Explorations with Information and Technology

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Occasionally on this blog I touch on music I’m listening to. I’ve been delighted to see the uptake of sea songs and sea shanties on the internet. It’s such a great source of shareable – people being able to sing together without a lot of skill required – music. It made me think back over some of the tunes that I sang the kids at bedtime. There are lots of great resources on sea songs. I used the Digital Tradition database to find the words for songs I *mostly* learned growing up. The keepers were printed out and put in…
Law library discussions are dominated by format discussions. They tend to revolve around print, licensed databases, and discrete electronic files (ebooks). I have been wondering what an audio format might look like for a legal text, and whether it has a place in our information delivery. If it sounds painful, I admit that it might be. In fact, this post may need to come with some sort of reader warning! Wait until you hear me read about contractual performance! There be vacuity in these waters! But that’s no reason not to consider it, and how law libraries would help…
I do a lot of things from habit, moving from one thing to the next almost by rote. One can forget to stop every so often and look around and say, “what else can I improve while I’m here?” Over the last year, I had a number of opportunities to reflect on this as I was plugging away at an accessibility project. The biggest hurdle about change may be stopping to make a deliberate choice to do it. We had a legal obligation at work to make our web sites accessible. Sometimes when you can’t get people to change voluntarily,…
Leadership requires patience. Some things will take years to unfold. That’s the job. If you’re good at it, and circumstances allow, you’ll see your strategy work out. For more than a decade, I have kept watch for opportunities to make my staff positions less precarious. Fortunately, it’s been working out. For context, I manage a variety of information professionals. We don’t all work in the library domain and so our operational demands vary. But most are long-serving (20-30 years) and full-time. I’m not sure how well this reflects the law library profession. I took a quick look at the AALL…
We’re engaging in holiday merriment. That’s what it’s called and you will be merry. I was asked to provide a favorite song for the work-related festivities. It’s funny how such a small request can be so difficult. We want to and are encouraged by other professionals to engage in social media and sharing about ourselves but the self that is shared is often only one face. If you’re a law librarian wondering how much to share, I feel your pain. You want to be out there. But you don’t want to be too far out, out there. I had a…
I went live during a work meeting with my first attempt at using non-verbal phrases. One thing I’ve discovered is that you can chroma key – green or blue screen – any input into the Open Broadcaster Software Studio. This creates a lot of flexibility that I hadn’t imagined, since I can now stack inputs in different ways. Here’s what I did with PowerPoint. The first person I saw do this was over on Opensource.com. They used OBS Studio and text overlays, which are built into the OBS program (listed under Sources). As I have posted before, though, PowerPoint
A book is on the shelf or it is off the shelf. And then there are all of the exceptions. I was struck by a story about a New York high school librarian who had placed QR codes on the covers of books. The goal was to eliminate handling but still to encourage student book browsing. Now, QR codes aren’t new and I’m not going to pen a paean to them. But it made me decide to think out loud about how we could use them during this particular period in our law library. What if you coded every…
I’m confident our law library is not alone this winter when it comes to planning for straitened circumstances next year. 2021 will be a year of reduced budgets. We lost staff positions and funding equivalent to 15% of our 2020 budget, which itself had been reduced from 2019 by 8%. As they say, anyone can manage when things are going well. The hard choices are where you earn your keep. Budget cuts are always hard. Unless you work in a standalone law library, you are probably feeling cuts based on a percentage or something that is not directly correlated to…
I was on a virtual call recently about customer service improvement. Customer service is a key aspect of law library service. It’s an area where there tends to be a lot of chatter about how to make improvements. This call was meant to flesh out a methodology that might be helpful in improving service delivery. Instead, I was struck by how the approach used generalizations to segment the audience. In particular, the definition of what made a tech savvy lawyer seemed off. I will lay out two of my biases up front. The first is that I do not think…
It is normal to follow patterns, habits that give us comfort. Or that make our environment familiar. The last 8 months have disrupted those patterns. I’m a morning person, but without a 2 hour commute, my decade-long morning habits have been hard to recreate. I’ve started to think about how, as we approach a year whose patterns may be more familiar, I will need to remember that 2020 was like no other for law libraries. I mean, it’s not like I’ll forget. But I’m thinking more about the long-term impacts of how we do things in our law library. More…
It can easy to carp about other people when you have a blog but I try to be constructive. I have been thinking about other ways of delivering simple video-based instruction. Simple for the presenter but also fully utilizing the technology available. As I noted in a recent post, you can’t just wing it. But where to start? I decided I would walk through how to use OBS Studio to create more flexible information delivery in a Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet session. I am using a Windows 10 PC and I have a camera. I didn’t always have…
I find the creation of new law libraries an unusual and curious occasion. Legal information delivery does not change rapidly. We may see more information but the delivery tools increment slowly over time. When someone decides to create (or recreate) an actual law library, it’s an opportunity to see what their vision of the future is. In at least two US counties, it’s very much an old-fashioned approach to legal research. The Way Things Were This new law library in Plumas County (CA) is literally old school. It’s apparently less a new law library – it was created in 1905…
We recently had a six-hour virtual seminar – one speaker, one topic, 6 hours – delivered via video app. I have already gone off on video reference. There is no fundamental problem with delivering content using a video app. What was clear in this seminar, though, is that instructors – librarians, CLE presenters, whomever – need to think more about delivering familiar content in a new mode. I am not going to touch on academia. There is a huge amount on the amazing work going on in law schools and other university colleges in virtual delivery. The one takeaway:…
One of my favorite activities is to talk to other law library directors. A colleague and I scheduled a call to talk about how law libraries are adapting during the pandemic. They are at a same-but-different type of law library. While we overlap in service delivery, the context is not identical. That always gives an opportunity to surface ideas that you might otherwise stow in a drawer as not being feasible. We are often told to think outside the box. This can be hard to do when you consider that you operate within given parameters. A budget, a governance…
I have been working on a side project: clean up years-worth of accumulated digital music. Some was downloaded. Some was ripped from CDs. Some was ripped from vinyl. One thing you notice after accessing enough media: the metadata isn’t always great. Even when it comes from a ripped disc, you get the sense that music publishers aren’t spending a lot of time on metadata. Here are some of the tools I’ve been using to get things straightened out. Hands On Metadata When Windows 10 came out, Windows Media Player disappeared for a bit in favor of Groove. It reappeared after
The pandemic has been terrible for many who have lost loved ones or continue to suffer from the effects of the virus. It’s impact has changed our behaviors. But in some ways, we have tried to find analogs for old customs and habits that don’t make any sense. It’s made me rethink whether some customs – like hand shaking – are worth doing. Open Hand, Open Heart I have always believed the reason for the handshake was to show that the hand was holding no weapon. It’s the right hand because the left is, literally, sinister. That is…