RIPS Virtual Annual Meeting Tomorrow, 6/21

RIPS Members—

As you may know, our RIPS virtual annual meeting is TOMORROW at 1:00 PM CST! We are very excited to offer this meeting in a virtual format as we hope this will accommodate our busy RIPS members’ schedules.

A few things to remember before tomorrow:

1. You must register for this webinar!

2. You may have seen the 2017 Business Meeting Agenda on MyCommunities, but please make sure to look again at everything we have included! One agenda item is to vote on last year’s 2016 business meeting minutes (which are included with the agenda). You also have access to the committee reports from 2016-2017. Your RIPS committees will be elaborating on those reports tomorrow at the meeting.

3. Another important agenda item is to vote on our newly revised RIPS-SIS bylaws. We’ve made a number of changes, from adding an antidiscrimination article to adapting to a more technology-focused world (i.e. omitting any references to paper ballots!). Please Review the new bylaws and be ready to vote on their adoption at the virtual business meeting. You can compare them to our current bylaws!

We can’t wait to talk with you tomorrow! If you can’t make it, make sure to still register to receive a recording of the business meeting.

The RIPS Board

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Law Library Staff Self-Care: A Collaborative White Paper

By Jessica Almeida, Nicole Dyszlewski, & Heather Simmons

At last year’s AALL Annual Meeting, members of the RIPS Patron Services Committee discussed starting a collaborative writing project with members of LISP tackling the topic of self-care and law librarians. After returning to our institutions, we continued to mull the idea over and decided to co-write a white paper. The idea gained so much support that there were more volunteer authors than there were opportunities to write, so the group bifurcated and started work on TWO white papers.

While both white paper groups consisted of members of LISP and RIPS, they took a different approach to the project. One group tackled the topic of open access in law libraries. The other group has been hard at work on a white paper about law library staff self-care.

As editors of the self-care white paper, Nicole Dyszlewski, Jessica Panella, and Brittany Strojny have recruited authors from all different backgrounds to write complementary chapters on a variety of topics from mindfulness to an organization’s role in self-care. The editors also reached out to AALL and have negotiated for and arranged a low-cost mechanism for the publishing of this white paper, which is being supported by AALL and co-funded by RIPS and LISP. In addition, the template for the white paper will be available to future authors interested in publishing similar works.

While the paper itself will not be available until the Fall, members of the self-care white paper group will be presenting an overview of the project at this year’s AALL Annual Meeting. Please come visit us at the poster session presentation and hear about the project. Below are the details of our poster:

Legal Ease: A Collaborative Self-Care White Paper

Wellness and self-care are words often heard, especially in the context of lawyers and law students, but what about law librarians? Our days can be filled with deadlines, countless interruptions, doing more with less, and difficult patrons. Self-care and wellness are ways to combat the everyday stressors of the profession. Making the effort to be more mindful, setting limits, and knowing when to ask for help are all steps we can take toward a healthier and less stressful life. As part of a collaborative effort between two special interest sections, RIPS-SIS and LISP-SIS, this poster session will be a sneak peek at a forthcoming white paper on how law librarians can combat stress and burnout by embracing self-care and wellness.

Jessica Almeida, University of Massachusetts School of Law; Nicole Dyszlewski, Roger Williams University School of Law; Heather Simmons, University of Illinois College of Law

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Why LawArXiv?

by Magaret Ambrose

You may have already heard that the Cornell Law Library, LIPA, MALLCO, and NELLCO have embarked on a mission to empower the legal scholarly community and to champion open access principles by ensuring community ownership of legal scholarship through LawArXiv.

You can learn more about LawArXiv, its objectives, partnership with the Center for Open Science, and governance structure by visiting You can also visit LawArXiv itself and submit pre-prints, published articles, data sets, and other work products.

This post, however, will focus on the question of why LawArXiv’s mission is an important one. In other words, why is open access important, and why is community ownership of legal scholarship important? These two questions are intertwined, and both speak to an opportunity for law libraries to be proactive, instead of merely reactive. As a profession, we need to stake a claim in the open access market, to ensure that law libraries can negotiate from a position of power instead of weakness, not only to ensure the profession’s relevancy but to also ensure the principles of the profession are preserved for the future.

Why is open access important?

Chances are, anyone reading this already knows why open access is important. Most likely, a person would not be a librarian to begin with if they did not at some level understand how important open access is in theory and in practice. Instead, a more interesting approach to this question is to ask: what does open access represent in terms of a business model, for both for-profit and non-profit entities?

