National meeting of UK EDCs

Europe House, 32 Smith SquareI attended the national meeting of UK European Document Centres on Friday 23 October at Europe House in London.  The meetings used to be an annual event, but there has been a hiatus, and this was my first ever meeting (in nearly 4 years in post).


There is currently a Pan-European Working Group on the future of EDCs, and this was the main theme of the meeting.  A survey of EDCs was conducted in September, but the outcome has not yet been published.  Of the 31 ECDs in the UK, only 14 were represented at the meeting, and only 2 others sent apologies.  Even with BREXIT on the horizon (UK referendum on Europe), there appears to be apathy within the UK regarding Europe and EDCs.

The morning discussion was led by Ian Thomson of (the almost legendary) Cardiff EDC.  He is representing the UK in the Working Group, and was keen to learn how other universities, manage their European information services.

There was general agreement that the title ‘European Document Centre’ no longer reflected the service.  EU documents are now published online, and the modern EDC is less a physical space and collection of printed materials, and more access to and expert advice on finding online EU information.

Many university libraries are weeding their official publications, which includes materials in the EDC.  There was concern about preserving ‘the last printed copy’, and the British Library is happy to accept donations of material to fill their own gaps.  [The British Library will be collating an online archive of BREXIT materials].

There was strong support for the role of the EDC network, at both UK and European levels.  The EDC network provides librarians with support and access to a expertise and training.

Ian also spoke about the work of the Cardiff EDC: it is a separate unit within Cardiff University, with a high profile and reputation at all levels (University, Wales, UK and Europe).  The Cardiff EDC (re)aligns their work to the University strategy: discovery, content, learning space, teaching and learning, research support, community outreach.

Although they are involved in many large projects (European Sources Online); Ian was keen to stress that other EDCs could have success with small interventions to promote their services, e.g. a welcome event for Erasmus students, careers talks about working in the EU, guides to travel in Europe for international students, and an event or quiz to mark Europe Day (9 May).

The afternoon sessions involved a series of short presentations:

Jacqueline Minor (Head of European Commission Representation in the UK)

A welcome introduction stressing importance of EDCs, and access to objective information, in run-up to UK EU referendum.  The EU is to take an impartial stance, but will provide information, and work to correct factual inaccuracies.

Patrick Overy (EDC Exeter)

Info-Europa newsletter (a weekly bulletin of EU publications)

Eurodoc (an email discussion forum for EU information)

Frederico Rocha (EDC Cardiff)

Sources of EU news and current awareness:

EurActive, EUobserver, Politico

The Local (European news services in English)

Euro | Topics (European news aggregation service)

Ian Thomson (EDC Cardiff)

European Sources Online is a value added search engine linking EU policy and information, and indexing primary and secondary EU sources, as well as guides to EU information.

Silvia Cobo-Benito (EU Bookshop)

All EDCs have privileged user accounts with the EU bookshop.  This allows the user to order multiple copies of items (100 copies per title per language).  Many EU publications are free – although some (print on demand titles need to be purchased).  Two types of publication: central EU publications and UK representation publications.





BIALL Conference 2015

I attended BIALL’s 46th annual study conference from 11-13 June 2015 in Brighton.  The conference theme was Charting the C’s: Collaboration, Cooperation, Connectivity.  It was my 5th BIALL conference as a delegate, but 1st as a committee chair and speaker (see also BIALL Conference 2013).

Brighton BeachI arrived on the most glorious summer’s day, and Brighton had a definite feel of the Mediterranean.  My first stop was the Justis Pre-Conference Party, which is often the highlight of any BIALL conference.  This year we ate fish & chip at Victoria’s Bar on Brighton Pier, met up with friends old and new, and formed our BIALL conference ‘breakfast club’.

Day 1: Thursday 11 June 2015

The conference was opened by BIALL President Marianne Barber, who welcomed us to Brighton, and gave us ‘permission’ to miss a session to talk to suppliers, or enjoy a stroll along the sea front.

Plenary Session 1: Commercial and Regulatory Evolution of Legal Services

Prof Stephen Mayson (of Mayson, French and Ryan fame) delivered the first plenary session, the Willi Steiner Memorial Lecture on the “Commercial and Regulatory Evolution of Legal Services: Implications for Information Professionals”.  The Legal Services Act 2007 enabled alternative business structures, alternative routes to law, and increased the role of the non-lawyer in law firms.  80% of activity in law firms is unreserved, and can be performed by non-lawyers.  Parralegals and law librarians are increasingly involved in client-facing or business-related activities. Information is moving from print to digital, from purchase to license, and just-in-case to just-in-time.  Legal research is more than retrieval: it also includes interpretation and presentation.  Law students are not prepared for legal research in practice, but law firms should not expect trainees to be ‘practice ready’, professional education and training is a lifelong skill.

 Academic Group Forum

BI-ALLSIG is a closed special interest group for Academic Law Librarians.  The BIALL conference hosts the Academic Forum: an annual opportunity for academic law librarians to meet and discuss matters of collective interest.  The meeting was chaired by Angela Donaldson (at her last BIALL conference), and I was the unofficial secretary (taking the minutes).  Over 30 academic law librarians attended the meeting, from universities and law schools from the UK and overseas.

