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Master the Skills for Professional Networking

Networking skills can increase library visibility, professional credibility, and collaboration across your library, your larger institution, and your greater community. A new webinar, Make the Connection: Mastering the Skills for Professional Networking, on June 21 at 11 a.m. CDT, will teach you the dos and don’ts of interacting effectively and the skills and confidence to navigate any networking opportunity.


  • Pre-planning techniques for networking events
  • Best practices for professional interactions
  • Networking pitfalls to avoid
  • Effective follow-up etiquette

Be prepared for AALL’s biggest networking event – the AALL Annual Meeting in Boston, July 21-24. Register now! 
Cost: $30/members; $60/nonmembers; $150/site registration


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.


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.

Book Review – Cosmic Constitutional Theory: Why Americans Are Losing Their Inalienable Right to Self-Governance

Cosmic Constitutional Theory: Why Americans Are Losing Their Inalienable Right to Self-Governance, J. Harvie Wilkinson III. Oxford University Press, 2012. 176 pages, hardcover, $21.95.

Cosmic Constitutional Theory is the third volume in the Inalienable Rights Series. This particular volume is authored by J. Harvie Wilkinson III. Widely regarded as one of the most respected judges in the country, Wilkinson has served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for more than 20 years and has been on the short list for the Supreme Court. Unlike the other authors in this series, Wilkinson does not advocate for any one particular theory of constitutional interpretation, nor does he offer up his own theory. Instead, he argues that the prevailing theories have done more harm than good and that there should be a return to judicial restraint. Because of its focus on the current theories of constitutional interpretation, this book would be a great addition to any academic legal library or any library that focuses on constitutional law and theory.

The bulk of Wilkinson’s book is spent critiquing the four leading constitutional theories of today: Living Constitutionalism, Originalism, Political Process Theory, and Pragmatism. The text of the book consists of a short introduction and five relatively brief chapters followed by extensive endnotes, an acknowledgement, and an index. The first four chapters each cover a different academic theory of constitutional interpretation. For each of the four leading constitutional theories, Wilkinson begins with a description and brief history, touching upon the proponents of the theory and how each theory has been applied from the bench. Once the basics are out of the way, he focuses on each theory’s virtues and then finally its vices. 

The first theory critiqued is Living Constitutionalism, which the author titles “activism unleashed.” Chapter two then tackles the next most prevalent theory, Originalism, which the author describes as “activism masquerading as restraint.” Chapter three discusses the Political Process Theory, which focuses more on the judicial process than on the outcomes. Last, the fourth theory covered, which was not meant to be a theory but more of an alternative system of review, is Pragmatism. When analyzing each theory, Wilkinson doesn’t just describe its negative points; he also makes an attempt to list its positive applications. However, in the fifth and final chapter, despite any virtue a theory may have, Wilkinson argues they all have failed and are a threat to our democracy. 

Throughout the book, Wilkinson argues that while each theory is advanced as an answer to the problems of constitutional interpretation, they are actually threatening the public’s ability to self-govern. According to Wilkinson, issues that used to be decided by the people are increasingly being decided by the courts, with judges no longer practicing judicial restraint but instead promoting competing political theories. The author does not offer a theory of his own, instead arguing that we do not need another theory since all of the theories that have previously been offered have failed. In the place of a theory, Wilkinson calls on judges to exercise judicial restraint.

This book is well written and extremely easy to follow. It could easily serve as a basic introduction to constitutional theory with its thorough description of the pros and cons of each competing theory.

Lisa Watson is government documents librarian at Elon School of Law in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Highlights from LLAW Briefs, Spring 2012

The Spring 2012 issue of LLAW Briefs, the publication of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin, has a number of interesting items. Especially notable is a review of the Library Technology Conference. Several sessions focused on methods of delivering library resources via mobile device—such as QR codes and mobile-optimized sites—and another discussed cataloging emerging technologies, like interactive e-books.

