Stand in the Place Where You Work?

Run for the hills! Modern life is killing us (and turning us into nearsighted mouth breathers)! Recently I read that our mushy non-fibrous western diet has led to the underdevelopment of children’s jaws, resulting in crowded teeth and jaw muscles too week to hold their little mouths closed, leading to an epidemic of mouth breathing children with braces. And that many children need glasses for nearsightedness because they never have the opportunity to look at anything far away…because they never go outside. And, most tragically, law librarians (and…well…all those other people who sit at a computer all day) are going to die from…sitting at a computer all day!

This is America, so surely there is a product available to save us from the cruel fate of premature eternal sedentariness? Luckily for us, there is a consumer bandwagon to jump upon, the standing desk craze. Everyone, including myself, wants one, so it is no surprise that, according to a 2017 Credence Research report, the standing desk market is projected to grow to 2.8 billion dollars by 2025.

 Trendiness and Law School Libraries

Everyone wants one, employees as well as students! According to a 2017 Society for Research Management report, standing desks are the fastest growing employee benefit. Some schools provide children with standing desks and standupkids.org is a non-profit with the mission to ensure that all public school children have standing desks within the next 10 years. Law school libraries have jumped on the bandwagon too, making standing desks available for students at Georgetown, NC State University, University of Chicago, and University of California at Berkeley.

 Wondrous Claims Made and Disputed

There is much written about the wonders of standing desks, and almost as much written debunking the wondrous claims. As it relates to health, according to the American Cancer Society, numerous studies clearly show that sitting for long hours is linked to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and shorter life spans. However, “sitting time research” is still in its infancy so it is not clear that standing rather than sitting at work helps. Standing doesn’t burn substantially more calories than sitting but there are studies to suggest it has a positive impact on blood sugar regulation.

But who cares about science, what does the Internet say!? That standing desks improve focus, mood, brain activity, creativity, energy level and increase productivity! They decrease back pain (really, all sorts of pain), improve posture, promote weight loss, lower stress and increase self-esteem! What is not to like!? But of course, the naysayers deny these benefits, claiming they just lead to sore feet, back pain, discomfort, and mental deterioration.

 Memememememe

Who is right? It doesn’t matter, because, let’s focus on what is important – me getting a standing desk! After a bit of struggle, the purchase of my desk was approved, and my Varidesk ProPlus 36 adjustable standing/sitting desk and The Mat 36 padded mat my arrived in late April, to much jubilation.

Sitting and Standing

Failing to anticipate later blogging about my standing desk, the early days were little noted and somewhat lost to time, though I clearly remember the deskpocalypse of Day 1. After work I almost cried in the parking lot from exhaustion and foot pain. After that, I took it easy and only stood for an hour or two until I gradually adjusted. Generally, I spend about 70% of my desk time standing. Last week, I was surprised to notice I went the whole day without lowering my desk (though I did occasionally sit in my chair).

The wondrous claims of the Internet haven’t materialized, but there are some things I really like about my desk. The best thing is the novelty! For years, I have been sitting at my desk typing, and suddenly, I can stand at my desk typing! Also on the plus side, I have something new to talk about with my coworkers, though I have been disappointed that no one seems jealous or wants their own standing desk. The following are my pronouncements on some of the other Internet claims:

Pain – I don’t have back pain so I can’t comment on that, but I do have Morton’s neuromas (nerve damage) in both feet. I don’t think my podiatrist is going to approve of my standing desk at all! My left foot hurts all the time whatever I do and, some days, the increased standing makes it worse. My arthritis/general old age creakiness is unchanged.

Energy Level – There is no doubt that standing up makes me less sleepy and lifeless, particularly during the dreaded circadian rhythm induced afternoon slump. It is much harder for me to zone out into a lethargic lump while standing. And since I am already standing up (and my feet hurt more while standing still), I am more likely to go visit my coworkers or just take a walk around the library. I shoved my furniture over to the side of my office to make myself a little path to walk back and forth and have noticed it is easier to get my daily 10,000 Fitbit steps in after walking around more at work.

Improved Focus – Since standing seems to combat my afternoon slump, I think it is fair to say that my focus is improved, at least in the afternoon.

Increased Creativity – There has been no noticeable effect.

Increased Productivity – Since standing makes my feet hurt, I have noticed that I can get extra boring things done faster if I reward myself for finishing by sitting down or going for a walk. And sometimes, even when the task is not particularly boring, I can spice it up by alternating between sitting and standing.

