Joe Lawson, a member of CS-SIS, is the Deputy Director of the Harris County Law Library in Houston,Texas. For some time the Harris County Law Library has been offering recorded CLE programs and handouts via links to YouTube on its website. Most recently, the Harris County Law Library hosted a presentation by Casey Flaherty entitled Legal Tech is not optional.  If you are interested in offering legal tech programs at your law library, Joe would be a great resource to contact to discuss the challenges associated with coordinating such a course of offerings.

If you’re a Gmail user, whether it’s at work or home, consider creating Templates to save time on commonly sent emails. Rather than saving those frequently sent emails in a draft folder, then copying and pasting the text from the draft to the email you want to send, the Templates feature allows you to create and save those frequently sent emails in a few easy steps.

First, make sure Templates are enabled in your Gmail settings. Select the gear icon on the top, right-hand side of the screen, then select Advanced, then choose Enable. You’ll need to save your changes at the bottom of the page. Screenshot of how to enable templates in GmailNext, click on Compose and then draft your email. Instead of clicking send or leaving the email in draft mode, select the More Options button (next to the delete icon) at the bottom of the compose window. Choose Templates, then “Save draft as template.” You’ll be prompted to either overwrite an existing template or save a new one.

Gmail template options
Finally, the next time you need to send this email, click on the Compose button, then select the More Options button (reminder: it’s next to the delete icon), then choose the template from the list under “Insert Template.” You can either send the email as-is or make edits as needed.

What are your favorite time-saving hacks? CS-ers would love to know! Send me an email to be included in a future blog post or comment below.

This post compares the functionality of Lexis’s Courtlink with that of Dockets on Bloomberg Law. When I was asked to write about this topic, it happened that I had just been asked to look for a brief related to a current Supreme Court case—United States v. Sineneng-Smith, No. 19-67 (U.S. filed July 12, 2019), so this seemed like a good place to start.

Round One: Searching for a Known Federal Docket
To begin, I logged into Lexis Advance and navigated to Courtlink through the product switcher menu.

Courtlink’s front page has a drop-down menu to select whether to search for Dockets, Court Documents, or both. Another drop-down menu allows the user to limit jurisdiction. The page also allows the user to enter search terms in docket-related fields. Docket fields on Courtlink include Docket Number, Litigants, Attorney, Law Firm, Judge, Date Filed, and Case Status. Additionally, contextual fields appear when the jurisdictional settings change.

Since I had a docket number for the case, I thought the easiest way to search would be to enter “19-67” in the Docket Number field and search in Dockets.

Screenshot of Lexis Courtlink

This search returned 706 dockets. I saw the case I was looking for listed as #3 on the returned list. The Courtlink interface provides a list of filters on the left that function in the same manner as those on Lexis Advance. These filters include the pre-search filters, (i.e., Jurisdiction, Date, and Case Status) as well as some additional filters, including; Practice Area, Keywords, Litigation Area, Case Type, etc. If you are familiar with the Nature of Suit codes used in PACER, you will have to apply a federal jurisdictional filter to make the Nature of Suit filter visible ( Selecting federal jurisdiction also opens several other contextual fields related to specific federal courts and case types. Selecting a state filter will also open contextual fields related to that state’s courts plus related federal courts.

Lexis Courtlink results
To compare, I logged into Bloomberg Law and selected Dockets from the dashboard. Bloomberg’s search page includes the same options for limiting a search as Courtlink. Rather than using contextual fields, Bloomberg hides some of the search fields in expanding menus. If you are searching within documents, Bloomberg also includes Docket Key for a limited number of U.S. District Courts. (Specific coverage for Docket Key is available here: Docket Key permits the user to limit the search to certain types of documents (complaint, brief, etc.). Although contextual, the Docket Key field is still visible to the user when unavailable. To duplicate the search on Courtlink, we’ll search only dockets and put 19-67 in the Docket # field.

