Posted in Outreach, Teachable Moments, Technology

The Rise of the Reference iPad

Wow, the first week of the school year is always a whirlwind!  With 1L orientation on Monday, a journal sourcing assignment Monday-Wednesday, and 1L library tours Thursday and Friday, to say that it’s been a busy week would be an understatement.  But entering my second year as a librarian here at Maurer Law, it’s also been really fun.  Not only did I get to meet the students that will be in my two sections of Legal Research & Writing, but I also got to catch up with a few of my students from last year.  I was thrilled to hear that one of them had been invited back to his summer employer again for next year – this is, of course, what we’re hoping for.  (And it made my day when he told me he’d be sending all the 1Ls our way for research help!)  Though I won’t be seeing my 1Ls this year again until October, I’m glad they can recognize me as a resource so early in the semester – it’s always nice to be able to put faces to names, especially in a new environment.

The library iPads we bought in the Spring have taken on all new services this Fall.  While some libraries circulate iPads, ours are for the Reference Office, not for the patrons.  We use them to test out apps and such, but we haven’t heavily used them in service…until this week.  We had a journal student needing to scan a large volume of statutes from an enormous tome, making it a tedious job for him on the physical scanner, so, feeling bad for him, we lent him one of our iPads and showed him how to use the CamScanner app to scan his pages instead.  (As an aside, do you know he was the second journal student who came in this week that didn’t have a smartphone?  Both young students too – I was surprised.  It just goes to show we really cannot assume that our students are completely immersed in the latest tech.)  Anyway, this was a huge hit for him; he even lent it to another journal student as well (which frazzled me, but he did eventually bring it back to us, safe and sound!).  I was thrilled that we could offer this service to the students, but we realized we had to rein it in, since our iPads were not meant to be lent out and we had no policies or enforcement procedures in place to handle that.  So the downside is that we did get several more requests for the iPad, which we had to decline.  But this situation caused me to realize what a great tool an iPad could be for a journal.  Now they would of course have to be responsible for maintaining it and monitoring its use, but clearly there’s a need for it.

Then just today I received a call at the reference desk from someone across the country needing some historical Indiana bills.  These are easy enough to find, but, as with the journal student’s problem, these bills are bound in massive, unwieldy volumes.  Enter the Reference iPad!  I scanned, OCR’d, and emailed them right from the iPad, no trouble at all.  When we got our iPads, I imagined us using them in teaching, perhaps doing brown bag sessions with app demonstrations.  I just love finding new ways to use library tools to augment our services, and I think I certainly saw that this week with our iPad.  Finally, definitive proof that these were a good investment for the Reference Office.

Posted in Lessons Learned

When it’s Summertime, but the Fall Semester is Nigh…

It doesn’t seem possible that August could already be half-over!  It seems like we just celebrated graduation, and now we’re getting ready to welcome (and welcome back) our students for another school year.  This was my first full summer as a law librarian, and naively I thought summer would be a time of catching up, charging forward on projects that had sat on the back-burner during the previous school year.  Wrong!  While I have in many ways successfully played catch-up on the ol’ To Do list, it is by no means completed.  The summer absolutely flew by, and I am in awe that the school year is upon us again.

Given the timing, however, it does seem time to reflect upon my summer activities.  Much of my time this summer was spent attending and presenting at various conferences: in May I spoke about various and innovative uses for LibGuides to a couple different groups of librarians; in June I attended the CALI conference, held this year in Chicago; and in July of course I attended and co-presented at the annual meeting of AALL, held this year in Seattle.  When I wasn’t traveling or preparing for these presentations, I was updating two of my research guides, badly in need of makeovers, and working on a long-term research project involving a lot of data analysis.  In addition, I began work on a couple more research guides and began collaborating with colleagues as we gear up for another year of teaching legal research.

Along the way, I learned a few things:

1. When it comes to work, you’re To Do list will never be a Done list – as one task finishes, two more begin, and the cycle continues; of course, this is ultimately a positive – you never want to be in a position that there is nothing left for you to do.

2. Research guides are never truly finished.  Once published, they require updating, including adding new sources, checking for broken links, and revising as source content and layout changes.  If you’re not updating your research guides, they lose their utility.

3. When it comes to research projects involving data analysis, whenever possible, keep at it until it’s done, even if you only work on it for an hour a day.  The project I’m working on has been a year in the making, with about a 6 month break in the middle; when I came back to the data, I found I ultimately had to start over to guard against mistakes and to reacquaint myself with the categories I had initially created.

With only two weeks until classes begin, the summer is unlikely to slow down, but I remain hopeful that I can make a little more progress on my To Do list before then.  (I am not naive enough to believe much progress will be made during the semester!)

I hope you’ve all had productive, yet restful, summers, and I wish you the best of luck with your upcoming academic terms!