Thursday, June 27, 2019

Reflections from CALICon19: Two Best Sessions

Looking out over downtown Columbia, SC #CALICon19

Some talk has been floating around in My Communities for covering conferences that may relate to TS, OBS and even CS members. There is understandably a lot of variation in many member job duties and with that plenty of room for overlap of these SIS individuals. Coming from an I.T. department position before my current role this makes total sense, and I can see the benefit to many of us not only having backgrounds in computer science and other technical fields, but also the advantages to continuing education in those areas as library professionals. This is where CALICon comes in.

With Web Developer Leslie Grove at CALICon19
Many of us are familiar at least in some way with CALI the organization (a.k.a. Computer Assisted Legal Instruction). They provide our law students with extremely helpful study aids, plus have resources that help faculty members with all sorts of things. Librarians fit into this section of folks CALI has resources for too. I first heard of CALICon a few years ago when my friend and web developing office-mate Leslie flew to Denver, CO to co-present with our Information Technology Librarian Jason. Their talk titled "Enough to be Dangerous: 00000110 Things Every Beginner Needs to Know about Coding", gave a snapshot of the main programming language fundamentals to the varied CALICon audience. What a neat conference I thought at the time. I had only been to either Drupal Camps full of I.T. guys or state librarian conferences which were full-on librarian attendees, and the idea of a conference that brought librarians, tech-heads and faculty together sounded... well downright phenomenal!

A couple years later I lucked into CALICon coming to Atlanta. Being in Athens, GA it was a short drive. I presented on infographics, and realized I was right - CALICon is pretty amazing. The unique mixture of attendee's makes for interesting discussion and highly useful content that naturally lends itself to collaborative relationships. In true tech-event fashion CALICon live streams all of the sessions and at hyper-speed uploads them all for streaming on YouTube. So, if you have never been to CALICon before, I encourage you to consider it next year. One only has to browse the CALICon playlists of session videos to wonder why everyone doesn't attend.

This brings me to my top 2 sessions from #CALICon19 which I felt would be most useful to  TechScans followers:
  • Leveraging eResources for Affordable Course Materials - Mary and Lisa were excellent presenters who didn't just share something cool (maybe their topic wasn't the flashiest on the schedule) but certainly brought one of the more relevant sessions for me throughout CALICon's two-day whirlwind. What institution isn't interested in saving money for their law students? What library doesn't grapple with ways to make things more cost-effective? This session not only discussed measures that would greatly benefit students but also ideas for faculty members who want to publish their own course content. In this session I learned about (CALI actually uses them to publish their books! SUPER affordable, 600+ page books for around $25 shipped!), Powernotes, H20 open casebook platform and more. The presenters even shared strategies for liaising with your registrar office and faculty members to offer alternatives before or alongside booklists, and how they reviewed their own booklists from past semesters to locate and suggest cost-saving measures for specific courses. 
John Presents at CALICon19
  • Automating Processing and Intake in the Institutional Repository with Python - Wow, just wow is all I could say after this session. Most of us deal with our IR in some form or another. As my own role with our Digital Commons site continues to increase, I went into this session with high hopes and seated next to our law school web developer (the office-mate mentioned before), and we were not disappointed. If you have ever manually entered items into your own IR one at a time as I typically do, you smile at the prospect of batch loading. With a large project of archiving old photos in our own IR looming I have been postponing preparing my own spreadsheets - I know it will be tedious and a worm hole of a project. After John's session I am SO glad I waited. My colleague, the coding goddess, and I sat in awe of the automation John was sharing. I was pleasantly rejuvenated leaving the session with a collaborative game plan which I am happy to say we are already making great progress on. Although the presenter's project was with Law Journals and pulling content from PDF's, our own is actually much simpler since we are pulling titles, image URLs and (hopefully) basic descriptions. By far this session left me feeling the most excited about returning to work with something we could instantly put to use.
Click on the session hyperlinked titles for slides and streaming video. Did you attend CALICon too? What were your favorite sessions or biggest takeaways? Find other sessions from CALICon 2019, or past years in CALIorg's YouTube Playlists.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Getting To Know TS Librarians: Jean Willis

1. Introduce yourself (name & position). Please provide a picture to be posted to the TechScans blog.

Jean Willis.  Currently Interim Director at the Sacramento County Public Law Library.  My “usual” title is Assistant Director for Support Services.  Our Board of Trustees appointed me to the position of Interim Director when my boss, Coral Henning, sadly passed away in late March.

