Friday, January 22, 2016

Upcoming ALCTS e-Forum: How Library Technical Services Can Support OER Initiatives

The American Library Association’s technical services division, the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS), periodically hosts e-forums, “two-day, moderated, electronic discussion forums that provide an opportunity for librarians to discuss matters of interest on an ALCTS discussion list.” The next e-forum, coming up on January 26 and 27, deals with the topic of technical services and open educational resources (OER) initiatives.

If you are not familiar with the concept of OER, the OER Commons website is a great place to get more information. According to their About page:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse at no cost. Unlike fixed, copyrighted resources, OER have been authored or created by an individual or organization that chooses to retain few, if any, ownership rights. In some cases, that means you can download a resource and share it with colleagues and students. In other cases, you may be able to download a resource, edit it in some way, and then re-post it as a remixed work. How do you know your options? OER often have a Creative Commons or GNU license to let you know how the material may be used, reused, adapted, and shared.

OER Commons collects resources such as this and makes them freely available to educators. Their resources reflect a number of subjects, including law

There are, of course, other legal open educational resources, such as CALI’s Free Law Reporter, and Harvard’s Free the Law initiative. OER initiatives could have a big impact on law librarianship, and the upcoming ALCTS e-forum should provide interesting insight into the role of technical services staff in these initiatives.

To participate in an ALCTS e-forum, you must sign up for their email discussion list. Instructions for subscribing to the list and managing your subscription settings can be found on the ALCTS website.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Year, New Resources for Library Managers

Resolving to Write More - a Worthy Thought
With 2016 now upon us, it seemed like a great time to scan the blogosphere and see what new posts and resources are out there that might help library managers increase both their own and their team’s effectiveness in the new year!

Training and Professional Development

Tami Schiller offers a few tips on how to make 2016 a year of professional development and highlights some new and different approaches to learning. Incorporate these tips into your new year, not only for your own growth, but for your employees as well.  Her third tip, exploring at least one new training method this year with a pilot group, is a great opportunity for the library as a whole – pick a single topic relevant to their work and get moving.  Tami provides links to additional posts detailing methods such as microlearning, formative assessment and blended learning.


Need some quick and easy daily inspiration?  Click over to Founder Mantras for your daily dose of mantras, quotes and words to live by for founders, by founders.  You can even add your own mantra to the list.  For instance, on January 11th, Alex Blumberg of Gimlet Media reminds us that “The first draft always sucks.”

Written Communication

Speaking of first drafts, how often are you charged with creating “official communication” from the library?  Do you delegate this task or do you take it on yourself? And how do you make sure that communications coming out of your library resonate, bringing the essence of your library to life through text?  Here’s some tips from Ryan LeClaire on writing with your brand’s voice that may help you do just that.  A key piece of this, especially for libraries, is understanding your customers themselves – telling them what they want to hear in a way that reaches them.  Having a relationship with your patron base, and capitalizing on the things you’ve learned about your patrons through this relationship is integral to your success!

Negotiating Contracts

We all know that walking away from a contract negotiation with a vendor is not always a realistic option in the library world, which can often make you feel as though you're powerless to affect the final outcome. However, Susannah Tredwell offers librarians some advice on approaching negotiations you can’t walk away from, while still getting a result you’re happy with.  With tangible questions to ask yourself in preparation, important amendments you may be able to incorporate into your deal, and links to further reading, this is a great resource to start your 2016 negotiations off on the right foot!

Faculty Orientation

Academic law libraries have regular influxes of new students, so year after year, student orientation remains a hot topic. However, in this case, here's some advice on something a little different - new faculty orientation. Tena Long Golding offers a more interactive spin on the traditional talking head presentations by librarians, especially for dry topics such a syllabi and policy statements. Their group created a video of student responses to questions such as “What one word describes a great professor?” and “What advice would you give a new professor.”  After the video, conversation is continued using the natural segue to key elements on a course syllabus. In her own words, “What used to be a session of reading through the requirements is now more of an open discussion on creative ways to communicate expectations and engage with our students.”


Let’s finish things out with a few links devoted to collaboration. We can all sing the praises of collaboration – coming together often leads to new ideas, better ways of doing things, shared workloads and more. But what about the darker side of collaboration?  Nick Milton recently wrote a piece stating that “Not all collaboration is good – some of it is a waste of time or creator of unneeded confusion.”  To support this, he links to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review which points out that usually only a handful of employees carry the full collaborative load and as a result become overloaded and disengaged.  As managers, you have the ability to identify overloaded collaborators and try to shift their burdens and find ways to reward them for their efforts.  Also, when assigning collaborative projects and roles, don’t forget that increased headcount on a project doesn’t necessarily give you greater returns. Need proof? Casey Flaherty makes some great points in his recent post that deserve a closer look. He says it best in his post tagline “Nine women can’t make a baby in one month.”

