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Extras - American Association of Law Libraries Convention Alerts

Annual Convention - Baltimore

Convention Alerts!

If you attended the AALL Convention, and would like to share any information or experiences with our readers, send an e-mail message to Cindy Chick.

(Archived September 1, 1997)

Monday, August 11th

From Genie Tyburski:

Letter to the Library Staff of the University of Maryland School of Law: A Note of Appreciation

I would like to take this opportunity to express publicly my gratitude to those on the law library staff at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, who freely gave up their time on Saturday, July 19, to assist with the pre-conference internet workshop or, who patiently attended to the year-long planning for the workshop, The Compleat Internet Researcher. Specifically, I thank Barbara Gontrum, Director of the Law Library, who selflessly lent the library's space and equipment as well as her staff's time and expertise. I also applaud Mary Cornaby, Research Librarian and workshop instructor, whose creativity overcame several difficulties and whose discipline kept me on track.

I also thank Gary Grabowski and Larry Gonzolez, who assisted with the workshop web site, Bill Sleeman, who helped locate a file that had gone AWOL, Bob Bouland, who whipped 30-odd computers into shape for the day of the workshop, and John Stylc, who graciously accommodated my classroom equipment requests (and changes).

Without the help of these fine professionals, the workshop's instructors, or Andy Jarvis, who perfected the art of collating and discovering hiding places for lost badges, the day would not have gone as smoothly as it did. Anyone who suggests it was nothing short of a miracle that 30 plus computers worked without fail simultaneously for an entire day and that the workshop proceeded without a hitch, requires correcting. The miracle lay in the convergence of these skilled individuals.


Friday, July 25th

From Elizabeth Henry Klampert:

A number of private law firm librarians have expressed concern with AALL's direction and just do not feel that the organization is offering them enough reasons to remain members. That, I think, is the real draw of SLA's Legal Division. While it is true, as AALL is now touting, that AALL is the only association that solely represents law librarians, that may no longer be enough.

At this most recent conference, the offerings were quite varied, but, again, there was little emphasis on management or the business of running a law firm library (or for that matter any law library). Yes, the institutes held before the conference were more management-oriented, but, as one of the attendees noted in the PLI Librarians Discussion Group (archives found at http://www.pli.edu under "Interactive Media"), the attendees themselves are not necessarily librarians from the private law firms so the emphasis is skewed toward the academic library.

This is not to say that the emphasis should always be on the private law firm, either. The issue is one of balance. Should PLL be offering more management-oriented meetings within the context of AALL? Perhaps it should. Is SLA the answer? That remains to be seen.

At the "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" meeting, the panelists, for the most part, were quite defensive about members' moves to SLA and, at one point, seemed to think that (1) SLA is NOT a threat but at the same time (2) good riddance to those who choose SLA over AALL. I am, of course, paraphrasing here liberally. My approach is more, let's see how we can work together cooperatively. Radical thought: how about having a joint conference?

AALL really appears to be at a crossroads. The vote on the proposed bylaw amendment is a good case in point. AALL wants to bring in more members. The proposed amendment to the bylaws would allow expansion of membership. This looks innocuous on its face, but a number of members look at this as a way for the information providers, aka vendors, to make major inroads into AALL's hierarchy and this makes them nervous. In addition, there is a concern about further diluting the profession by minimizing the requirement that law librarians these days need at least the MLS. Bottom line: the proposed amendment was sent back to the Bylaws Committee to be reworked.

As an incoming officer of a local chapter (LLAGNY), I do want AALL to succeed and, more importantly, to support the chapter and our members more along the lines SLA supports its chapters. A good first step is LLAGNY's proposal to AALL to handle chapters' membership databases. We hope to have this well in place in time to report on it in Anaheim next year.

I wonder how concerned the academic librarians are about AALL's direction. I did hear from at least one academic law librarian that some of them feel that PLL is getting all the attention! There is definitely a gap here, certainly in terms of perception, and I do wonder whether AALL can, realistically, bridge it.