In this sense, there is an old model, and a new model. I want to make the argument that the new model represents both a danger, as well as a singular opportunity for libraries to take back something that until very recently, was thought to have been largely controlled by for-profit companies. To start, under the old model commercial publishers largely have the academic publication market cornered due to the limited resources of academic libraries and academic institutions to support the costs of publishing peer reviewed materials. As recently for example, as 2013 this author mused that the likelihood is small that a major shift in academic publishing from the commercial sector to the academic sector would happen anytime soon.

Even with academic publishing being firmly within the realm of commercial publishers, libraries still have a place. Although the commercial publication model is not perfect, libraries are still able to promote a version of open access through shared community resources.  Libraries might not have control over publishing, but they do have some measure of control over how materials are distributed. They are able to keep commercial publishers honest to a certain extent because libraries can stymie the demand side of the equation for commercial publishers by providing varying patron groups access to academic published materials in a way that limits costs to the individual.

The new model under open access, however, is different, and there are different rules.  First, it’s important to note how the new model came into being. When I think of the growing trend towards open access, and when I read articles like this, -about a website that allowed free access to pay-walled academic papers and how it was able to re-emerge on the dark web – I can’t help but think of the ‘Life will find a way’ scene in Jurassic Park. As long as commercial for-profit publishers keep their profit margins well in excess of 30%, and charge upwards of $30 per article, there will always be a need to provide access to academic materials that does not break the bank. This might seem comforting to those that work in libraries. Yes the ‘publication’ environment is increasingly online, but libraries are still needed to a) provide access to individuals through shared resources so as to alleviate the costs on the individual and b) provide a layer of discoverability.

By focusing on these two library-added value propositions, you may start to see the problem when you factor in that commercial publishers are increasingly eyeing big data and online user platforms as their profit model. Elsevier most likely did not acquire SSRN with the sole purpose of charging authors and platform users fees (although if there is no viable alternative like LawArXiv, there will be nothing to stop them from doing so). They’ve most likely looked ahead, studied the trends, and know the economy of the future is about data: it’s about mining it, curating it, selling it to others to inform their business operations, advertising opportunities, identify new trends in research and innovations, etc. They don’t need to charge authors and users to turn a profit. Much like Facebook and Google, their main product will not be the publications themselves, or the content on the platform, but the behavior of their users on the platform and all of the data and marketing opportunities that come with it.

Considering that the other side of the new economy is developing online user interfaces to enhance user experiences and anticipate user needs, then what you have is for-profit entities that have swayed the balance of power in their favor.  They are chipping away and downright encroaching on the value-added services previously provided by libraries. And they’re doing it in a way that does not reflect on the ethical qualms of manipulating user behavior and mining user data for profit. Commercial publishers are no longer content to have a monopoly on publishing, they now are hungrily staking out their claims on the research process, and the research distribution and dissemination process, for the data that those processes generate. They are very astutely using a type of open access that cleverly masks their profit motive like a wolf in lambskin. If libraries do nothing, if they do not claim a stake in the open access arena, then their negotiating power to protect patrons and the integrity of legal scholarship is greatly weakened. Which bring us to the second question of this post:

Why is community ownership of legal scholarship important?

There are many answers to this question, and some of these answers are complicated and long. A short(ish) answer is that anytime you pass information through a third-party intermediary you add the risk that there will be distortions. If you’ve ever played the game ‘telephone’ or seen Norman Rockwell’s famous painting ‘The Gossips‘ the same principle applies. It is not that commercial publishers are inherently evil and libraries and academia are inherently good, rather it’s that each camp necessarily operates on a different set of values and each has a different set of priorities. When the responsibility of publishing, distributing, and ensuring discoverability of scholarship is placed entirely within the hands of third-party intermediaries, inevitably there will be a distortion as the information is filtered through the values and priorities of commercial-publishers-turned-data-miners and UI developers. These values and priorities can, at times, be diametrically opposed to those of the academic community. When this is the case, librarians will not be able to fulfill their role because they have been cut out of the equation by these same commercial-publishers-turned-data-miners and UI developers. This, in turn, casts a shadow over the entire process and leaves room for the integrity of the scholarly community to be impugned. This is not to say that commercial publishers will necessarily behave unethically, merely that a system that does not check their ability to do so results in a loss of integrity of the academic community.

So… why LawArXiv?

