We Want You… !

In May of this year, AALL President Ron Wheeler charged a special committee to review and update two documents, the Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers and the Procurement Toolkit and Code of Best Practices for Licensing Electronic Resources. Both documents have been around for at least 15 years, and they were last revised about five years ago. The special committee will present recommendations to the AALL Board at its spring meeting in 2018, and we are spending the fall soliciting input from the membership about necessary changes or updates.

CS-SIS members are among the most qualified people to do this review, given that much of the need for updating arises out of the constant new developments and new uses of computing technology. Are the principles described in these documents broad enough to encompass issues arising from current and future technologies (e.g., social media, e-books, mobile devices, wearables, internet of things, biometric authentication, data mining, cryptocurrencies)? At this point I am just listing trendy technology words in an effort to spark some thinking… I don’t actually know much about many of these topics (and you can probably tell). That’s why we want you! Are there trends that should be addressed specifically? Or can these documents in their present form continue to accommodate the ongoing rapid developments in technology that we will undoubtedly continue to experience?

In an hour you can probably read both documents and make some notes about necessary fixes and possible updates. Keep in mind that the principles in each document are best crafted as broadly as possible, so that they may continue to reflect both innovative new resources and practices as well as those that are tried and true. You can send your suggestions to me: eoutler at barry dot edu.

In addition, in mid-November we will conduct a discussion forum open to all AALL members. If you have particular interest or expertise in these topics (and even if you don’t) please plan to participate. Announcements about the schedule and how to participate will be coming soon.

CS-SIS Member Spotlight: Ruth Harrison

The Computing-Services Special Interest Section is made up of awesome law librarians doing interesting things.   The CS-SIS Member Spotlight is designed to shine light on our membership so that we can learn more about each other and stay connected.


CS-SIS Member Spotlight:  Ruth Harrison


Path to Librarianship

Ruth obtained her bachelor’s degree in English and Managerial Studies at Rice University in Houston, but it was her work in the reserve room at the university library that set the stage for her career in librarianship.  Having enjoyed working in a library setting, she accepted a library assistant job at the Texas State Law Library in 1991.  While employed full time, she earned her degree in Library and Information Sciences from The University of Texas at Austin.  Once a professional library position became available, she filled it and remains with the Texas State Law Library to this day.  She’s held titles of Computer Services Librarian, Electronic Services Librarian, and currently Reference Librarian and Network Administrator.  Ruth loves the diversity in her work and enjoys the challenge of tackling projects no one else wants to touch.

Computing Focus

Ruth joined CS-SIS early on in her career as it was a natural fit with her position title and interest in technology.  She tends to focus on the back end of technology and is currently one of the administrators for the library’s open source Koha management system.  Her current projects include working on SMS notices for Koha and installing new computers.  She appreciates that the CS-SIS helps her keep up with technology and educational resources with the Cool Tools Café, and she hopes to see programs on digitization, cataloging, metadata, and MySQL in the future.  Ruth recently completed a Post Master’s Certificate in Library and Information Science, in web programming and information architecture, from San Jose State University.   A lifelong learner, Ruth is also considering working toward another San Jose State post master’s certificate in big data.

What’s Next?

Ruth’s daughter has told her that her “hobby is looking for hobbies.”  Ruth agrees.  She played the flute from middle school through college and is trying to pick it up again.  She’s also learning to quilt and knit as well.   She uses and recommends Udemy for short courses on these hobbies, and many others.


Thanks to Ruth Harrison for her willingness to be interviewed for this CS-SIS member spotlight.  It was a delight to chat with her.  If YOU are interested in interviewing and writing a blog post about a CS-SIS member, please contact Tawnya Plumb at tplumb@uwyo.edu.


Legal Analytics – Researcher Beware?

If you have been following legal information news lately, you have probably heard quite a bit about legal analytics – the so-called “MoneyBall” for lawyers.  Litigation outcomes are located, summarized, categorized, and sometimes visualized.

Although analytic services are certainly not new (LegalMetric, for instance, has been delivering detailed analytics for 15 years), they have recently gained wider appeal.   As analytics are becoming directly integrated into major legal platforms, it is perhaps a good time to start taking a closer and more skeptical look.

Not all analytics are created equal and some analytics, quite frankly, are not ready to be put to actionable use.

1Docket Navigator MtD

(Docket Navigator. Judge Sam Sparks motions to dismiss by year, patent NOS)

Read more ›

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CS-SIS Member Spotlight: Sue Altmeyer

The Computing-Services Special Interest Section is made up of awesome law librarians doing interesting things.   The CS-SIS Member Spotlight is designed to shine light on our membership so that we can learn more about each other and stay connected.

CS-SIS Member Spotlight:  Sue Altmeyer

Sue with her dog Shanto

Sue pictured with her dog Shanto

Path to Librarianship

After studying business at Ohio State and finishing law school at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Sue worked as a tax attorney for Ernst & Young.  Interested in trying something new, Sue accepted a clerkship at the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals.  There she found a previously undiscovered interest in research and writing.  A music-librarian friend encouraged Sue to consider law librarianship, and she discussed the option with her Cleveland- Marshall librarians.  Convinced that law librarianship sounded like a great job, she enrolled in library school at Kent State University.