Wednesday, July 23rd

From Elizabeth Henry Klampert:

FYI, the amendment approved by the Executive Board and submitted to the membership concerning expanding the membership was sent back the Bylaws Committee for further review. The concern, expressed by a number of speakers, is that information providers, aka vendors, will eventually take charge of the organization, especially if allowed to become Chapter officers (an amendment that went down to defeat, incidentally).

This vote came after the meeting moderated by Arthur Miller on whether AALL was the "Bridge Over Troubled Waters?" There, members raised concerns about the effect of SLA Legal Division membership on AALL (the consensus was that people were likely to be joint members for awhile, at least), general concerns about the direction (or lack thereof) AALL is going, its commitment to diversity (not too many people of color on the board, for example) and so on. Some of the panelists were quite defensive while others took a more cooperative approach. Professor Miller kept the proceedings moving right along, concluding that debate was healthy and that if "this discourse" can assist in tranforming the organization, that is all to the good.

The meeting offerings were certainly diverse, ranging from English law to Netscape to the "morphing of law librarians" to dealing with E-journals to dealing with downsized libraries and space planning to international legal regimes to grant writing to telecommuting to dealing with difficult people (I'm sure none of us has to deal with those, right?). I was amused to see that the session scheduled for the "Hot Topic" was cancelled. Gee, nothing was hot this year?


Tuesday, July 22nd

From Sue Taylor:

CDB Infotek announced a new database of 200,000 Workers Compensation files, in addition to global UCC searching. They also are passing out an excellent brochure that describes CDB Infotek and their services. It is a great handout for attorneys, to let them know what is available from CDB, or when explaining the types of searches and services they offer. I'm sure they have these to send out to subscribers as well.

The exhibit hall closes at 3:00 today and already they are winding down. The atmosphere at this convention seems more upbeat and "can-do" than usual. The general attitude is make the most of the resources available to you. We're all working with decreased budgets, and limited staff, and it's up to us to stop whining about it, and just make it work!


From Donella Johnson:

Lexis is introducing a new legislative history product, which is being provided in conjunction with CIS. It only applies to major federal statutes, but it is comprehensive in scope, providing everything from committee reports to the full text of federal agency presentations at committee hearings. A legislative chronology and complete bibliography are also provided.

We are expecting thunder storms. Hope it is quieter there.


From Elizabeth Henry Klampert:

First, the weather report. A lot cooler today but we're going to be getting rain, courtesy of Hurricane Dan.

The events I attended this morning were quite well attended and, in the case of the second, pretty lively. "Measuring Legal Research Competency" had a lively panel from both the academic and private firm setting. From the latter's perspective (Paul Mitchell, Ernst & Young), not much measuring is being done in the private setting due to the pressures on associates of the billable hour and lack of support from the firms for training time.

He did note that we all measure a lawyer's competence at the time of the reference interview and go from there. From the law school's perspective, they are trying to get law students to be good researchers who can both reason and reflect. Interestingly, at Boalt Hall, the law students are also graded on their ability to get along with others, including the law librarians. Let's hear for civility, everyone!

From the audience, the issue of Legal Research Network (LRN) and its impact on law firms was raised. Since not many knew of this organization, it will likely be on the program next year. Also raised was the demand by Steven Brill, former CEO of American Lawyer, that no first year associates work on his company's cases. Again, this may well emerge as a topic for next year.

So, on to "AALL: Bridge Over Troubled Waters?" moderated by Arthur Miller. Boy, was this lively. A number of issues were raised:

  1. Is SLA really a threat to AALL or can we work together? No real consensus here, but a certain defensive on the part of AALL. Generally, folks are now keeping dual memberships and taking a "wait and see" attitude."
  2. Can we get the number of exhibitors here at AALL that SLA had?
  3. Aren't we all law librarians and can't we figure out a way to work together?
  4. Will this association survive the next 10 years? Should we change our name to something that includes "Information Professional" in the title?

