Have you been working on scholarship?

Have you been working on scholarship?

If you’re anything like me that simple sentence just made you cringe. By now you’re probably thinking about that promise you made to yourself; that this summer was going to be different and you were definitely going to start writing that article you’ve been putting off since last summer.

I understand! This is the part of our jobs that is easiest to push to the back burner. Yes, scholarship is important, but sometimes it isn’t as important as making sure your circulation desk is staffed and your patrons are served.

When I start to feel myself falling into this scholarship wormhole I try to follow a few simple steps to get me out of it.

1. Set short deadlines and keep yourself accountable

I have monthly deadlines and check-ins with myself to ensure that I’m making some progress on my next article. I schedule these on my calendar and actually make sure to analyze what I’ve completed and what I still have left to do. For example, one month all I may have done is put a couple articles into a folder. Other months I’ll have begun drafting. I try to let the article flow naturally, but having these monthly soft deadlines keeps me motivated and moving on a project.

writings in a planner

Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

2. Don’t think of it as work

More than anything while writing I try to remind myself that what I’m doing isn’t really work. Yes, for some of us, this is a part of our job descriptions, but remember what brought you to librarianship. Think about what the profession could become. Write about that! Write about what makes you passionate. When you feel strongly about an issue it becomes much easier to talk about and the drafting process turns into something fun and rewarding, rather than being something you must slog through.

3. Surround yourself with motivated peers

photography of women using laptop

Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

I have neglected this aspect of scholarship the most. This year I have the pleasure of serving on both the ALL-SIS and the RIPS-SIS Scholarship committees. I’m happy to say that these two wonderful committees are planning more ways to link up scholars and to motivate you to complete scholarship projects. Keep your eyes peeled for e-mails from these two groups and for scholarship-related programming at the AALL annual meeting. Also, have you joined Beer & Edits yet? They are a group dedicated to linking up scholars and promoting scholarship within AALL.

blur business coffee commerce

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

4. Start writing

Sometimes this is the only advice there is. You can keep folders of articles to read, research meticulously, and feel well-prepared to write, but never actually write anything. Sometimes we as librarians need to put away our research hats and just start writing! Force yourself to start organizing outlines. I think you’ll be surprised by how quickly your article comes together.

Hopefully, the next time you hear: have you been working on your scholarship? You’ll no longer feel dread, because your answer will be yes!

Posted in Issues in Law Librarianship, Planning, Time Management, Writing (generally) | Tagged , | Leave a comment

LibGuides for Legal Research Course Websites

For many years, I used a free pbworks.com wiki for my administrative law research course website. It has worked perfectly fine over the years, but the site format hasn’t really changed in forever. It looked a bit dated, or maybe I was just tired of looking at it.

Administrative Law Research Class Wiki

Our library purchased LibGuides a few years ago, and I have often thought of moving my materials to a LibGuide. But I never took any action until this fall semester, when I decided to teach my administrative law research class online for the first time. New course format—new course materials format—new life?!?! I flexed my cutting and pasting fingers and got to work! Voilà!

Administrative Law Research Course LibGuide.png

My hesitation to make the move was that I thought that I would have to reinsert all my many screenshots. Cutting and pasting the text was easy, but after two hours of reinserting pictures, I discovered that I could cut/paste the text and screenshots all at once by clicking on the Paste from Word icon.

Paste from Word

It was smooth sailing from there, and I finished quickly. I decided to spice the whole thing up with some more pictures and found some nice free images on pexels.com.

Before I started moving my materials to a LibGude, I thought I was jumping on a bandwagon. I was under the impression that many legal research professors used LibGuides for their course websites. After I finished and decided to write a blog post about it, Googling quickly revealed that I was mistaken—the only course sites I found were from the University of Illinois and the University of Virginia.

