by Ashley Ahlbrand
Last week, the Ohio Regional Association of Law Libraries (ORALL) held its annual meeting in Fort Wayne, Indiana, graciously hosted by the Indiana Tech Law School. The theme for this year’s conference was “Implementing Diversity in All We Do,” a theme that could be felt in every conference program, every guest speaker, and even in the diverse options for the dine-arounds!
The first evening, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller welcomed us and encouraged us to be pioneers in changing the traditional image of the library in these tech-heavy times. andre douglas pond cummings, Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs at Indiana Tech, gave an impassioned keynote address. He spoke to us about his research on the relationship between hip hop and the law, with an emphasis on the problem of mass incarceration in the US.
The programming on the second day of the conference covered a variety of topics:
- The effect that downsizing one’s print collections may have on access to justice, and the law librarian’s role in assisting pro se litigants;
- Explorations into new areas of teaching and research, including alternative dispute resolution resources, competitive intelligence instruction, and appellate jurisprudence in the internet age;
- Modern issues with legal scholarship, including implementing Perma.cc with journals and authors, and the inefficiency of engaging in “citation translation,” (the practice of citing a source in its print format, even though the source was found and used online); and
- Cool Tools Café and poster session, covering topics ranging from how to expand your outreach services, to tools for survey collection, to optimizing your LinkedIn profile.
The final half-day of programming rounded out our diversity of topics by discussing AALL’s new standards for county law libraries, innovative uses for LibGuides, and human resources issues in libraries.
Beyond the programming, I find that the smaller crowds at regional conferences offer another layer of diversity because they allow me to get to know librarians who work at different types of law libraries. The AALL Annual Meeting is on such a large scale, both in programming and in attendance, that it’s easy to stay in your own lane and miss out on the richness of learning from others traveling different paths in law librarianship. Regional conferences like ORALL’s meeting afford more intimacy in which to foster those otherwise commonly missed connections. For instance, I always find it interesting to get to know the many county law librarians of Ohio (Indiana, where I work, does not have a robust system of county law libraries) and compare our lines of work. Although we have significantly different jobs, we share similar missions, and I believe there is a lot we can learn from each other.
If you have not had a chance to attend a regional conference in your area, I encourage you to do so. I have always found them to be enriching experiences.