AALL 2018 Recap: CONELL (Conference of Newer Law Librarians)

By Tarica LaBossiere

I had been forewarned by my colleagues that the Conference of Newer Law Librarians (CONELL) was where I would make new friends with my librarian peers that would last throughout the rest of our library careers (“Just bring lots of business cards–you’ll be fine”). How right they were! It was fascinating. Speaking as a newer law librarian (in the profession less than one year), and as a newer law librarian in academia, it is rare to see other new law librarians. Just being able to network with other newly minted peers was an amazing experience in and of itself.

After a light breakfast, the newest librarianship recruits were rounded up, and ushered into Key Ballrooms 9-10. Greg Lambert’s opening speech–motivational, yet directional– served as a call to those seated at the podium before him to bring new ideas and inspiration to the profession. He advised us to use the services and guidance offered by AALL to blossom in our careers.


Q&A with the AALL Executive Board. Image via aallnet.org.

Following Lambert’s speech was a Q&A with the AALL Executive Board. The Q&A featured questions on avoiding burnout, successful networking for the fake extrovert or low-key introvert (like me!), mentor/mentee relationships, finding leadership roles in the profession, and overall general tips on turning our new careers into lifelong professions. Knowing that almost every speaker experienced what we were going through today acted as a soothing balm to the rash of anxieties faced by newer law librarians at the beginning of their careers.

After the Q&A, there were several speakers who discussed getting more involved with the AALL Community. This included information on how to become more involved with AALL online, submitting proposals for the Annual Meeting, as well as submitting proposals to the Law Library Journal and AALL Spectrum. This was beneficial not only because we were given information about publication opportunities, but Tom Gaylord and Kris Niedringhaus, the respective speakers for the Law Library Journal and AALL Spectrum, were able to provide a clear distinction between the goals of each publication and details on what each publication was looking for when reviewing submitted proposals. This was a helpful tidbit for those considering submitting proposals to either wide-reaching publication.

We were also given details about the AALL Leadership Academy. The Academy is a weekend-long, intensive program designed to cultivate leadership skills and techniques in newer law librarians. Although the Academy was just hosted this year, the next will be available in 2020. This information is good to know for those planning to seek leadership opportunities and those considering submitting an application to the Academy.

Finally, we discussed available mentorship opportunities. I have already been gifted with great mentors through various channels, but for those who had yet to find guidance during their professional journey, there will be several opportunities available via AALL’s updated mentoring program. The program aims to match mentors with mentees through shared interests listed by each applicant when applying for the Mentorship Program.

After discussing all that AALL had to offer, we were separated by last name into two groups to attend the CONELL Marketplace and participate in CONELL’s Speed Networking.


Speed Networking at AALL 2018.  Image via aallnet.org.

Speed Dating Networking, as its namesake implies, was where groups of two participants sat face-to-face in two rows, creating an awkward assembly line of getting-to-know-you’s. We were given two minutes to answer one of eight questions appearing on cards that were sat on the chairs of the inner most rows. After the two minutes, the whistle would blew, and the outer rows would shimmy over one seat to begin introductions all over again.

Unfortunately, the room we were in absorbed just as much sound as it did cool air, and we very quickly found ourselves shouting to perspiration how we came to be in the law library profession and where we would live if we could live anywhere in the world and why. Business cards flew like blackjack at the casino; but, I must admit, here is where I would meet new–and now familiar–friends with whom I would spend my entire conference weekend.

After leaving the Key Ballroom sized oven, we were directed over to the CONELL Marketplace, where we mingled with members of regional AALL chapters and AALL Committees. Although we received a lot of information in the Marketplace, the setting was easily navigable, all the volunteers were informational and engaging, and it was easy to gain more insight into the AALL chapters and committees we would consider joining. Depending on one’s professional goals or current position, there was a committee dedicated to gathering similarly situated professionals to promote the exchange of ideas and enable newer librarians to be successful in their librarianship positions.