But that was fine, even though there was no bandwagon to jump on. I am pleased with my new LibGuide. The site was easy to create, update, and navigate, and—best of all—it looked a bit more modern than my old wiki. I already knew how to create a LibGuide, so there was no steep learning curve to climb. All in all, it was a very quick and easy transition which I should have made years ago.

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Hello To A New School Year

Hello. Good morning! Bonjour. Buenos días. Howdy.


from pixabay.com

While the phrase is common in many languages, it seems many people have forgotten how to say hello. The ubiquity of the smart phone has made professional pleasantries unnecessary. But are they really?

With a new group of students descending on to your campus this month, I urge you all to take time and be more cognizant of actually saying hello to them. While you are at it, also take more time to say hello to staff and faculty. You do not have to have extended conversations. A short hello and some eye contact can go a long way. Develop some elevator talking points about the library. Make it your mission that no one passes by your office without a cordial word from you. You are an educated professional, and fostering community relationships helps you present yourself as one!

from pixabay.com

A hello or goodbye can establish the type of friendly environment we want to foster for our students, as this Miami Herald article nicely illustrates.

Take an example from my own life. My college-age daughter and I ride a five mile bike route nearly every evening. When we started, we just said hello to the people met along the way. It has become a summer challenge for us to see how many people we can engage with a wave or hello as we go by. Some people do not see us as we sail along; others are too tethered to technology to even wave. The results are fun for us to tally. We feel good about the pleasantness we spread and we are learning to be more outgoing than our usual introverted selves normally would be. It is not a bad goal for a library director and future high school English teacher.

You, too, can create a challenge for your staff to engage with new students. Try to find out where they are from and hang a map in a staff area to display results. Have reference librarians greet everyone who passes the desk. Say hello to faculty and staff outside of the library more often. Being more friendly to administrators will definitely leave an impression on them.

There is value in having the library be the most friendly people on campus. If we do not make a good first impression on the students we will be working

Businessman Waving Briefcase 3D Figure Hel

from pixabay.com

with for the next three years, how will they find out how great the library services are? Students need to feel welcomed to be comfortable studying and asking questions in the library. Their success in law school could depend on your ability to engage them and be approachable.

Take care. Adios. Adieu. Goodbye.

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Congratulations to the 2018 RIPS-SIS Awards Winners!

This year, the RIPS Executive Board decided to bring back RIPS Awards to recognize our members’ outstanding accomplishments.  In our inaugural year, the RIPS Grants Committees created and selected winners for two awards: the Service to RIPS Award and the RIPS Publications Award.

The Service to RIPS Award honors a RIPS-SIS member who has made outstanding contributions to RIPS_SIS in areas of section activity and professional service.  Nominees may excel in one of the following areas:  Excellent leadership in RIPS-SIS, at meetings, and in committees; special and notable service to RIPS-SIS, such as participation in special projects; participation in RIPS-SIS education programs and public speaking activities; and mentoring activities that encourage others in RIPS-SIS.

This year’s award honored a long-time active member of RIPS who has served as both a member of the RIPS Executive Board, as a committee chair, and as a member of special projects.  Karin Johnsrud of the Supreme Court Library is the inaugural Service to RIPS Award winner.  Karin always answering the call to serve when asked, including this past year when she was asked to help draft the new RIPS strategic plan as part of the RIPS Strategic Planning Committee.  Karin was also the head of the RIPS History Project in 2011, in which she helped chronicle our special interest section’s history.

Karin served as the Secretary/Treasurer of RIPS from 2011 to 2013 and has served on both the RIPS Grants Committee and the Research Instruction Committee.  From 2016 to 2017, Karin served as co-chair of the Research Instruction Committee, during which she helped move forward the textbook reviews project and helped lead successful roundtables at the AALL Annual Meeting.  We are proud to have her as a member of the RIPS-SIS community and to present her with this honor.

The RIPS Publication Award honors RIPS-SIS members for contributions to law librarianship through publication, particularly in the areas of research instruction and patron services. Eligible materials must be published during the prior calendar year.