Bloomberg docket search

Bloomberg returned 458 results. On the left, Bloomberg includes filters for jurisdictions, courts, federal Nature of Suit numbers, Bankruptcy chapters, and dates. Since the case I was looking for was not within the first ten results on the list, I applied the U.S. Supreme Court filter. After, there was only one item on the list, United States v. Sineneng-Smith.

Bloomberg docket results list

I quickly found the docket for United States v. Sineneng-Smith using both systems. I prefer Bloomberg’s approach to fields and filters. When reviewing the pre-search screen initially, I could not tell that Courtlink included a means to filter by Nature of Suit codes, and I had to experiment with jurisdictional filters to make it appear. On post-search filtering, while Courtlink had several subject-area filters which could serve a similar purpose as Nature of Suit, as with pre-search filtering, the Nature of Suit filter only appears when federal jurisdiction is selected.

Round Two: The Docket Sheets
Having found United States v. Sineneng-Smith, I opened the docket sheet in both systems.

Both systems include information about filing dates, litigants, attorneys, when the docket sheet was last updated in the system, information about the case in the lower court, and each docket entry includes the date and text describing what occurred. Beyond this, the coverage differs.

Bloomberg and Courtlink docket sheets
For this docket, on Bloomberg, there are about twice as many entries on the docket sheet. Most of the additional entries represent separate documents for the same act (Main Document, Proof of Service, Certificates). The Courtlink version did not have links to related documents at all. In a few cases, items are present on the Bloomberg version that are completely absent from Courtlink. This discrepancy is because Bloomberg’s version was last updated today while the Courtlink version was last updated nineteen days ago; at present, there is no way to update the docket on Courtlink.

Comparing Bloomberg and Courtlink docket sheets

After seeing a docket sheet on Courtlink with no linked documents, I went back to the search page, changed my filter to search for only documents, and searched for Sineneng-Smith. This search returned 214 results. Adding the U.S. Supreme Court filter reduced the number of documents to four. The list included two briefs and two petitions for writ of certiorari. Strangely, the briefs included a document not associated with a docket sheet entry.

I asked my Lexis representative whether there were supposed to be related documents linked to dockets within Courtlink. She responded that since Courtlink is a new addition to the Lexis Advance platform, not all Courtlink documents have been fully integrated. She speculated all dockets would eventually be linked to documents. She also sent me a different example showing a docket with linked documents, Trump v. Clifford, 2:18cv2217, (C.D. Cal., filed Mar. 16, 2018). I accessed this docket in both systems to continue comparing features.

On both Courtlink and Bloomberg, this docket appears to have the same entries. Both systems appear to have links to all available documents. The one advantage I found that Courtlink has over Bloomberg is that it permits the user to sort the docket sheet by any column while Bloomberg only permits the user to reverse the order. On the other hand, advantages of Bloomberg include: allowing users to collapse parts of the docket screen, includes links to related opinions, has the ability to track dockets, and perhaps most importantly, has a big friendly update docket button. (In Courtlink’s help pages, I found directions for both tracking and updating dockets. The directions for tracking told me to click on the bell icon and the directions for updating told me to click on the Update Now button. Unfortunately, I saw neither the bell icon nor the Update Now button on either of the docket sheets I viewed.)

Bloomberg Update Docket feature

For docket sheet access, while I liked Courtlink’s ability to sort the docket by any column, it did not appear to have features like tracking or the ability to update a docket. Bloomberg’s docket sheet interface seemed to be put together better. Once Courtlink implements the features promised in its help pages, it will probably compare better.

Round Three: Searching Dockets
The first difference between the search interfaces is that on Courtlink, one is limited to keyword searching while searching Dockets & Documents. The only pre-search filter available is a jurisdictional filter called Within. If one selects Court Documents, a Date Filed filter is added and a Nature of Suit filter may appear if federal jurisdiction is selected. There does not appear to be additional search fields or filters available.

On Bloomberg, many more filters and fields are available pre-search. These are the same as described above.

Since the two do not compare exactly, I ran a comparison search in Court Documents on Courtlink and in Dockets and Documents on Bloomberg. I set both date filters to return items from within one year. I then ran the following search on both systems: “evolving standards of decency” AND “felony murder”. This search should return very recent dockets and documents involving Eighth Amendment arguments related to felony murder cases.

