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Using the Servant-Leadership Style in Law Libraries

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The highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware.
Next comes one whom they love and praise.
Next comes one whom they fear.
Next comes one whom they despise and defy.

When you are lacking in faith,
Others will be unfaithful to you.

The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words.
When his task is accomplished and things have been completed, All the people say, ‘We ourselves have achieved it!’ -- Lao-Tzu

Over the past 10 years working in law libraries, I've gone from Student Circulation Assistant to Student Reference Assistant to a general Reference Librarian to a more specialized Faculty Services & Scholarly Communications Librarian to Associate Director to Interim Director. For the first 8 years or so, I spent my time honing the front-line skills necessary for exemplary library work. As I've entered middle and now upper management, there's an entirely new set of skills necessary to effectively perform these roles.

Needless to say, I've …

A Legal Framework for the "Information Apocalypse"

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In 2009, a CNN article noted that the law is "at least five years behind technology as it is developing."

In late 2016, Aviv Ovadya was one of the first people to see that there was something fundamentally wrong with the internet. A few weeks before the 2016 election, he presented his concerns to technologists in San Francisco’s Bay Area and warned of an impending crisis of misinformation in a presentation he titled “Infocalypse.”

Ovadya saw early what many — including lawmakers, journalists, and Big Tech CEOs — wouldn’t grasp until months later: Our platformed and algorithmically optimized world is vulnerable — to propaganda, to misinformation, to dark targeted advertising from foreign governments — so much so that it threatens to undermine a cornerstone of human discourse: the credibility of fact.

Ovadya — now the chief technologist for the University of Michigan’s Center for Social Media Responsibility and a Knight News innovation fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journ…

Creatively Harvesting Bluebook Data

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As late as 2016, I was ready to join Justice Posner and give up on The Bluebook. After research into the use of algorithms in the era of big data, however, my thinking has changed.

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ran an article articulating the concerns with following a particular citation style. The problem with the rules-heavy approach to teaching [citation] isn’t just the rigidity with which students are taught those rules or follow them. It’s that too often students are taught rules without any context or justification. That’s just "the way things are." Students are left following rules just because a [law review editor] told them to, none the wiser about their function or history. It’s a recipe for seeing writing as foreign or external — something a student is supposed to do but not necessarily understand. Just follow the rules, kid, and there won’t be any trouble.

Instead of taking this approach to citation, the author leads a discussion not about citation st…

Aligning the Law Library Strategic Plan with "Program of Legal Education"

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In addition to ABA Standard Chapter 6 concerns, as the ABA continues to focus on a law school's "program of legal education," it is wise for law libraries to take note and align their strategic plans directly with the "program of legal education."

Accordingly, Standard 601 states:
Standard 601. GENERAL PROVISIONS
(a) A law school shall maintain a law library that:
(1) provides support through expertise, resources, and services adequate to enable the law
school to carry out its program of legal education, accomplish its mission, and support
scholarship and research;
(2) develops and maintains a direct, informed, and responsive relationship with the faculty,
students, and administration of the law school;
(3) working with the dean and faculty, engages in a regular planning and assessment process, including written assessment of the effectiveness of the library in achieving its mission
and realizing its established goals; and
(4) remains informed on and implements…

Proposed Change to ABA Standard 601: Written Assessment of Law Library Effectiveness

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The recent proposed change to ABA Standard 601(a)(3), calls for the removal of a written assessment of the effectiveness of the library in achieving its mission and realizing its established goals. 

Standard 601. Library and Information Resources, General Provisions

Explanation of Changes:

The current version of Standard 601(3)(a) was developed during the Comprehensive Review as a method of involving a law library in the process of strategic planning required of a law school. It was envisioned that the planning and assessment taking place for a law school (under what was then Standard 203) would incorporate the work done by the library under this new Standard. To ensure that incorporation, it was decided that a written assessment should be completed by the library. However, when the requirement for strategic planning for a law school was removed during a later phase of the Comprehensive Review, no change was made to the new Standard 601. As a result, the library community has been left…

Empirical Study Shows Algorithmic Bias in Library Discovery Layers

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Discussions surrounding algorithmic bias are fairly common. We've even seen discussion of algorithmic bias in library discovery tools. Most of this discussion, though, has been theoretical. In what is purportedly the first empirical study to analyze algorithmic bias in library discovery systems, Matthew Reidsma put ProQuest's Topic Explorer to the test to review potential biases affecting results.

More and more academic libraries have invested in discovery layers, the centralized “Google-like” search tool that returns results from different services and providers by searching a centralized index. The move to discovery has been driven by the ascendence of Google as well as libraries' increasing focus on user experience. Unlike the vendor-specific search tools or federated searches of the previous decade, discovery presents a simplified picture of the library research process. It has the familiar single search box, and the results are not broken out by provider or format but…

The Information Business; The People Business

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Law libraries are in the information business. To act as superior guides to this information, we must also be in the people business. We must be concerned with the people who seek our information. And we must be concerned with the people who guide those seekers to the information (i.e., our staff).

Contrary to popular belief, it's not easy to be a staff person in the rigid hierarchy of an academic law library. Particularly at a time when law libraries are facing increased budget pressures that require staff to do much more with much less. This is especially challenging with longtime staff who have seen their jobs change dramatically since they were hired. Many of these folks were not formally trained in librarianship, and they may be resistant to the flexibility needed in today's law library.

Given these challenges, how do we motivate our staff to be the very best guides to our information?

To that end, there was an enlightening program at the AALL Annual Conference in 2013 t…