Posted in AALL, Outreach, Social Media, Technology

It’s Good to Feel Needed!

This has been a good week.  The Twitter account continues to get new followers on an almost daily basis; I published the LibGuide I was creating on legal apps so that our patrons can access it from our Resource Guide page; and I have begun playing around with the IU course management system, Oncourse.

I was excited to see that, though I do not have my own course this Fall, I could still get a practice Oncourse site to explore.  From my own IU education, I knew there were a plethora of features available on Oncourse, from forums to email to wikis and more, but I suspected that faculty do not use all of these resources, and may not even know the range of resources Oncourse provides; thus my interest in playing with it!  Today, that experimenting paid off in spades.  Two people approached me today asking about the features of Oncourse.  I walked them both through my site, showed them things I had already tried, such as modules and quizzes, as well as other interactive features such as wikis, blogs, and chat rooms.  I later heard that one of these individuals had been very pleased to learn about all that Oncourse can do, so I am so glad that I brought it up in the initial meeting.

One of the individuals I follow on Twitter had tweeted about an article on Android apps for lawyers.  This sparked my interest in getting my LibGuide on law-related apps published – I have been working on it and editing it for a couple months – so I did just that and advertised it on our Twitter account (which also syncs with our Facebook account).  The other librarians were pleased to see that I had published it and we will be formally announcing it to our non-tweeting faculty in a week or so.

While these are all little things, this was my first experience having others approach me for guidance in my specialty area or suggest that work I had done should be announced to law school community.  It really made me feel like I had a true place at this school, and gave me the confidence to know that I can do this job, and I can do it well.
Next – off to Boston for the AALL Annual Meeting!  I’ll tell you all about my experiences next week!

Posted in Outreach, Social Media

New Beginnings: Ed Tech to Date

After two weeks as the Educational Technology Librarian at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, I have the following to show for my work:

Although it easy to dismiss social media in an academic setting, Facebook and Twitter can certainly be used to enhance library services, as evidenced by the plethora of library Facebook and Twitter accounts in existence today.  Already I have been able to highlight changes to existing library infrastructure, such as the migration of our research guides to our new LibGuides account, as well as announcing the addition of a new video to our library’s YouTube channel.  In my opinion, one of the best things about a business or organization having a social media presence is the ability to blend formal and informal – conveying information professionally, but in a more relaxed manner; I believe this can often make the business or organization, especially a library or school, more approachable for patrons and students.  Especially in an academic setting, where most students today have Facebook and/or Twitter accounts, creating library accounts through these sites can be an excellent way to reach a larger portion of your patron base (and beyond).  I am excited to see how these accounts will affect our visibility in the law school community.

As the summer (unbelievably!) draws to a close, I will now shift my focus to technologies for the classroom so that I can reach out to our faculty members as they prepare for a new semester.

Posted in Digital Libraries, Technology

Digital Libraries

Lately, I have been giving a lot of thought to digital libraries and their place in a world increasingly reliant on internet searches to perform research tasks.  (Much of this thought, I will admit, is due to the fact that I am currently taking a course in digital libraries!)

Although I am quite attached to physical materials in libraries, I also recognize the growing favoritism shown to digital research by library patrons, and am thus becoming much more accepting of digital collections.  As a lawyer, I cannot help but draw parallels to LexisNexis and Westlaw when considering the utility of digital libraries.

A classmate posed the question whether digital libraries were even relevant in a world so reliant on internet search engines, and, while at first I hesitated, given some thought I firmly believe that digital libraries present much more than current internet search capabilities have to offer.

Thinking of the wealth of resources provided in the results of a Lexis or Westlaw search, I marvel to imagine what a similarly-designed digital library search result could offer.  If I look up a topic in a case law search, I not only bring up a digitally-enhanced report of the case, but also links to relevant digest and encyclopedia entries, law review articles, and even a history of the case.  Adding to that the major revisions Lexis and Westlaw are making to their databases in response to user feedback (i.e. Westlaw Next and the upcoming Lexis equivalent), searches in these databases are looking increasingly like search results you would expect in a library’s online catalog, with one central search interface and results organized by resource type.  What if a search in a subject-specific digital library could do the same?  The mind reels!

