A Brief Review of Selected AALL Annual Meeting Sessions

By , August 12, 2013 8:00 am

by Larisa John

LLOPS member, Larisa John of the Washington State Law Library briefly shares her thoughts on seven sessions she attended at the AALL Annual Meeting:

  • RDA Cataloging Cooperative
  • Making Sense of the Numbers: Understanding Vendor Statistics
  • Linked Data: The New Bibliographic Framework in the Post-MARC World
  • Law for the Non-JD Librarian
  • American Indian Law: Access and Collections
  • When Cookie Cutter Services Won’t Cut It: Brainstorming Services for Public Patrons
  • Joe Janes Discusses the Library of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Photo Credit: Grace Feldman

RDA Cataloging Cooperative

My introduction to AALL was the RDA pre-conference workshop. The speakers for this workshop were all well organized, well spoken and had good examples of  legal material cataloging problems for us to talk about and dissect. One issue that has caused consternation in RDA is the treatment of treaties. The current practice of cataloging treaties using RDA is not helpful to users, or even librarians, as it requires the Access Point (formerly Main Entry) to be by the name of the first country listed. There is a proposal being considered to make the treaty’s title the Access Point. Some other issues covered were handling revised editions, especially when the authors change, and how to train your staff.

Like any large organizational change there has been grumbling and worry in the cataloging world about the transition to RDA. This workshop was a great opportunity to focus on issues specific to legal materials and alleviate some of that worry.

Making Sense of the Numbers: Understanding Vendor Statistics

Since the downsizing of the State Law Library has left us without a reference department head I attended the session on understanding vendor statistics to see what I could do to get better data to support the library. There was not a lot fundamentally different from  what was available when I was an academic librarian in the early 2000’s. Vendors are still mixed in their adoption of standards such as COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources) & SUSHI (Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative) standards. They are not necessarily gathering the data in a form which is precisely what librarians need to determine costs, value & training needs. The comment by one speaker to “respect unquantifiables” was a reminder that the deciding factors in keeping or removing online resources can often be things that are not hard data: personal stories, personalities, politics, and preferences.

Linked Data: The New Bibliographic Framework in the Post-MARC World

At the Linked Data session the hope seems to be that the best aspects of FRBR, FRAD & RDA (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, Functional Requirements for Authority Data) will be used to create catalog records that emphasize the connectedness of

things. From what was said the focus of the new record format (Bibframe) is for the descriptions of the relationships/networks between works and entities to be more important than the descriptions of the works and entities themselves. They also emphasized having an open standard model that is flexible enough to be robust and useful for 40 or more years.

Law for the Non-JD Librarian

I’m glad I went to the session on Law for the Non-JD Librarian even though the first half of it was a review of information known to me. The second part of the session covered the basics of foreign and international law. This information was new, succinct, and quite helpful. One comment I particularly remember, by Francis X. Norton, I believe, was that when trying to research a new legal issue one should try to think of what agency would care about the issue. Agencies which would have a vested interest are the ones likely to have published legal material pertinent to the research topic. Although this seems self-evident this is a good way to teach new legal researchers how to formulate their search strategies.

American Indian Law: Access and Collections

At the session on American Indian Law Eugenia Charles-Newton emphasized the fact that as the ‘third sovereign’, tribal law is equivalent to Federal and State law as a primary source of law. I realized that in my plans to reorganize the main reading room at the State Law Library, which contains all of our primary legal material, I had not thought to place the Indian Law Reporter or any other primary Indian law titles in that section. Great resources such as the National Indian Law Library and the KIA-KIX classification schedules were discussed along with information about several seminal cases which have shaped Tribal and Federal Indian law.

When Cookie Cutter Services Won’t Cut It: Brainstorming Services for Public Patrons

The result of the Brainstorming Services for Public Patrons sessions was a very long list of brilliant ideas: podcasts, short instructional videos using screen capture software, offering space for pro bono lawyers and their clients to meet, working with the bar association to help lawyers learn to deal with low literacy clients, and more. After sifting through them in our library we realized that some were similar to plans we already had for extending and promoting our services. Others are very inspiring projects that we will continue to discuss the feasibility of implementing at our library.

Joe Janes Discusses the Library of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

I finished the conference with a session I knew I would not need to take notes on. Inspiring, depressing, and humorous, Joe Janes regaled the audience with some of the stories behind the responses to his request to describe the library of 2020 in the book Library 2020. As a science fiction reader I rather wished he had asked for visions of libraries in a time period much further ahead, but still within my own lifetime.

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