A Librarian's Librarian: Remembering Paul Gatz

Paul Gatz passed away on Saturday, January 18, after a year-long battle with cancer. The Moritz Law Library has put together a memorial for Paul with information regarding services and memorial contributions for his wife Marley and their young son Theo.

Everyone should take the time to read Paul’s insightful contributions to the RIPS Law Librarian Blog.

Below are just a few memories of Paul.

From Sara Sampson, Assistant Dean for Information Services & Communications, Director of the Law Library, The Ohio State Moritz Law Library: “Paul’s passing, especially at such an early stage of his law library career, is a real loss to not only the Moritz community, but also the law librarian profession. Paul was a librarian’s librarian. He was incredibly smart, curious and helpful. Paul had this ability to think deeply, including grappling with the existential issues facing the profession of law librarianship. In his piece “What Time Does the Library Close? Avoiding an Answer” he confronted the question of what a library really does and why they should exist. He concluded that ‘It is the presence of the human in the library – in the systems we create, the collections we curate, and the relationships we build – that facilitate the transformation of the torrent of information into the clear skies of understanding. … It is the caring that is the work of librarianship – that is what it means ‘to library.’ And that is what makes the library necessary.'”

From Ingrid Mattson, Assistant Director for Instructional Services, Cardozo School of Law, Chutick Law Library: “Paul loved learning, and that love extended to his interactions with colleagues and students. He was always willing to lend an ear to bounce ideas around about how to best teach a topic. But he also sought input to determine the best way to help his students learn. Those who had a chance to work with him and learn from him are very lucky.”

From Jamie Baker, Associate Dean & Law Library Director, The Texas Tech University School of Law Library: “From the memories shared of Paul, it’s clear that he deeply affected those in and outside of the law librarianship profession. Paul could see things in a way that felt both realistic and optimistic. And when he found the time to articulate his thoughts in writing, we all benefited from his brilliant worldview. I remember one conversation, in particular, when we were discussing the vulnerability that comes with considering law librarianship as a calling. Some time later, he wrote a piece called, “How to Be a Law Librarian” that saw the beauty in the vocation, as well as the immense value in all types of law librarians.

Paul ended that post with words that I return to often: ‘As a closing note, we should be especially thankful for those law librarians who treat this work as a vocation. Because of their devotion to the values and ideals of the law library, they are willing to express unpopular opinions, critique and challenge powerful interests, and design programs that risk failure. Unpopular opinions, risky ideas, and criticism of the powerful are the fuel that will ensure that law libraries will continue to exist and thrive well into the future. We should all resolve to support their efforts.’

Let’s honor Paul, his wife Marley, and their son Theo, by continuing to be the law librarians that Paul saw in all of us.”

Please feel free to share your own memories of Paul in the comments section.

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Emerging Leader Award – Final Call for Nominees

Final Call for Nominees – AALL Emerging Leader Jury Award

AALL is now accepting nominations for the Emerging Leader Award. This award recognizes newer members who have made significant contributions to the profession and have demonstrated the potential for leadership and continuing excellence.

Selection criteria include:

  • The nominee must be a member in good standing of AALL
  • The nominee must be in his/her first 10 years of law library experience
  • The nominee must not have previously received an Emerging Leader Award
  • The nominee must have made a significant contribution to the Association and/or the profession.
  • The nominee must have shown outstanding promise for continuing service and leadership. Specific examples of his/her continuing activities must be provided.

Self-nominations are accepted and encouraged.

The nomination deadline is February 3rd. Letters of recommendation can take some time to gather and holidays are approaching, so we encourage you to begin the process as soon as possible in order to meet the deadline.

More details on the award, including a link to the Nomination Form, can be found here: Emerging Leader Award (https://www.aallnet.org/community/recognition/awards-program/emerging-leader-award/)

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Student Evaluation Season

Many of us are about to get our student evaluations back from the fall semester. This will be my fourth time to getting evaluations. I dread it every time. It’s not that I’ve gotten anything especially devastating, and in fact they tend to be blandly positive. It’s that I’ve never been able to make much use of what I get back. For every comment asking to please slow the lectures down, I get another asking if I could please move a little faster. For every comment asking for more time spent on in class assignments, I get another asking for less. Some students want more slides, some want fewer slides, some want more group assignments, and some want none. The only unambiguously helpful comment I got told me that I was often hard to hear in the back row of the classroom. Certainly good to know, if very frustrating that they didn’t mention that the entire semester.

Another point of frustration for me is that the comments meant to be complimentary do not strike me the way I believe the students intended. Each semester I get a student telling me that I’m “sweet,” which always temporarily makes me wish I had been tyrannical and arbitrary. Plenty of researchers have covered the topic of race and gender bias in student course evaluations so I won’t try to address that here. If I could banish that word from my responses, I absolutely would.

