2016-17 RIPS-SIS Committee Call!

The RIPS Executive Board is calling all RIPS members to volunteer for committee service and committee leadership opportunities.

We welcome all committee leadership interest!  Previous committee experience is not required to serve as a chair or vice chair. If you have interest, the RIPS Executive Board will mentor you to be successful!

Current committee members must complete the survey to continue serving on their committee(s).

A description of the ten RIPS committees and current chair information is found at: RIPS-Current Committees & Chairs.  Feel free to reach out to the current chairs if you have questions about the particular committee.

The volunteer survey is at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/J89PZX5. The survey also provides an opportunity for RIPS members to suggest alternative committees and to evaluate committee service as a whole. The survey will close on Tuesday, May 24, 2016.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact a member of RIPS Executive Board.

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The Reinvention Blues

by Erik Y. Adams

I recently read yet another article about public libraries reinventing themselves by offering new services. This particular one is by Larra Clark and appeared in The Guardian: How US libraries are becoming community problem solvers.” The article mentions that public libraries are moving to become “community hubs and problem-solving partners.” Search your favorite Internet search engine and you’ll find articles that discuss how a local public library has started loaning wrenches to ill-equipped do-it-yourselfers or hosting video game tournaments for teenagers. Ms. Clark’s article started me wondering if there isn’t something in this for law firm libraries.

We certainly have to deal with questions that have nothing  at all to do with legal research.  I recently received a call from a person who needed help with a software issue. At my law firm, the library provides support for some software and websites (for example, we get the call when someone can’t log in to Westlaw or Lexis), but we don’t support everything, thank goodness. If you’re having trouble with a macro in the word processor or the printer is out of toner, there is another number to call. But the delineation of what is owned by the library and what is owned by some other department can be fuzzy. More than once we’ve had calls that start with, “I wasn’t sure who to call, so I called you.”

I asked several friends if this happens at their libraries, and everyone said it does. One librarian reported that as her firm has grown in size and complexity it has created a support desk, not for technology, but for the firm itself. Unsure who to call with questions about the retirement plan? Call the firm support desk, who will figure out the person responsible for your job classification and geographic region.

Law libraries of all stripes are in the middle of a transition from “warehouse for books” to something else, perhaps “on ramp to the legal information superhighway.” But this transition has mainly been a shift of format, not of role in the community. Just as music once came on records, then on CD, and now comes through a wire, libraries have had a similar transition from paper books to electronic resources. But is this transition an opportunity to change the role of library in the law firm or in the university?

Knowledge management is still a thing, and many law firms treat is as an extension of the library. Some librarians actively pursue this role. But I think KM is a logical extension of the librarian’s traditional role, not a reinvention of the institution.

I’ve read articles like Clark’s before and thought they were interesting, but I never looked to them for advice. I don’t work in a public library, and I tend to think that what we do in my organization is fundamentally different from what goes on in public libraries. Trends there don’t necessarily reflect changes here. But in thinking about the increasing volume of technical support phone calls I’m dealing with, and reading Clark’s article, I’ve realized this is short-sighted on my part.

In my own firm, we sometimes joke that if we end our subscription to any more books, we’ll have room to open a coffee shop. And there are a few attorneys I wouldn’t mind playing Call of Duty with, if only for the opportunity to vent my frustrations. But those different kinds of services are just the outward signs of the shift to community hub, and maybe there’s an opportunity for the law library to make that same kind of leap.


Posted in Issues in Law Librarianship, Issues in Librarianship (generally), Patron Services, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Open Access Initiatives: Law Reviews, SSRN, & IRs

by Jamie Baker

openaccess2Open access initiatives have permanently taken hold as librarians continue to promote widespread access to information. Many law reviews have jumped on the open-access bandwagon and are seeing higher scholarly impact as a result.

A study by James Donovan, Carol Watson, and Caroline Osborne titled The Open Access Advantage for American Law Reviews shows that participating in open access has a real, sizable, and consistent advantage.

In answer to law faculty questions about how participation in an open access repository will affect the works’ impact, the present research offers a definitive reply. When looking at citation by other law reviews to all the author’s work, the averaged increase in citations in flagship journals is 53%. In general, half of these cites will be dispensed in the first six years after the article’s publication. OA articles will attract more attention earlier in the lifecycle of the publication, and endure longer on the intellectual stage.

