Though a faithful attendee at AALL’s Annual Meeting each summer, I had not immersed myself in the regional associations. So I was pleased to attend the Annual Meeting of the Ohio Regional Association of Law Libraries this month to experience programming and networking opportunities at a more local level. This year’s ORALL Annual Meeting was held in Columbus, Ohio, October 15-17, and attendees were privileged to attend programming and events at the Ohio Statehouse and the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center (home of the Ohio Supreme Court), both striking locations.
The opening dinner reception at the Statehouse featured the Honorable Charles Schneider of the Franklin County (Ohio) Court of Common Pleas. A long-time friend to county law libraries, Judge Schneider sits on the board of the Consortium of Ohio County Law Libraries. He spoke of the history of this consortium and the current endeavors and achievements of the Ohio county law libraries.
The bulk of the programming occurred on October 16th. I first attended a session on Services to the Public. The panelists represented an academic law library (Chase College of Law), a county law library (Hamilton County), and the Ohio Supreme Court Law Library. The panel covered a variety of issues common to any law library that serves the public including where to draw the line on service to avoid the unauthorized practice of law; what facilities and materials are made available to the public; and what to do with aggressive or belligerent pro se patrons. I was interested to hear how many libraries – of all types – have panic buttons or code words to alert the police or colleagues of a troublesome patron. (Personally, I’m glad we don’t have a panic button at my library – I’d be liable to set that thing off accidentally!) Troublesome patrons are something that all libraries deal with, and having measures in place to handle the situation is a conversation all libraries need to have. I was also very interested to hear about the Hamilton County Law Library’s landing page on public access computers. They’ve created a web page of links to free legal research sites, the Ohio courts, and other sites popular for pro se research. This creates a quick reference research portal as the first thing patrons see when they open the web browser. Setting default home pages is easy enough, and for those of us with subscriptions to LibGuides or the like, it would be very easy to replicate that project for our own patrons.
While most programming for the conference was on a dual-track format, the second program of the day was stand-alone: Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict. At conferences, I usually focus on programs about teaching or technology, but practical, workplace-focused programs like this are beneficial to everyone. The speaker discussed common reactions to workplace conflict and how to properly address the situation.
Another stand-alone program at ORALL was the Cool Tools Café, familiar to attendees of AALL. Demonstrations included Excel/Millennium Mash-up, Zopim Chat Reference, Neota Logic, QR Codes, Ravel Law, iPad Productivity Apps, Canva, and LibGuides2 (which I presented – you can see my sample guide here).
The remainder of the day returned to the dual-track format. I attended a session on Teaching Legal Technology Courses, a curricular development that’s garnering a lot of steam in legal academia today. The speakers – from Northwestern Law and Valparaiso Law – gave practical advice and lessons learned from teaching and evolving this course at Valpo over the past few years.
Finally, I sat in on the second part of a two-part session on License Negotiation Strategy. The audience was divided into firm librarians, county law librarians, and academic law librarians. Each group was tasked to review a sample license agreement to pick out troublesome clauses and discuss strategies for negotiation on these points. This was an eye-opening session for everyone involved; we learned how license negotiation differs by type of library, and how license provisions and flexibility differ depending on your type of library.
The final program I attended, on the 17th, discussed accommodations for students with disabilities in an online learning environment. Although we may not all be teaching online, these days, it is safe to say that the majority of us are at least using online learning management systems to post course content. This session offered a wealth of practical advice, tools, and simple changes that will benefit all students, including those with various disabilities. If you’re making any kind of content available online, patrons will benefit from these modifications, most of which take little extra effort on the librarian’s part.
Overall, ORALL offered an excellent slate of programming and local arrangements. Also, I noticed how much more interaction I had with firm and county law librarians than I do at AALL. Many of the programs were designed to apply to all types of law libraries or to have county, firm, and academic law librarians share experiences with each other. And of course, given the smaller size, I also got to know a greater variety of conference attendees as well.
As a newer law librarian, I am so glad to have attended ORALL, and I look forward to getting involved at the regional level. Regional associations are an excellent avenue for networking and leadership, and I look forward to seeing what programming awaits us next year at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne.
If you’d like to see more information about the programming at this year’s Annual Meeting, you can find it on the ORALL website.