Seen in this light, the mission of LawArXiv is an important one because it is meant to protect the integrity of the legal scholarly community. LawArXiv will only work if those in the legal scholarly community recognize the dangers of the new data-driven economy, as well as the opportunities that true open access can represent. On the one hand, LawArXiv is reactionary in that it is a response to recent developments.  On the other hand, LawArXiv is a vehicle for the profession to be proactive by doubling down on some of the core principles of librarianship: protecting patrons and scholarship from profit-driven motivations and ensuring access that is free from high-cost burdens. Projects like LawArXiv may make it possible for law libraries to negotiate from a position of power on behalf of legal scholars and patrons, rather than weakness. If you are interested in this project, have feedback, or have any questions, please email

Please note:  the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own and do not represent LawArXiv, Cornell Law, LIPA, MALLCO, or NELLCO.

Posted in Access to Justice, Issues in Law Librarianship, Legal Research, Technology | Tagged | 1 Comment

2017 RIPS-SIS Travel Grant Recipients

The RIPS-SIS Grants Committee would like to congratulate our 2017 RIPS-SIS Travel Grant recipients. The following RIPS-SIS members have received funding to assist them as they travel to the 2017 AALL Annual Meeting in Austin, TX this summer. Congratulations and safe travels to everyone!

Brandon Wright Adler
Katie Brown
Whitney Curtis
Sandy Dunbar
Christine George
Nancy Strohmeyer
Janeen Williams

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Reflections on Teaching ALR: Modeling as Feedback

by Christina A. Coan, RIPS-SIS Grant Recipient for AALL Management Institute

Last fall, I taught my first Advanced Legal Research course.  This was not my first teaching experience.  I have previously taught various age groups on different subjects: Oral English & English Writing to college students and American Government and U.S. History to high school students. Every time I have taught, feedback has been an integral part of the course. The shorter the period between the work performed and the feedback given, the greater the impact on student learning.  Unfortunately, it can be difficult to give feedback as readily as we would like on graded assignments.  Modeling is an excellent work around for this dilemma.

Modeling is the act of showing a student how a project or problem should be approached. There are many ways to implement modeling; for example, going through a research problem together as a class before having the students attempt a similar problem on their own. However, modeling can also be used to give feedback for solo student work once the assignment is turned in. This post-assignment modeling could be given by revealing the written model answer to the problem, sharing a video that explains the steps of how the problem should have been answered, or taking class time to go through how the assignment should have been answered. Each method of modeling has advantages and drawbacks.

Answer Modeling

Answer Modeling is similar to a model answer for an essay final exam.  It shows the student what an A grade would look like for the particular research problem.


  • Quick way to disseminate information
  • Allows students to check their answers to see how they performed on the assignment


  • Does not explain the how in finding the right answer
  • Students may only use the model answers to mentally check off their grade without understanding why they got the answer right or wrong

Video Modeling

Video Modeling is a screen capture of how the professor would approach the answer.  The video includes commentary on why the professor was taking a particular path to answer the research problem.


  • Quick way to disseminate information
  • Allows students to see the steps the professor took in addressing the legal research question
  • Students can refer back to the video in new problems for some guidance


  • Does not allow for immediate questions by students for deeper understanding of the approach to the problem
  • Students may apply the same to approach all subsequent legal research problems
  • Takes time (without distractions) and appropriate software to prepare and create a fluid video model

In-Class Modeling

In-Class Modeling is similar to Video Modeling except that it takes place in class. This allows the professor an opportunity to ask questions of the students and the students of the professor.


  • Allows students to see the steps the professor took in addressing the legal research question
  • Allows for immediate questions by students for deeper understanding of the approach to the problem
  • Allows discussion of alternative approaches to addressing the problem with student input and collaboration


  • Uses class time that could be spent on a new topic
  • Desired discussion may be difficult to achieve depending on level of student involvement in the discussion
  • May not be able to address the problem in its entirety because of time constraints in class

No single modeling approach is best. It is up to the professor to gauge the class and determine which type of modeling is needed after each assignment is turned in.  Although I was unable to utilize each of these modeling methods during my first semester teaching ALR, modeling allowed me to give feedback on assignments when I knew that grading would take some time. Additionally, I found modeling to be a helpful way to give feedback that goes beyond whether they found the right answer.

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Calling Bloggers! Submit Materials by June 16

Calling all those interested in blogging!  The RIPS Law Librarian Blog is searching for next year’s cast of contributors (beginning August 2017). The current blogging year has been very successful with many wonderful posts and high readership, but a few of our current bloggers are ready to move on to other projects. imgres

Blogging is a great way to engage with the profession. We would love to have a mix of new and experienced librarians to contribute thoughts, advice, and ideas on the RIPS Law Librarian Blog. Ideally, we are looking for 4 new contributing bloggers to contribute roughly one blog post per month.