For authors, the message is clear: The open access advantage is real, sizable, and consistent. The minimal effort to upload an article onto an OA platform such as SSRN or a school’s repository pays rich dividends in the currency of subsequent citations in law reviews and court decisions.

Not only do the citations in other law review articles go up, so too do the citations by courts. The study shows that new scholarship is 41.4% more likely to be cited by a court
decision if it is available in open access format. James Donovan, et. al., The Open Access Advantage for American Law Reviews, Edison 2015 03-A (March 2015).

The takeaway is clear: faculty scholarship should be uploaded to SSRN and an institutional repository for discoverability and impact.

When discussing SSRN and institutional repositories with faculty, they generally ask, “Will uploading to the institutional repository hurt my SSRN rankings or downloads?”An article that appeared in the AALL Spectrum in 2012 discussed this very issue.

SSRN and IRs more likely draw from different readerships, meaning that downloads recorded for the repository copy represent not diverted SSRN readers but a new audience for the content. SSRN and IRs do not fight for the same eyeballs, but instead target different populations defined by how readers find their way to the desired content.

The authors go on to compare SSRN and IR download performance over a period of time and find that there is an initial burst of downloads when an article is uploaded to SSRN, but the downloads wane over time and are eventually outpaced by the downloads on the IR. James Donovan & Carol Watson, Will an Institutional Repository Hurt My SSRN Ranking?: Calming Faculty Fear, AALL Spectrum (April 2012).

We have seen this in action at Texas Tech University School of Law. Our institutional repository, ScHOLAR, is ranked 24 in a worldwide Top 25 Law Library repository list according to the “Ranking of Web Repositories” website.  The website uses indicators which show that documents from our repository are easily accessible through Google and Google Scholar, proving that ScHOLAR is easily discoverable.  In addition, the site takes into account the citations to and downloads of our documents to rank our repository, proving that our repository is used extensively in the legal community.

In fact, we just finished a mass upload of historical faculty scholarship, and we are seeing robust view and download stats for articles from the 1980’s, for example, that may have otherwise been forgotten. Our effort to capture faculty scholarship has required an updated workflow. Each month, the Faculty Services & Scholarly Communications Librarian tracks faculty scholarship using Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg, Hein, Google, etc. When a new article is released, we capture the PDF and upload it to ScHOLAR with a well-written abstract and keywords for discoverability.

We hope that our efforts will continue to showcase our institution’s faculty scholarship and make it easily discoverable to maximize impact while continuing to promote open-access initiatives.

Posted in Faculty services, Google, Law Reviews, Open Access | Leave a comment

Conferences Big, Conferences Small, Reflections on SEAALL/SWALL

by Beau Steenken

The first law library conference I attended was the 2010 SEAALL Annual Meeting in Colonial Williamsburg. I was a library student at the time and could afford to go to one regional conference as part of my job-seeking activities during the spring semester leading up to graduation. At the time, I chose SEAALL over SWALL despite the fact that it was significantly longer trip from the University of Texas where I was a student. I would like to say that I made an informed decision based upon the number of institutions with open positions in each region, but I should probably cop to the fact that the location also played a part in swaying me—I have a masters degree in history of the early modern Atlantic World and am generally a complete colonial history nerd. Indeed, besides meeting with potential employers and attending conference sessions, I  managed to visit a few historic sites post-conference. I also had what I still consider to be the world’s greatest sandwich, something a local taproom & grill called a “Carolina Surf & Turf,” a combination of pulled pork bbq and tangy crab salad on a single sandwich!

Since my initial foray into conferencing, I have attended AALL every year and SEAALL every year save one. I also started going to ORALL in fall 2014. I have visited Denver, Columbia (more colonial history was involved), Philadelphia (more colonial history), Tampa, Boston (more colonial history), Decatur, Seattle, San Antonio (colonial history of a different sort), Columbus, Philadelphia again (yet more colonial history), Fort Wayne, and, most recently, Dallas.

Dallas served as the site of the recent SEAALL/SWALL joint meeting, hosted by the wonderful librarians of U.N.T. During the conference, I found myself reflecting on the nature of conferences due to the fact that I was attending a joint meeting of the two regional associations between which I was forced to choose when embarking upon my law library career.

