On the Future of Academic Law Libraries

While I was in D.C., a library director whom I'd just met wondered why there weren't more younger people at the Academic Law Library of 2015 workshop. I didn't have a ready answer, and I've been thinking about it ever since. There were actually a number of reasons.

First, I confess that my (possibly superficial) impression of the pre-workshop listserv discussion was that many of the issues on it were things that had been hashed and rehashed for years with little action. No thanks. (I have subsequently heard good things about the workshop, so I'm happy my impression was incorrect or that the listserv didn't otherwise accurately preview the workshop.)

My other personal issue with getting to the workshop was working with a shortened travel schedule, because I also went to CALI. The best I could do with that was get to D.C. in time for the late morning CONELL exhibit hall.

Finally, and perhaps most important, I've only now noticed in the workshop description that the target audience is listed as "academic law library senior managers." This does not describe me, nor many of my most talented peers--future directors and AALL presidents certainly among them. Granted, 2015 is not far in the future and there are some young-ish librarians that fit that description, but if one is really interested in the future of libraries, one should make sure that ALL the librarians who will be making and living it are invited.


I'm aware there was also some to-do about where the young law librarians were at the business meeting and member forum during the conference. (I'd been planning to go but didn't, because I ended up working the Gen X / Gen Y Caucus booth. Oh, irony.) I do think it takes a few years to figure out the association and gain a level of interest to support attending the business meeting. I went to part of one my first year (and haven't been back since), and it wasn't really clear to me that I was supposed to be there, to be honest. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in having had that experience.

Meanwhile, what I'd like to know is, where are the older law librarians showing an interest in the younger generation? Yes, quite a number support CONELL, but that's for newer librarians, not necessarily younger ones. Bob Oakley was a marvelous supporter of the Gen X / Gen Y Caucus from its first meeting, and I think of him fondly every year during our meeting. Jim Milles attended last year. This year, board member Chris Graesser attended our meeting (and witnessed our first election), and president Catherine Lemann joined her for our social. I may be missing some stealth boomers, but that's not very many.

Like the business meeting, Caucus meetings and socials are open to all law librarians. The former is now a must on my agenda for next year. I sincerely hope there will be some more generational cross-over in the other direction too.


Ryan Harrington August 3, 2009 at 10:08:00 AM EDT  

I agree with your major points about the workshop: that we weren't on the invite, and that the listserv discussion beforehand and the write up of the workshop did not make lead me to believe the day would be productive. Forget about the $200 registration fee.

I would add just one thing, that the unconference was scheduled on Saturday pm.

The unconference had a very participatory-friendly format (eg you could walk away from a conversation you thought was dead--never an option at a workshop), or you could continue a conversation that held your interest (not an option when there is a schedule).

The unconference also managed to draw some cross-generational participants. I think this indicates that it is not the age of AALL members that contributes to our disconnect. I think format, cost, and time played a much bigger role.

Victoria Szymczak August 3, 2009 at 11:12:00 AM EDT  

As someone who sits on the cusp of boomer and Gen x (depending on which report you are reading)and works with a range of ages at my school and in AALL, I have to agree with Ryan. I know ideas and energy are not determined by chronological age, but by attitude. I'm happy to read this posting. It alerts me to the fact that the caucus is open to all librarians and that it is looking for commentary and participation from more senior people in the profession. So, I'll be sure to go next time around. I hope the success of Lawberry camp is not lost on AALL program planners. No one likes to sit and listen to people lecture at them which tends to be the format of choice at AALL.

Betsy McKenzie August 3, 2009 at 2:33:00 PM EDT  

I honestly didn't know geezer librarians were welcome at the GenX/GenY Caucus. I shall plan on haunting them in the future.

Anonymous August 3, 2009 at 2:50:00 PM EDT  

Yes, I've been encouraging our older librarian peeps to join the cauus. And AALL Pres. Cathy Lemann actually came to the caucus dinner at Busboys & Poets. :)

Francis Norton August 3, 2009 at 4:53:00 PM EDT  

Like Vicki, I am also a "cusper," but thought that I was too old for the caucus. I'll be sure to bring my oxygen tank to the next caucus meeting.

Jason Eiseman August 3, 2009 at 7:01:00 PM EDT  

You really hit the nail on the head. Awesome post. It seems there's a lot of movement that can be made on all sides.

No single group is to blame. But I definitely didn't feel like that workshop was for me when I saw it.

Anne M. August 31, 2009 at 8:34:00 PM EDT  

I'm a senior law library manager and I didn't think the workshop was for me, either -- it seemed to be focused on directors and public services people, of which I am neither. As Ryan said, the listserv discussion beforehand underlined that for me, and a $200 registration fee was out of the question.

I'm sorry I didn't get to any of the GenX/GenY events. Next year I'll get to at least one, now that I know geezers can be there, too.

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