Interest in CS-SIS

Sue became a member of CS-SIS in 2007 in her first library job as a reference librarian at Cleveland Law Library.  One of her tasks at the county library was web development, and she found CS to be a beneficial resource for learning about web navigation.  Sue returned to Cleveland-Marshall as a law librarian for her alma mater, and she is now working at University of Akron Law School.  These days, Sue finds value in Cool Tools Café presentations and the CS-roundtables held at AALL.  She notes that the conversations in Computing Services has changed over the years from creating databases of databases and second life to mobile design, apps, and educational technology.

CS-SIS going Forward

Program planners:  Sue would love to see more CS-SIS presentations on educational technology, gaming, and video production; training on Camtasia and Photoshop by experts, for instance, would be helpful.  She is also interested in learning more from firm librarians about apps that lawyers use in the real world, such a jury selection.  She keeps current and picks up many great ideas from KnowITAALL.

What’s Next?

Sue enjoys her time in front a class as a game show host (playing Kahoot!), assisting faculty in their research, and helping stressed out students get their work done.  When we visit Cleveland in 2021 for AALL’s annual meeting, we may find Sue creatively exploring video production or hiking and kayaking with Shanto, her border collie mix.


Thanks to Sue for her willingness to be interviewed for this CS-SIS member spotlight.  It was a delight to chat with her.  If you are interested in interviewing and writing a blog post about a CS-SIS member, please contact Tawnya Plumb at tplumb@uwyo.edu.

Blockchain for Law Libraries

Blockchain elements - block, chain, decentralization

There’s been a lot of talk about blockchain recently.  It’s the technology that runs Bitcoin.  It can be used to create smart contracts.  It’s going to be the future of security on the web.  But what is this brave new technology?

It’s actually not really new at all.  At its heart, it’s just a database – but one that can now be widely distributed and accessed thanks to the vast size of the internet.  That said, the technology offers many new possibilities, especially in law.  Besides forming new kinds of contracts, blockchain can be used to track inventory, handle real estate transactions, and more.

If you’re looking for a quick overview about blockchain, AALL Spectrum recently published an article I wrote about the basics (there’s even a short comic).  I spoke about blockchain at CALI this summer (here are the slides).  Dan Blackaby and I will also host an AALL webinar about blockchain for law librarians on November 16.

If you want to try creating your own basic blockchain, this site features a short demo video and a blockchain sandbox.

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Judging the Inaugural AALL Innovation Tournament


Earlier this year, I received a phone call from Beth Adelman, Director at the Charles B. Sears Law Library at the University at Buffalo School of Law. She asked if I had heard about the inaugural Innovation Tournament to be held at this summer’s AALL meeting in Austin. I said I had, but I didn’t have anything to enter this year. She said that was okay, as she was asking if I would like to be a judge instead.

The competition itself was simple from a judging perspective. I intentionally didn’t try to find out who the participants would be, although I did start to hear things once I got to Austin. As one judge on a panel of five, and with the main winner being determined by a vote of the audience, I didn’t feel much pressure, but rather was interested in the entries themselves.

The three entries are all highly useful innovations in their own way. I was especially interested in the first entry presented, the digitization workflow project created by Tom Boone and Matt Zimmerman from Georgetown. It was less flashy, and more complicated in many ways than the other two entries, but I’ve no doubt it will prove to be highly useful to the law library community, especially for large academic institutions with looming digital projects….in other words, people in my job.

Katherine Lowry was the winner of the judge’s prize for her proposal for an attorney facing chatbot. This I think has the largest possible application of the three projects presented, and I could easily see this adopted as a standard feature for many knowledge management and legal research platforms, especially for those firms large enough to have their own corpus of KM materials.

Jennifer Wondracek won the audience prize for her virtual reality public speaking app proposal. As a personal practice tool, I could it see it being very useful at all levels of the legal world, and almost seemed to me to border on a gamification of the oral argument experience.

As a judge, I found it to be a highly enjoyable experience. We were given a rubric with which to score the entries, and therefore what we were looking for was easy to determine and assess. Every entry was deserving of a prize in my estimation, and I’m sure I’ll take advantage of the end product of all three. I look forward to seeing (and perhaps competing or judging again) the future tournaments.


Dan Blackaby

Technology Services Librarian, Cornell University Law Library

The Adaptive Technologies Committee has been busy

In this past year, the CS-SIS Adaptive Technologies Committee reviewed the Making Web Pages Accessible: a Pithy Guide to WCAG 2.0 web site and added new content to it.

Committee Chair Ryan Overdorf participated in an accessibility review for new content being added to his institution’s web site and utilized the Pithy Guide to WCAG 2.0 in conducting that review.

The Pithy Guide to WCAG 2.0 is an ongoing project and the Committee anticipates continuing to edit and add to its content in 2017-2018.


Annual Meeting: Cool Tools!

One of the most exciting parts of the Annual Meeting is the CS-SIS Cool Tools Café.  This year, Cool Tools will be held on Tuesday, July 18th from 2:30-3:30 in ACC Room 9ABC.  Get ready to learn about these cool tools and special thanks to all of our presenters!