On the one hand, I follow a similar pattern at all the conferences I attend (besides taking advantage of their locations to tour colonial history sites). I still split my time between networking (albeit in less stressful fashion since it is no longer in connection with a job search), attending educational sessions (although I now always add visiting the exhibit hall to learn about new products), and sampling (ok, probably beyond sampling) the local cuisine (though nothing has surpassed the Carolina Surf & Turf).

On the other hand, each conference definitely possesses its own culture and character. AALL strikes me as a frenetic whirlwind that features a lot of breadth. Every second is filled, and each activity is pursued with a different cast of companions. My approach to regional conferences is more focused, and I feel like in some ways they offer more depth, especially in terms of networking. At regional conferences, I find that a lot of the participation overlaps so that I end up doing multiple things with individuals I meet. Thus, I feel like I better get to know my colleagues from other institutions. Also, the regional conferences develop their own fun little quirks, like “seaallsucker” at SEAALL or the annual euchre tournament at ORALL.

In many ways, the joint SEAALL/SWALL conference this year felt like a blend of the two types of experience. There were more attendees than at a normal regional conference. As a result, there was some turnover in cast of participants from session to session and from activity to activity, but I still saw faces multiple times, leading to deeper connections. Also, while there were chances to catch one’s breath that would not be present at AALL, the programming struck me as more varied than at a typical regional conference. (Sessions that stand out in my memory included Pablo Arredondo of Casetext pitching the WeCite project, and Barbara Bintliff’s flag-waving appeal to rally in support of UELMA.) In many ways, therefore, SEAALL/SWALL was a combination of the best features of both conferences big and conferences small.

Posted in Annual meeting resources, Continuing Education, Issues in Law Librarianship, Regional meetings | Leave a comment

Finals – My favorite time of year


Photo by ccarlstead | Used under CC BY 2.0


by Christina Glon

Finals have started here at Emory Law and, while we can all feel the tension in the library, this is still my favorite time of year. Not because my class is over and all I have to do now is wait for final papers to come in, but because this is the time of year where I feel I can really make an immediate difference in our students’ lives.

Student stress levels are through the roof right now and with good reason. For those of you who have never lived through a law school exam, allow me to set the stage for you. You’ve worked hard all semester. Gone to every class, done every reading assignment, participated in class discussion, talked with the professor during office hours. You’ve really given it your all. Now, you go into a classroom with all of your peers, receive a fact pattern or two, and are told to write for the next four hours. Go.

Oh, and you can’t put your name on your exam, only your randomly assigned exam number, to prevent any unconscious bias from the professor during grading. That’s right, it’s anonymous. And it’s worth 100% of your grade. It doesn’t matter if your professor thinks you are the star of the class, your professor has no idea who drafted the legal analysis they are grading.

Oh, about the grading – it is “competitively graded,” too.  For every A awarded, a B- must be given in order to achieve the law school’s target class average and that beautiful, yet unforgiving, bell curve. Add on top of all of that, for the first year law students who came to law school right out of undergrad, their law school GPA is all they have to offer potential employers for how qualified they are for the job. Now that is stressful.

There is some logic to this – a method to the madness if you will. In the “law,” someone wins and someone loses. When you go to court, the judge doesn’t say, “Oh, you both worked so hard, you both win.” No, he has to decide who is right and who is wrong. You win and you lose. As the attorney, you get one shot to plead your case. Go. Thus is the nature of law school.

So why on earth is this my favorite time of the year? Because as law librarians, we have walked a mile in those shoes. And now we get the chance to offer some words of support and encouragement beyond the traditional empty “good luck!” Students have to walk fairly close to the Reference Desk to get in and out of the library. We say “hi” all day long and all semester long. This time of year, I go out of my way to ask students sincerely, “How are you doing?” The ones that stop, immediately drop the smile and look at me with faces full of exhaustion and fear. I smile and remind them that they have worked hard all semester. When they roll their eyes, I tell them I know this because I have watched them work hard all semester. It may take a few seconds to sink in, but you can see their faces change when they realize that maybe they did work hard all semester. I remind them they’ve done their best all semester long. To prepare them for this moment. And I tell them, with confidence, that they are ready. They’ve got this! And the truth is, they really do. When you’ve done your best, there is nothing left to do. If they score top of the class, good for them. If they score in the middle of the class, still good for them. If they score in the bottom of the class, no worries, they were good enough to be in the class to begin with and by definition, not everyone can be top of the class. Someone has to be at the bottom.  And if it goes really, really badly, well, maybe the law isn’t really for them. Better to find out your first semester then your last semester.