The USCGC Taney at the Baltimore Inner Harbor.

After a quick lunch and break, we headed to the front of the Hilton for the annual CONELL Tour. The tour was amazing! We saw all that Baltimore had to offer. We started by passing the USCGC Taney, the last warship floating after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and continued through little Italy and little Poland, all while our vibrant tour guide pointed out the brickwork of new and historic houses and churches, like the Baltimore Basilica–the oldest Catholic Cathedral in the country! Also, she was sure to point out the history of the Baltimore Screen Paintings (“a Baltimore tradition!”). We journeyed down and around the Inner Harbor, where we gazed at the Under Armor Corporate headquarters from both sides of the lively docks, and up and around The Walters Art Museum–where a handy billboard gleefully informed us that the Museum currently housed a Faberge Egg! We passed both the Battle Monument and the Washington Monument, and we even made a brief stop at Fort McHenry, arriving just in time to catch the engaging Star-Spangled Banner mini-documentary and light show.


The Tour concluded back at the Baltimore Convention Center Hilton. Thus, we ended our CONELL 2018 adventure. Our novice introduction to the Conference via AALL’s CONELL was complete, and it was on to the big leagues–one floor down, at the AALL Opening Reception.

Overall, I felt my CONELL experience to be a successful and exhilarating start to my first AALL Conference. I thank all those who put in the work to make our 2018 Baltimore CONELL experience a great one. I can guarantee–just as my colleagues and mentors before me–that I’ll be sharing these stories with the friends I made for years to come.

AALL 2018 Recap: Lightning Lessons: Research Instruction in a Flash

By Taryn Marks

Presenters: AJ Blechner & Heather Joy

This was the best presentation that I attended at AALL. It was informative, adhered to the description given in the program, kept my attention, and easily blended expert advice and practical experience, so that I both learned about something someone else had done and got solid, replicable advice on how to implement that something at my own institution. It also was by far one of the most-attended sessions I’ve ever seen at AALL (the speakers had 100 copies of their handouts and quickly ran out).


Heather Joy and AJ Blechner discussing how to implement your own lightning lessons.

First, the speakers described what they mean by lightning lesson (a short, less than 5 minute instructional session)—and then they provided an actual demonstration of how they have conducted a lightning lesson at their own institutions. Second, they handed out an overview and outline of how to create a lightning lesson at your own institution, providing easily scalable and replicable information that can be translated across different institutions. This was not the typical, “here’s how I did it at my institution, you can do the same thing;” they took a mile-high view of the process as they implemented it at their respective institutions, removed the esoteric descriptions of their own institutions’ quirks, and translated them into planning and organizing tips for any institution. Then, they allowed time for workshopping, so that each person could start to plan their own lightning lessons based on the material given to them at the session. Lastly, they gave the audience tips that they learned about creating and implementing lightning lessons (the two most important: get colorful baked goods, and own how cool and important the lesson you’re giving is, regardless of what it is).

H3_lighting lesson demo

AJ Blechner and Heather Joy demo how to do a lightning lesson at AALL 2018.

The session was recorded, and I encourage anyone interested in or thinking about the idea of lightning lessons to watch it. You only need to see the first 15 minutes or so to get the speakers’ demonstration of a lightning lesson and their suggested process for creating and implementing the lightning lessons, and the last 10 minutes or so to get their quick tips and answers to questions. If you are interested in creating your own lightning lessons, they posted their material to Google Drive, so that you can download them and use them to organize and plan your own lightning lessons.

AALL 2018 Recap: Don’t Just Hire the Best–Keep Them

By Taryn Marks

Presenters: Kristina Alayan, Elizabeth Graham, Emily Florio, Ashley Chase, Rachel Decker, Sherry Leysen, Kathleen Wilko, Jennifer Davitt, Margaret Hall, Tina Ching, Carissa Vogel, Ramon Barajas

E4_standing in line to report

Attendees stand in line to present on their tables’ discussion summary.