2. Does your job title actually describe what you do? Why/why not?

Interim Director is quite accurate.  However, I feel that my “usual” title is squishy.  What does it mean?  Essentially, it is “Not Public Services.”  I supervise Technical Services and IT for our Library, which is an independent local district government.  So our IT Team handles all of the technology needs for our Library.  We are not part of any overarching organization, such as the County government, despite the Library’s name.

Our Technical Services Team consists of a Tech Services Librarian, who handles Acquisitions and Claims but also works regularly at the Reference Desk, handles virtual reference shifts, teaches legal research basics classes and serves on our Collection Development Team.  We have a Cataloger, who also works at the Reference Desk and handles virtual reference.  Both Librarians also are responsible for updating and maintaining some of website content, including Legal Research Guides, Step by Steps and Everyday Law articles. Then we have a Serials Control Assistant, who checks in most of our materials, handles some copy cataloging, and she also works regularly on our Circulation desk. 

Our IT Team consists of two Systems Analysts who handle everything from soup to nuts involving technology at the Library.  I supervise these two Teams, plus fill in at Reference, teach legal research basics classes, serve as a Passport Acceptance Agent and generally assist in the day-to-day management and administration of the Library.   Of course, the latter duties have increased exponentially since the Director’s untimely demise.  Because our other Assistant Director for Public Services retired about a year ago, and was not yet replaced, I am also now fully supervising our Public Services Department and our Civil Self-Help Center, which is staffed by an attorney and a paralegal.  Yes! I am ridiculously busy right now, especially considering that my “usual” job was already full-time.  Time management plays a huge role in my work life these days.  Plus I am grateful to have super, hard-working staff, who have really stepped up to the plate at this challenging time.

3. What are you reading right now?

Typically, I have several books going at one time.  Right now, I am really fascinated and taken by the Neapolitan Novels authored by Elena Ferrante.  Just wonderful novels about love, friendship and growing up in post WWII Naples.  Today I started book two, The Story of a New Name.  HBO is also dramatizing these works, and the video of the first novel, My Brilliant Friend, is available for viewing and highly recommended. 

The other book I’m reading is called The Betel Nut Tree Mystery, by Ovidia Yu.  This is set in 1930s Singapore and presents an interesting counterpoint to the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, which I also enjoy as light reading.

4. If you could work in any library (either a type of library or a specific one), what would it be? Why?

I am working in the exact type of library that I would choose (really).  Throughout my career, I’ve worked in almost every type of law library: in law firms, law schools, courts, legal aid and more recently public law library.  I’m truly happy to provide such a needed public service to our constituents.  It was exciting, challenging and stimulating to work in all of those other types of law libraries, but this answers my interest in providing true public service to our community plus access to justice for all. 

5. You suddenly have a free day at work, what project would you work on?

We want to expand our Lawyers in the Library program, perhaps to collaborate with the Sacramento Public Library, to offer this service in different areas of our county and on more and different days and times.  I simply don’t have time to develop this project right now but would love to see it come to fruition. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

BIBFRAME goes International

A recording of the Library of Congress webcast BIBFRAME Goes International. 2019. Video. presented April 2, 2019 has been made available. A number of speakers addressed experimentation and implementation of BIBFRAME and/or linked data concepts in Europe, the United States, Asia and Australia/New Zealand.

Some highlights:

Kungliga biblioteket, The Swedish National Library of Sweden has a production BIBFRAME based union catalog available for exploration. They are actively seeking a path out of the MARC environment.

Judith Cannon spoke at length about the PCC/LD4P grant funded group. Seventeen selected PCC libraries are working in a "sand box". Metadata will created and saved using "Sinopia", a linked data platform developed by Stanford University. More information about the project and its goals is available at The Library of Congress is developing initial training material based on LC's BIBFRAME editor. It is not clear when these tools might be available for non-participating libraries to play with.

