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The Law Library of Congress at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries

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The following is a guest post by Elizabeth Osborne.  Beth most recently wrote about the retirement of Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Librarians at the Law Library recently returned from the 2018 American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland.  The conference is an opportunity for legal information professionals to share knowledge and connect with colleagues from across the globe.

Photograph of interior of main branch of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library. Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, 2011. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division. ://

Several of the librarians at the Law Library spoke at the conference.  Andrew, Jenny, Hanibal, and Laney jointly presented a program titled Bitcoin: Changing Laws for an Emerging Currency, on the subject of virtual currencies and the evolving global regulatory system.  The reports that served as the basis for their presentation can be accessed on the Law Library’s collection of legal research reportsDr. Issam Saliba, a foreign law specialist and expert in Islamic law, spoke on a panel discussion titled, Publicizing Faith or Privatizing Law? Researching Religious Arbitration and Private Dispute SettlementRobert Brammer, a specialist in digital resources, co-presented a program titled From Concept to Deliverable: Build Your Own Law Library Chatbot, about the Law Library’s chatbot and how to build one for a law library.  The slides from this program are available on the conference app.

As a first-timer at the conference, I enjoyed attending the Conference of Newer Law Librarians (CONELL).  It was great to meet other new members of the profession and hear about AALL’s activities and opportunities for law librarians.  I also attended an excellent program about managing uncertainty during interactions between law librarians and self-represented litigants.  The speakers provided useful techniques for dealing with tricky situations that arise when conducting a reference interview with an individual proceeding pro se.

I asked my colleagues to share their experiences and highlights from attending the conference:


I was especially intrigued by the presentation delivered by team members from the PEGI Project, which is a two-year, Institute for Museum and Library Services  funded initiative focused on the preservation of electronic government information by libraries and other cultural memory organizations. The PEGI Project began in 2017 by gathering data from information professionals and representatives of government agencies on potentially at-risk federal digital content. The project continued this year with a series of national forums as well as education and outreach activities conducted at professional meetings and conferences around the country.

The environmental scan conducted during the first year as well as the proceedings of this year’s activities will inform the team’s recommendations for a collaborative national agenda that strives to improve and ensure long-term access to electronic US government information.


One of the highlights of the meeting for me was attending the FCIL (Foreign, Comparative and International Law) Schaffer Grant presentation by this year’s recipient, Daniela Majorie Akama dos Reis.  Ms. Reis works as a librarian at a law firm in São Paulo, Brazil, while pursuing her Ph.D. in information science.  She spoke about the training and education of law librarians in São Paulo.

Several of us had the chance to meet with her and show her around our Library when she visited Washington, D.C., a few days after the conference.


One of the highlights for me at the 2018 AALL meeting was the program The Foibles of FOIA: How to File and Respond to a Freedom of Information Act Request. The session provided multiple perspectives on the topic – from the point of view of a requester, an ombudsman attempting to resolve disputes in the requesting process, and from a recipient. An academic law librarian and author, Sarah Lamdan, provided a concise overview of federal FOIA law, exemptions, and tips for submitting requests.

Lisa Kershner, Public Access Ombudsman of the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, provided an overview of her role in assisting researchers with their state-level requests under the Maryland Public Information Act. And an academic law librarian, employed by a state institution, Dennis Kim-Prieto, described the experience of being the recipient of a state-level request regarding a work email account under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act.


Tuesday morning’s program, Weaponizing Social Media: Trolling and the Manufacture of Opinion, featured two interesting speakers: Asta Zelenkauskaite of Drexel University’s Communications Department, and Pablo Molina, Drexel’s Chief Information Security Officer.  Prof. Zelenkauskaite discussed her very interesting research on trolling farms that send social media messages to Lithuania as a means of information warfare with the goal of diminishing trust in Lithuanian democracy.  Dr. Molina’s comments focused more generally on the problem of fake news in the decentralized information environment and discussed possible solutions.

For lessons learned from prior AALL conferences see the posts from PhiladelphiaBostonSeattle, Philadelphia again, Chicago, and Austin.

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