In this non-recorded session, a group of 10 facilitators spread out at tables throughout the room, then guided discussions about a variety of topics related to ensuring sufficient engagement and support at the workplace (see the Facilitators Handout attached to the presentation description for a list of the topics, which included professional development, managing up, managing laterally, reorganization, and mission). Each table elected a recorder and a reporter; the recorder took notes about the discussion as it took place. Just over half way through the program, the reporter from each table read a summary of the discussion that had taken place at each table. The facilitator then gathered the notes from the recorder and email addresses from the participants, with the goal of emailing all participants the notes from each of the tables sometime after the conference.

The concept behind the presentation was that those attending the presentation were the experts on the topics, and that we would have the knowledge and experience to generate the information needed to satisfy the hard-hitting takeaways identified by the program description (such as the last takeaway, that attendees would be able to “minimize the impact of policies outside their control that may otherwise undermine their ability to retain high-performing staff and librarians”). Importantly, the moderators warned that this session should be one that focused on solutions rather than problems (even noting colloquially that this should not be a “b****-fest”).

While concept that we all were experts seemed exciting in theory, in reality none of us were actually experts. The discussion at my table was wide-ranging and varied, and I do not think we addressed any of the takeaways we were supposed to have gotten. Instead, I learned a lot about what the other people at the table thought about my discussion topic, without getting any solid ways that I could incorporate change into my library or ideas about how to minimize the impact of policies outside of my control (two of the anticipated takeaways). In listening to the summary of the discussions at the other tables, it appeared they all had similar experiences to mine.

At the end of the presentation, the moderators did provide some suggested readings and a few additional pointers that they thought were important, which are attached to the presentation description. I’m looking forward to receiving the summary of the notes that were taken at each table, in the hopes that they provide more information than could be gleaned in the short summaries reported at the conference.

Overall, take a look at the suggested readings; and if you’re interested, email one of the presenters to get the notes from the session and the slides that they showed at the end. These were the most important parts of the presentation and you will learn as much as I did from attending it.

AALL 2018 Recap: FCIL-SIS Awards

By Alex Zhang

As is the FCIL-SIS tradition, this year at the FCIL-SIS Breakfast Meeting in Baltimore, awards were presented to members of our community who have made an impact through their service and scholarship.

award winners

Two of the FCIL-SIS Award Winners with FCIL-SIS Secretary/Treasurer Sabrina Sondhi (center):  Loren Turner (left), winner of the Spirit of the FCIL-SIS Award, and Sherry Leysen (right), one of the winners of the Thomas & Flores FCIL-SIS Publication Award.

Spirit of the FCIL-SIS Award

turnerThe Spirit of the FCIL-SIS Award is presented each year to members whose work furthers our mission, serves the entire FCIL-SIS, and inspires others to act.  This year the award was presented to our incoming Vice Chair/Chair-Elect Loren Turner!

Loren is the FCIL Librarian at the University of Minnesota Law School, where she specializes in and teaches foreign, comparative, and international legal research. She is an excellent example of what spirit of FCIL means. Loren has been a stellar member of the FCIL-SIS, serving in multiple roles, including chairing and co-chairing the FCIL-SIS Publicity Committee. She also served as the FCIL-SIS Secretary/Treasurer from 2015 to 2017. She is a graet team player, always ready to volunteer and represent the SIS (for example, through tabling at the CONELL marketplace). She is the current Vice Chair/Chair-Elect of FCIL-SIS. Loren has also been active in other national organizations, such as the American Society of International Law, the International Association of Law Libraries, and the Minnesota Association of Law Libraries.

The Daniel L. Wade FCIL-SIS Outstanding Service Award

The Daniel L. Wade FCIL-SIS Award honors an FCIL-SIS member who has made outstanding contributions to the Section in the areas of section activity and professional service. This year the award was presented in absentia to Victor Essien.