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mashcat: Catalogers and Developers Working Together

If you are interested in the intersection of library catalog data and library computer systems, then the Mashcat movement is for you. To quote their website, “’Mashcat’ was originally an event in the UK in 2012 which was aimed at bringing together people working on the IT systems side of libraries with those working in cataloguing and metadata. Three years later, Mashcat is a loose group of metadata specialists, cataloguers, developers and anyone else with an interest in how metadata in and around libraries can be created, manipulated, used and re-used by computers and software. The aim is to work together and bridge the communications gap that has sometimes gotten in the way of building the best tools we possibly can to manage library data.”

Most of the time, Mashcat exists mainly as a product of social media, with the hashtag #mashcat. There is also a monthly (approximately) Twitter chat.

The first ever North American Mashcat event will be held on January 13, 2016 (timed to coincide with ALA Midwinter).  Registration is full, but there is a waiting list. In the mean time, you can read the planned events for the day and join me in hoping presentation materials will be made available after the fact.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Goverment Publications in the Digital World: Enhancements, Changes, Partnerships and More

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Thomas and

As THOMAS works its way towards its retirement, a wide variety of enhancements are being made to in order to make the transition between resources as seamless and painless as possible for users. The latest set of enhancements includes a new quick search for legislation, the Congressional Record Index and the history of bills from the Congressional Record Index, featuring search functionality similar to the Advanced Legislation search provided on THOMAS. To view a complete round-up of the latest enhancements to the site, as well as a refresher on earlier enhancements you may have missed throughout the year, check out the Library of Congress blog

United States Government Publishing Office (GPO)

GPO is the first federal agency to become a member of the Technical Report Archive & Image Library (TRAIL). For those not familiar with TRAIL – it is made up of approximately three dozen member groups, mainly Federal depository libraries, and works to provide discoverable, permanent and unrestricted access to U.S. Government agency technical reports. Obviously these two groups share a number of common goals, and the stage is set for some major collaboration. To learn more about this partnership or TRAIL itself, start out with the official press release.

Circular A-130 & The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

The public comment period recently closed on Circular A-130, “Managing Information in Strategic Decision Making”. This document establishes policies for the management of Federal information resources, and incidentally, the document hasn’t been updated in fifteen years. 

Imagine how much statutory requirements and technological capabilities have expanded and changed since 2000. At this point, our nation needs guidelines and policies to ensure the protection of our privacy and maximize their ability to harness the power of today's technology. In early December, the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Shaun Donovan, delivered remarks at the Federal Privacy Summit and discussed the driving forces behind revising Circular A-130. “As technology and threats evolve, so must our policies.  In order to meet today’s complex challenges, we must continue to double down on this Administration’s broad strategy to enhance privacy practices and fundamentally overhaul information security practices, policies, and governance.”

The new A-130 centralizes a wide range of policy updates on acquisitions, cybersecurity, information governance, records management, open data, and privacy, replaces a federated procurement approach with more directed guidance and ensured timeliness in IT acquisitions, delineates the responsibilities of various departments when it comes to securing our federal systems, and mandates that government data that is public facing be accessible, discoverable and of usable quality.

While the public comment period is closed, rest assured that the American Association of Law Libraries did weigh in on the comments. Take a look at what they had to say here and here. Currently, the OMB is analyzing all submitted feedback and revising the policy as necessary.  Stay tuned in the coming months for the revised version of the policy as well as an opportunity to comment on Circular A-108, which should help agencies promote transparency and implement the Privacy Act.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Hop to It!! Apply for Research Funds Today!

It’s Quick, It’s Easy, and Your Research Will Benefit Your Technical Services Colleagues.
The AALL OBS-SIS and TS-SIS FROG (Funding Research Opportunities Grant) Committee is always accepting applications.  
The FROG provides support for law librarians to perform research or assessment projects which will enhance our profession.  FROG applicants must be members of AALL and must show evidence that their research will benefit technical services law librarianship. The OBS/TS FROG Committee will award up to $1,000 in grants in a single year.
“AALL's Strategic Plan envisions that AALL and its members will be the recognized authority in all aspects of legal information. AALL's Research Agenda seeks to make that vision a reality by stimulating a diverse range of scholarship related to and supportive of the profession of law librarianship.” -- AALL Research Agenda 2013-2016.

For research topic ideas, visit the FROG website and AALL's Research Agenda page.
For more information on the grant and the application process, visit:
If you have any further questions, please email the FROG Committee Chair, Kerry Skinner at