If you would like to be a regular contributor to the RIPS Law Librarian Blog, please send a brief bio, statement of interest, and a 300-500 word writing sample to Jamie Baker at Applications will be reviewed by the current blog editor and the RIPS-SIS Executive Board. Please submit materials by Friday, June 16.

If you have any questions about the blogging or submitting materials to be considered as a contributor, contact Jamie Baker at

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In Praise of the Reflective Essay: The Mushy and the Meta

by Paul Gatz

The reflective essay is well named. In the best of circumstances, it holds up a mirror to the student-writer’s own learning and thinking processes and, for the teacher-reader, can present an image of the entire semester from the perspective of the learner. Of course, the reflective essay offers these benefits only when the writer or reader truly takes advantage of the essay as a site for reflection – a place in which to examine one’s self and one’s work, to think carefully and critically, and to open oneself to learn and change.


Don’t reflect too much on this photo.

I did not have the full range of these benefits in mind, however, when, during the initial stages of the course design process, I included a reflective essay as part of the final project for my Advanced Legal Research course. Rather, I was primarily concerned with using the essay to assess two aspects of my students’ legal research skills: the metacognitive and the affective.

Metacognition is a term used by education psychologists to refer to “the knowledge of and monitoring of cognitive processes” (this definition comes from the Encyclopedia of Educational Psychology). Another popular way to characterize it is as “thinking about one’s thinking.” It is a skill that enables a student to recognize when and how they learn and to transfer that knowledge to novel learning situations. Metacognitive skills are essential for a master legal researcher.

The affective domain of Bloom’s taxonomy involves the student’s attitude toward the material being learned, their motivation to learn it, and their internalization of the values of the underlying discipline. This is the part of the learning process that ties the knowledge and skills covered in class to the inner, emotional life of the student. I am unaware of a full taxonomy of the values and attitudes necessary for legal research competency, but, at the very least, they should include the persistence, patience, and level-headedness needed to handle the inherent uncertainty of the information-seeking process.

In this past semester’s ALR course, the reflective essay was just a portion of a larger final project built around a single research problem. The other parts included a research journal requiring students to track their research process and a research memo requiring them to communicate the results of their research. The reflective essay asked them to describe their experience researching this problem. I provided them with a rubric that indicated that I expected them to identify and discuss particular challenges or choices and how they overcame those challenges or decided among those choices. The rubric also directed them to explore the thought processes and attitudes that informed their problem-solving or decision-making.

The research journal itself serves as an effective metacognitive exercise, as it requires students to monitor their own research process. This encourages a greater awareness of the process itself, leading students to be more intentional in their research and more knowledgeable of which sources and strategies work best for them. The reflective essay then requires them to explicitly confront this metacognitive level of the research process (making it sort of a meta-metacognitive exercise); this record of their thinking about their thinking enables the instructor to assess those metacognitive skills.

The reflective essay also provides students with the opportunity to discuss how their attitudes, motivations, and values affected the research process, but the end result is nearly impossible to adequately assess. It is not enough for the student to simply declare he or she possesses a certain affective state. Likewise, the instructor cannot with any precision or accuracy make judgments about another’s internal state based on the other’s narration or account of the research process. But, one hopes, through reflecting on their own inner states, students can develop a greater understanding of how their research is affected by their feelings and emotions.

I ended my semester by grading the reflective essays. My students all turned in excellent work, exhibiting careful self-examination and giving illuminating accounts of their research processes. Any assessment tool will provide the instructor with some sort of feedback on what the instructor has done well or done poorly. But maybe no other tool can display this sort of feedback as explicitly or as deeply as the reflective essay.

Some students used the reflective essay to point out parts of the assignment which were especially difficult or confusing. In some cases, this caused me to return to other portions of the student’s final project to re-evaluate their work in a new light. In one case, a student actually alerted me to wording in the assignment prompt that was particularly opaque. I now know to reword that portion of the assignment for next year’s class.

More importantly, these reflective essays showed me what my students were taking away from this class – fostering within me pride and a certain sense of accomplishment when they mentioned intermediation or explained the importance of secondary sources. Of course, some topics or themes from the course were conspicuous in their absence – I will need to find different ways to better incorporate them into future classes.

It feels clichéd to comment on how much one can learn from teaching. But reading these essays has allowed me to gain such a rich and varied range of perspectives on my course and my subject matter, deepening my knowledge of both and leading me to re-examine my own thoughts and attitudes.

All that remains now is to brace myself for the course evaluations.

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