Victor has been an active member of the FCIL-SIS since its inception, primarily as Chair of the African Law Interest Group, which he served on from 1989-2015. In addition to his work on the African IG, Victor also served the SIS through his work on the Nomination Committee (2006-2007) and the second FCIL Strategic Planning Committee (2008-2011).

Educating new FCIL librarians was – as it still is – a vital mission for the SIS in its early days, and Victor was involved in three of the AALL Institutes that were organized to meet these needs. In 1991, he spoke on “International Law – the Basics and Beyond”; in 1993, at the Winter Institute in Washington D.C., he presented an introductory session on foreign legal research; and in 1995, he was a speaker at the Philadelphia Institute on “Introduction to International Business Law: Legal Transactions in a Global Economy.” In addition to his speaking roles at these Institutes, Victor also was a speaker on FCIL topics at the AALL Annual Meeting in 1991, 1996, 2001, and 2004.

Outside of the FCIL-SIS, Victor has been very active in teaching FCIL classes and research sessions.  In addition to his Advanced Legal Research: International and Comparative Law and Advanced Legal Research: International Humanitarian Law courses, Victor has taught substantive courses including Multinational Corporations and International Oil and Gas Law at Fordham since 1989.  Further, Victor has been closely involved with the delivery of Fordham Law’s annual study abroad summer program at Ghana, as well as related programs in the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice.

Victor is also very active in the Ghanaian community, both in New York and in Ghana.  He has been invited to deliver lectures and moderate programs in his area of expertise, has been recognized with the Distinguished Service Award by the Association of Ghanaian Lawyers of America in 2013, and last year received a New York City Citation for Extraordinary Academic, Legal and International Relations Career.

The Thomas H. Reynolds & Arturo A. Flores FCIL-SIS Publication Award

The Reynolds & Flores Award is named after the Thomas H. Reynolds and Arturo A. Flores, the authors of the Foreign Law Guide: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World. It is given to FCIL-SIS membres who have greatly contributed to the professional development of their AALL colleagues during any given year through their publications.  This year, the FCIL Executive Committee was thrilled to present the award to authors of two publications. Both publications are exceptionally well-designed and written. Both benefit a broad audience in the law librarianship and fill a critical gap in the international and foreign law legal research field.

The first Reynolds & Flores Award was presented to Sherry Leysen and Alena Wolotira for Multinational Sources Compared: A Subject and Jurisdiction Index.  Sherry Leysen is a Research/Instruction Librarian for Faculty Services at Chapman University’s Hugh & Hazel Darling Law Library. Alena Wolotira is Circulation & Reference Librarian at the University of Washington’s Gallagher Law Library, where she also serves as the Executive Editor of the Current Index to Legal Periodicals (CILP).

The second Reynold & Flores Award was presented to Heidi Frostestad Kuehl and Megan A. O’Brien for International Legal Research in a Global Community.  Heidi Kuehl is the Law Library Director and an Associate Professor of Law at the Northern Illinois University College of Law. Megan O’Brien is the Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Librarian and an Adjunct Professor of Law at Marquette University Law School.



AALL 2018 Recap: Schaffer Grant Presentation — Professional Profile Survey of the Law Librarian in the State of São Paulo, Brazil

By Amy Flick

Daniela dos ReisThe 2018 recipient of the FCIL Schaffer Grant for Foreign Law Librarians was Daniela Majorie Akama dos Reis. Daniela is a law librarian at the firm of Lobo de Rizzo Advogados in São Paulo, Brazil, and she is also a PhD candidate in Information Science at UNESP (the Universidade Estadual Paulista Julio de Mesquita filho). While working on her dissertation, she found a lack of recent scholarship on the profile of law librarians in Brazil. This prompted her, along with co-author Paula Drumond Sales, a fellow law librarian at Lobo de Rizzo Advogados, to conduct a survey and write a “Professional Profile Survey of Law Librarians in the State of São Paulo, Brazil,” which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Revista Brasileira de Biblioteconomia e Documentação (Brazilian Journal of Library Science and Documentation).

