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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Dear CS-SIS members,

The CS Executive Board invites you to be an active participant in CS-SIS. With members from all types of libraries, whose functions include network and system administrators, lab supervisors, webmasters, library directors, and many others, the Computing Services Special Interest Section serves the fastest-growing sector within our profession. Above all, Computing Services SIS members are legal information professionals dedicated to serving all the information needs of users with the aid of existing and developing technologies.

If you are interested in signing up for a CS committee, please fill out the interest form available here by Friday, August 2nd. We encourage you to express your interest at your earliest convenience. Why wait until after you return from the AALL Annual Meeting or perhaps some well-deserved vacation? Volunteer to help the CS-SIS better serve the needs of our members!


Participants in the CS-SIS designed Cool Tools Café have learned about emerging or existing technologies from librarians who have implemented these technologies in their own libraries. This year’s program will be presented in two parts: First, a formal session will feature a number of short presentations, and then the presenters will be available in a small-group setting, allowing for a more intimate discussion.

This year’s tools (and presenters) are:

  • Chatfuel – AI chatbot for Facebook (Amy Pearce)
  • ClassMarker – online quiz creation platform (Aaron Glenn)
  • Coggle – mind-mapping tool (Amanda Watson)
  • DoNotPay  – “robot lawyer” app (Tawnya Plumb)
  • FindTime – scheduling across institutions (Austin Williams)
  • Inbox Pause – Boomerang productivity tool for Gmail/Outlook (Kristina Alayan)
  • Quick, Draw!  – AI tool (Emma Babler)
  • Shiftboard – circulation desk scheduler (Ramona Collins)
  • Trello – a project management app (Susan deMaine)

The program will be held Sunday, July 14th from 4:00-5:00 pm in WCC Room 152 AB.  If you haven’t already, please add Cool Tools Café to your AALL conference schedule.

How does a critical theory of technology relate to the practice of librarianship?

If you’ll be attending the AALL Annual Conference in DC, come find out at the CS Roundtable on Technology and Culture in the Law Library, hosted by Rebecca Kunkel, of Rutgers University Law School Library.

It will take place on Tuesday, July 16 from 12:45 – 1:45 pm in room 156 of the convention center.

The discussions will focus on how technology fits into your library and your institution’s culture and are planned for 4 general topics within the critical theory of technology:

  1. labor process theory
  2. the critique of technology as ideology
  3. technology & gender
  4. technological determinism/critiques of the information society

There will be two handouts, one of which is intended to introduce participants to a few ideas in labor process theory. It is available online here for anyone who’d like to get a head start. (I’d recommend reading it even if you’re not going!) The other handout will be a short bibliography for anyone interested in doing more reading/research on the topics discussed.

We hope to see you there!