Posture – My posture is better while I am actually standing at my desk but my slumping habit hasn’t improved overall.

Weight Loss – I wish.

Increased Self-Esteem – Oh, come on…

 Conclusion

Well, as long as people fear death, seek novelty, and like to be trendy (soooo…forever), standing desks will likely proliferate in workplaces and schools, at least until the next new thing comes along. Or, perhaps research will show standing at work definitively helps prevent serious health conditions, in which case they might become ubiquitous.

Based on my relatively happy experience, I would recommend them to anyone, library employees, students, and library patrons included. Of course, budgets are tight at law school and other libraries, but at least there is little risk of wasting money on something that won’t be used. In the case of employees, if the original user tires of it, the desk can be reassigned. As for students/patrons, there is something for everyone, in the sense that there are always some people who like nearly anything.

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Posted in Inspiration and Design Ideas, Issues in Librarianship (generally) | Tagged | 1 Comment

What Time Does the Library Close? Avoiding an Answer

by Paul Gatz

Hours for the current semester are posted on the website and on signs located throughout the library. Special hours for breaks and holidays will be noted. Fifteen minutes before close, a circulation worker will walk through the library to notify patrons of the impending closing-time and encourage them to wrap up whatever it is they’re working on.

Every year, library workers will be subject to a performance review, measuring whether or not they have met certain performance objectives. Check-in meetings with supervisors every few months will help ensure that workers are making significant progress toward meeting their objectives.

The library director, together with the assistance of the librarians, will create a strategic plan, to be implemented over the next three to five years. In order to meet the plan’s objectives, action items will be assigned to individual librarians (sometimes as part of their annual performance objectives) or certain library departments or committees. Progress toward these objectives may be discussed at departmental or library-wide meetings, once a month or perhaps more frequently.

20180529_163346-COLLAGE

Closing in on the end of the day.

The regularity of these cyclical structures that we impose on the time of the library – openings and closings, due dates, regularly-scheduled meetings – lull us into an illusion of an ever-present now, a certain timelessness. It is within such an illusion that we ought to imagine Sisyphus happy – or in hell. Either way, the busy-ness of our regular work-a-day experience distracts us from considering that most uncomfortable of questions: what time does the library close – for good?

This is not to say that this is a topic that is ignored; clearly that’s not the case. For our colleagues in firm libraries, who have been re-branded and virtualized, the end of the library is indeed an active, or sometimes already a moot, issue. We are rushing toward the future, and we all should occasionally raise up our eyes from our pressing business to try to descry our rapidly-approaching destination.

There’s no need to review all of the technological innovations that have the potential to push the library into obsolescence, but I would like to note that changes in technology, by themselves, will not be solely responsible for the demise of the library, if it does in fact occur. The death of the library will not come because everything is online or because machine learning and big data displace human researchers, but because our users and stakeholders will believe these things to be the case. The fact that “not everything’s online” will not matter if younger law faculty do all their research on West or Lexis. The limitations of artificial intelligence are not as important as the perception of its power and efficiency.

Therefore, let us not confine our arguments to the merely empirical, the contingent. Librarians know that not everything’s online, that AI comes with small-print disclaimers – but these things could change. When everything is online, when artificial intelligence does know better than you what it is you need – what then? Will we find that the library too is contingent – that it might as well not exist? Or will we be called upon to defend the library as necessary?

Well, is the library necessary? (What a great, click-bait-y title for a blogpost!) That’s a tough nut to crack – necessary for what? For a well-informed citizenry? For a growing information economy? For an open and equal system of law and justice? Clearly, law, society, and economy all depend on information. Information is all around, and it is becoming more accessible, both in the sense of its availability and retrievability, and this accessibility will only grow. What can the library add to that?

As a mausoleum or a warehouse, the library will have less and less to offer. As a system for organization and retrieval, it risks being eclipsed. As a quiet space for both individual reflection and shared study, it has only the momentum of history to sustain it. If the library is necessary it is not as a thing, but as an action. Not a noun, but a verb.

For it is the actions – the work – of librarians (whatever they may be called) that create what is most valuable in the library: its humanity. For however much information and data are important to law, the economy, and society, these are all human endeavors that involve human actors. In order for those human actors to meaningfully use that information, they must understand it. Understanding involves context and interpretation, helps us to deal with uncertainty, and inoculates us to misinformation, disinformation, and outright falsehoods.