Paul Frank and Jodi Williamson spoke about Share VDE, a collaboration with Casalini Libri focused on converting MARC bibliographic data to linked data. "VDE" stands for Virtual Discovery Environment. The environment is available for exploration at

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has an experimental Bibliographic Linked Data Learning Platform. With this tool, you can view and compare bibliographic data presented in different serializations, plus information about the work contextualized using Wikidata knowledge cards. The site also has an experimental SPARQL query form that can be run against their bibliographic data.

The National Library of New Zealand has made their Ngā Upoko Tukutuku / Māori Subject Headings available as linked data as an aid to bibliographic description centered on a  Māori world view.

Quick Question: How should I prepare for the AALL Annual Meeting?

In preparation for the AALL Annual Meeting, we asked TS & OBS members for their advice and recommendations for first-time Annual Meeting attendees.

Below are some great ideas that will help prepare first-time attendees for the meeting.

What one session (or event) would you recommend to a TS or OBS member who is a first-time Annual Meeting attendee?


  • Attend CONELL. It's a great way to get to know the Association and to meet other first-time attendees.
  • CONELL attendees get a special ribbon to wear, this signals to others that you are new, and so many people will come and welcome you.

TS/OBS meetings

  • Attend TS-SIS and OBS-SIS committee meetings. Anyone is allowed to attend, even if you are not a committee member, unless the session is marked as "closed" on the schedule.
  • Attend the OBS-SIS Business Meeting (Sunday at 6:15PM) and the TS-SIS Awards/Meet & Greet (Monday at 5:30PM). Meet people in your SIS and people who are on committees you might be interested in joining. 

More educational opportunities

  • Look for round tables. These are typically open to all attendees and allow you to make connections with people who share similar interests. Many are listed on the online schedule under "All Meetings and Events."
  • Check out Discussion Dens and Poster Sessions. These typically focus on specific topics and can be great learning opportunities. Go to Calls for Great Ideas for a list of topics.
  • Some caucus business meetings have educational programming as part of their meetings.
  • Attend one session that is far removed from your regular work. If you read the program description and don't know what it is about, go to that one.

Exhibit Hall

  • Spend time in the exhibit hall. It's a good way to understand the profession and get to know the vendors we work with. 
  • Check out the "Activities Area" during exhibit hall breaks. SIS's, Caucus, and Chapters have posters there about what they do. There will usually be a volunteer at each poster and it's a great way to have one-on-one or small group conversations with people who share your same interests. This is also a good way to get program suggestions on the fly - ask people at the posters what they're going to next.


  • Attend as many receptions and focus groups as you can.
  • Attend a Dine-Around. It's a smaller group setting where you'll get to know other AALL members better.

That said...

  • Don't feel obligated to go to a session during every single block. A conference can feel like a marathon you're sprinting through and you'll be happier if you pace yourself. 

Do you have any tips or advice for first-time attendees that they won't find in the conference brochure?


  • Create a schedule. If there is a specific session you want to attend, write yourself a note about it now so you can remember why when you get to the conference.
  • Before the conference, take time to think about your career goals. With those goals in mind, determine what events/activities at the conference will best help you achieve those goals.
  • And/or, create goals for yourself specifically for what you want to accomplish at the conference.

Be a joiner

  • If you haven't already, join your respective practice group's SIS, i.e., if you work in an Academic Law Library, join ALL. If you work in a private firm, join PLL. Attend their programming. It's a great way to know what's happening in your area.
  • Become active in the organization. Newer librarians can feel uncomfortable joining in right away, but there are ways to be active without being a board member. The Annual Conference is a great time to find out what opportunities are available. 
  • Join a caucus. There's no fee to join.

Take breaks

  • Make time in your schedule to take a break and get some quiet time. Just a half hour outside of the conference center will refresh you so you can make the most out of the conference. 
  • Locate a coffee shop that is the farthest you can walk to in 15 minutes. This one will likely be far less buy than the coffee shops near the conference center.
  • Try to follow the 2-4-6-8 plan. Have 2 real meals a day. Get off your feet for at least 4 hours a day. Try to get 6 hours of sleep at night. Have 8 glasses of water per day. Remember: Eat well, relax, rest, and keep hydrated!

