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Lessons Learned from AALL in Seattle

This year I attended my third American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting.  Two years ago in Philadelphia I did a presentation with Christine, Tammie, and Bob on THOMAS.  Last year in Boston, I presented with David, Tina, and Emily Feltren on Law.gov.

This year, Tammie, Jeanine, and I went to Seattle to talk about the retirement of THOMAS, where this tweet attracted a lot of attention:

We discussed the transition to and iterative development of the new Congress.gov.  If you missed the presentation, you can read through the tweets on our Facebook pageKim Nayyer also blogged about it on Slaw.

Once again I emailed my colleagues asking for their lessons learned from the conference. Here are their responses:

David:

I’m very pleased that the Law Library coordinated two programs at the conference this year. Both were well attended and helped demonstrate the wide range of services that the Library of Congress provides to the public and the depth of staff expertise.

On Sunday I attended  the AALL public policy update. It’s an important annual program that helps members stay informed about the Association’s major legislative and policy initiatives. This year the program had a new format where the chairs of AALL’s three policy committees (Copyright, Digital Access to Legal Information, and Government Relations) met with attendees in small groups to highlight their committees’ work. I enjoyed the new format in that it allowed Association staff and committee members to engage the audience directly and share more detailed information about issues important to the Association.

Jeanine:

The AALL conference is always a great way to connect with colleagues from different industries and paths.  I learn from the government librarians at the Library of Congress on a daily basis, but find it very interesting to get the perspective of law firm, corporate, court, public and academic law librarians on issues such as patron services, budget challenges, the state of various industries, and general discussions on where the future of the profession is headed.

Additionally, it was my first time to present at AALL.  Andrew, Tammie and I guided audience members through the iterative process of building and enhancing Congress.gov through the hands-on presentation, “Please Turn Your Electronic Device On: Exploring Congress.gov.  We asked users a series of questions that highlighted some of the major improvements made to the beta site since its release in September 2014.  The audience was motivated and quick to answer the challenges – what would you expect from a room filled with librarians!  The flow of questions and comments that came after the program was very rewarding.  Obtaining feedback and comments from practitioners in the field who use Congress.gov confirmed our enthusiasm for the product and our commitment to providing legislative data in a modern, mobile and user-friendly system.

Hanibal:

My favorite program was a presentation on a project to digitize customary court decisions in South-Western Nigeria (mainly in Oyo and Ogun States).  Yemisi Dina, Associate Librarian/Head of Public Services at York University, who is leading the project, discussed the need to have customary court decisions digitized.  She explained that these decisions remain largely inaccessible today and people that appear before these courts to have their matters resolved often have no records of the proceedings and the outcome of their cases.  She also explained some of the challenges she is facing including finding qualified people to help with the project as well as navigating local culture and politics.  It was indeed a fascinating presentation.

Kelly:

This was my first time attending the AALL annual conference.  I found that there were tons of interesting presentations and meetings going on all the time – I was completely exhausted after the three days!  It was great to present on the morning of the first day and then to get feedback from people who had attended our session during the rest of the conference.  I even got some ideas for projects that we could work on here at the Law Library that would be of interest to law librarians around the country!  I also attended two sessions that provided information on various foreign law resources, including some great online sources for researching the laws of China, South Korea, Indonesia, and Japan – we’ll check to make sure these are in our Guide to Law Online.

Elizabeth:

I attended a really interesting program entitled “Law Libraries and Advocacy: Using Special Collections to tell the story of the Japanese American Internment.”  Librarians at Seattle University School of Law worked with community organizations, libraries and museums to create exhibits telling the stories of Fred T. Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi, two men who challenged the legality of the military orders leading to the internment.   Their family members shared photographs, documents and personal mementos that became part of the exhibits.

Tariq:

I thought the discussion with Jim Lehmann, managing partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, on the impact recent economic challenges have had on the legal profession, was both interesting and sobering.

I also enjoyed the exhibition where I was able to update myself on recent changes made to prominent Indian legal databases.

Luis:

One highlight of the Annual Meeting was Michael Chiorazzi’s insightful and authoritative Distinguished Lectureship address on Monday afternoon, “Mentoring, Teaching and Training the Next Generation of Law Librarians:  Past and Present as Prologue to the Future.”  Professor Chiroazzi, who both heads the University of Arizona Law Library and teaches at its School of Information Resources and Library Science, outlined the historical development of the comparatively young profession of law librarianship.  He described the profession’s experience with differing models of education and training, and argued that successful preparation of new law librarians will continue to most effectively be met with a combination of formal programs and experiential learning opportunities.

2 Comments

  1. Amy Wright
    July 24, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    I wasn’t at AALL this year….just curious when THOMAS will officially be retired because I’ll be teaching federal legislative history in Advanced Legal Research this fall semester.

  2. Jeanine Cali
    July 24, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Thank you for your comment. There is no official date but it will most likely happen before the end of 2014, after all of the existing data in THOMAS.gov is incorporated into the new system.

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