  • Heather Simmons from the University of Illinois College of Law will be presenting PowerNotes, a browser extension for organizing notes, links, etc.;
  • Cas Laskowski from Duke University School of Law will be presenting on TOGGL, a time managemt tool;
  • AJ Blechner from Harvard Law School will be presenting on Poll Everywhere, a tool for interactive audience participation;
  • Debbie Ginsberg from Chicago-Kent College of Law will be presenting on WordRake and PerfectIt, writing tools designed for lawyers to check for common style and consistency errors;
  • Kris Turner from the University of Wisconsin Law School will be presenting on Fake News and Research Tracket, free browser extensions for research;
  • Malikah Hall from Texas A&M University School of Law will be presenting on Smore, a newsletter designer;
  • Rachell Purcell from the University of Florida Levin COllege of Law will be presenting on Shorthand Social, an easy to use story builder that integrates with social media;
  • Corrine Latham from Vinson & Elkins will be presenting on Docket Navigator, a tool for patent litigation research, and trademark, copyright and antitrust notifications;
  • Becka Rich from Nova Southeastern University College of Law will be presenting on Twinery, an open source tool for telling interactive, non-linear stories; and
  • Tawnya Plumb from the University of Wyoming College of Law will be presenting on Omeka, a free tool for marketing collections and hosting digital content.

Hope to see you in Austin!

CS-SIS 2017 Annual Meeting Grant Winners

Each year, CS awards grants to members to attend the AALL Annual Meeting. We do so in two categories: Grant for Students and New Law Librarians and Grant for Experienced Librarians. These grants are a win-win for the SIS and the members who receive them. They help a member come to the Annual Meeting who may not be supported to do so otherwise. In return, grant recipients write about their experiences for the blog after the Annual Meeting and choose a committee to serve on for the coming year.  We are happy to announce our grant recipients for 2017. Be sure to say hello when you see them at the Annual Meeting!


Cindy Bassett

CS-SIS Chair, 2016-17

Annual CALI Conference for Law School Computing Wrap Up

The 27th Annual CALI Conference for Law School Computing was held on June 15th and 16th in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. The temperature reached a high of 108, but it was cool inside the newly constructed and beautiful ASU Beus Center for Law and Society building.

As usual in law library conferences, change was the theme: the conference name was The Changing Rhythm of Legal Education. For the rhythm part, the conference kicked off with a drum circle experience facilitated John Fitzgerald, Manager of Recreational Music Activities at Remo, Inc. Participants worked together, playing drums and other percussion instruments, to create not only beautiful music but also to build community and create wellness and positivity for the next two days.

The keynote address, entitled Collaboration and Control:  Building the New Collaborative Web, was delivered by Michael Caulfield, Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University – Vancouver. Mr. Caulfield argued that the initial promise of Internet facilitated collaboration remains unfulfilled and that even contributions to Wikipedia have started to decline. He expressed disappointment with this loss of possibilities and discussed his ideas about how student collaboration and open access can benefit both students and society. He had specific suggestions on how the legal academy can encourage law students to contribute their knowledge and skills for the greater good. He pointed to the shortcomings of the Wikipedia article about reasonable doubt, pointing out that the entry about this important legal concept has been flagged since 2009 as one needing “additional or better citations for verification” and “attention from an expert in law.” He noted that law students could greatly contribute to the public understanding of law and increase access to justice by contributing to Wikipedia, creating access to justice apps, or writing open source textbooks.

Though I didn’t notice it on the schedule at the time, the conference presentations were identified by type – those that might appeal to faculty, librarians, technologists, or everyone. There were four presentations specifically designated for librarians:  The Human Element in Search Algorithms: Bias and Accountability in Legal Databases; How to Talk to your Dean (or other Decision Makers); Visual Thinking:  Strategies, Assets and Tools; and Legislative Advocacy and the Law School:  Librarians Unite?!

For faculty, most of the presentations focused on online courses – student retention, effective asynchronous delivery techniques, introduction of online courses into the curriculum, creation of PlayPosit interactive videos, effective synchronous video techniques, student video preferences, and use of CALI QuizWright.

My favorite presentation was Deborah Ginsberg’s Blocked! What is Blockchain and What Will It Mean for the Future of Law? I was pretty vague on blockchain so luckily, Ms. Ginsberg started at the beginning. She explained that blockchain is a distributed ledger that runs on multiple computers and keeps track of records (blocks). It can be used to keep track of anything – money, titles, deeds, or even identities or votes. Since the digital ledger is decentralized it doesn’t rely on a government or organization to establish trustworthiness. Currently, blockchain is mostly associated with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin but there are lots of potential uses in the legal field for anything that requires recordkeeping – land records, intellectual property rights, and smart contacts, to name just a few examples. As for information I can use, I didn’t know much about cryptocurrencies but once she said that one could buy some with apps such as Coinbase I got out my phone to install it and, after a fashion, became the proud owner of $10.00 worth of both Bitcoin and Ethereum!

The conference had a lot of great presentations and I am looking forward to attending again in the future.