Courtlink returned 15 related documents and gave options to filter results by category (document type), jurisdiction, practice area, attorney, law firm, most cited statute, pre-selected keywords, judge, litigation area, and search within results. One can also create an alert based on the search. I made several attempts on different days to download the entire list using different formats and two different browsers; unfortunately, every one of these attempts failed to produce a file. (Alleged format options include pdfs, different word processors, and an Excel file that includes metadata for the documents on the list.) I was able to go into the individual documents on the list and download those.

At the bottom left of the list that Bloomberg returned, are two radio buttons marked Docket and Entries. Selecting Docket returns dockets that have your keywords contained within the dockets and associated documents that Bloomberg already has in its system (i.e., it does not extend the search to Pacer). For this search, Bloomberg returned 25 dockets. The Docket results have only the date as an option for post-search filtering, though there is an option for Edit Search that reopens the search page with your previously entered search. Selecting Entries returns dockets and associated documents within jurisdictions covered by Bloomberg’s Docket Key system. This search returned four items in Entries. The Entries results page includes filters for Jurisdictions, NoS, Filing Type, and Date. The two lists do not necessarily overlap one another, so you’ll want to review both lists when doing research.

The results list options on Bloomberg include Create Alert, CSV Results, and various list downloads (formats include, pdf, rtf/doc, and Excel). The Excel list download includes the same information displayed on the results screen. The CSV results are a little different. They include the same information as the results, but that information is broken down into different columns. It includes among other things party names, a link to the docket on Bloomberg, and attorney names. This format could be useful for doing empirical research on cases currently being litigated.

Since so many of the features on Courtlink do not yet appear to work, I would have to give Round Three to Bloomberg as well. I will be interested in seeing how the download features would work in Courtlink, in particular, the Excel file download, once they actually operate.

Written by CS-SIS Blog Committee member Artie Berns, Research & Emerging Technologies Librarian at Western New England University School of Law Library.

 Many are familiar with Dr. Brené Brown’s* work – we’ve watched her viral TED talks here, here, or here.  Many have read her booksThe Gifts of Imperfection, Rising Strong, or Braving the Wilderness – but may not have thought much about how her ideas might be applied in a work setting. Enter Dare to Lead. This book takes Dr. Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability and applies her ideas to leading in organizations.

Is there any topic that anyone wants to talk about less at work than shame and vulnerability? Go ahead… I’ll wait. No? No. This is an incredibly difficult topic for many to engage with and one that Dr. Brown resisted herself. In the Prologue to Dare to Lead, Dr. Brown discusses the twin research aims of her work in organizational development and vulnerability and how she was very sure they would never intersect. But she found that they do meet because those of us in the work place who want to go deeper and do more need her help to learn how to become the leaders we want to see in the work world.

Dare to Lead is organized into four parts, but the main thrust of the book is in Part 1: Rumbling with Vulnerability. I’ll give you the good news and the bad news. The bad news: There are a lot of feelings involved. And talking. If you are a person who avoids uncomfortable discussions, this is going to be a rough ride. The good news: It is worth it. If you are willing to be vulnerable, you are going to develop a team that is willing to be honest because you’ve been honest with them. You won’t have yes-people afraid to tell you the truth.

The book goes on to discuss (more cursorily than the Rumbling with Vulnerability section) living into your values, braving trust, and learning to rise. Living into your values will ask you to determine what it is that really drives the bus for you. Why do you do what you do? Braving trust discusses how trust is built between team members. BRAVING is an acronym for the Braving Inventory – Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Nonjudgement and Generosity. Walking through this inventory helps teams know where the weak spots are in work relationships. And learning to rise encourages team members to know how to get back up after a failure. Daring to lead takes courage. It is easier to get back up if you’ve been taught how to fall.