I asked if members would be interested in a symposium on supporting international exchange law students (there was some interest and I will follow up with an email to the group); and we also saw a presentation on an employability tutorial for law students (with a business intelligence focus) from Hannah Poore at the University of West England.  There was also a discussion on Westlaw and SFX, and more widely legal research databases and their integration with third party resources.  Something for BIALL’s Supplier Liaison Group to follow up on.

We at the University of Leicester are currently implementing a new library management system and resource discovery platform (Alma and Primo from Ex Libris).  I took the opportunity to speak to a few key suppliers about integrations with Primo, and was rather concerned at their lack of awareness of Primo as a ‘thing’, let alone how it might work with their products.  I am awaiting call-backs from their account managers.

Plenary Session 3: Infiltrate and Conquer

Emily Allbon, law librarian turned legal academic, and founder of Lawbore and Learnmore, delivered a session on collaboration entitled “Infiltrate and Conquer: Showing the World What Librarians Can Do”.  Emily is a passionate champion of collaboration, she showcased some of her work with students, academics, librarians, publishers, and encouraged us to make collaborations of our own.  She warned against the Echo Chamber problem: where libraries operate in a closed system, and encouraged us to make connections outside our libraries.  Emily has used technology to showcase her skills, and make people want to collaborate with her.  Inspirational stuff!

New and Overseas Delegates Welcome Event

BIALL BadgesOne of my responsibilities as a committee chair was to attend the new and overseas delegate welcome event which took place during the afternoon break.  I was surprised at how many people I knew, both from BIALL council and committees, and also the new delegates who were new to the conference, but not new to me.

I was also able to collect our committee member badges (an idea suggested to BIALL council by my committee), which were very lovely indeed and treasured by committee members!


Parrallel Session 2A: Law v Learning Styles

Chris Walker and Karen Crouch are former colleagues from the University of Law, so it was great to catch up with them, and the work they are doing in student study support.  This was also my first experience as the ‘official BIALL live tweeter’ (#BIALL2015 #2A).  They have used the VARK questionnaire to assess students’ learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Read/Write and Kinesthetic.  They argue that ‘law’ is a text-based subject, and favours students with read/write learning styles.  The session involved some fun audience participation, as we were asked to draw dots, and write instructions for tying shoelaces.  This demonstrated how difficult it is to write and follow instructions, and how easy it is to interpret instructions differently.  (Now substitute ‘instructions’ for ‘the law’).  Chris finished with a word of caution: the evidence on learning styles is mixed, and we should not be defined by learning styles.

BIALL’s First Night Reception: A Night at the Museum

Night at the Museum InvitationThe first formal social event was A Night at the Museum, held at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, and sponsored by ICLR (of The Law Reports) to celebrate their 150th anniversary.  A ‘walking bus’* of several hundred law librarians left the hotel, and walked along the sea front through The Lanes to the Pavillion Gardens.  An alternative to the hen and stag parties Brighton is so familiar with!

We were greeted with a gin and tonic (they know me too well), and set about exploring the museum by way of a quiz.  I was pleased to team up with Margaret from the Bodleian, whose classical education was much appreciated.  I made use of my own special education, and acquired us an extra gin and tonic from the friendly waiter.  The evening encouraged much collaboration (on quiz questions and answers) and cooperation (help holding food, drink and quiz sheets), and a great time was had by all.  I think many delegates will be making a return visit to the museum and gardens.

* The concept of a ‘walking-bus’ had to be explained to many overseas delegates!

Day 2: Friday 12 June

Plenary Session 4: The Monkey and the Camera

Emily Goodhand @copyrightgirl had the unenviable task of delivering 1.5 hours on copyright law!  The session opened with an introduction to the infamous case of The Monkey and the Camera.  A monkey takes a selfie, who owns the copyright? a) the monkey, b) the photographer, or c) there is no copyright.*  Emily tested our knowledge of copyright law, and it became very clear that we were in need of some education. She then went on to outline some of the recent changes to copyright law (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988), and their implications for librarians in higher education: s29a, Text and data analysis; s31a Disabled people; s36, For education; s42, Preservation copies, and s41-42 Copying by librarians.  The session was similar to a SCONUL copyright session I attended in February 2015 – but it did make more sense second time around, and time flew by as Emily rattled through the new law, answering many questions from the audience along the way.

* As things stand, there is no copyright.

Pepper v Hart 20th Anniversary Celebration

20th anniversary cakePepper v Hart is a legal research course run by BIALL’s Professional Development Committee in partnership with Lincoln’s Inn Library.  This year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the course, and invited Guy Holborn and Catherine McCardle, who are instrumental in the course’s success, to cut a birthday cake (it was also Guy Holborn’s birthday).

BIALL Cake AfterAs chair of the committee, it was my responsibility to give a short speech, orchestrate a ‘happy birthday’ sing-along, and serve the most enormous cream cake in the world (well Brighton)!  It was by far the most stressful part of my conference, and I have had many sleepless nights since about cutting cream cake. That said, the cake was delicious, and gone in seconds.

