Making the in-person connection: An AALL review

by Mari Cheney

After every AALL Annual Meeting, I am struck by how much more productive in­-person networking, learning and meeting is compared to the virtual counterparts. An IRL conversation is more lively than an email exchange or even a phone call. However, technology can play a huge role in helping these in­-person exchanges get started.

  • Thanks to Twitter, I started talking with another academic law librarian about the possibility of writing a paper We exchanged tweets and email, and finally met at the annual meeting in person.
  • Thanks to Instagram, I heard about a PEGA­SIS event called Beer & Edits, so I submitted a paper via email for peer review and met the readers of my paper in
  • I attended an excellent program called Attorney Research Skills: Continuing the Conversation Between Law Firm and Academic Law Librarians and while we conversed in person with the other librarians at our table, the conversation was enhanced with a Twitter feed using the hashtag #attyresearch.

When I returned home from AALL, I started thinking about the power of in­-person communication as opposed to virtual communication, especially as it relates to law students. At my library, reference services are available through chat, email, in person, or by phone. We have Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts to promote library services. However, as most law librarians will agree, reference interactions are down, especially by phone. So how do we reach students, especially if they don’t open their email or navigate to the library’s home page to learn about our services?

I think in­-person interactions are the key to success, and used in conjunction with technology and online communications, our reach would be much further. Librarians should eat lunch where students eat lunch (and eat with them!); librarians should attend student­-led events; librarians should offer support to clinics and law reviews; and in doing so, librarians become the face of an otherwise generic reference desk.

Once that in-­person connection is made, our students will pay more attention to electronic communications from the library, in whatever form that may be, because they know us in person. And vice­-­versa, an introduction to the library on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or a welcome message to new students sent from the library’s email account may be the brief introduction a student needs to be comfortable greeting you in person. Use your technology to break the ice with a student IRL, whether it’s pointing out a Poke Stop or the nearest printer.


Mari Cheney, J.D., M.L.I.S., is the Digital Resources & Reference Librarian at Lewis & Clark Law School, Boley Law Library

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