I recently wrote on this blog about the future of people in libraries in a world that is increasing automated. Dr. Brown speaks to this on page 75:

“The hopeful news is there are some tasks that humans will always be able to do better than machines if we are willing to take off our armor and leverage our greatest and most unique asset – the human heart. Those of us willing to rumble with vulnerability, live into our values, build trust, and learn to reset will not be threatened by the rise of the machines, because we will be part of the rise of daring leaders.”

In all, this is tough, but great, work you’ll be doing. And you don’t have to do it alone. Dr. Brown has provided extensive, free resources on the book’s web page, including a workbook to go along with the book. If you are ready to think more deeply about this topic – to consider taking off your armor and becoming the real and authentic leader your organization needs you to be, consider attending the Annual Meeting of MAALL on Oct. 17-19 in St. Louis. Two (awesome!) law librarians, Resa Kerns and Cindy Shearrer, will be discussing the book at the conference in their Professional Reading without the Reading program. We’ll see you in the arena.


*I know that many are familiar with her work and know her as Brené. But I want to show respect for her academic work, so will continue to refer to her as Dr. Brown.


Calling all CS-SIS members!

Looking for feedback on your annual meeting program proposal? If so, please share it with Caroline Young at It does not have to be fully fleshed out. Caroline will share it with the other members of the committee and they will provide feedback to help you with the process.

Remember: the deadline for Annual Meeting program proposals is fast approaching – October 1st! Links to more detailed information about the proposal process are here:

CS-SIS Program Committee:
Caroline Young (Chair)
Benjamin Carlson
Jessica Pasquale
Tawnya Plumb (CS Immediate Past-Chair)
Amanda Watson (CS Vice-Chair)
Darla Jackson (CS Chair)

Access to library resources from the user’s perspective is getting simpler and easier at a rapid speed. Most librarians working with tech and computing services in some form or another are working to set up, maintain and improve the end-user experience by means of managing access at one or more levels at their institutions. No matter what your role is in any given organization, even if you are not primarily responsible, it is always helpful to have an understanding of the terminology so we can speak intelligently and help translate for others we work for and with.  At my own law library this is very much at the forefront of our minds with the University of Georgia pushing fast towards all departments rolling out Single Sign On, and for a couple of years now institutions across the state have been working to migrate resource authentication to more singular authentication models via OpenAthens. Finding myself in the midst of new and overlapping zones of information has been at times both exciting and overwhelming. Amidst it all I keep coming back to acronyms, definitions and other jargon which I am working to commit to memory. I hope this post can serve as a resource not just for myself but other CS members who find themselves in the middle of or responsible for resource access and management.

Let’s start by deciphering the differences between Authorization and Authentication, and how they work together:

  • Authentication – this is the process of something or someone (a user) proving their identity to someone else (usually a system or resource).
  • Authorization – this is the process by which a system (usually a server) determines permission and grants access to something.
  • Why are the two coupled together? The two terms are used in the same sentence and sometimes even interchangeably depending on who you are speaking with because systems/servers need to have some concept of who is requesting access.
  • Authentication types required for authorization can vary widely depending on the security level(s) of systems and resources. The most common type of authentication is a username and password.  Other examples of authentication include ID cards, retina scans, voice recognition, and fingerprints.

As librarians we provide access to large collections of resources for our patrons. Patrons are of course users that have authorization to access items in the library. They may use their library card to check out physical items. In this scenario the card is the authentication that allows the library to authorize the individual to borrow the item. In the world of electronic resources our vast digital collections require the same authentication for authorization – but how do we manage that online?

Here is a small but hopefully handy set of acronyms to help you navigate this increasingly complicated terrain:

  • IAM – Identity and Access Management
  • AD – Active Directory
  • SSO – Single Sign On
  • FIM – Federated Identity Management
  • FID – Federated Identity
  • OAUTH – Open Authorization
  • >IDP – Identity Provider
  • CAS – Central Authentication Service
  • <LDP – Lightweight Directory Service
  • LDAP – Lightweight Directory Access Protocol
  • SAML – Security Assertion Markup Language

There are many, many more of course, but for the sake of this blog post these are the few that I have encountered most recently and am grasping at for our own resource transitions. A great resource for reading more about terminology is The Secret Security Wiki.