I also struggle with the usefulness of the questions asked on the evaluations and what the students may be thinking about when they answer. Did I use class time effectively? That’s a good question, but a number on a scale from 1-7 doesn’t tell me much. Which parts did they find effective or ineffective? If the open-ended questions are any indication, the parts some students found ineffective were the parts that other students would call the most useful time spent in the class. I get a lot of comments on the class meeting time and location, even though that’s one aspect of the course that’s entirely out of my control. Given the option, I would certainly side with the students in saying no to an 8:30am class held in the basement. Is that part of what they’re thinking of when evaluating use of class time? I also wonder about the part where they rate the instructor’s fairness in grading. Am I cynical, or should we just ask them if they got a high grade? The responses I get seem to track neatly along the curve I use for the course. Perhaps the responses would fall into a bell curve anyway.

The sense I get from reading my evaluations every year is that each question is really asking the students the same thing over and over in different ways: how did you feel? How did you feel during class time? How did you feel doing the assignments? How did you feel getting your grades back? I do want feedback from my students, and I do want to know how they feel about the course. I’ve struggled to use student evaluations to be a better professor. This year I made an anonymous survey about the course and gave it to students at around halfway through the semester. Since I wrote it, I was able to ask very specific questions about aspects of the course. It was my first set of responses where no one called me sweet, and my first with useful feedback. I’ll be doing it again, and I recommend it to anyone like me who doesn’t usually know how to make student feedback into something useful.

Malikah

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How I Started Reading for Pleasure Again

A wise person once told me that reading for pleasure is like having a conversation with a very intelligent person.  You can learn from them, be entertained by them and be transported out of whatever less than ideal mindset, boredom or doldrums you may be in.  My friend was quoting the philosopher Descartes, but it’s true. Books and the corresponding conversations you have with an author in your head can lift you up, make you feel less alone and give you a sense of accomplishment when they are done.  All this talk about books made me remember how much I used to love reading for pleasure.  To me it made life so much more interesting and meaningful, but somewhere along the line I had become a “book buyer” instead of a “book reader”.  Last year, I decided that I wanted to become a reader again.  I’d been telling myself that I didn’t have time, but that really wasn’t true.  I did have time, I was just using it thinking about work on my off time, watching TV, playing with my phone etc.  Also it really didn’t take as long to read a book as I had been telling myself.  I estimate it takes about 10 hours or less for most books around the 300 page range.  I spend that long in the car every week.

For me, the easiest way to get started was to join a book club, in my case a small one at my local public library where I helped select some of the books we read and got to know the people who would hold me accountable.  It’s the same accountability concept I use sometimes for housework i.e. the best way to motivate yourself to clean your house is to invite some people over for dinner.  You will get your house clean in no time!  I also started my own ladies’ book club to meet at my house every 3-4 months.  We chose the theme of novels and memoirs about and by women, but the theme could have been anything we were interested in.

Next, I explored and then joined the fun, visually appealing website for pleasure readers, “Goodreads”.  I signed up for one of their year long book challenges which would track my progress both large and small, as to how many books I had read and had left to meet my goal as well as what percentage I had left on the book I was currently reading.  Spending time on Goodreads is like spending time with a super encouraging reading coach.  It motivated me and kept me on track.  I also enjoyed seeing the visual bookshelves they made for me as well as their charts of the books and pages I had read over time.

I then had to figure out good times and places for me to read.  In a comfy armchair after work or reading before I go to bed works best for me, but some people I know get up early and read in solitude in the mornings while they have a cup of coffee or read during their lunch breaks at their desks.  Putting time for reading into your schedule is also a way to make sure your reading goals don’t get lost in the mix.  Once it becomes a habit you won’t need to schedule it any more, you’ll just do it, like brushing your teeth.

At first it was hard to regain focus and the ability to concentrate.  I’m sure my attention span, like everyone else’s has gotten shorter in this digital world with constant distractions and interruptions, but reading is a skill, that I used to be good at and knew that I could be good at again with practice and a little patience.       

There were some bumps and starts in the beginning, much like driving an old car that hasn’t been started in a while, but after the first couple of books, I could tell I was getting better and could tune out the world and enjoy wherever the book I had selected took me.  One thing I kept in mind was something my mother, also a librarian, told me about reading books, that “if you can’t get into a book after 50-70 pages, quit reading it and choose something else.  There are too many good books out there to waste time on one you have to struggle through.”  I gave myself permission to quit a book I didn’t like as long as I picked up another.

My goal in reading was relaxation and to be entertained, but I also wanted to read a variety of books that would touch on and teach me about all different kinds of things.  In my quest, I learned that historical fiction and narrative nonfiction (David Grann, Bill Bryson, John Krakauer etc.) are an easy, great and entertaining way to learn history or about a topic.  The books I read ranged from a memoir about hiking the Appalachian Trail to a novel about the subculture of high-end NYC restaurant waitstaff, to a semi-fictionalized account of working for eccentric, brilliant bosses in Silicon Valley to the last days of the Romanovs exiled in Siberia.