I also try to help them keep it all in perspective. It is perfectly normal to think that if you mess up this exam, it will be the end of the world. And that is fine for motivation in the weeks leading up to the exam. But on exam day, you do not need that kind of pressure. So if they are still feeling the overwhelming stress, I ask them, “Besides, what is the worst that can happen?” Then I wait for an answer. After a few seconds, they realize it may not actually be the end of the world. Yeah, it would suck. Some bad things would happen, sure.  But, really, is it the end of the world? No. Then, to get them to laugh, I top it off with, “Well, they can’t take away your birthday, so how bad can it be?” By this point, their shoulders have relaxed, they’ve smiled a few times, maybe even laughed. They’ve gotten out of their head a bit and are ready for the confidence to creep back in. I tell them again, “You’ve got this,” maybe offer a high five or some other victory demonstration, and tell them to go out there and kill it. They’ve worked hard; they are ready. Bam!

It’s the little things like this that make this the best job ever. I love being a law librarian and making a difference in our student’s lives. Truth be told, no one else in the entire law school has the ability to have this type of interaction with the students. Only the JD librarians. Faculty were likely top of their class anyway and haven’t had the opportunity to watch them work hard all semester like we have. While the staff care deeply about our students, they may not have developed the rapport with the students like we have. I truly believe that being a law librarian is the best job in the law school, and for all the reasons above, finals is my favorite time of year.

Posted in Customer Service, employment & reference librarians, Marketing, Patron Services, Reference Services | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hashtag

by Christine Anne George

Once upon a time, I was anti-Twitter and no fan of hashtags. My reasons were long, varied, and, in my eyes, entirely legitimate. My personal biases bled into the professional. I was quick to embrace the UB (SUNY at Buffalo) Law Library’s blog and Facebook page. But its Twitter account? Nope. We set it up so that our Facebook account automatically posted to Twitter. I thought that was fine until the day when I logged into the Twitter account and saw that we had over a thousand followers. We only had a couple hundred likes on Facebook, and Facebook was making it harder and harder to be seen. My loyalties changed accordingly.

In the past year, I’ve learned to love hashtags, mostly because some of them have been really fun and have led to some interesting interactions. For example, EveryLibrary Artist-in-Residence Steve Kemple declared November 18, 2015, High-Five A Librarian Day. I participated with a tweet and got high fives from a several different departments at UB.

Since then, I try to partake in UB-wide hashtags, like the NCAA tournament hoopla.

More recently, I’ve been trying to partake in trending hashtags. One of my earliest attempts was #NationalCookieDay.

When I saw the Florida Bar’s #lawyersarethecoolest was trending for over 24 hours a couple weeks ago, I knew that I had to get in on that action with a bit of law librarian love.

On Tuesday, I hopped on the trending bandwagon once again to mark Be Kind to Lawyers Day and National Grilled Cheese Day. It’s been our most successful trending hashtag tweet yet.

I’ve found that there are some definite benefits to Team Hashtag. Using institution-wide hashtags helps build relationships with other units. They become aware that you are active on social media and can sometimes come through when you need to get the word out. Using trending hashtags—as appropriate, of course—can help you gain new followers that might not have been aware of you otherwise. Depending on what you use your Twitter account for, having a broader follower base, beyond your institution, can be a good thing. It can draw attention to your events and work. Since I use the UB Law Library’s Twitter account to promote faculty scholarship, I want people beyond Buffalo following us.

Like any new convert, I think that my enthusiasm might be a bit much. Now whenever discussing promoting or covering events on Twitter, I’m the Martin Sheen of the group, demanding to know what the hashtag is going to be. What can I say? #HashtagLoverProblems

Posted in Humor, Marketing, Social Media & Web 2.0 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Seeking perfection in an imperfect world: Metrics and Academic Law Libraries

by Kris Turner

My colleagues and I are currently hip-deep in conversation about how to best measure and present the impact that our faculty have on the larger academic community. This information is critical to tenure committees, libraries, the faculty themselves, and practically everybody else in law schools.

In the academic context, metrics measure the impact that a particular article, author or institution has on other research. The data that is used to measure this ranges from social media impact (tweets, likes, etc.) to citations in highly respected law journals and reviews.