Essentially Single Sign On is exactly what it sounds like it would be: a simplification of the login authorization process by authenticating once. It also adds a safety layer by reducing the potential for error since different individual or duplicated logins are reduced to one. SSO is a type of organization access control that seems to be the standard solution. Sounds peachy, right? Of course – but as with anything easier on the surface, the background configuration is complex. For an overview of SSO pros and cons, I found this Data Protection Blog Resource quite helpful. Arguments aside, we’ve been dealt a hand we must deal with. Implementing SSO for our sites and other resources requires certain protocols in place to handle the back-and-forth between our users, the interface they authenticate through, and our resources which they are authorized to access.

A part of this SSO equation, federated entities (independently managed domains that have established a trusting relationship) allow stored identity provider credentials to connect to identity management systems. SAML is just one protocol which is the standard for AD federation services for logging users into a variety of applications based on sessions in a different context.

Across our university multi-factor authentication is also gaining momentum for double-checking user identity, usually by way of a personal device. Although the necessity for multi-factor authentication is not there (yet) for users and library resources, it is yet another layer available if the resource calls for further security measures.

As I am wrapping my own head around the various pieces of the authentication-authorization puzzle our department is currently deconstructing, building, and before all is said and done rebuilding again, I will no doubt return to this post myself. Are there other terms to add to this post? Are you a CS-SIS member dealing with these issues as well? Share your advice, expertise and other experiences in the comments below!

TRAINING LAW FACULTY TO TEACH LEGAL TECHNOLOGY: WHAT THEY NEED TO LEARN AND WHY is an AALL Webinar scheduled for Thursday, September 26, 2019 from 11am – 12pm US/Central.

This is the second offering of this useful program, which was previously targeted at an ALL-SIS audience.

Panelists for the Webinar include the following CS-SIS members:

Kenton Scott Brice
Director of Technology Innovation
University of Oklahoma Law Library

Emily M. Janoski-Haehlen
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs & Library Services & Director of the Law and Technology Program
University of Akron Law Library

Michael J. Robak
Library Director
University of St. Thomas

Stacey L. Rowland
Clinical Assistant Professor of Law, Assistant Director for Collection & Technology Services
University of North Carolina School of Law


There no question technology has become the great disrupter for professional services providers (including lawyers). States have formally adopted model rules regarding technology competence for lawyers and the need for lawyers to learn how to leverage technology has continued to increase. Legal educators must give real consideration to the role of technology in the legal profession and sufficiently prepare law students to become competent lawyers able to practice law in today’s workplace. In this webinar, the presenters will describe the technology landscape and explain what law faculty need to learn about teaching legal tech in order to create technology capable lawyers.

Attendees will learn:
• how to develop technology learning objectives
• technology course assessment and how to develop an assessment protocol
• how to use certification programs to supplement curriculum efforts

If you are interested in the webinar, please register before September 23, 2019.

I am writing this post as a member of the CS-SIS blog committee, but I cannot take all the credit for the happenings I’m about to describe. The person who got the ball rolling and has been overseeing the project is a colleague of mine: Virginia Neisler, newly appointed Head of Reference & Research Services at the University of Michigan Law Library. Some of these words are hers, so if you have questions about anything in this post please feel free to reach out to either Virginia ( or me (

The tl:dr version with some key highlights:

  • Things will take longer than you think, so build in extra time for every phase/project/deadline.
  • You will also need to involve more people than you initially plan for, so try to cast your net as wide as possible at the beginning (you’ll likely still be informed along the way that there are other people you need to consult with to get certain things done or approved).
  • It will probably cost more than your initial projections, so perhaps come up with a budget for “just the basics” and another for the things you’d “like to have.” 

The longer version with more details:

One of our librarians at the University of Michigan Law Library, Virginia Neisler, was generally interested in how technology is impacting the practice of law and how law schools are preparing students. After attending an ABA TechShow she spoke with our director about what other schools were doing to address this issue. Together they decided to create a working group to figure out how we might convert a long-forgotten and unused CALR (computer-assisted legal research) room into a modern “Tech Lab.” 