Daniela presented highlights of the findings and data from her survey to AALL attendees on Monday, July 16, 2018. She started by discussing the need for the survey. There is no official data on the number of law librarians in São Paulo. Unofficially, the Legal Information and Documentation Group of São Paulo has around 150 active members. She sent her questionnaire to the membership, with 21 question on profiles, salary, routines, and activities. As is often the case with surveys, only 32 librarians answered her survey questions, even though she sent the survey out multiple times.

One of her questions was about the main difficulties in starting a career as a law librarian. The largest number, 53%, cited the lack of specialized education, since most Brazilian law librarians have only a bachelor’s degree in library science without specialized legal training. Another 38% found difficulty with legal terminology. 56% have not taken a professional improvement course in law, and 72% have no degrees beyond a first bachelor’s degree.

Another survey question was on salaries: “The salary is the sad part.” 31% earn between 2000 and 4000 Brazilian reals per month, and another 28% earn between 4000 and 6000 reals per month. With a Brazilian real the equivalent of around 27 U.S. cents, she noted the difficulty of living on a law librarian’s salary.

Duties of most law librarians in São Paulo would be familiar to U.S. librarians, particularly firm librarians, including classification, cataloging, news clipping, collection development, and what she considers the most important, legal research. She discussed the lack of standardization in documentary language used, with only 50% using documentary language at all, and of those that do, 25% each using the Thesaurus of the Senate, controlled vocabulary, and their own controlled language.

Daniela’s findings were that São Paulo law librarians, in the absence of instruction on law librarianship, are mostly self-taught and dependent on the librarian’s own curiosity and experience. They also rely on the knowledge of more experienced law librarians.

As for Daniela herself, she works for a firm that specializes in many practice areas, especially corporate and M&A. Her library has a small physical space, with around 3000 print books and 1500 periodicals. They focus on products and services in digital formats. She has in-progress projects indexing documents and digitizing their periodical collection.

In the Q&A portion of the presentation, Daniela was asked about librarian meetings in São Paulo and Brazil. São Paulo librarians in the local group rely on each other for information and exchange of documents. They meet monthly within São Paulo, but there is no national meeting. Asked about her foreign and international research, she said that she does a lot of international research since she works in tax and M&A. And to a question about electronic resources she uses, she noted that her attorneys are resistant to change, but she uses databases that she saw represented in the AALL exhibit hall, including from Thomson Reuters, Lexis Nexis, and Wolters Kluwer. And on electronic research, she said “I don’t think the end of the print book is the end of the library.”

FCIL librarians in attendance appreciated Daniela’s presentation, and we will look forward to the publication of her research.

AALL 2018 Recap: FCIL-SIS Teaching Foreign and International Legal Research Interest Group

By Meredith Capps

This year, Beau Steenken moderated a discussion with Marci Hoffman and Heidi Frostedad Kuehl, discussing the writing and editing process for their books, International and Foreign Legal Research: A Coursebook and International Legal Research In a Nutshell (Hoffman), and International Legal Research in a Global Community (Kuehl), and how they utilize research texts in their own courses.

Hoffman created the coursebook with the hopes of assigning it to her class as a supplement to in-class lectures, feeling that she did not have enough time to cover topics in sufficient depth (though she’s recently found it challenging to convince students to read the material–a difficulty echoed by others in attendance!).  Hoffman and co-author Mary Rumsey divided chapters for drafting, and then swapped those chapters for editing; she emphasized the importance of having a good relationship with one’s co-author.  The coursebook is now in its second edition, published in 2012, and she and Rumsey have considered updating it and publishing a third edition, though she believes that even if some of the sources cited in the second edition are dated, the research methodologies described are not.  The coursebook covers foreign and comparative law, which Hoffman did not include in the initial edition of the nutshell.  With respect to the nutshell, Bob Berring, who was approached by West, asked Hoffman to co-author the book, and she substantially completed the initial draft, with Berring contributing edits and stylistic flourishes.  Meant to be more casual than the coursebook, the nutshell is suitable for students completing cite-checking assignments and participating in moot courts and clinics.  Hoffman currently assigns the nutshell as a primary text in her course, plus certain chapters from the coursebook.

