Archive for May, 2010

June issue of Spectrum online

The June issue of AALL Spectrum is available online in PDF format. This month’s articles include:

Also, readers respond to this month’s “Member to Member” question: What is your favorite application–real or imagined–for your pdf/smartphone?

Paper copies mailed out to members on Tuesday, May 25 so look for them in your mailboxes soon.

Review of Index It Right!: Advice from the Experts, Volume 2

Janet Perlman and Enid L. Zafran, editors; Index It Right!: Advice from the Experts, Volume 2, (Information Today on behalf of the American Society for Indexing (ASI) 2010), Paperback, 170 pages, $32 (ASI members), $40 nonmembers, ISBN 9781573873963.

I didn’t immediately conclude that law librarians would profit from reading and using Index It Right! Aren’t print materials in law libraries already indexed? If the materials are electronic, can’t users search them by keyword, eliminating the need for indexes? The following events convinced me that my doubts were ill-founded, and that a hearty recommendation of the book was justified:

  • A recently posted notice on the law-lib list serve — a request for a database indexer for a Canadian law firm
  • My discovery that the American Society for Indexing has a legal division
  • My growing admiration as I turned page after page of this well-written, informative book

Index It Right! Advice from the Experts is the second book in a series. The first book, Volume 1, published in 2005, covered subject areas such as philosophy, theology, biography, horticulture, and art.  The contributors also discussed indexing for encyclopedias, computer manuals, and web sites.

Volume 2, published in 2010, contains four chapters that cover subject areas, which pose unique indexing challenges. Indexers of naval and military publications must accurately list ship and aircraft names. Indexers of technical materials must understand software coding and their clients’ needs. Public policy writings contain legal materials, which must be accurately and logically indexed.

I enjoyed these four chapters because all facets of knowledge fascinate me; I pictured myself grappling with and mastering unfamiliar concepts and terms, and organizing them into a structure that makes the material accessible to people with various levels of knowledge. I also mused about the multidisciplinary nature of the study and practice of law. An indexer of legal materials will be confronted with terms and concepts from a wide variety of knowledge domains, and would benefit from advice on how to deal with them.

Throughout the nine chapters in the book, the contributors present a variety of how-to topics: How to create elegant subheads, how to differentiate locators (page numbers in the index), how to work as a freelance indexer, how to embed indexes in documents created in Microsoft Word and Adobe FrameMaker, and, in the last chapter, how to create and use controlled vocabularies, thesauri, and taxonomies.

When I saw the title of Chapter One, I couldn’t imagine how those modest tools of organization, subheadings, could be called “elegant.” The authors of the chapter convinced me that they could. Elegance is one of the criteria for the H.W. Wilson Award for Excellence in Indexing. The award defines elegance as possessing charm, visual appeal, simplicity, and grace. The Expert Tip on page 2 states: “Elegance manifests itself in the balance of art and science in an index.” That statement caught my interest and drew me forward through the book. I had to find out how this delicate balance could be achieved.

Expert Tips are statements in text boxes scattered throughout the book. Like the well-crafted headings and “elegant” subheads, they highlight important concepts. In conjunction with the book’s index, which demonstrates the contributors’ principles and practical advice, they help readers find the information they need. At the end of several chapters, the contributors provide endnotes and lists of references, including wikis, blogs, discussion groups, and suggestions for further reading on the topic of indexing.

Chapter Nine, the culminating chapter of the book, describes how controlled vocabularies are created, and how they are used in thesauri and taxonomies in printed and electronic materials. The Expert Tip under the subheading Arrangement of the Term Hierarchy on page 150 states: “There is more than one correct way to arrange a hierarchy, so consider who your primary users are and what their perspective is.”

The contributors to Index It Right!, three of whom are winners of the H.W. Wilson Award for Excellence in Indexing, make concern for the user a common theme. The book reflects this concern, making it an important addition to a law librarian’s library.

Reviewed by Judy Esrig, J.D., M.L.S.

Book Review – Best Friends at the Bar

Best Friends at the Bar: What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law by Susan Smith Blakely is an excellent and no-nonsense look at the issues faced by women in the legal profession. It looks at both the opportunities and challenges faced by women who decide to pursue careers in the law. Best Friends is a superb book for any law student or new attorney who is willing to take a hard look at the potential obstacles she may face when choosing her legal career path. This book provides honest, helpful advice from female practitioners who are willing to share their experiences, both good and bad. Smith Blakely does an outstanding job of remaining objective when reporting on the positive and negative consequences of choices made by new female lawyers.

While most writers on the subject focus on compensation disparities, Smith Blakely acknowledges that there is more to it than salary, including career planning, being realistic about expectations, etiquette, and networking. By providing the experiences of women lawyers who are at varying points in their professional careers, the book provides tangible examples of the challenges faced by women in the law.

The book starts out with a candid discussion about career planning. Smith Blakely very quickly concedes that fewer women are entering law school and more female attorneys are leaving the practice of law because of unrealized expectations and disillusionment. Interestingly enough, many of these women don’t leave to be stay-at-home moms; they are still interested in the law, but are looking for more family-friendly jobs. Smith Blakely cautions that retention of women lawyers is everyone’s responsibility – law schools, law firms, local bar associations, and the American Bar Association.

In Chapter two, Smith Blakely looks at the “law school decision.” To start, Smith Blakely states that law school should not be a default option after graduation; it should be deliberate and fully researched. Law school is too expensive to commit to on a whim. Once the decision to go to law school is made, choosing the right law school and defining yourself are the next critical steps. To end the chapter, Smith Blakely looks at the many ways a bad economy impacts lawyers and law firms.

