quickly glance up at a chart and see the different aspects of my job that need to be done. Whether I work on LibGuides on Monday or Thursday may be irrelevant, but the reminder to work on them during a given week is nice.

scheduling-visual-2Most currently, I redesigned the visual to resemble something more like a checklist – by the end of the week I can easily determine which tasks I have dedicated time to. I hope that this will give me more flexibility while providing a quick reminder of the major components of my work life to help me stay on top of all aspects of it. In the end, I believe this will pair nicely with Trello, where I still maintain the nitty-gritty details of my day-to-day work.

This is just one librarian’s system. What system do you employ to keep your chaos controlled?  Have you found a handy tool or app?  Does pencil and paper still do the trick?

Posted in Productivity, Technology, Time Management, Work/Life Balance | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Law Firm of ROSS, HAL, and GladOS

by Erik Adams

In April several news sources reported that the law firm of Baker Hostetler had hired a legal robot called ROSS. This artificial intelligence system, built on IBM’s famous Watson system, automates legal tasks like research and the preparation of legal memorandums in the narrow domain of bankruptcy law. Since then, other big law firms have joined the rush. ROSS Intelligence markets its product as a kind of artificial intelligent assistant: ask it questions in plain language, and legal research is presented. It sounds a lot like Siri, except instead of asking for baseball scores one can ask for relevant case law.


By Tej3478 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Two recent articles reminded me of ROSS. The first is Nancy Talley’s article “Imagining the Use of Intelligent Agents and Artificial Intelligence in Academic Libraries” in the Summer 2016 issue of Law Library Journal. The other was David Perla’s controversial opinion piece “A Challenge For The Gatekeepers,” which appeared on the web site Above the Law last August.

Tally’s article looks briefly at the current state of artificial intelligence and wonders how intelligent agents could be used for reference, information literacy instruction, and circulation services in an academic law library. She points out that “…a small percentage of reference questions actually require librarian assistance.” One imagines that simpler reference questions could be handled by a sufficiently well informed program that knows where the reporters can be found or how to find law review articles online, while more complex work would be handled by a librarian. Tally imagines a collaboration between librarian and intelligent agent, where the agent searches obvious online sources to answer a patron’s question (a government web site, Westlaw and Lexis), while the librarian reserves for themselves the more educational role, should those methods fail. Overall, it is a nice picture, and one that reserves a vital role for librarians: agents are OK for some stuff, but there will still be a need for a human touch.

David Perla’s editorial has a very different message for librarians. It bluntly states that librarians need to “be one of those who embraces [change], champions it, and reaps the rewards from it … [because] those who don’t are going to get left in the past.” A lot has already been written about his comments (I particularly like Jean O’Grady’s and Greg Lambert’s responses.). Ignoring the more controversial aspects of Perla’s column, he raises an important point: if librarians are going to position themselves as the caretakers of legal information and keep their role as educators, they have to involve themselves in the tools that are being marketed and keep on top of new technologies.

Perla’s comments, Tally’s article, and products like ROSS form a compelling trio: artificial intelligence is being marketed to law libraries now. And librarians need to start thinking about how artificial intelligence can be integrated into their processes. If librarians don’t start making these plans now and injecting themselves into the decision making process, those decisions will happen without librarian input.

Posted in Artificial intelligence, Issues in Law Librarianship, Issues in Librarianship (generally), Legal Research | Tagged | Leave a comment

Designing a Legal Research Course

by Tig Wartluft

Nearly two years ago I started a new position. My very first day I attended the law school’s faculty meeting; during that meeting it was announced that there was going to be a change to the required 1L courses that fall: a new legal research course. I happened to be sitting directly behind my boss, who turned around and said something to the effect of “Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you, you’re designing and teaching that course.” Thankfully, I had the help, assistance, and knowledge of two other law librarians who were also new hires and would also be teaching sections of the new course. There lay the charge given to three new-to-the-institution librarians: design a research course that we would be teaching in less than a year.

One of the early unanimous decisions was to design our course as we wanted it and not to simply choose an existing textbook as the central backbone of the course. Of course, making this decision meant that we had to do more design work.