It is the presence of the human in the library – in the systems we create, the collections we curate, and the relationships we build – that facilitate the transformation of the torrent of information into the clear skies of understanding. It is why we must treat our work with the greatest of care and not slide into the mechanical boredom associated with the cycle of checklists and deadlines. It is the caring that is the work of librarianship – that is what it means ‘to library.’ And that is what makes the library necessary.

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Academic Law Librarians Share Unique Student Services

by Nicole Downing

The ALL-SIS Student Services Committee hosted a series of online discussions on topics related to student services throughout the month of April 2018. We received a lot of excellent responses filled with a wide variety of activities and services academic law libraries are providing for students. Four questions were posed to the ALL-SIS community throughout the month on the following topics: (1) health and wellness services, (2) circulating non-traditional items, (3) new reference or research services, and (4) nontraditional or innovative library initiatives. I found the range and creativity of law library offerings very inspiring, and I wanted to share a summary of the many responses received throughout the month about serving our student patrons.

Law libraries are engaging in a range of health and wellness services for students. The most popular offerings seemed to be mindfulness sessions and stress relief activities. Therapy dogs also continue to be a popular stress-relief activity for students. Mindfulness sessions ranged from weekly 15-minute sessions to monthly one-hour sessions. Some libraries are partnering with outside organizations for these events, such as Religious Studies departments, psychology counselors, and law student mindfulness organizations. As for another approach to mindfulness, Anna Endter of Gallagher Law Library received a lot of positive responses to the idea of putting sticky notes with motivational quotes on course reserve books for students at check out.

Stress relief activities provided to students included coloring materials, crossword and Sudoku puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, ear plugs, stress balls, and board games. Kim Nayyer of the University of Victoria Libraries even mentioned knitting supplies! Several libraries set up special tables for these offerings around exam time. Food is another popular offering provided by libraries for students. Candy, healthy snacks, coffee, and peanut butter & jelly bars all seem to be ways to engage with students, sometimes all semester long.

We received many interesting examples of nontraditional circulating items. Tech items and accessories led in popularity throughout the week: power cords, phone chargers, headphones, noise-cancelling headphones, tablets, USB drives, calculators, laser pointers, external DVD drives, and laptop locks. Athletic equipment was another popular category of items depending on the school’s location, including basketballs, baseballs, soccer balls, and frisbees. Bike locks, bike pumps, and bike lights were all mentioned, and Alex Zhang at Stanford Law Library provided a picture of the actual bikes that are circulating. Another group of items that received a lot of attention throughout the week were comfort items for your library study sessions, including ear plugs, blankets, footrests, clip on lamps, portable standing desks, and book easels. Joyce Manna Janto at the University of Richmond Muse Law Library specifically recommended the Actto Portable Reading Stand as well-priced and durable. As for the process for circulating these items, most libraries barcode the items, but some libraries mentioned honor and demerit systems for circulation.

A few unique student services were also shared during the last two weeks of the online discussion. Student Services Committee Chair Brian Detweiler engages in a unique marketing effort for summer reference services to students at the University of Buffalo Charles B. Sears Law Library. The library gives out foam cell phone holders with the Reference Desk contact information to students in the Spring Semester, reminding students that librarians are available even when students are working over the summer. Alex Zhang at Stanford Law Library shared that the library participates in the Stanford Law Student Association’s annual live auction by donating naming rights to one of the library bikes, the exclusive right to use a study carrel for a year, and homemade cookies. At the Chase College of Law Library, Carol Bredemeyer shared that they host a picnic for 1Ls!

To see the full discussion, please visit the Student Services Committee’s homepage and scroll down to online discussions.

If you’d like to continue the discussion about student services, please join the Student Services Committee for a Roundtable at the 2018 AALL Annual Meeting at 5:30pm on Monday, July 16th. Come to share your library’s offerings, gain new ideas, and brainstorm ways to improve student services.

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AALL2018 RIPS Travel Grant Winners

The RIP-SIS Grants Committee is pleased to announce the 2018 winners of AALL travel grants:

  • Mandy Lee
  • Fran Norton
  • Stephen Parks
  • Louis Rosen

Congratulations to all!

Posted in AALL Annoucements, RIPS Grants | Leave a comment

What Percent of Law Students Should Regularly Use the Library?

by Dean Duane Strojny

In the old days, if we had 10% of our students in the library in the middle of the afternoon, that meant anywhere between 200 and 250 students most semesters. Today, 10% is a lot less. With four campuses (and four library spaces), spreading out that 10% makes some places look lonely and forlorn. I often remind myself we are a law school that offers classes seven days a week for forty-five weeks of the year. A high percentage of our students attend class only in the evening or on weekends. They have full-time jobs, spouses, and children. They take care of elderly parents and volunteer in their communities. They commute long distances (sometimes a flight each way after a long week at work). What percent of your students use your library and how comfortable are they in it? During our last exam period, one of our librarians captured this picture.