Chapter three does an excellent job of explaining the importance of being realistic about expectations. The notion that women can “have it all – family, children, and a profession” is both naïve and unrealistic. Smith Blakely astutely points out that the law is still a male-dominated profession, and the norm is full-time practice. The real life examples the Smith Blakely give regarding flex time and maternity leave really hammer home this point. The chapter wraps up with a discussion about the gender divide. It is still often difficult for female attorneys to break into the good ol’ boy network.

In Chapters four and five, the book turns its attention to more practical issues like choice of practice specialty, choice of practice setting, professional dress, and social etiquette. These chapters do an excellent job of identifying, discussing, and dissecting these issues. Smith Blakely gives examples appropriately captioned “Case in Point.”

Smith Blakely ends her discussion (chapter 6) with contributions and anecdotes from her “friends at the bar.” She highlights the experiences and accomplishments of several of her colleagues from varying generations. Of all the chapters, I found this one to be the most powerful. There is nothing quite like a real-life story to give clarity to an issue and to personalize it.

Chapter seven is entitled “The Solution.” Ironically, Smith Blakely admits that there is no one solution to the issues addressed in the book. The solution for each person will be unique to her, and will be the result of choices made while ferreting out a career path.

Reviewed by Maureen Anderson, associate professor at the University of Dayton Zimmerman Law Library in Ohio.

Book Review — Building Library 3.0: Issues in Creating a Culture of Participation

Woody Evans, Building Library 3.0: Issues in Creating a Culture of Participation (Chandos Publishing 2009) Paperback, 188 pages, $95, ISBN 9781843344971

From his years of experience in military, corporate and academic libraries, Woody Evans has developed some definite ideas about libraries and technology. In Building Library 3.0: Issues in Creating a Culture of Participation, Evans’ sets out to do three things, 1) define the concept of Library 2.0 and the new library patron, (2) describe how specific technological applications benefit library users, and (3) discuss how these advances affect the fundamentals of providing good library services. This is essentially a book for librarians. Evans assumes some knowledge of Library 2.0, and readers who are not familiar may need to do some side research for unfamiliar terms and concepts.

This book is recommended with some reservations related to writing style and organization. Evans writes in a somewhat folksy, meandering style, sharing with readers information and insights he has gained through his experience with social media and other emerging technologies. With a humorous undertone, he discusses the benefits and pitfalls of participating with patrons in new and different ways. His writing style is somewhat like blog entries collected into a book.

Evans’ first section on Library 2.0 covers material that in large part has been covered well by other authors. In his discussion of characteristics of the new library user, he refers to two studies – the 2005 Pew Internet and American Life Project and the 2005 OCLC study, Perceptions of Libraries and Information Sources. The results of both of these studies have been cited frequently since being published, and with the speed of technological change may be somewhat dated. He covers in a varying amount of detail the use of blogs and other social media — such as Facebook, MySpace, Second Life — mobile devices, and folksonomies. Generally, he favors using these resources, pointing out what he has learned by trial and error.

I found that similar information in other sources was more usable to me, primarily due to the organization of the material. For instance, in Library 2.0, Casey and Savastinuk’s organization of information moved in logical progression from a definition of library 2.0, traditional vs. newer library services, essential ingredients of excellent service, to developing mission statements and community analysis. On this foundation, discussion of participatory library services and technologies fit naturally into an overall strategic plan. Casey provided more detail of the nuts and bolts of implementation of these technologies. In her book, The Academic Library and the Net Gen Student, Susan Gibbons also provided a framework as to the mission of the academic library and how the new technologies can support that mission. In contrast, Evans delays until the end of the book his discussion about the fundamentals of good library service which are important no matter what the medium.

However, Evans does cover some new and useful ground in looking ahead to the possibilities of Library 3.0 and the discussion of technological advances, such as more sophisticated RFID capabilities and QR code, which are not generally in use in libraries at this time. He challenges the reader to think about what might happen if with advanced RFID, “our books become ‘blogjects’ constantly updating themselves, constantly informing us and our patrons of each object’s activity, location, and current use and user.” He encourages the reader to think out of the box and imagine other potential future scenarios such as situations in which devices could record what material patrons are browsing in the library which would then automatically display this information on the OPAC when the patron logged in. This section provided a thought provoking preview into potential capabilities that many of us have difficulty imagining.

Evans’ strongly held point of view is that libraries need to have a solid basis in utilizing the participatory technologies of Library 2.0 in preparation for what will come in the future. For instance, the developing “semantic web” will change libraries’ role in assisting customers to find information. What role will libraries play in this scenario? Evans pushes consideration of the issues and observes “librarians can’t individually or collectively turn back the tides of culture, but if we embrace the changes we see, maybe we can shape the future.”

Evans’ passion about libraries and the fate of libraries of the future comes through clearly in his writing. He states, ‘the world is in ferment and it is a new century for librarianship.’ Evans implores librarians not to sit back and watch but to push the boundaries of their imagination, and help shape what the new century will become.

References

Michael E. Casey and Laura C. Savastinuk, Library 2.0 (Information Today 2007)

Susan Gibbons, The Academic Library and the Net Gen Student (American Library Association 2007)

Reviewed by Beverly Burmeister, Cataloging Services Librarian, Valparaiso University School of Law Library

Think about the Future of Law Libraries

The world is constantly changing, and few years have brought as much change to law firms and their libraries as the past year. How can we anticipate and prepare for the next time the earth shifts? How do we lead our libraries and firms into the future?

Join AALL for the June 10 webinar, Interpreting the Tea Leaves: Thinking about the Future with Stephen Abram, at 12 p.m. EST as we interview Abram, named by Library Journal as one of the top 50 people influencing the future of libraries. We’ll find out how this visionary thinker gathers information, formulates predictions based on current trends and events, and identifies what it all means for libraries. Plan to leave the session energized and armed with ways to see more clearly into the future.

Register by June 3.



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