SWALL 2018 Annual Meeting Member Recap from Alyson Drake
SWALL 2018 in Houston was an incredible networking and learning experience. My conference kicked off with giving two presentations on Thursday. First, with Stewart Caton, Cassie Rae DuBay, and Jamie Baker, I presented on how to meet the experiential simulation course requirements laid out by the ABA Standards. We gave a number of practical examples of how to meet certain requirements, including how to balance the “experiential in nature” and “classroom instructional component” standards, and how to incorporate multiple opportunities for performance, opportunities for self-evaluation, and feedback from a faculty member. Next up was my ignite talk—a quick (and somewhat terrifying, given the time restrictions) intro on why the pros of research conferences with students outweigh the cons. But my favorite part of the ignite talks were hearing Barbara Bintliff and Jeff Woodmansee discuss their experiences teaching abroad.
My must-see program of the day, for Friday, was the Deep Dive into Video Outreach and Editing, where Jennifer Laws gave ideas for how to use video for outreach and Joe Lawson gave a primer on using video editing software.
On Saturday morning, I ended my conference experience by going to Sherri Thomas’ “Putting the ‘Person’ Back into ‘Personnel’: Emotional Intelligence in Law Libraries.” Sherri gave some great reminders about all the different types of stress in libraries. Especially interesting were her lists of impacts on people—less people, more work, less time, perceived status, and many more—and on personnel—institutional guidelines, internal structures, politics, and more, and the managerial and employee burdens—where many of the burdens actually overlap. One of her most memorial points was that in our jobs, we give our patrons the benefit of the doubt on a daily basis, but that we often forget to do so with our colleagues. She also gave great tips on how to practice better emotional intelligence.
Adapting Steenken & Brooks’ Sources of American Law Recap
Recap by Tracy Eaton
“Adapting Steenken & Brooks’ Sources of American Law” was a presentation at this year’s conference of particular interest to academic law librarians. The presenters, Edward Hart, Bailey Eagin and Stewart Caton, are law librarians and professors at UNT Dallas College of Law. They discussed their use of Sources of American Law, a legal research text authored by Beau Steeken and Tina Brooks, both librarians with the University of Kentucky College of Law.
The speakers introduced this legal research text to participants and detailed how they have adapted it for use in their 1L legal research classes. They first gave a brief history of how the introductory legal research class had evolved and why they looked for and selected this text to use for their current introductory legal research class. First and foremost, the price is unbeatable – free viewing and downloads for ipad, Nook, Kindle, Word or pdf through CALI. For those who love tangible books and don’t want to pay to print out a Word or pdf document, a soft cover bound version can be purchased for $4.22 plus shipping and handling. This alone makes it a winner for law students. Additionally, the text seems to be more accessible for first year law students, many of whom are encountering the vocabulary, structure, and sources of the legal system for the first time. It’s broad-brush approach to the basics makes it particularly suitable for introductory legal research. These librarians do not recommend it for advanced legal research, in part because it is so basic and also because it does not cover legislative history or international law research. Finally, one of the best reasons to use this book is the creative commons licensing, which allows instructors to share material in any medium or format and adapt the material to fit a particular purpose without copyright concerns.
For UNT Dallas College of Law, the librarians have “remixed” the text for use in introductory legal research in several ways. First, they have supplemented topics that need more extensive coverage (i.e. secondary sources, specifically periodicals/newsletters and Texas law) with extra reading excerpts and Quimbee® videos. Next, they have made some changes to the questions assigned as homework – introductory and intermediate questions are usually worked together in class, and the advanced questions are assigned as homework. Also, where helpful, they change the wording, the jurisdiction, and/or add additional instructions to target specific skills or provide extra guidance. Finally, they use the CALI lessons to give additional practice, as well as internally crafted lessons to hone state-specific research skills.
Overall, these librarians are pleased with the Steeken & Brooks text, as are the students. There was definite enthusiasm expressed for using this budget and copyright friendly legal research text for instruction by participants, and also even some thought of creating a Texas supplement for it! For anyone looking for a basic, and free, legal research text, this one seems worth a look.
Big and Little: Success Strategies for Every Government Librarian Recap
Recap by Stewart Caton
Speakers: Karen Dibble, Associate Director, Dallas County Law Library & Carla Cates, Law Librarian, Ellis County Law Library
Law librarians are often labeled as either academic, firm, or government. Those working within a law library know that each category of library can be broken down further by any number of characteristics, including size. Presenters Karen Dibble and Carla Cates of the Dallas and Ellis County Law Libraries, respectively, embraced this idea in their presentation focusing on government law libraries of every size. While Carla Cates directs a smaller county law library (Ellis), Karen Dibble directs a large county law library (Dallas). The presenters covered several major topics: Reference, Security, Budget, and Collection Development-Other Resources.
The presentation was well-organized. Every attendee was provided a paper that contained a timed agenda for the presentation and room for notes, e.g. 11:35-11:45 – Patron Reference. This was helpful for the participants to understand the direction of the presentation, and I believe it also helped the presenters stay on time.
After introductions, Karen led off the discussion by observing that differences exist between every government law library. In fact, it was noted that sometimes your local public library may have more in common with your law library than another similarly-situated government law library, e.g. overlapping stakeholders and patrons.