As chair of the working group, Virginia’s vision for the Tech Lab was to create “a truly experiential lab where students can get hands-on, guided experience with various legal technologies.” Three other librarians, including myself, joined the group and together we started brainstorming ways to refresh the space in addition to researching what types of legal technology (software and hardware) that we would need to bring in for our students. 

Our process consists of four phases:

  1. Information Gathering
  2. Short Term Proposal
  3. Implementation
  4. Evaluation and Long Term Vision Planning

Phase One
We researched emerging classroom technologies, similar tech lab spaces in other schools, and spoke with colleagues throughout the country to find out what they were already doing, or planning to do. We spoke with internal stakeholders (Deans, Clinical faculty, etc.) and tried to find out what types of legal tech are most used by our alums in legal practice today, as well as what they think is most likely to be adopted in their workplaces in the near future. We also tried to keep our current student body in mind, especially where the knowledge gap(s) seemed to be the most severe. (For example, most of our students have Mac laptops, whereas the majority of our alumni use Windows PCs in their workplaces.)  Like many libraries undertaking space renovations, we also decided the furniture in the room needed to be as mobile and flexible as possible, so the room could be set up and utilized in a variety of ways. (We chose Knoll C-leg height-adjustable Pixel tables.)

Phase Two
We crafted a proposal to submit to our law school administrators, outlining our plan for the space renovation, necessary technology updates, and ideas for programming. This part, and getting the budget approved, seemed to take the longest, as we had to justify why the room needed to be re-carpeted and repainted, and why the tables and chairs already in the space were not adequate for what we had planned, not to mention justifying the cost of new computers and hardware. (We opted for wireless mice and keyboards to go with the PC computers, so students working in groups can more easily swap control of the computer.) For the technology and computer specs, we got bounced around between a few different IT people when we had questions and ended up needing to coordinate with many more people than we initially thought, which also extended our timeline slightly.

Phase Three
Phase 3 happened in stages, once the short term proposal was approved by our administration. Most of the painting, rewiring, and re-carpeting took a couple of months, and was paid for out of the library budget from FY19. Tables were ordered and paid for out of the library budget for FY20, and computers and associated hardware were paid for out of our IT department’s budget for FY20. During this time, we started promoting the Tech Lab on our social media channels.

While we had hoped to have the room ready to go for the start of the Fall 2019 term, things moved slower than planned and we are now planning to start hosting workshops in the Winter 2020 term. (Some things that slowed us down included multiple visits from campus IT for wiring and adding more ethernet ports, as well as delays in figuring out which budget would cover the cost of new computers and getting the overall budget approved.)

Phase Four
This phase will start in Winter 2020 as we evaluate workshop attendance and feedback from students in real time. Summer 2020 will allow us to revise and rework as needed, to prepare for long term vision planning, which may include the purchase of specific software or specialized hardware. We are aware of legal tech assessments like Procertas, and plan to advocate for an empirical assessment of our students’ technological competency, but in the meantime, we must rely on anecdotal evidence from our own and others’ interactions with our students. We believe no idea is too small as we get started, and plan to do some workshops on basic Word tutorials and PDF redacting, while folding in some email etiquette tips. (We’ve already heard from clinical staff that most students are lacking some basic skills in all of these areas.)

We’re excited about the “grand opening” of the Tech Lab next term, and will begin advertising it on our social media channels and in our interactions with clinical faculty and students throughout the fall semester. We will also continue to solicit ideas for tech skills at all levels from everyone we can, so if you have ideas or things you’ve already done that made the biggest difference, please share below!


A few years ago, I started a summer book club for my law school faculty, staff, and students. Mostly we’ve read literature – the sort of books that are sometimes difficult to make yourself pick up and read, but that stick with you and you are glad afterward that you did it. Needless to say, the discussion groups were small for some of those books! This summer, I changed tack and decided we would only read fun stuff. Beach reads, if you will. Enter Scythe by Neal Shusterman.