Phase 1 – Define the Course Conceptually

We began with determining how we were going to approach the course design: from a high-level conceptual approach steadily drilling down until we had a syllabus full of content; or looking at the content we needed to cover and moving from content up to an overall course. Being librarians, it was off to do research! (See articles at the end of the post). Armed with the knowledge espoused in amazing articles, we recognized that we’d need to teach more than simply the legal sources, we’d also need to teach general legal information literacy skills. So what guidance do we as law librarians have for teaching information literacy and legal research skills?

We started with the ABA Standards, specifically Standard 302 “A law school shall establish learning outcomes that shall, at a minimum, include competency in … legal research…” (ABA Standard 302(b)). Great! We’re on the right track, the ABA states that our students have to be competent in legal research! What does that mean? Thankfully, AALL has worked on this same problem and promulgated Principles and Standards for Legal Research Competencies. We used these competencies (along with Paul Callister’s article) to create course-level learning objectives. At this point, I felt that we were halfway to completion and that things should start to easily fall into place, ultimately resulting in a syllabus fully informed by our learning objectives. I was — niavely — feeling happy and optimistic; we’ve got this!

I had recently read Robert Linz’s article about using research plans and logs as a tool to anchor a research course around and suggested this method to my colleagues. At least one other co-worker had read this article as well, and we quickly agreed to use this framework as a scaffold on which to build our content. So far, so good!

Phase 2 – ?phases

Then, we noticed a missing step in the process. Like the underpants gnomes in South Park (who’s business plan is: Phase 1 – collect underpants; Phase 2 – ?; Phase 3 – profit!) we felt like we had Phase 1 – create course level learning objectives; Phase 2 – ?; Phase 3 – Syllabus!

The literature (both law library and educational design literature) warned about potential pitfalls when a course is designed around a set of content instead of the content being dictated by the learning objectives. So the question became: how do we organize the obvious content that we must include (how to access and efficiently and effectively use legal sources) without allowing that content to override and muddy the course we’ve painstakingly conceptualized?

We tried to create lecture-level learning objectives, but that quickly became overwhelming and could potentially mislead us into leaning on the course content to define the course rather than have our vision of the course define the content. We debated the tried-and-true method of legal research courses: teach print sources then the databases… that didn’t fit well with our course goals to focus on the transferable skills of legal research and to prepare the students to be information literate regardless of format or future digital platform GUI changes.

Phase 3 – Syllabus!

We did eventually succeed! But to get there we had to cross the Phase 2 question mark. Eventually, after several weeks, I went back to something I had taken an interest in years ago while I was a Psychology undergrad: Gestalt psychology. In next month’s RIPS post, I’ll provide an introduction to Gestalt theory and how I used it as an approach to organizing potential topics and content into a syllabus. For now, to understand the connection, I need to explain what is considered Gestalt psychology today: a small set of rules governing visual perception, began as an investigation into how the human brain worked, specifically, how the human brain reasoned and learned.  Those underpinnings of Gestalt theory bridged our Phase 2 gap and gave me a vehicle to link the content we had to cover with our course-level objectives in an organized and supportive manner. I could suggest we organize our course in such a way to harness the Gestalt insights into how our brains learn to improve retention and highlight the underlying transferable research skills we are teaching. We can structure the course so that we are highlighting the skills mentioned in our learning objectives instead of potentially obfuscating those skills through a deluge of format and/or software specific facts. Once I had, after several weeks, a sample syllabus to work from, my co-workers added suggestions and made tweaks until we had a mutually agreeable structural skeleton for our course. This wasn’t our last troublesome issue, but it felt like the largest.

If you enjoy this series peering into the planning of a course, please make a comment, if there seems to be an interest I’ll plan on discussing, in November, some of our other planning issues that we had to overcome. Additionally, I’d love to hear in the comments how you may have hurdled this missing step (Phase 2) in your course creation process.

Selected Further Reading

Margaret Butler, Resource-Based Learning and Course Design: A Brief Theoretical Overview and Practical Suggestions, 104 Law Libr. J. 219 (2012).

Paul Callister, Time to Blossom: An Inquiry into Bloom’s Taxonomy as a Hierarchy and Means for Teaching Legal Research Skills, 102 Law Libr. J. 191 (2009).

Janet Fisher, Putting Students at the Center of Legal Education: How an Emphasis on Outcome Measures in the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools Might Transform the Educational Experience of Law Students, 35 S. Ill. U. L.J. 225 (2011).