Generally, members think that AALL not only needs to change but CAN change if it puts its collective mind to it. Arthur Miller concluded that "pots need to be stirred occasionally" and that the debate here is healthy, even if uncomfortable. And, in fact, if this kind of discourse can assist in transforming the organization, then all to the good. The debate, I'm sure, will continue.

A few other notes. The session on the "Morphing of Law Librarians," I'm told was quite interesting. Especially good were the remarks by Luanne Swanson, now with Lexis, but formerly a law firm librarian with a stint at a technology company.

There are a number of other sessions that I'll report on when I get back to New York. They're pulling the plug here in the Internet Room, so I'll sign off now. Hope to see you all next year in Anaheim!


Monday, July 21st

From Elizabeth Henry Klampert:

Baltimore is HOT and HUMID (like most of the country, I'll bet). The Convention Center, however, at least over the weekend was extremely cold (a lot of us thought about going out and getting outfitted in down). Yesterday was delightful — cool and NOT humid, but today we're back at high humidity. Sigh.

I have gone to the Exhibit Hall, but missed West's announcement this morning: you can now search all citators on Westlaw using one search. In fact, someone told me that you'll be able to use a key number as a citator which would have been nice when I was still practicing law! I'm not up on the details, but I'm sure you'll be hearing more from West on this, so stay tuned.

Last night's opening reception at the Science Center was well-attended and the lines for food were L-O-N-G, especially for those yummy Maryland crabcakes. Amazing how hungry law librarians can be, isn't it? The exhibits at the Science Center are well-designed and quite fun — I'm going to try to get back before I leave. On a sad note: Those of us who wanted to dance this year were disappointed — the place where we thought we were going to kick up our heels wasn't open!

I arrived on Friday night so that I could attend the Chapter Leadership workshop being held on Saturday, July 19. This workshop was created to assist those of us who were newly-elected or returning officers to become more effective leaders in our respective Chapters.

I have no idea if I'll be more effective as the VP/President-Elect this coming year, but I did enjoy meeting folks from other Chapters and finding out that we all do really have the same issues! Judy Meadows, the incoming AALL president, spoke to us about the Chapter visits each board member will be making this year. We then broke up into groups to discuss a few common issues and to work on possible solutions.

Since I'm now at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York as its Library Director and no longer at a private law firm, I attended, for the first time, the State, Local, County Law Libraries SIS. This group had its annual business meeting on Saturday and I met a lot of great law librarians who welcomed me to their ranks. The two outside speakers at the meeting, John Greacen, State Court Administrator, New Mexico, and Judge George Nicholson of the California Appellate Court, made some remarks that have some interest for all of us.

John Greacen spoke on the issue of just what advice court personnel could give out to the public, including attorneys. He has developed guidelines that have application to all law librarians who wonder about whether they are giving advice when they think they are providing information. He gave us a list of guidelines that included several "Shalls" (such as, Give information contained in court files and records unless sealed [analogous to giving information in the law firm's files unless confidential due to a Chinese Wall situation]) and several "Shall Nots." The latter could be really helpful in the firm setting.

For example, John suggested, among other things, that staff "Shall Not":

Judge Nicholson was highly complimentary and supportive of law librarians, commenting that he hadn't met too many that fit the stereotype (you know, the little old lady in tennis shoes and a bun image). In fact, he noted that no professional can afford to be a shrinking violet and that we can be quite effective by asserting ourselves. His exact words escape me, unfortunately, but he was quite entertaining and, I think, dead on with his observations.

Tonight is the West party — I'll report on that in a later dispatch.


From Sue Taylor:

I started off the first day of the convention right by attending two excellent programs.

The first program was called "Shrinkwrap: Did I Agree To That?" and focused on software licensing. It is a definite tape buy. Although it wasn't necessarily intended to be geared towards reference work, the overview of what is happened with UCC article 2B was great for me as I am getting more and more reference questions about electronic contracts, etc. and this put it all in persepective.

I then attended "Taking a Step Back: How To Deal With Difficult People." The presenter was an outside speaker, and was great. This would be another worthwhile tape.

