Building Better Libraries with ORALL

by Beau Steenken

Last week I attended the 2016 annual meeting of the Ohio Regional Association of Law Libraries (ORALL) in Dayton, Ohio. ORALL tends to be one of my favorite conferences. On the one hand, its relatively small size allows more in-depth interactions with colleagues from other places (compared to the helter-skelter of AALL).


ORALL is a chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries that includes libraries in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. It was formed in 1949.

On the other hand, because of Ohio’s commitment to county law libraries, ORALL features nicely diverse perspectives crossing the private, public, and academic law library lines. The theme of this year’s ORALL meeting was “Building Better Libraries,” which struck me as propitious since my library is soon to undergo massive renovation. The conference did not disappoint.

ORALL got off to a flying start with its second annual Mini-Conference for New ORALLians, a sort of mini-CONELL, that was the brainchild of Amelia Landenberger, my newest colleague at the University of Kentucky Law Library, and Marissa Mason, of the Supreme Court of Ohio Law Library. This year’s Mini-Conference for New ORALLians was a marked success, as eight new law librarians attended. As total attendance of ORALL was between 70 and 80 participants, this means that over 10% of the active membership identified as a new law librarian! Given how we as a profession periodically freak out about the continuing existence of law libraries into the future, it was quite welcome to see the youth infusion!

Conference attendees also enjoyed one of the more unique opening receptions I have seen. We visited the Carillon Brewing Co., which is located in Carillon Historical Park, a truly impressive collection of public history experiences. At the Carillon Brewing Co. patrons sample unique brews while learning about the 19th Century brewing process, which used multiple stories and gravity where modern breweries use hydraulics. Furthermore, the establishment happily allows patrons to order their beer “cask style” as it would have been served circa 1850… at room temperature and flat.

Following the first day’s exciting combination of new (members) and old (beer), ORALL 2016 proceeded to deliver interesting and timely programming. One program that I attended in particular stood out for its timeliness. Paul Gatz, a fellow RIPS blogger, and Matt Cooper both from the Moritz College of Law Library at Ohio State offered tips on researching election law in a session appropriately entitled “Make Research Great Again: Building Resources and Skills for Researching Election Law.” In their talk, Gatz and Cooper showed off Moritz’s impressive election law web center as well as a research guide that walks users through the process of researching election law. One of the professors that I often assist at U.K. specializes in election law, so I was very glad to discover these sources as I am certain they will be useful in the future (though hopefully not the near term future; I’d prefer for my kids to get a bit older before needing to explain the concept of a constitutional crisis).

As with past conferences, I also found that I learned valuable things from presenting as well as attending others’ presentations. Specifically, Amelia Landenberger and I presented on our library’s tentative plans for dealing with the fact that we will have neither a building nor a physical collection for up to two years as our building is renovated. We called on the audience to offer any suggestions or advice for us, and we did indeed receive a number of good tips! (Incidentally, if any blog readers have gone through a building renovation and would like to offer sympathy or advice, please feel free to email me at

A final highlight that I will share from ORALL 2016 is that we taught our AALL executive board member visitor, Meg Kribble, how to play euchre, and she gamely powered through the entirety of our annual Thursday-night euchre tournament, even as it ran past midnight. That’s dedication to one’s board liaison duties!

All in all, ORALL 2016 in Dayton, Ohio, was a worthwhile experience, and I look forward to next year’s meeting in Cleveland!

This entry was posted in Current Events, Issues in Law Librarianship, Legal Specialty Subjects, Regional meetings. Bookmark the permalink.

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