Robert M. Linz, Research Analysis and Planning: The Undervalued Skill in Legal Research Instruction, 34 Legal Reference Services Quarterly 60 (2015).

Theodore A. Potter, A New Twist on an Old Plot: Legal Research is a Strategy, Not a Format, 92 Law Libr. J. 287 (2000).

Correction: 9/19 The original post misspelled author Robert Linz’s last name in the body of the post.

Posted in Information Literacy, Inspiration and Design Ideas, Legal Education Standards, Legal Research, Legal Research Instruction, Teaching (general) | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Unlocking the Experience of the Past

by Paul Gatz

Earlier this year, one of the student journals at the law school where I work hosted a symposium on The Future of Libraries in the Digital Age. I attended many of the panels and talks, including the keynote, given by Jeffrey T. Schnapp, a professor of romance languages and literature at Harvard University, and co-author, with Matthew Battles, of The Library Beyond the Book. Intrigued by Schnapp’s talk and, like many of you no doubt, always eager to read more about what libraries are and where they are headed, I put his book on my “to-read” list.

It’s an interesting book, and I would encourage you to read it, if you are so inclined. However, I am not going to use this space to review it in any detail. Rather, I wanted to focus on one aspect of the book that I found helpful for my own thinking on, and practice of, librarianship. In discussing the titular library beyond the book, Schnapp and Battles consider the different institutional roles that libraries have played throughout history. The book proceeds to examine each in detail as it projects these roles into the future to speculate on what the library could become:

  • Mausoleum: a resting place for the collection, preservation, storage, and retrieval of the written record.
  • Cloister: a quiet space of shared solitude for reading, research, and reflection.
  • Database: a knowledge management tool built on classification and documentation.
  • Warehouse: a randomized chaos of information, made accessible by machines and algorithms.
  • Material Epistemology: a comprehensive representation and interpretation of knowledge made corporeal through collocation and categorization.
  • Mobile Vector: a perambulating collection that brings its services and information to its community.
  • Civic Space: a community’s opportunity to raise awareness and create itself.
  • Instant Reading Room: an ephemeral structure arising alongside events and emergent cultures.

East entrance of the University Library, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Inscription reads: “The whole world here unlocks the experience of the past to the builders of the future.”

These categories do not pretend to be exhaustive: few libraries embody all of them and many libraries play roles that extend beyond this list. Nevertheless this sort of list can serve as a useful reminder of the fact that the library is not one thing that can be easily summed up in one word, phrase, or brand. And it is not hard to see, as you go through your own day-to-day library duties, how the contemporary law library at different times embodies these different roles, now taking on one, then another.

To the extent the law library maintains a print collection or operates an institutional repository, it is fulfilling the role of the Mausoleum, ensuring the availability of the written record for use by future generations. The Cloister can be found, not surprisingly, in the space of the academic law library, where students can immerse themselves in casebooks, outlines, and online databases. The arrangement of the physical collection and even the design of the library’s web presence represent a particular Material Epistemology, communicating an implicit interpretation of what counts as knowledge and law.

This realization that the law library can simultaneously play multiple roles rooted in the history of the library as social and cultural institution has consequences at the level of the individual (librarian), the organization (library), and the profession (librarianship). Understanding these different historical roles – their purpose and their continued relevance – can aid the individual librarian in developing his or her professional judgment. The library itself, through its leadership and its relation to the community it serves, must determine which of these roles it wishes to play – and to what extent.

Finally, this idea of a multiplicity of historical roles (but not necessarily Schnapp and Battle’s exact list) should be incorporated into the profession’s understanding of itself and how it represents itself to the wider world. A consideration of these different historical roles would disabuse anyone who is still operating under the mistaken notion that the library was ever merely a storage space for books. However, we risk welcoming similar misunderstandings in the future if we limit ourselves to a conception of librarianship that concentrates on only one aspect of what libraries are and have been. Likewise, an openness to taking on any role that our user community requires risks diluting our professional identity – obsolescence by other means. Rather, it is of the utmost importance that, as we continue to think actively about the library’s future, we do not forget to cast an eye back towards history and tradition. Like any other institution, the library is a product its own contingent history, but is not limited by it. As a profession, it is our duty to maintain and build upon this history to create our future.

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