In considering how to structure their book, Kuehl and co-author Megan O’Brien considered how they could add to the existing literature, topics with which students commonly struggled, gaps they wished to highlight, and how to organize the material they decided to cover.  Ultimately, they chose not to focus primarily on researching international law, and organized the book around Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, including substantial discussions of customary and subsidiary sources of international law, and a section on cultural competencies.  Kuehl feels that, like Rumsey and Hoffman’s coursebook, instructors could select certain chapters to assign in class, if they did not wish to assign the entire book, and that the bibliography will be a useful tool.  Keep an eye out for the forthcoming Teachers Edition!

Hoffman and Kuehl offered several pieces of advice to law librarians with publishing aspirations.  One was that authors should allow more time for editing than they anticipate and should not assume that editors assigned by the publisher will do substantive editing or provide an index (a substantial undertaking!).  They should also be cautious in assigning rights to a publisher and negotiate designations such as a Creative Commons license, if desired, up-front.  Consider working with a co-author, as co-authors hold one another accountable throughout the process, and co-authors should consider one another’s strengths when dividing the workload.   In considering teaching opportunities and text use in a course, the discussion highlighted the limitations of time (one- vs. two- vs. three-credit course offerings) and students’ difficulty in absorbing a text when they were not faced with a specific need to understand the material.  Hoffman noted that training opportunities for Jessup Moot Court teams provide a teaching opportunity for librarians who wish to teach FCIL research but do not have their own course, and that if librarians can design courses that meet the ABA’s experiential learning requirement, they are more likely to be approved and see substantial enrollment.  They also emphasized that in teaching foreign and international legal research, more examples are always better than few, and that librarians can consult multiple works and resources (including the FCIL-SIS teaching materials page) to locate examples to utilize in teaching.

AALL 2018 Recap: Education Committee Meeting – Program Planning for DC


By: Loren Turner

The FCIL-SIS Education Committee met at the crack of dawn (7:00 am) on Tuesday, July 17th to begin brainstorming and strategizing for the AALL 2019 conference in Washington, D.C.  We were joined by two members of the Annual Meeting Program Committee (AMPC), Sabrina Sondhi (our official FCIL liaison to the AMPC) and Alyson Drake.  Sabrina and Alyson shared the AMPC’s timeline for gathering program ideas and proposals.  Alyson will be writing a separate DipLawMatic blog post that covers the AMPC’s timeline and goals in more detail, but in a nutshell, there is a two-step process for us to get some FCIL-related programming into the DC conference: (1) submit and up-vote your undeveloped, wild and crazy ideas to the Ideascale platform (from now until August 17th) and (2) submit your developed, professional program proposals to the AMPC (Labor Day-ish until October 1).

We have an excellent location for the next conference and the Georgetown folks who joined our meeting are already on-the-ball with fab ideas on international taxation, international trade, and international human rights.  What about you?!  What programming do you want to see in D.C. for your professional development?

Dennis Sears (searsd@law.byu.edu) and I (lturner@umn.edu) would L.O.V.E. to hear from you!  Tell us what you want to learn.  Tell us what you want to teach. Tell us who you know and what they might offer.  We will do your cold-calls.  We will help craft your wild and crazy ideas into fully-developed programs (or pre-conference workshops). We need you to help us create substantive FCIL programming for the AALL 2019 conference.  Let’s do this.