Exam Week in the Library

It brings up a possible multiple choice question.

What does this picture mean to you?

A. Our students love the library and the study environment we have created.

B. Students spend too much time at the library.

C. This could cause some security questions.

D. This does (or does not) promote a healthy student lifestyle.

Select an answer. Any answer could be correct. I think I like A the most but know that the other options are just as valid. There are no standards for us or our students to be judged on concerning library use. The ABA, ACRL, and HLC instead refer to libraries and their support of the academic program. How do you quantify that? It seems like the norm for law school courses is three hours of studying and preparation time for each hour of class. Should one of those hours be in the library? Should it be two? How about all three? Our student who decided to make a quiet corner more comfortable probably would agree on a high hour of library use. The colleague who wondered if this is a security risk does not work in the library. Although a law school graduate, maybe they just do not understand the relationship that libraries and students have these days. It is ambiguous on most days.

We do know that students who study in libraries do better in school. With the dawn of digital collections and 24/7 database access, it still helps if you are in an actual library seat. (See this Australian 2016 study for example) Even though they are often texting friends, watching Netflix, or shopping on Amazon, they still get better grades. When they do study, the environment in the library is most supportive. There are no distractions other than those that are self-created. Now I know that there are some students who barely, if ever, step into a library. What if they did? Would they perform even better on quizzes, tests, and other types of assessment? Would they be better student leaders? Would they do better on the bar exam?

I work at a library where the busiest day of the week is often Saturday. The weekday students wander in late afternoon while weekend students stop by early before class or in the evening when class is done for the day. The ebb and flow of students is often consistent most days between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the week. Weekends are more chaotic with student organization events, moot court, and pro bono work being scheduled around tight class times. Some students are just more comfortable in the library setting or need to get away from the rest of their lives when they are studying. How do you assess all the possible situations? We market to certain students at certain times of the semester. They know to come in at mid-terms and our numbers go up when certain assignments are due.

What percent of students should regularly use the library? There is no correct answer, but I suspect the best answer might include something like, “One more than today,” or “As many as possible.” Best wishes in getting more of your students to set up camp and increasing your percentage of users.

Posted in Issues in Law Librarianship, Work/Life Balance | Tagged | Leave a comment

Leadership and Charisma for the Female Librarian

by Lora Johns

I recently read Anne Helen Peterson’s book Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman. Peterson, a professor turned BuzzFeed culture writer, explores the boundaries of acceptable femininity and the famous women who have transgressed them. The book picks apart the hidden assumptions we make about how people — and women, in particular — move through the world, and what happens when a woman fails to conform to society’s unspoken rules of behavior.

The chapter on Hillary Clinton stood out as especially relevant to the librarian in me. Her chapter is called “Too Shrill.” It begins by quoting men who were surveyed on their opinions of her. A common theme emerges: Her personality is abrasive and arrogant. She’s unlikable and uncharismatic. For many, this meant that she could not be as good a president as a man.

But “shrillness,” Peterson contends, is “just a word to describe what happens when a woman, with her higher-toned voice, attempts to speak loudly . . . when they attempt to command attention in the same manner as men.”

This concept envelops not only Secretary Clinton’s personal trajectory, but the careers of women in power everywhere. Clinton is just the most salient reminder that society still treats professional women as less than men. The presidential campaigns leading up to the 2016 election highlighted how “charisma” is inherently stacked against female candidates. Charisma in politics (or in law, or any other public-facing profession) is what sets someone apart as a leader — someone we deem worthy to hold power over us. In important respects, making people believe in your inherent likability is more important than your experience or bona fides. For women, attempting to do so by effacing “feminine” qualities (being emotional, wearing frou-frou clothes, crying) and embracing “masculine” qualities (being assertive, speaking loudly, attempting charisma) can backfire, with audiences perceiving these personae as either robotic or castrating.

Why is this relevant to the RIPS blog? The social structures that undergird this dislike of the powerful woman pervade more than just politics. We likely see it in our own workplaces and classrooms — not to mention courtrooms. Even at the Supreme Court, female advocates and Justices are interrupted at much higher rates than their male colleagues. As a legal research professional, it may be harder to establish control of a class or effectively communicate one’s authority on a subject if you are a woman. Women need to work harder to prove their worthiness — and at the same time are often penalized for that work.

