AALL 2012 Annual Meeting Recap

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.

Embedded Librarians – AALL Session Review

Embedding Librarians to Add Value to Your Institution
Tuesday, July 24

This session was interesting for its content and unique in its format.  The hour and half session was divided into two parts. The session began with a traditional panel discussion that was followed by breakout sessions. I often cringe at suggestion of “breakout” sessions but in this case it was a prefect way to both learn about and discuss the topic.

David Shumaker, one of our field’s recognized authorities on embedded librarianship and professor at Catholic University’s School of Library and Information Science began discussing the evolution of embedded librarianship. He noted that while this model may be ideal for many environments, it not a magic bullet. Embedded librarianship also requires a unique set of skills that are not often highlighted in library school and something that David believes needs to quickly change.

His presentation was followed by Marguerita T. Young-Jones of Reed Smith LLP who discussed the success Reed Smith has had with the embedded model.  Marguerita noted some of the potential problems with embedded librarianship like “mission creep” have surfaced in her experience. “Mission creep” is when librarians are asked to do non-librarian tasks. Talented and responsive embedded librarians may be rewarded with requests to assist or perform tasks outside of our area of expertise and requires a deft response so keep the client happy but not take on additional unrelated duties.

Finally, Owen G. Smith, of the 6th Circuit Library of the U.S. Court of Appeals discussed a draft plan he working on to embedded libraries with judges. Owen noted that introducing librarians into judge’s chambers  (or at least nearby) has a special set of challenges but when presented as a way to save money and space, while increasing service, judges are very willing to listen.

After these presentations the audience was asked to participate in breakout sessions by library type: academic, private and court. I attended the court group which consisted of about a dozen court librarians mostly from federal libraries. Owen described detail his concept of embedded librarians could be an excellent model if the right librarian(s) could be found. We also discussed how this type of librarianship is not for everyone and does demand a special set of skills. And although many of us clearly think the embedded librarian is a terrific idea a for courts, there was general agreement that a better title is needed market and sell to our courts.. Owen said he was using “librarians without walls.”

I thought the breakout idea, after the general session was a terrific idea.  The smaller groups gave us a chance to discuss the topic from a more “local” point of view that would not be possible in a large group.  It is also much easier to ask delicate questions that may not be appropriate for a larger audience.  I hope AALL considers expanding this format for next year. I had mentioned new format to another attendee who as it turns out was at the “firm” library breakout session. She said she liked the concept but her group was too large to have a real discussion. Our courts group was a perfect size but the room we were given for our breakout session was not ideal. While this format does present more challenges than traditional session, the problems we experienced could easily be overcome.
PS–David Shumaker just published a new book, The Embedded Librarian: Innovative Strategies for Talking Knowledge to Where It’s Needed.  He says, “this new model is replacing traditional reference librarianship, and is changing the profession at the same time–replacing outdated stereotypes with a new image of effective competence and engagement. ”  I hope to have a book review in the next issue of LLAM eNews.

The day after…

Thank you again for attending or attending and presenting at Full Disclosure: Librarians Sharing Best Practices.  Overall I think the conference was a success and that success was in large part due to our  30+presenters. Below are some items we promised to follow up on:

Download Presentations
Many people requested that we post the presentations on the conference web site and we agree. They will be available at https://llamonline.org/agenda and we be posted as we receive them.

Maureen Sullivan Bibliography
I emailed Maureen today for her list of recommended reading and expect to have it posted by early next week.

Session Summaries
Summaries of most conference sessions will be published in the March/April upcoming LLAM eNews. See http://llamnews.wordpress.com/. There will be a link on the conference web site once the issue is published.

Online Evaluation
If you did not get a chance to fill out the survey, or if you have additional comments, please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/fulldisclosure.

Join LLAM
For those who expressed an interest in joining LLAM, we would love to have you, the membership form is available at http://www.aallnet.org/chapter/llam/LLAM_membership_form_2011.doc.

The day after…

Thank you again for attending or attending and presenting at Full Disclosure: Librarians Sharing Best Practices.  Overall I think the conference was a success and that success was in large part due to our  30+presenters. Below are some items we promised to follow up on:

Download Presentations
Many people requested that we post the presentations on the conference web site and we agree. They will be available at https://llamonline.org/agenda and we be posted as we receive them.

Maureen Sullivan Bibliography
I emailed Maureen today for her list of recommended reading and expect to have it posted by early next week.

Session Summaries
Summaries of most conference sessions will be published in the March/April upcoming LLAM eNews. See http://llamnews.wordpress.com/. There will be a link on the conference web site once the issue is published.

Online Evaluation
If you did not get a chance to fill out the survey, or if you have additional comments, please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/fulldisclosure.

Join LLAM
For those who expressed an interest in joining LLAM, we would love to have you, the membership form is available at http://www.aallnet.org/chapter/llam/LLAM_membership_form_2011.doc.