This year’s award winning publication is Multinational Sources Compared: A Subject and Jurisdiction Index, by Sherry Leysen and Alena Wolotira.  The title was published as both a print book and as a HeinOnline database.  As described by Hein, “Multinational Sources Compared: A Subject and Jurisdiction Index is a finding aid designed to direct researchers to sources that compare multiple jurisdictions on focused subjects. These print and electronic sources contain full-text legislation, statutory citation, or other references to primary law.”  As described by one of nominator, the title “makes a significant contribution to law librarianship by providing a one-of-a-kind reference work for those of us teaching and/or assisting patrons with international comparative law research.”

Sherry Leysen is the Associate Director for Library Services as Chapman University’s Hugh & Hazel Darling Law Library.

Photo of Sherry Leysen receiving her award from Alyson Drake

Sherry Leysen receiving her award from Alyson Drake

Alena Wolotira is the Circulation Librarian at the University of Washington’s Gallagher Law Library.

Photo of Alena Wolotira

Alena Wolotira

Posted in AALL Annoucements, Career, RIPS Committees, RIPS events, RIPS Member Achievements | Leave a comment

Implementing Opportunities for Self-Evaluation: Part 1 of 3

Oh my, folks, it’s August. Where did the summer go? Send help.


Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

If you’re suddenly concerned about your preparation (or lack thereof) for the fall semester, fear not. Allow me to introduce the first of many tips to come for implementing elements of self-evaluation into your legal research courses. This first tip comes in handy on exactly Day 1 of classes.

If you didn’t know—or maybe forgot—the ABA has implemented new curriculum requirements. To graduate with a J.D., a student must now earn at least six credit hours of experiential learning. For a course to satisfy this requirement, it must provide opportunities for self-evaluation. While the ABA requires experiential courses to meet several other criteria, my goal here is to focus on methods of implementing self-evaluation. If you require a refresher on the other requirements, I recommend reviewing ABA Standard 303(a)(3) and Alyson Drake’s past blog post, An Experiential Learning Primer.

Side note: If you’re reading this and thinking “but I’m not an academic instructor” or “but my class isn’t marked as an experiential learning course,” self-evaluation is still a critical part of any adult’s learning process. With some adaptation, the assignment described below could apply in any setting—for example, with new attorneys or summer associates.

Typical self-evaluation assignments take the form of a reflection paper. While I believe reflections have merit, my experience has shown that students view these as busywork if not used strategically and transparently. Rather, I suggest kicking off Day 1 of class with a pre-assessment. I typically give students 15-20 minutes at the start of class to complete this “pop quiz.” Example questions include:

  1. What is a secondary source?
  2. Name one specific title of a secondary source you have heard of or have used.
  3. The citation “Pub. L. No. 103-3” refers to what? Why would you want to find this kind of source?
  4. What will you find in the Statutes at Large?
  5. What does it mean for a law to be codified?
  6. One resource for finding a complete legislative history for a state or federal law is…
  7. Which legislative history document is most valuable to determine legislative intent?
  8. Name one official document that may be created in each branch of government (Executive, Legislative, Judicial).
  9. What is the difference between a statute and a regulation?
  10. When would you review or cite to a regulation?
  11. Where can you find regulations that are “final” but have not yet been codified?
  12. Do you know what stages a regulation goes through before becoming final?
  13. How can you stay current with the regulation process?
  14. Where can you find codified regulations?
  15. Where would you look for municipal laws/ordinances and related cases?
  16. Name one free resource (online, print, or physical institution) for legal information:
  17. After answering the above questions, are you wondering if you should even be in this class? Are you questioning what you learned in 1L legal research and writing?

Ah, a good old-fashioned shock-and-awe approach.

