AALL Vendor Colloquium Keynote Part One

Roberta Shaffer, law librarian of Congress, began her keynote remarks by stating assumptions to create some “common knowledge.” Law librarians and publishers share responsibilities for preserving and organizing the “Rule of Law.” We should recognize that the language of law has changed – from Latin, Law French – and will continue to change. Will future generations understand how we communicated the rule of law in the early 21st century?

We have shared fears about the future and the viability of our organizations. We know that the written word is powerful; but new technology appears to supplant pure text with combinations of text, video, and audio.

Law exists across disciplines and across the past, present, and future. That means we act aware of science and sociology, as well as the historical sources of law, the current sources of law, and how law will be produced and consumed in the future.

Our capacity for memory and comprehension will change. It changes because we’re using our minds differently and because bionics and drugs will enhance our abilities.

Law, as a coral reef, grows from many sources rather than a skyscraper

Socio-Info Trends
Shaffer next reviewed trends facing us all. The volume of information overload now exceeds the equivalent of receiving 174 newspapers worth of information daily and sending six newspapers worth of information daily. End users have reduced attention spans and expect visualizations of information results.

Our vocabulary has changed – we use shorter sentences and shorter words to help us cope with information overload. Our vocabulary may shrink so that we can communicate across cultures; perhaps even like air traffic controllers who limit all their instructions to 600 words. These have disrupted the traditional information flow to new formats, including of course social media.

Our society has less “common knowledge”; more facts are known, but fewer people know the same fact. In addition we have a desire to know more – “let me see how you make that sausage” – about almost everything.

Shifting cultural geographic centers to Brazil and China with different relative values of individuals v. community where other cultures have a lower value of the individual rights.

Legal Trends/Law Practice
Shaffer described the trends that started with the traditional law library of many books with attorneys believing that “the law” exists somewhere in the books. But now there are more first impression cases based on unique facts, which encourages looking for a legal point that matches a set of facts, i.e. finding and following the facts.

This leads to reading fewer law reviews because law reviews have such a long publication lead time and deal with more theory than practical issues. Legal researchers want direct access to more information with minimal assistance of librarians – at lower costs. Law firm clients expect lower costs as well.

Shaffer faults legal education for teaching in silos with edited casebooks providing the key elements so that the student doesn’t need to learn how to analyze across subject matter disciplines.

Stay tuned for part two.

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