On Tuesday of last week we held our joint ALLA/SLA Conference Recap event.

These are the Atlanta Law Library Association, and the Special Libraries Association, for whose GA chapter I am president-elect.

A quick word for those unfamiliar with these associations: members are information professionals with a wide array of job titles, who work in corporate, law firm, government and academic libraries. Think electronic resources and research, rather than books… though books are also occasionally involved.

Thank you to Patrick Parsons at ALLA for hosting and co-organizing this joint event.

Now for the juicy bits: the conferences.

CALICon – The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction

Abby Deese spoke to us about the challenges of distance education.

Some key challenges for long distance and virtual learning are:

  1. Lack of community
  2. Lack of visual cues in communication
  3. Distractions

Imagine students taking all lectures are their desk, via video conference. Or, worse, in self-paced  learning where they are not online at the same time as you or their classmates. How do you ensure students are engaged with the material, thinking critically and still debating new ideas?

Some solutions Abby shared:

  • Put the students on a position to be teachers
  • Use a modular approach to self-paced learning, with ongoing rewards and incentives to go on
  • Gamify – yes: still. Use quiz and survey apps with engaging designs for students to test their knowledge and even compete a little.

It is worth noting that many of their presentations are available on YouTube.

SLA – Special Libraries Association

I gave a recap of key points from this summer’s SLA Conference, as posted previously. 

To summarize: libraries are being challenged to continuously adapt and prove their value proposition to their organizations. By asking questions, aligning their efforts and evaluating their efforts, they can ensure efforts with a demonstrable ROI.

Libraries were always thought of as a place. That has changed, libraries are now a service and it is important that they operate strategically for their internal clients.

PLLIP Summit – Private Law Libraries and Information Professionals

This summit is held the day before the annual AALL conference (American Association of Law Libraries), and while it is geared towards law firm libraries and the like, academic libraries and non-law libraries could find this useful. I am familiar with the summit and it is lauded each year as a useful experience.

This year, the theme was The Power of Process, and Michelle Dewey shared some of what she learned.

In particular, the need for efficiency which is, as she said: doing it right the first time and again ever after.

This means shifting your focus: instead of operating with a single-minded “eye on the prize” approach, keep your eye on the system. If there is a glitch in the system, take the time to stop and fix it, so you do not have a repeating problem.

As you can imagine, this was all speaking right to my own heart.

Librarians as Entrepreneurs

Ernie Evangelista, of the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank, gave us insight into his talk this summer on the entrepreneurial approach required of librarians nowadays, which tied in nicely with all of the above talks as well. In particular he pointed out the need for librarians to:

  • Build relationships with customers
  • Understand them and their needs
  • Adapt to customer demands and goals
  • Plan for the future in a strategic way


Ernie also attended the Code4Lib conference. Code4lib is a self-starting group of librarians and others associated with library work, from hackers to designers to catalogers to museum curators.

In particular Ernie shared talking points from a presentation on developing research skills beyond the conventional.

For example, using social media to research a particular topic or person. This requires finding actual experts, finding the right influencers, understanding sources and – as was stressed – being comfortable asking for help. Yes: actually interacting with social media contacts and strangers.

Students reported learning as much from the process as they did from the actual research. The whole world truly is a hive mind.