The speaker detailed 6 steps in dealing with difficult people:

  1. Neutralize. Responding to anger with anger only escalates things. Two ways to neutralize anger: 1) breathe and 2) mental, think of a thought that will help you, DON'T take in the other person's anger.
  2. Watch the body language - yours and theirs.
  3. Listen - let them get it out
  4. Move them from the emotional side of their brain to the logical side. One way to do this is to ask them a question. Example, a partner needs something right now, very demanding etc. Respond by saying something like I'll get right on it and then ask something like will you be in your office later in case I have questions.
  5. Be solution oriented.
  6. Contract or agreement - get them involved in the process, also goes along with example in #4. Asking them a question gets them involved in the process.

These 6 points won't always work all the time but what will is to NEUTRALIZE. In addition, remember you always have an option, an external one of going to someone else (a higher up) or an internal one which is dealing with it yourself.

The big excitement in the exhibit hall today was West's announcement of their new KeyCite feature. This new Shepards-like service alerts you to the status of the case by way of a flag on the case you're viewing. Their exhibit hall giveaway, Nano Babies, is bound to be a favorite with attendees and their kids.

There is a contest to identify the person who has attended the most consecutive AALLs. It was clear that 10 or 15 years of consecutive attendance didn't count for much in this crowd.

Marie Wallace and Betty Taylor accepted their Marian Gould Gallagher Awards at the general membership luncheon.

The law firm tours were in the afternoon, and were organized a bit differently this year. Instead of being shuttled quickly from firm to firm, each tour concentrated on one library, allowing time to collect more in-depth information on how that particular library operates. The firm we visited was Miles & Stockbridge, where the service orientation of their librarian was evident in her motto, "Make-em happy and keep-em happy."


Sunday, July 20th

From Sue Taylor:

Pat Wagner of Pattern Research was the PLL speaker at the Sunday PLL lunch. The title of her presentation was "Everyday Leadership: Marketing as of your Job Depended on it." She made four main points.

Point 1 - Marketing

Marketing is awareness and response. Be aware of customers needs and respond to them. Unless you ask the customer what they want it is NOT marketing. The hardest, yet most important thing to do is listen, while not arguing with the comments. Don't explain the profession to them. For example, don't try to tell them that they don't understand the classification system, just listen. It is not the customer's problem if they are not getting the information they need, it is ours. [Some of these statements are in reference to brochures]. Just say "thank you, tell me more" - no matter what they are telling you. As we know, if we don't give them the service they want they will find it elsewhere. Ask specific questions in order to know why you succeed - you need to know what worked and is working. Efficiency isn't just cost - sometimes it is also time, timeliness.

Point 2 - Public Relations

The definition of public relations is "remember me fondly and often." PR should be consistent and continuous, and take up the least amount of time and $. Throughout her speech she emphasized that our first purpose or goal was to do our work - not to market or make brochures or produce newsletters or to spend all day on professional association business, such as wording of bylaws. Don't take time away from doing actual job. "Why spend time on image if it doesn't make a difference to the users."

One example would be a logo - do our users really need or care if we have a library logo? Make time each day for being physically visable - everyone in the firm should know you by name. We tend to communicate in a style most comfortable to us - but need to communicate in what style works best for our customer.

Point 3 - Advertising

Advertising "happens when you give a customer an urgent reason to use your services." Advertising makes them want to drop everything and come over - PR assumes they will show up eventually when they have a need. Library week is great but shouldn't advertise only once a year.

Two Rules of Advertising
  1. It should be cost effective.
  2. It should not get you arrested.

Get excited over what you are doing and translate it for the users.

Point 4 - Sales

"Sales are results, not intentions." Don't measure the wrong way. Circulation stats may not be meaningful.

A few final comments concerning professional associations - it is important to belong for the networking and the continuing education but customers want to see the information from them translated into what they can use, they don't want to see the results as professional plaques or having you worrying about the wording of a bylaw.