Your badge

  • Wear your conference badge close to your face so people don't need to read your chest/tummy to find out who you are. 
  • Don't forget to take your name badge off once you leave the conference center.

Dress for comfort

  • Only wear comfortable shoes. You'll be doing a lot of walking. 
  • Dress in layers. It will be hot outside in Washington DC but could be cold in the conference center. 


  • Bring a large Ziplock bag for small freebies and pens.
  • Take advantage of the free food!
  • If you have them, bring your business cards. They can come in handy for entering raffles and of course, sharing your contact information.
  • While in the exhibit hall, pick up the freebies and enter raffles, it's a great way to get to know the vendors.


  • Find a balance (everyone's is different) between educational activities (programs, SIS programs, exhibit hall, etc.), networking, and fun/socializing.
  • Don't be shy! Easier said than done for some, but important to get the most out of the conference.😊
Thank you to all of those who contributed! If you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave them for us in the comments.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Quick Question: What About Conferences?

Conferences are a part of most of our jobs. Sometimes we are encouraged to pick one to attend annually, and others out there may have institutions with supervisors or directors that want you to attend as many as possible. Whether you have never attended a conference before, or you have attended many but this may be your first season in your current position, I hope these tips will help with navigating the perhaps uncomfortable terrain.

Tip #1: Dress appropriately, but comfortably.
I have attended a few local and regional conferences where at times I felt extremely underdressed and at other times way overdressed. The more I attend a specific conference the more I get a feel for the types of attire others wear and what that says about you in a session audience or an exhibit hall crowd. If you are presenting, of course you may want to dress it up a bit. If you are not, don’t feel like you have to wear interview attire complete with hot blazers and the world’s most uncomfortable shoes! Most conferences happen in the summer so keep that in mind. Bring a suitcase with a variety of options so you can change according to weather and building conditions (or as your sweat-levels increase from social interactions). If you have colleagues who have been to certain conferences before, ask them what they wear and how most people dress for it. Earlier this year I attended my first SEAALL (Southeastern Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries). Although I had been to many conferences before, this was my first out of state conference as well as my first in my new librarian position. It was a smaller more compact crowd compared to others I had attended, and I quickly realized I had overdressed for this one. I was able to use that fact though as a conversation starter for post-conference email-networking! More on that experience in tip number four.
Fall 2014, overdressed for my first ever conference.

Tip #2: Make your own schedule with your own goals.
I think it is safe to say that the overall goal for most librarian’s conference attendance is professional development. I have found that I personally get the most out of a conference when I make my own schedule in advance, working in times for breaks and leisure. I haven’t seen a conference yet which did not post the detailed schedule in advance. Print yourself a copy, highlight sessions you want to attend, and if there is a specific reason make notes to yourself as to why. Use your goals to determine which sessions you choose to attend. Some example goals I plan to use for an upcoming conference include: (A) Learn about something I know nothing about, (B) Learn more about something I am dealing with in my current job, (C) Meet two new people - more on this specific goal in tip number four too!

