Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

AALL Spectrum blog has moved

The AALL Spectrum blog has moved to inside AALLNET, http://www.aallnet.org/blogs/spectrum-blog.

Within AALLNET it should be more readily found by AALL members yet still viewable my non-members.  All the archived content will remain on this site for the foreseeable future.

-Mark

The Value of Law Librarians

Law librarians know the value of law librarians, even when they struggle to articulate that value to others. It pleases us when someone aptly describes what we do; and it satisfies even more when that praise comes from a user. One such example comes from Judy Zimet, a law student coach, in a post, “All Hail the Law School Library Staff” on her blog.

Along that line, the next two issues of Spectrum will publish hybrid articles about helping law students understand the value of law librarians and how to most effectively exploit them. The July issue has Jennifer Pesetsky’s “Preparing students to be effective lawyers with a good understanding of research tools” and then in the September/October issue Jennifer Pesetsky follows up with “Preparing students to be effective lawyers with a good understanding of research tools.”

-Mark

Monty the Therapy Dog

Commencement ceremonies create a certain emotional state in me. I don’t understand why they do, they just do. So when Julian Aiken emailed me that:

Monty, our Yale Law library therapy dog (owned by me) appeared at Yale Law’s commencement this year. He gave a short speech (translated by the Dean of the Law School), and was roundly cheered! I’m attaching a picture you might want to use. In the picture, you see me holding Monty, whilst Dean Robert Post ‘translates’ Monty’s best wishes to the graduating class.

caught my attention for two reasons: commencement ceremonies and Monty lead to a Spectrum article about  USF Zief Law Library’s program to check out therapy dogs.

So, I am especially pleased to share Monty’s message to this year’s YLS graduates

-Mark

Offset Pledge – the Sustainable Law Librarian

David Selden’s column in the May issue of Spectrum calls on each of us to pledge to purchase carbon offsets to reduce the environmental impact of traveling to the annual meeting in Boston. He includes several offset providers for us to research and purchase our offsets.

I hope you’ll join me in pledging to David to offset your travel to Boston.

-Mark

Spectrum Editorial Director Time Requirements & Fun Factor

After the Boston meeting I begin the third year of my second term as AALL Spectrum editorial director. It’s been a blast! And, it’s time to let someone else have fun.

Read the announcement here (application deadline June 1) which leads to the job description.

A few folks have asked about how much time I spend on AALL Spectrum and what I’ve thought of the job.  Well, on average, I spend 10-20 hours per week on Spectrum related activities and I’ve had a blast.

That time gets spent on a weekly conference call with the editorial staff, Ashley St. John, Marketing and Communications Manager, and Julia O’Donnell, Director of Membership Marketing and Communications. The call typically lasts about 20 minutes; occasionally the agenda required just over a hour.

Those calls deal with:

  • Reviewing article proposals, discussing how to respond to the proposal and when to schedule the article to be published;
  • Member-to-member questions – choosing the question and later selecting the responses to go into the magazine;
  • Selecting which library remodel or build to feature in the architectural issue;
  • Discussing new formats for articles and the magazine

Other chunks of time get consumed:

  • In writing my column, at least 4 to 8 hours per issue;
  • In communicating with authors about how I’d like them to reshape their article;
  • Selecting and promoting books to be reviewed in the blog – and then selecting the reviewer and communicating to those i didn’t select;
  • Listening to members and reading the email lists and blogs for article ideas;
  • During the annual meeting which includes:
    • A speaking stint at CONELL about writing opportunities;
    • Working the LLJ/Spectrum table during the CONELL marketplace to recruit authors;
    • “Booth duty” at the AALL membership booth during the no-conflict times in the exhibit hall;
    • Introducing the winner of the article of the year award at the LLJ/Spectrum author reception.

I truly enjoy this job. It gives me another chance to give back to the profession by writing and talking about law librarianship and working with AALL members and headquarters staff. 

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me or post them to the blog.

Peeping THOMAS: A Little Look at a Big System

AALL Meeting Reflections

There was a packed house for Peeping THOMAS.  This was not surprising for a presentation by the people who help make THOMAS what it is.  Presenters Bob Gee, Tammie Nelson, Christine Sellers, and Andrew Weber took what could have been dry statistics and charts, and told us the story of The Life of THOMAS: past, present, and future.

We began with a brief background on the history of THOMAS: launched in 1995, built in a mere six weeks.  Not bad for a site that provided the public unprecedented access to all manner of legislative materials.

The story continued with discussion of the former and current technical challenges of THOMAS.  Data coming from several different sources, balancing short-term and long-term goals, and the final decision to have a user-centered definition of priorities.

But the question is: Whose priorities?  Students in middle school and high school?  Government officials?  Law librarians?  The public?

The OpinionLab feature helps provide the answers, by allowing THOMAS users to submit  anonymous feedback.  Of course, this feature is still available: just look for the “Feedback” button in the lower-right corner of your screen.

And as it turns out, many people are interested in weighing in on the good and bad of THOMAS.  Comments can range from “Very good!” to “This sucks!”… in one day.