What better opportunity for self-evaluation than a non-graded quiz? Students realize by question 3, give or take, how little they understand about research and available resources. I can see the self-evaluation on their faces. But perhaps the most important question is the final one: it gives students the opportunity to reflect on their sudden “oh s&*t” moment. An added bonus: the final question communicates my understanding and sympathies. It shows the students that I do not expect them to have all the answers. This is when I establish the class as a “safe space”—we’re all going to learn a lot together this semester and it’s going to be so much fun! (As fun as research can be.) And all of the questions shed light on where students are starting and where I expect the class to ultimately be, an important step in establishing course learning outcomes.

Congratulations! You’ve just implemented the first opportunity for self-evaluation and the class is only twenty minutes deep.

I tell the students the assessments are ungraded and just for me to better understand their level of knowledge. However, I typically grade the pre-assessments but don’t return them; I save them until roughly the last day of class. On this last day, I return the students’ graded pre-assessments—a little surprise from me to them. If they can correct—or greatly improve—at least one answer, I’ll give them an extra credit point on their final course assignment. Who doesn’t love extra credit?


Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

More importantly, this one assignment just turned into two opportunities for self-evaluation—one at the beginning and one at the end. It’s remarkable to see how much they’ve learned in just one semester, and it’s quite rewarding, too.

Posted in ABA, Legal Research Instruction, Teaching (general), Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

RIPS Standing Committees Meeting at AALL18

Join your fellow committee members at the RIPS Standing Committees Meeting on Sunday, July 15th from 12:45-2:15pm in the Hilton Holiday Ballroom 3.  Every committee will have a meeting at a time during that time slot, to meet one another, to talk about the committee’s responsibilities and timelines, and to brainstorm ideas for the year, as well as to potentially touch base with other committees with which you might want to collaborate.  Not all committees are meeting for the whole time slot (in fact, most likely won’t).

Please see below for the time that your committee(s) will be meeting; you should also be hearing from your committee chair(s) about the meeting prior to AALL.  Each committee should have its own designated table and there will be a sign on the table so you know where to report.

Teach-In Kit Committee:  12:45-1:45pm

Legal Research Competency: 12:45pm start

Patron Services: 12:45-1:30pm

Membership Task Force:  12:45pm start

Scholarship Committee:  12:45pm start

Research Instruction:  12:45pm start

Grants:  12:45pm start

PR & Recruitment Committee:  1:00-2:00pm

Program Committee:  1:30pm start

Nominations:  1:30-2:00pm

Online Training:  1:45-2:15pm

The Executive Board and your committee chairs look forward to seeing you in Baltimore!

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Join RIPS-SIS in Baltimore for Roundtables!

Join RIPS-SIS in Baltimore for Roundtables on Patron Services, Research Instruction, and Legal Research Competencies!

RIPS-SIS will be hosting three different roundtables at AALL 2018 in Baltimore.  Come talk to engaged colleagues about patron services, research instruction, and legal research assessment.  Each of the roundtables will cover a variety of topics including:

Patron Services Roundtable (Sunday, July 15th, 5:15-6:15pm in Hilton Calloway AB):

·         Diversity and inclusion on both sides of the access services desk

·         Working with patrons who are less tech-savvy

·         Best practices and software for scheduling student/part-time staffers

·         Access services for journals, moot courts, and clinics

·         Ideas for rewarding and motivating public services staff on a budget

Legal Research Competencies Roundtable (Sunday, July 15th, 5:15-6:15pm in Hilton Poe AB):

·         The 5th PSLRC Competency on Ethics and Professional Responsibility

·         Implementing Assessment in Research Courses

·         The roundtable will continue the conversations begun in the Designing and Implementing Research Competency Assessment held in late May

Research Instruction Roundtable (Monday, July 16th, 5:00-6:00pm in Hilton Poe AB):

·         Hypo/example swap for a variety of instruction topics and environments

·         Creating learning outcomes for any instruction session (such as a one-off session at a law firm, an academic class, or even teaching moments ta the reference desk)

·         Assessing instruction success outside of a classic paper/exam

·         Finding the right text for the right research instruction situation

·         Designing or finding handouts that suit your needs

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