Cover of Neal Shusterman's book Scythe

Cover of Neal Shusterman’s book Scythe

Scythe is set in a post-mortal world. Humans no longer feel pain and they no longer need to age or die. Computational power is essentially infinite. Artificial intelligence has advanced so far that ‘the cloud’ has now become the Thunderhead – a benevolent and all-powerful governing body for the entire planet. The Thunderhead manages all human population optimally so there is no longer war, disease, hunger or want, though there is a tiny problem of overpopulation which threatens to become a much bigger problem. There is no longer any need for human work unless humans want to work. If they do, the Thunderhead will find the right job for them, but this is only to keep humans happy as the Thunderhead could do the work better than any human possibly could.

This book comes to me when I am asking myself what my job will look like in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years. I’m an electronic services librarian and I do a lot of different types of work under that job title. I’m part of a traditional Collection Development department in a typical law school library. Like many other similar departments, we’ve seen many changes in what we do and how we do it. I recently received word that the technical service and ILL functions for a law school in the Midwest have been moved to the main library on campus. This is not the first time I have heard of this type of shift in law library work. These changes are happening in law libraries everywhere, in part because technology has changed library acquisition and information consumption.

Do not take this observation as an entreaty that libraries should remain static simply to maintain a status quo. I think most librarians are on board with that premise. I may be wrong, but I think as a collective, we are generally more open to change than the average bear. In fact, my colleagues have been real leaders where all technology adoption in the law school is concerned. Instead, the question I am pondering is what will be the long-term result of this shift.

In the Scythe world, the Thunderhead is an AI that can answer all questions. While our current-day legal research systems are obviously not at that level, it is easy to see that they strive to remove the need for an intermediary human educator between the database and the user. Can a system achieve that goal? Will a librarian (or whatever we call the Keeper of the Passwords) reasonably be doing due diligence by simply handing a password to a complex legal system to a new user and saying, “Have at it, Kid. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”?

To stretch this thought experiment to the very farthest reaches of the possibilities of technology, will there still be work for human beings in doing traditional librarian duties, such as educating law students, connecting law faculty with research and resources, or supporting practicing attorneys or will humans abdicate these duties to the Thunderhead of the future? If technology advances to a stage where librarians are no longer needed, is it possible to speculate that there may not be a need for any human workers in this tech-infused future? Further, if there is no need for human work, why should human beings work at all?

Now that I have worked myself into a fine existential crisis, I find it is time to return myself to reality. I am going to remind myself that we are human beings living in a human world, which, at least for the foreseeable future, is an interesting mix of analog and digital.  Humans, by their nature, have a need for meaningful work. Libraries and librarians continue to have a role to play in this educational system to contribute information resources, selecting those resources, creating them, teaching students to find and use them, and teaching students how to create the systems of the future. We have that role so long as we are willing to continue to learn and grow with technology. While many still enjoy an analog existence (and studies show many still want to learn with paper rather than looking at a screen) we can also move toward an increasingly electronic world.

Libraries do not have to die in order that an online future may live. It is not counter-intuitive that we might serve all these needs, providing more work than anyone has time to complete. And librarians can be the ones to lead that shift. At least, until the Thunderhead does not need us to do it anymore.


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If you’d like to learn and share knowledge about teaching law practice technology, make sure to put the CS Roundtable Teaching Law Practice Technology: State of the Art on your AALL Annual Meeting schedule. It will be held on Sunday, July 14, from 12:45-1:45 pm, in the Marriott’s George Washington meeting room.

In this roundtable, Faye Jones and Elizabeth Farrell-Clifford will lead a discussion on some common issues confronting law librarians who teach or aspire to teach law practice technology: What types of instruction are most effective, and how can we teach skills that are immediately useful to students and transferable to their careers? Where are we now on this? Is there a consensus about the proper approach to teaching law practice technology? What new challenges face us from AI and rapidly changing law practice technology? And what other issues should we be thinking about?

It promises to be a broad-ranging, thought-provoking exchange, and we hope to see you there!

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