By Katherine Baer, MD State Law Library
As you all know the state budget is undergoing some major constraints, therefore the LLAM grant allowed me to attend the AALL conference this year. So first off, thank you very much. The conference was held in Boston, which was feeling the heat as most of the country this summer, so it was not that much of a problem to stay indoors for a few days and “learn, connect and grow” which was the theme of this year’s conference.
The conference sessions opened up with a keynote by Richard Susskind, a Scottish professor and lawyer who specializes in looking into the future, focusing on the areas of law and technology. Professor Susskind covered the overwhelming growth of technology and how lawyers are reluctant to embrace this growth. Along with this, is the increasing demand to do more for less and the ongoing need for access to justice. After a sometimes frightening look into the future, he finished up by explaining that librarians are in an ideal position to redefine themselves and adapt to these changes in the legal world.
I won’t go into all of the sessions I attended, but will highlight a few of my favorites. There was a session on the National Declassification Center (NDC). They have been tasked with the job of declassifying over 380 million government documents. Their director, Sheryl Shenberger reviewed their progress including successes and obstacles and clearly outlined how herculean a task this was. One of the biggest challenges is that while they are trying to tackle the backlog, new materials continue to accumulate. Nate Jones from the National Security Archive, a watchdog group on government openness, assessed NDC’s progress. As you can imagine, Mr. Jones was fairly critical of NDC’s progress and the reasons behind it. He stated that the mindset that remains is over bureaucratic and inefficient. The two speakers realized that they were never going to agree.
Copyright is a strong interest, so I attended the “Hot Topics in Copyright for Librarians”. There was an overview of basic copyright law and some key issues that librarians need to be aware of when tackling copyright questions. They then went on to discuss some major cases that have occurred in the past year; including the Georgia State case which dealt with e-reserves and the Google books lawsuit.
I usually try to attend at least one session on a topic that I know very little about and this year I chose patent law. There was a session entitled “I Have a Patent Number – Now What?” The challenges of a patent number actually gives COMAR a run for its money. The speakers ran through the intricacies of deciphering a patent number and where you go once you have some direction. It takes a special skill set to work with patents.
I recently joined AALL and in doing so joined the Government Documents Special Interest Group. I attended their morning breakfast and was impressed by the turn-out and agenda. They started off introducing the VIP guests, including David Mao of the Law Library of Congress who is the AALL programming liaison. We also heard a GPO update from Mary Alice Baish.
The conference was in Boston, a city I had spent a fair amount of time in while I was young, but hadn’t been back to in 20 years. One highlight was the State, Court, Counties gathering at the Social Law Library. It was especially exciting for my husband who is a Herman Melville fanatic. Did you know Melville’s father-in-law was the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court? Well, they had part of his library and even the chair he died in! Definitely, the highlight. All in all, it was great chance to learn, connect and grow with some fabulously talented librarians.