On the flip side, these cultural expectations are hard-wired into all of us, men and women alike. If you’re an instructor or a moot court judge, do you trust yourself to assess a student’s performance independent of their gender? As a librarian, it may be easier to dismiss patrons (or colleagues) as rude or unreasonable if they are women. Can you trust that the lens of shrillness has not warped your judgment?

There is no glib or easy answer. What must ultimately change is how we conceive of who can be a leader. Women’s voices on average are simply higher-pitched than men’s. “Shrillness,” then, boils down to the fact that most people believe that what a leader should sound like is inherently male. After all, we have had comparatively few historical counterexamples. Until we see women as leaders on par with men, the best we can do is to be mindful of our own biases and take conscious measures to counteract them — in politics, in the classroom, and in our workplaces — whenever the opportunity arises.

Posted in Issues in Law Librarianship, RIPS blog, Teaching (general) | Leave a comment

One Step at a Time

by Bret Christensen

It's a fork in the roadHave you ever noticed that to do a thing, you need to do some other things, first? Take, for example, getting ready for work in the morning. Usually I’m in automatic mode in the morning, but the other day I had an out-of-body moment and actually watched what I was doing.

So, the first time I woke up it was around 6:30 AM.  My eyes just popped open. I don’t think it was a conscious thought, they just opened. Then, I noticed that before I actually got up or even lifted my head off that soft, cushy pillow that I stretched my legs. That felt great and lasted for about 15 seconds – after which I closed my eyes for another 10 minutes which brought me to about 6:50 AM when I did a full body stretch.

Ohhhhhh, now I know how cats feel after an afternoon nap. I then flopped my legs over the edge of the bed, ambled over to the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and then I started to shave. I began by first filling up the sink with warm water, slathered on the shaving cream, and shaved off all the little hairs on my chinny-chin-chin that grew over night. After a five-minute shower and getting dressed, I was ready to help the wife get our kids ready for school (which is a whole other battle).

So, what do you do to get ready in the morning?  Have you ever thought about it? Probably not, since it’s pretty subconscious stuff by now. But watching myself was a real eye-opener. I had to stop and see each thing, each step, and it got me thinking about what I do every day at work.

See, I work at a county law library, and I help a whole lot of different people answer a whole a wide variety of questions. Some people need more help than others and some answers are easier to find than others. What is interesting is that while the process (or steps taken) of finding those answers generally take one of two routes (either people start projects wanting to to know what the law is or they want to learn about the law), everyone eventually winds up at the same place, generally using the same thing(s).

For example, the other day I had a guy come into the library. Right off, he says he wants the law on bankruptcy. I followed that with “Any part of bankruptcy or just the whole thing all in one package?” He responded “All things about bankruptcy.  Just give me all the law you have on bankruptcy.”

The problem with bankruptcy is that it’s a pretty nebulous area of law, and there are a number of side issues. But, guy was adamant, so I led him over to the Bankruptcy Reporter (TR) and also suggested he take a look at Title 11 of the United States Code.

Later, another person came into the library. This person wanted to read up on the difference between the concepts “per stirpes” and “per capita” as they related to the distribution of assets in a will. I suggested that the person snag some secondary authorities and look at

About an hour later, the bankruptcy guy came back all dazed.  “Too many cases!  Too much law!” he declared. I suggested that he now look at some secondary authorities that could help put the cases and codes in context. I suggested he take a look at

Twenty minutes later, probate/will person was back now armed with more knowledge than any mere mortal could handle and asked where the cases and codes referenced in the materials were located. Happy to oblige, I led the person over to some primary authorities and suggested that the person look at the California Probate Code and also suggested looking at the Notes of Decision following the codes as well as take a look at the California Reports and California Appellate Reports. 

See what happened here? The bankruptcy guy started with primary authorities (i.e.  he wanted to know the law) and ended up with secondary authorities (he wanted to read what others thought about the law). The probate/will person started with secondary authorities and ended up with primary authorities.

Two entirely different problems yet both used the same basic steps to get to their respective conclusions in different orders.  I suspect if they were to have had an out-of-body experience right then, they would have been amazed at what had transpired.

Anyway, I suspect the moral of the story is if you don’t know what road to take, your friendly neighborhood law librarian can suggest the best path to help you get you where you need to be (even if you don’t presently know where that place is).

Posted in Legal Research, Reference Services | Tagged , , | Leave a comment