Now of course, there are obvious flaws in my example.  For instance, reported cases are government documents and thus often fall in the public domain, the other legal resources linked in Lexis and Westlaw are usually owned or licensed by Lexis and Westlaw, and both of these are particularly wealthy commercial databases with plenty of resources and personnel to pull off such a rich system; so it’s not quite the same situation as encountered by a typical digital library.

In essence, LexisNexis and Westlaw are two commercial, digital libraries of legal resources.  If non-commercial digital libraries could follow their examples, and I imagine many do, or soon will, then I believe that users will see what a different, and richer, experience the use of such a database can be, compared with a simple (or even advanced!) internet search.  I believe digital libraries are hardly irrelevant in the face of search engine dependency; instead, I see them as a natural evolution of library services.

Posted in Technology

Blogging and Law Journals

My name is Ashley Ahlbrand.  I am a law school graduate of William & Mary’s Marshall-Wythe School of Law, and am half-way through my pursuit of my master’s in library science at Indiana University-Bloomington.  With these two degrees in tow, I look forward to pursuing a career in law librarianship.

I have just wrapped up a summer course in emerging technologies for libraries.  As a part of this course, we each gave a presentation on a technology of our choice; I chose blogging for libraries.  To be honest, I chose this technology because I have always been something of a blog-skeptic.  However, I also knew that blogging has become very popular in libraries, and I was intrigued to find out why.  As I learned, blogging can be an excellent way of reaching out to your patrons, and serves as a convenient medium for conveying information about the library, such as highlighting existing resources, announcing new acquisitions, and reminding patrons of the various services the library has to offer.  Additionally, hosting one’s blog on a platform like WordPress or Blogger also endows one with many other dynamic features besides the journal-like posting page most people think of when they envision a blog.  In particular, I loved the idea of being able to create static pages on one’s blog that could host information or resources that the blog’s readers might be interested in.  Yes, it is safe to say that, after completing my presentation, I was something of a blog-convert!

In fact, I was so excited about the potential of blogs that I decided to utilize this technology for my final project in this course.  The premise was simple: in a library setting of your choosing, identify a problem that needs to be addressed, and use an emerging technology to address it.  Because of my ambition to be a law librarian, I wanted to work with a problem at a law school.  Specifically, I decided to work with law student journals, and create a blog around that journal’s focused area of law.  In my fictional law school, I was working with a gender and family law journal.  The problems I sought to address were: (1) New journal members struggling to come up with note topics, and (2) The competitive nature of law school preventing law students from appreciating the value of collaborative research and resource-sharing.  I felt that the dynamic features of today’s blogging platforms could help me address both of these problems.

In addition to the traditional posting page, I created five static pages: two provided information on the journal’s history and its annual symposium; the last three were meant to serve as e-pathfinders on gender law, family law, and legal writing and research resources.  I envisioned that posts to the blog would highlight new case decisions, laws, and news stories that affect gender and family law.  To relieve some of the burden from the librarian administrating the blog, I thought of asking the (fictional) editorial board to contribute at least one post per week; with approximately four members of the board, this would be a minimal burden, with each member contributing a brief post as infrequently as once a month.  Journal members would be able to contribute comments to these posts, and in this manner, the entire journal would have the opportunity to participate in a professional, ongoing conversation in law, while also receiving assistance in their own research needs.

A link to my project’s blog can be found here:  This provides only a sample of what could be done with blogging for a law student journal; in practice, I think this technology could provide even greater benefits, not only as a resource of information, but as an avenue for furthering the professional conversation, truly engaging law students in discussion of the legal developments of the day.

If you have stuck with me through this initial, very lengthy, post, I thank you.  In the future I intend to post on other aspects of law librarianship as it exists today and where it is, or may be, headed tomorrow, as I continue exploring this professional world to which I am drawn.