The presenters next focused on how they approach patron reference. The differences between the two libraries starts as soon as one enters the door, literally – in Ellis the patrons are instructed to sign-in, while Dallas uses a door counter to track their patron count. The door counter enables Dallas to adjust staffing needs with the support of data. While the presentation discussed differences, one similarity highlighted that law librarians interacting with the public can relate to is the difficulty in starting a reference interview. Karen noted that a key question to ask a pro se patron is: “What do you want to have happen?” Having previously worked in a county law library, I will add that it took me a few months to work up the confidence to ask this question, but it is worth it. It can greatly reduce the number of narrative twists and turns from a patron.
The discussion next turned to security where the differences between the two libraries was more apparent. Carla noted that it is important to be genuine and encouraging with patrons as they visit in order to inspire confidence and build rapport. While Karen said that if she remembers a patron, it is usually a bad sign. Karen focused on how past security lessons helped her shape the new library. For example, she built a wide reference desk so patrons could not reach over and invade a librarian’s space. Karen, in her characteristically humorous style, provided an anecdote about approaching a suspiciously garbed male library patron in a trench coat, and who-knows-what underneath. She warned him that his trench coat had better stay on.
The presenters last turned to budget concerns and their collections. Ellis County has a smaller budget, but they are able to supply the standard resources that one would expect to find such as Dorsaneo, Pattern Jury Charges, Texas Jurisprudence, and Westlaw access. Further, Carla mentioned that Ellis County generates additional revenue by renting out conference room space for depositions. Karen is trying to figure out how to reclassify some of her librarians because it is difficult to retain her reference librarians once they gain experience due to the low salary. A final observation that they both made is that for both of their libraries it has been helpful for them to build relationships with other county officers. For example, spending some time to get to know the judicial clerks can help one better understand the information they provide patrons.
Those interested in government law libraries, especially county law libraries, would have benefitted from this presentation. It was well-organized, serious but fun, and it covered issues that all government law libraries struggle through, big and small.
Developing Cultural Intelligence Recap
Recap by Christopher Galeczka
What is culture? How do cultures differ and why do those differences matter? What is cultural intelligence? How can one gain it and how can one apply it? All these questions and more were addressed by Dr. Michele Villagran, a professor at the University of North Texas and certified consultant on cultural issues, in her deep dive, which featured an introductory activity, a video followed by discussion, as well as a variety of visuals and handouts addressing these issues.
The session began with Play-Doh and some interesting directions. 3-person teams composed of attendees were given several jars of Play-Doh of differing colors, and instructions to create a representation of ‘culture’ within 5 minutes.
The catch? One team was forbidden from making eye contact; the other team was not permitted to communicate verbally.
The remaining attendees observed as the teams laughed, did their best to work together, and expressed a fair bit of frustration as they sculpted their creations and Dr. V counted down the time. (Their results can be seen below.)
The takeaway? Cultural differences that are exhibited by various groups in the world, which include a lack of verbal communication or avoidance of eye contact, among others, can have a real impact on working together in organizations.
As a prompt to identify and discuss bias, attendees viewed a video of a European beer commercial: several pairs of moviegoers, of various gender combinations, ages, and ethnicities, enter a theater only to find it full of burly, tattooed white men; and with only two seats available in the midst of them. Several pairs express their discomfort and leave, the final pair decide to take their seats, and are rewarded by the other movie patrons with beers and applause. The video prompted a discussion of the way bias was expressed in the video, and how attendees themselves reacted to it.
Dr. Villagran shared with attendees some of the myriad different cultural groups and factors which could define cultural groups. In addition to race and ethnicity, different cultures can correspond to different generations, socioeconomic strata, organizations, and different parts or units within organizations. Different cultures may exhibit different service needs as well as different abilities, preferences, and strategies, when it comes to means of communication, handling conflict, and working together.
In terms of regional distribution, Dr. Villagran also provided a handout describing how different areas of the world vary in terms of seven cultural values: Collectivism/Individualism, Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Competitiveness, Time, Context, and Doing.
Cultural intelligence is “the capability to function effectively across various cultural contexts.” It is a form of intelligence. The development of Cultural Intelligence can be illustrated by a four-part cyclical model, wherein Drive feeds into Knowledge, which feeds into Strategy, son on into Action and back to Drive.
Librarians often rate themselves as having low Drive, which Dr. Villagran generously attributes to modesty on the part of librarians and a desire to learn strategies to increase their cultural intelligence. Drive itself can be broken down into further components, and can be increased by, among other things, overcoming biases.
Knowledge can be gained by learning about other cultures and developing an awareness that many assumptions embodied in own culture are arbitrary, and that that those of other cultures may be almost completely opposite in nature yet equally valid. Examples provided in a video include the fact that city blocks are named or numbered in Japan and streets are unnamed and designated as ‘negative space’, whereas in the West streets are named, and blocks are considered negative space. Dimensions of Knowledge include: Systems, Symbols, Values, Socio-Linguistics, and Leadership.
Knowledge failures can result in serious communication mishaps, as exemplified by an infamous Toyota advertisement that was seen as offensive on multiple levels in China.
Strategy involves planning, applying Knowledge to determine what needs to be done to have a positive cross-cultural encounter. Strategy may include writing a first draft of an email, but then thinking how it may come across to the various recipient(s) and modifying as appropriate, before undertaking Action.
Our session concluded with a challenge to attendees to think about what they might do to increase their own cultural intelligence and apply it for more positive and productive cross-cultural communication.