Another article notes that the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act may be introduced in the Wisconsin legislature in the near future. The AALL Government Relations Office and many members have taken an active role in promoting the adoption of UELMA. Finally, LLAW sponsored a law librarian career day for students and alumni from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The event enabled prospective law librarians to meet practicing librarians and tour court and firm law libraries.

Book Review – Joint Tenancies: Landlords and Medical Marijuana Businesses

Joint Tenancies: Landlords and Medical Marijuana Businesses, by Mike Widener. Yeoman Timber, LLC,  2012. E-book (PDF), 95 pages. $9.95.

Here in Oakland, California, the “Princeton of Pot,” Oaksterdam University, a school offering classes for those wishing to become involved in the medical marijuana business, was recently raided by the FBI, once again calling attention to medical marijuana dispensaries and the rigmarole that surrounds state law versus federal law when it comes to the sticky situation of cannabis clubs. Mike Widener, a law practitioner from Arizona and professor at the University of Phoenix, has penned a short and informative treatise in e-book form, titled (pun surely intended), Joint Tenancies. The book explores the subject of commercial landlords and the risks of renting to medical marijuana enterprises, or as Widener abbreviates, MMEs. Widener claims this is the only book of its kind published in the United States, and while there are other works that cover MMEs, it appears that, for now, it is indeed unique and would be of use in a law library.

Widener’s work serves as a useful and thought-provoking text for any landlord considering renting to an MME. He makes it very clear in the preface that he is not offering any legal advice and that as an attorney he cannot represent medical marijuana businesses because the transport and sale of cannabis are federal crimes. Widener notes that at the time of his book’s publication, 16 states have  medical marijuana legislation on the books and 18 more states  have proposed legislation permitting medical cannabis use,  no doubt  with the gleam of shiny new tax revenues glinting in their glazed eyes.

Widener acknowledges that he doesn’t know the nuances of the laws in each state and strongly advises that landlords considering renting to MMEs seek legal counsel in their local communities. In just 10 chapters, Widener covers the pertinent topics landlords should consider and research before entering into a lease agreement with an MME. In addition,  this text could be a resource for those working in the property professions, i.e. real estate agents, real estate lawyers, investors, etc. It would also be of interest to neighboring residents and businesses.

Although Widener acknowledges that his work is not meant to entertain, he can’t resist using a font that is reminiscent of clouds of smoke for the title and pun-laced chapter titles, such as “A Budding Tenant Niche,” the “Straight Dope on Private Land Use Covenants,” and “Bogarting a Landlord’s Joint-Forfeiture Statutes.” The chapter titles are not only descriptive but also appealing to the reader (at least this pun-loving reader).

Widener’s work is thoroughly researched with QR Codes that link to core documents online, easily accessed by a smart phone or tablet with a QR reader app installed. This book would be a welcome addition to any law library as a useful tool for researching what will surely become an increasingly common legal issue as more states attempt to enact medical marijuana legislation. Widener also includes some forms that a landlord might use for this type of transaction, with the caveat that these forms do not guarantee that a landlord will not be subject to the loss of property if forfeited or to personal criminal prosecution. The book is published by Yeoman Timber, LLC and is available for purchase via the internet as a PDF for $9.95 at

Rebekah Henderson is a part-time reference librarian at the Alameda County Law Library in Oakland, California.

Highlights from the MALL Newsletter, Spring 2012

The latest issue of the Minnesota Association of Law Libraries’ MALL Newsletter contains a number of announcements. Most notably, the Publications Committee is beginning a project to update a history of MALL and collect oral histories from both long-time and new members. This project is in preparation for MALL’s 60th anniversary in 2015. The Publications Committee also produces two online resources, A Guide to Major Law Library Collections in the Twin Cities and the Internet Guide for Minnesota Legal Reference.

A column on upcoming events lists a number of interesting professional development opportunities, including National Information Standards Organization webinars on acquiring and preserving e-books and making sense of usage statistics. The Association of College and Research Libraries is also holding webinars on virtual reference services and improving Google Scholar indexing of institutional repositories.