In the end, I went from reading 1-2 books a year to reading 23 in 2019.  I’m actually much happier, have a sense of accomplishment, learned a number of things I did not know and made some new friends in the process.  I’ve already signed up for a new Goodreads challenge for 2020 and am looking forward to leaning all kinds of new things in the coming year.

If you are interested in beginning to read for pleasure again, “The Ghosts of Eden Park” by Karen Abbott ended up being one of my favorites and is a page turner and great book to get started with.  The book centers around an outrageous, larger than life couple, a murder, a fortune made and lost from bootlegging during Prohibition, conspiracies and the exaggerated, but true lives of wealth and excess in the Jazz Age.  The book could not have been written without librarians to help in all the research it required, and it reminded me of some of the interdisciplinary research I have done for faculty members as part of my job.  Happy reading!

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Minority Leadership Development Award (MLDA)

The Diversity & Inclusion Committee encourages eligible AALL members to apply for the Minority Leadership Development Award (MLDA).

The MLDA was created in 2001 to foster future leaders and introduce minority law librarians to leadership opportunities within the Association. MLDA recipients will receive prepaid travel, lodging, and registration for the 2020 AALL Annual Meeting in New Orleans, mentorship for at least one year from an experienced AALL leader, and the opportunity to serve on an AALL committee.

Eligibility:

Upon submission of the application, an applicant must meet all of the following criteria to be considered for the award:

  • Be a current member of AALL;
  • Be a member of a minority group as defined by current U.S. government guidelines as found in 62 F.R. 58782;
  • Have a strong academic record and have earned a master’s degree in Library/Information Science;
  • Have no more than five years of professional (post-MLS or post-JD) library or information service work experience;
  • Have been a member of AALL for at least two years or have two years of full-time, professional law library work experience; and
  • Demonstrate leadership potential.

Award Benefits:

  • Travel, lodging, and registration expenses to attend the 2020 AALL Annual Meeting in New Orleans;
  • An experienced AALL leader to serve as the recipient’s mentor for at least one year; and
  • An opportunity to serve on an AALL committee during the year following the award.

Application Deadline: February 1, 2020Application Form and More Information: www.aallnet.org/education-training/grants/…

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The AALL/LexisNexis Call for Papers

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Orientation varies for new hires

One of the challenges of law firm life is the variety of new hires.  We have lateral hires – both partners and associates – as well as summer associates, fall associates, paralegals, a variety of staff positions, including administrative assistants, IT personnel, case clerks, etc.  And each new hire has orientation with a representative from the different departments.   Admittedly, the library/research group doesn’t have orientation responsibilities for all staff, just attorneys, paralegals, sometimes IT, and anyone else who needs to perform research or know about the library systems.  This probably isn’t much different from what happens in other types of libraries.

For us, the new hire orientation lasts 1-2 days, depending on the person joining the firm.  Attorneys may take 1 day because they need to start working on cases by the second day (and sometimes on their first day).  The Knowledge Services orientation is allotted 15 minutes – and that’s 15 minutes whether it’s one person or multiple people.  Not a lot of time to go over the library/research structure, online research, CLE, and anything else that comes up during the orientation.  It’s like feeding information through a fire hose and hoping the new hire remembers something/anything.

We tailor the orientation to the individual.  A case clerk would not receive information on CLE attendance or as much detail about how to use our reference attorneys.  A transaction attorney won’t receive details on searching or tracking dockets.  A lateral hire will be handled somewhat differently than a fall (or summer) associate.

Summer and fall associates can take advantage of training in law school, and law librarians frequently assist with research and writing courses (I know not all law schools offer or require those courses).  Attorneys making a lateral move come from a variety of backgrounds.

Lateral hires from mid-size or large law firms frequently have had an in-house library and research team.  But not all firms use their libraries the same way.  Not all librarians perform legal research – that task may be handled solely by paralegals or attorneys.  Laterals from smaller firms may not have had libraries/librarians that offered research services.  And, there’s the online charges issue.  We impress cost-effective searching techniques on our summer and fall associates (heck, we scare them with the average cost of a search, just to ensure they don’t develop bad habits).   But lateral hires have varied expectations about online charges.   Contracts for online services vary tremendously from firm to firm, so there’s often a learning curve for the billable charges.

How much can we expect a new hire to retain?  How much can we tell them in 15 minutes?  I’m envious of those firms whose librarians get an hour for orientation.  I hit the high points, so that I can leave time for questions and get details about what is important to our new lateral hires.  The lateral hires generally have questions regarding how they can get what they need.  I want them to be able to go to work on their files without having to figure out where to find the information.  And, if I’m really lucky, after a few days, they’ll have some breathing space and they’ll come ask me for more orientation information.  Then I can sit down for a longer period of time, and customize the information to their practice and needs.  While our 15 minute time slot has a list of items to cover, it’s not a one-size-fits-all.

 

 

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