Grant Recipient Christy Smith Details Conference Highlights

Guest blog post by Christy Smith, Head of Collection Services, Seton Hall University, Rodino Law Library

I am so thankful to AALL LIT-SIS for awarding me the Experienced Librarian Educational Grant to attend this year’s AALL conference in Boston!

I have been an academic law librarian for the past two decades and have always learned a lot from attending the annual conference. The presentations and panels are full of useful and thought-provoking information, and I often come away with new ways of doing tasks or thinking about things. I also go back to my library with new contacts with whom I can collaborate with on revised workflows or innovations.

Although my main role in my library is Collection Services, I attended the following sessions that were not geared specifically to Collection Services librarians: LIT-SIS Roundtable on Generative AI; What You Need to Know About the Next Gen Bar Exam; and Kill a Stupid Rule.

The LIT-SIS Roundtable on Generative AI was particularly interesting to me since I have not yet taught Advanced Legal Research but might in the next year. It was helpful to hear how experienced legal research professors are incorporating assignments that require students to use ChatGPT or Bing Chat. Examples of assignments included: uploading a complaint and seeing what ChatGPT does with it; copying a prompt with ChatGPT to see what it says and then keeping the conversation going with ChatGPT; using it to introduce legal research definitions and sources; and drafting complaints for specific topics.

In the What You Need to Know About the Next Gen Bar Exam session, we heard from Beth Donahue (NCBE), Victor Chavez (Sheppard Mullin), and Victoria Szymczak (University of Hawaii). The Next Gen Bar Exam is building MPT-like skills and the research component may be similar. Suggestions for preparing law students included using doctrinal classes in conjunction with Advanced Legal Research (ALR), using the same issue or case and teaching students how to read the full case and extract the rule of law; focusing on authorities and how to analyze them; focusing on critical reading and analysis; assigning interactive exercises in platforms and then going over them in class; and having the bottom 25% of students meet with the professor individually to go over the assignment. The NCBE is currently working on study aids (from scratch) to help but they will not be questions used on the exam.

The presenters of the Kill a Stupid Rule session talked about eliminating unnecessary, outdated, or inefficient policies or procedures in the workplace. They talked about identifying anti-goals and suggested employees ask, “What do we NOT want to be doing?” The team can use an impact effort matrix to identify what activities will produce high and low impact with high and low effort. It is also a good idea to do a “listening tour” with employees to talk individually with people to hear what they think are “stupid rules” that could be eliminated or changed. The process can also bring about a non-stupid rule! It is good to do this process in a group and have a scribe. If part of the team is remote, there are whiteboard apps that can be used, and you can also assign an in-office proxy if needed.

I also attended sessions that were directly applicable to my current job. Some of the sessions I attended included: Selector School: Teaching Your Team How to Build a Collection of the Future; Withdrawing Large Collections: History, Methods and Paths Forward; TS-SIS Hot Topic: COUNTERintuitive: Discussing the Lack of Standardization in Vendor-Supplied Usage Statistics; Batch Please: Leveraging Batch Record Loading for Integrated Library System Improvements and Enhancing Resource Discovery; Collaborating with Vendors: Marketing, User Needs, and Product Development.

Quick highlights and thoughts from a few of these selected Collections-related sessions include the following:

Selector School: Teaching Your Team How to Build a Collection of the Future

  • Old editions are not usually available online.
    • Does this matter?
    • Should someone be digitizing old editions?
  • Are you engaging with students?
    • Those who are writing papers
    • Affinity groups
  • Check out the Selector School handout for a great overview of collection development!

Withdrawing Large Collections: History, Methods, and Paths Forward

  • “Decades of deferred maintenance”- does this resonate with you?
  • Questions to consider about titles you hold:
    • Are you proud to hold the title?
    • Is it accessible? Discoverable? Usable?
    • Does it further your mission?
    • Are you collaborating with other libraries to ensure that someone keeps it if you do not??

TS-SIS Hot Topic: COUNTERintuitive: Discussing the Lack of Standardization in Vendor-Supplied Usage Statistics

  • Consistent, standard-compliant usage statistics are not offered for many of our large legal databases.
  • Ask vendors to identify what is counted in statistics.
  • Can we work together as an association to get all legal publishers onboard with providing COUNTER-compliant usage statistics? ALA did it.

And, finally, I met some great librarians and vendor reps and I have started applying some of the ideas and suggestions that Charles Vogl, the keynote speaker, mentioned. Thank you again LIT-SIS for this wonderful conference opportunity!

Research Librarian, Perkins Coie LLP