One of the first and most successful “fixes” as a result of the OpinionLab was changing the timeout feature on THOMAS from five minutes to thirty minutes.  This increase dramatically reduced complaints about premature timeouts.  This was only one of several examples showing how user comments and questions led directly to concrete changes in THOMAS.

Despite this “moral of the story,” the presentation never felt preachy or commercial.  The presenters were just genuinely excited about the topic.

One interesting portion of the presentation was a “before and after” look at searches and the results.  That is, we saw the way a search results page used to look, and how it looks now.  The differences are simple yet dramatic: a clearer way of showing the user where they are and what is being displayed.

Overall, the presenters handled their time well.  Their presentation was well-organized and informative.  It was interesting to see how some of the feedback numbers improved over time, and the tone remained explanatory as opposed to a commercial for THOMAS.

Although I appreciated the fact that the presenters opened the floor for questions during the last 20 minutes of their hour, this tactic appeared to be less useful than they might have hoped.  When people came to the microphone to speak, it appeared that the questions all touched on issues with which the presenters were quite familiar.  Indeed, the presenters were generally nodding with recognition before the questioner’s first sentence was completed.  But really, this is a good thing—it shows that the THOMAS folks already have a good idea of what the law librarian portion of their audience needs and wants.

If you are interested in more information on Peeping THOMAS, presenter Andrew Weber posted his own post-meeting thoughts over at In Custodia Legis, including a link to the presentation slides.

Stephanie Ziegler is a reference librarian at the Moritz Law Library, Ohio State University

Library in the Clouds: Cloud Computing and its Impact on Library Services

AALL Annual Meeting Session Review
Library in the Clouds: Cloud Computing and its Impact on Library Services

Presenters:
Erik Mitchell, Wake Forest University, Z. Smith Reynolds Library
Andrew Pace, OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc.
Roy Balliste, St. Thomas University Law Library

I have a firm conviction that library websites need to be easy and frequent information sources for users of the web. As a cataloging services librarian, I know that our current library systems are silos and not very user friendly. However, I don’t have a clear idea how we make the transition, and wonder how cloud computing fits into the picture. For that reason, I attended this program hoping to understand a little more of the “how” of libraries’ transition to a more relevant web presence. The expected outcomes of this program were (1) to enable participants to identify the advantages and disadvantages of cloud-based solutions for their library, and (2) to hear about and evaluate the library management functionality of one vendor’s product, OCLC’s Web-Scale Management Services (WMS).

Erik Mitchell provided an overview of cloud computing, its importance for consumers of information, and its already extensive use, i.e. Google Docs and Dropbox. He defined cloud computing as the act of “storing, accessing, and sharing data, applications and computing power in cyberspace.” Two related concepts essential to making this happen were (1) web services – software systems designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction on a network; and (2) application programming (API) – specifications for allowing programs to exchange data.

Cloud computing can be financially advantageous for libraries as you pay for what you to use and spend significantly less for local IT services and software.
One downside, however, was the possibility of service interruption due to power outages. Mitchell reviewed several cloud based applications such as Salesforce.com which might be adapted to libraries.

Mitchell identified several factors which might slow the transition to cloud computing including the trend of open source software for library management systems, which is basically a different business model for the same technology already being used. Libraries also may not have the knowledge base for selecting, implementing and managing these services. Mitchell ended his portion of the program by encouraging us to take individual steps toward cloud computing, such as using Google Docs.

OCLC’s lead person in developing Web-Scale Management Services, Andrew Pace, discussed the benefits of this product. His definition of cloud computing was “web-based application with shared data and services.” Pace identified a major benefit of cloud computing as the “web-scale” aspect. Web-scale refers to how major web presences develop systems and services to scale as usage grows, eventually developing “large gravitational hubs.”

For Pace, the web as all about scale and finding ways to attract users. For instance, in retail the web matches sellers, items, and buyers: the more buyers the better for sellers, the more sellers the better for buyers. Libraries have not been “gravitational hubs” so far. However, with the web-scale concept libraries could be seen as the best access to a class of data. Intersecting circles of infrastructure, data and community diagram how this could translate to the library world. The changing information seeking behavior of our customers to cloud computing and the changing nature of our collections to electronic make this a natural progression. He also pointed out that moving to the cloud can reduce infrastructure costs from 70-30 percent of budget, leaving more staff time for creativity and innovation.

Roy Balliste discussed the ease and benefits of implementing OCLC’s Web Management Services at St Thomas Law Library, and their satisfaction with the product.

This session did add to my understanding of what increasing libraries’ web presences might involve, but included technical information which will take some time to sort out and understand. Having three different presenters did limit the extent to which each could fully explain the concepts and give examples. This was a popular program and the large room was overflowing with standing room only. A downside to the presentations was the inability for audience members to have the handout either in print or electronic to follow along with the discussion, as the presenters did not make them available ahead of time (or afterwards for that matter).

I would recommend Mitchell’s portion of the program for IT librarians who are seriously thinking about implementing cloud computing. However, if libraries were considering OCLC’s Web-Scale Management Services, a more detailed presentation of that product would be recommended.

Beverly Burmeister, Cataloging Services Librarian, Valparaiso University Law Library



Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.