Tip #3: It is OK to leave a session early or to enjoy leisure time.
Fire dancers on the Savannah
Riverwalk in Augusta, GA.
Even if your personal schedule that you crafted in advance has lead you astray, do not feel tied to it. If you attend a session that within the first 5 minutes is not what you expected, leave (politely, of course) and use the time for something else productive. Sometimes there are multiple sessions that sound interesting. If a certain block of time has a few, add a back-up to your schedule so you are not scrambling if you leave one early. There also may be cases where not a single session in a given block of time is of interest. Take advantage of this time by visiting an exhibit hall, poster sessions, or just people watching to (hopefully) network with someone you haven’t met before.
The indoor spring-fed
pool in Hot Springs, VA.
It is also OK to plan for down time. Take a nap! See the sights of the city, or enjoy free amenities at the hotel. It always surprises me how few people go swimming or enjoy the game room when staying at a hotel that has those things. Some conference schedules even include recommended activities more officially to encourage rejuvenation in attendees or to make networking easier. Examples include a morning run, vendor-sponsored mixology classes, movie nights, or nature walks. Also, if you like taking pictures, take them! Photos of the location or interesting things you were able to see and do while away from the office can spice up your post-conference report once you are back at work - more on this in tip number five. 
Tip #4: Networking doesn’t have to be awkward. 
OK - so it definitely can be, and if you are like me it more than often is awkward (at least from my perspective, but don’t assume other people think it is!). As an extrovert-imposter I identify much more with the introverts out there and have to really, really make it a measurable goal to speak to people I do not already know (which is like everyone basically). Taking advantage of some of those vendor sponsored activities, or participating in a dine around might help take some pressure off of initial introductions. People at these events tend to go for the purpose of meeting other people, so capitalize on that! Another easy way to introduce yourself is to politely approach a presenter after their session. Asking a follow-up question or just stating you enjoyed their session topic can be a more natural conversation starter and allow for brief introductions to be exchanged. Look for people that look like yourself, perhaps standing off in a corner or keeping the coffee station warm, and approach them with the “I really feel uncomfortable at things like this, how about you?” to start a conversation. Keep business cards with you just in case an opportunity arises from a conversation and you can exchange cards with someone. Don’t feel like you should give a card to everyone you meet, but if you do exchange cards you can use those to keep a tally of who you met as evidence that you can do this! Two networking tips I heard at a recent conference delivered by an introverted presenter were to (A) set a numerical goal for how many people you want to meet, but keep it modest, and (B) check in with colleagues each day of the conference to talk about how many people you met - discussing with others can help you actually remember who you met and what they looked like so you don’t draw a total blank when you see them again next (perhaps the very next day!). If you meet someone, however briefly, and you do not have the time to continue a conversation, follow up with an email. Emailing post-conference can be a lower-pressure form of networking that might actually go further for you than face-to-face chit chat. At a recent conference I wanted SO badly to compliment an acquaintance's outfit but I was too nervous to do it at the time. Less than a week later there was an opportunity by email where questions related to an organization required my response anyway. I seized that email-moment to continue our conference conversation and put the compliment out there. We ended up exchanging longer emails than I predicted about style of dress and within another week were Facebook friends! Networking can still be done effectively with baby-steps.
Fall 2017 at my fourth Georgia Libraries Conference I FINALLY took a photo with a former colleague who was also attending.

Tip #5: Don’t overwork when at a work conference.
By this I mean do not promise to do too much away from the office while at a conference. Plan to check email once or twice a day (maybe work specific times into the schedule you are making for yourself!), but try to be present at the conference. This is a really hard one for me to put into practice because I am always thinking of the things I could or should otherwise be doing were I back at my office desk. Instead remind yourself that the conference IS work! If you have to, reframe the moments when you find yourself reaching for your phone or opening your laptop too frequently that once you return you will be expected (with some colleagues more than others) to give an informal or formal report on what you learned there, and how you or they can use what you have learned. It also helps me personally to be more present in sessions by taking notes or photos. Often a slide is shared with several great points, and taking a quick picture of it with my phone helps me capture more than I could in hand-written notes. Notes and pictures not only give me something more concrete to take back to work for sharing and discussions, but also helps channel that nervous energy when I start to think “I wish I was finishing that project at work instead!” or “How much catching up will I have to do because of this trip?”. Feel confident that you ARE working, this IS a part of your job, and your employer wants YOU there at that moment. It always impresses me when others return from a conference and have photos and notes to share, and this can be a simple way to reinforce not just to others but to yourself that the trip was valuable, rewarding, and time well spent.

To Summarize: Plan in advance, soak in as much as you can, don’t overthink it, and take care of yourself! If you are relaxed all aspects of the conference will flow more smoothly and naturally. Before you know it, it will be over, and you will be back at your desk crouching over work thinking “wasn’t that a great break from this normal day-to-day?” Hopefully you will leave feeling refreshed and with new ideas to bring to the table!

What tips for conference-going do you wish someone had shared with you as a new librarian? Share them with us in the comments!