Many libraries focus on gathering data on citations, downloads, mentions (meaning mentions in media or blogs),and abstract views (the number of times an article or author’s page has been read but not necessarily downloaded). A number of databases, both paid and free, gather this information. The most relevant ones to the law community are SSRN and HeinOnline, though others such as ResearchGate and Google Scholar are also discussed in the conversation. Westlaw, Lexis, and BloombergLaw all track this data to a certain extent as well, though not as thoroughly in my experience.

How does a librarian track down all these important stats across so many different platforms? If you had to choose one statistic to track, what would it be? Are there any tools out there to help sort out this conundrum? So many questions!

There are a few commercial metrics tools and other tools out there that you can use to organize your institution’s research…but no perfect solutions. First, let’s cover a few handy definitions to help you decipher some of my metric-speak below, then I’ll discuss several metrics tools.


H-index: The Hirsch index is a numerical way of determining someone’s scholarly impact based on the raw numbers. The actual calculation requires math far beyond my abilities (I’m a librarian for a reason), but the end result spits out a number that you hope is large. The higher the number, the bigger the impact.

Repository Badge, or Badge: Two of the tools below (PlumX and Altmetrics) have the ability to add a widget, or badge, to your repository pages. These give you a quick review of an article’s impact and certainly grab a viewer’s attention when they are browsing your repository.

Author or article pages: A page in your repository (or in another database) that houses one specific article or the articles located in that database by a specific author.

Before I briefly discuss the tools, I would be remiss if I didn’t first mention Christine Anne George’s excellent and thorough post earlier this year on ORCID. In many of the tools below, ORCIDs are a crucial part to locating unique articles by specific authors. They are growing in usefulness and popularity, and using them to help you collect metrics is a smart move.



Altmetrics: Probably the best-known metrics tool, Altmetrics measures scholarly impact from an article level all the way up to an institutional one. On an article’s page, you can see it’s impact in the metric doughnut (with different colors for different impacts), which gives you an H-index score. Almetrics can be seen in some very large journals such as BioMed Central, but I have not seen it in use in many (if any) legal-centric databases. The graphic to the right is a snapshot of an Altmetric doughnut for a particularly robust article that Altmetrics uses as their example.


PlumX: Owned by Ebsco, PlumX is designed to give you an idea of how an article is doing in five distinct areas: Usage, Captures, Mentions, Social Media, and Citations. Each one is assigned its own color and is weighed by the amount of impact in each area. For example, an article that is heavily cited will have a large red (citation) ‘plumprint’ badge. PlumX pulls from a variety of free databases and is beginning to work with more commercial databases as well. No law schools currently use PlumX, but the University of Pittsburgh has implemented it.

Impactstory: Impactstory is mostly aimed at science researchers and faculty, but its design and layout are still interesting. Impactstory wants to become a “new CV” but better. With one glance, you can review someone’s publications, social media, impact, and more. Instead of a badge like PlumX or Altmetrics, Impactstory gives each faculty member a page where their articles are listed as ‘highly cited’ or ‘cited,’ depending on the number of cites. If you hover over the ‘cited’ icon, you get the number. Here is an example of Impactstory, from their webpage.

Scholarometer: A free web extension from Indiana University, Scholarometer provides budget-conscious librarians a way around the more costly tools listed above. Scholarometer pulls citation data from Google Scholar and then gives the user an H-index score after reviewing the Google Scholar metrics. Scholarometer produces some useful information, but I found that it worked only part of the time. It usually produced duplicates, and if your faculty member has a common name…well, expect plenty of false positives. Below is a snapshot of Scholarometer’s web extension and some results courtesy of Pitt’s ISchool.


Author pages on SCOPUS/Hein/SSRN/BePress/Google Scholar/Etc.: Maybe just using one database that tracks this data is good enough? There are plenty to choose from that give you pretty solid data. Hein Online recently introduced author pages that allow authors to see their citations and views and manage their profiles. Google Scholar offers a similar option for researchers. Of course, many are familiar with SSRN and BePress Repositories, both of which give very valuable data to the law school community.

The trick is gathering all that data in one spot. While there is no magic potion that will be a perfect match for your requirements (yet), the options out there are well worth exploring. If you use or have heard of a tool I didn’t list, please let me know. Good luck on your metrics hunt!

Posted in Faculty services, Information Literacy, Library Statistics, Marketing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments