CALI Conference Lowdown: The Adventures of a New Law Librarian

By , September 11, 2009 2:31 pm

Boulder bikeby Lori Fossum

This past June, I attended the CALI Conference for Law School Computing: “Tools for Change” in beautiful Boulder, CO. While geared mostly toward academic law librarians and information technology professionals, the conference spoke broadly to other types of law librarians and even law professors interested in integrating electronic resources into their teaching. I attended sessions on authentication of online documents and finding low-cost and free web-based legal resources, to name just two.  Conference attendees all seemed to agree that we librarians ought to collaborate more, that all of us are asked to do the same work with fewer resources, and that we all wish things like PACER were free and easy. Of course, we didn’t all agree on everything, and I found it fascinating that the overflow room for the plenary speech filled before the main auditorium did. The speaker, Harvard Law’s John Palfrey, noted that many conference attendees chose to sit in the overflow room so they could use their various electronic gadgets in peace during his speech. And he seemed perfectly comfortable with that.

Palfrey, among other things, is the director of the Harvard Law Library and the co-author of Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives (Basic Books, 2008) and Access Denied: The Practice and Politics of Global Internet Filtering (MIT Press, 2008). In his remarks, Palfrey called for the establishment of a Legal Information Commons and outlined reasons for and against such a commons. The reasons to establish a commons are that it ties in to the AALL ethical principle of providing more access to information; it’s environmentally responsible because we’d print less;  it’s good for democracy; and it’s more financially sustainable. The reasons against establishing a commons are that annotations and other value-added information are not preserved as well. Things are being lost. Palfrey also questioned why we are still paying for primary law and why it is not yet born-digital and preserved.  In addition to calling for more cooperation between libraries, Palfrey also acknowledged our patrons’ need for a physical library space. Students, he said, are overwhelmed with information and they want –and need– more contemplative space.

As I think back to the CALI conference, I have to admit I think of the beautiful new law school building, the Flatiron Mountains outside Boulder, and the bright blue sky: all spatial elements that have little to do with the stuff of the conference. I also think about the people I met and the way they connected with me, a brand new librarian. So maybe the speaker was right: interactions with place (and with people) are always going to be important to many of us even as we demand and expect information to be accessible 24/7.

This past weekend marked my one year anniversary as a professional librarian. Attending my first CALI Conference in June was one of the year’s highlights, and I owe a huge thank you to my fellow LLOPS members for the generous grant you awarded me to make my attendance possible. LLOPS members and the librarians I met at CALI have welcomed me so warmly to the professional community that you all inspire me to achieve your level of experience and professionalism. What I have learned this year, which was reinforced at CALI, is that all librarians in all sorts of libraries truly are confronted with rapid change and are constantly asked to adapt. What I have also learned this year is this: no matter how sophisticated the technology and how easily accessible the information is electronically, people still value and respond to human interaction. 

Again, thank you to the LLOPS Grants Committee for awarding me this grant on behalf of the membership! If you’d like more information about the June 2009 conference (or about my adventures riding around Boulder on my motel’s pink and white bike), please let me know. For more information about CALI itself, see their website:

One Response to “CALI Conference Lowdown: The Adventures of a New Law Librarian”

  1. Robyn says:

    Pictures of Lori on the pink & white bike please!! :)

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