Plenary Session 5: The Library Without Walls

Sara Roberts session was the most powerful and inspirational of the conference.  Subtitled “Striving for an Excellent Law Library Service Post-Earthquakes” she recounted her experience at the University of Canterbury after Christchurch (New Zealand) was devastated by a series of 11,000 earthquakes from 4 September 2010 onwards.  Ostensibly, a tale of extreme ‘disaster recovery planning’, and accelerated ‘library change’.  Sara gave a very moving personal account of life during and after a major disaster: one that causes your library to close – and your family to be without water and electricity, and to use a long-drop for 6 months.  The disaster forced the University to reassess ‘what makes a law library’?  The law library was relocated into the main library, student numbers and the library budget reduced, printed library stock was reduced, and replaced by online resources.  These are changes familiar to law librarians across the world, but they were very acute changes in Christchurch, not gradual over years and decades as we have experienced.

BIALL Annual General Meeting and ‘Have Your Say’

BIALL’s AGM and Members Forum takes place at the annual conference.  As a committee chair, I had a few new responsibilities: preparing the committee annual report and budget, helping to check members into the room to ensure the quorum, and responding to any committee related questions during the forum. The AGM is a formal affair, with lots of proposers, seconders and voting.  You can vote with two hands if you are both a personal and institutional member!  We approved minutes, reports and a change in the constitution to remove the word ‘postal’ from our balloting procedures.  The Members Forum is more informal, and there was a question relevant to our committee (about 1 day conferences in the regions), so I also had to address the forum.

Parallel Session 3B: Techno Teach

We saved the best until last!  I delivered my first conference paper jointly with Lisa Anderson (University of Birmingham) on Sharing Good Practice in Legal Information Teaching.  Originally envisaged as a TeachMeet for law librarians, we showcased some of the technologies available to support legal research skills teaching, and focussed on the connectivity theme of the conference.  We covered voting systems (Turning Point, Participoll and Socrative); screen and lecture capture (Jing, Captivate, Camtasia and Panopto); social media (Twitter and Padlet); low tech alternatives (visualizer and magnetic paper); and things to consider before using technology (pedagogical purpose, size of audience, hardware, wifi connections, inclusivity, data protection).

Around 30 delegates attended the session – much more than we had anticipated (it was a sunny Friday afternoon by the seaside*, and we were up against parallel sessions from Oxford, Cambridge and Canada).  And the session went well – we had lots of questions and positive feedback afterwards, and over 180 people have viewed our slides online since.  This was a relief because 30 minutes before our session, the software we had requested was not installed on the presenter’s PC, and the wifi at the conference venue was (at best) flaky.  We designed the session to be interactive and student led – so the audience voted on the running order of the session, and had opportunities to discuss their experiences with each other.  All in all, a very good first experience as a presenter.

* We treated ourselves to an ice-cream on the beach afterwards!

BIALL President’s Reception, Annual Awards and Dinner

The final social event was the formal President’s Reception, Annual Awards and Dinner.  It should perhaps be renamed the BIALL Dine and Disco?!  It was held at the Hilton Brighton Metropole (conference venue), and sponsored by Lexis Library.  We were greeted with a Kir Royale, and then found a table in the main ballroom.  The first awards were presented (journal, supplier and law librarian of the year).  Alas, I did not win the coveted Wildy Law Librarian of the Year, but Anneli Sarkanen was a well deserved recipient.  The dinner and drinks were followed by the Lexis Library Awards (best commercial and non-commercial library services), and then the disco.  Law librarians love a disco.  None so more than BIALL’s PDC committee, who were all on the dance floor, and are now considering offering courses in ‘disco dancing for law librarians’!

BIALL Dinner

At midnight, I turn into a pumpkin, so  after a few hours of dancing I made my way back to my room.  Next year, the BIALL conference is in Dublin and I am already looking forward to it.

Pregnant Pause

It’s been over a year since my last blog post – I’ve been away on maternity leave.  I enjoyed a wonderful Spring and Summer with my older daughter and new baby boy, and then returned to work at the end of October.  I thought I would take some time to reflect on returning to work after maternity leave …

Being a full-time working parent is not new to me; but being a full-time working parent to two children is new, and while wonderful it is also damn hard work!  I was only able to take 6 months maternity leave this time, and it has been a wrench leaving my baby, who is still breastfed.  I am fortunate that my university has a nursery on-campus, and my baby is just a few minutes walk away, which has given me great peace of mind.  The nursery staff are fabulous, and my baby has settled in well, although he has caught every germ in the nursery (as to be expected).

I had a phased return to work – just 3 days per week for the first month, to ease my baby into nursery, and me back into work.  While this worked well for my baby, it worked less well for me, as I found myself with a full-time workload and part-time hours.  I was fortunate that my return to full-time hours began in December, which is one of the more gentle times of the academic year, and I was able to catch-up.

When you are on maternity leave, you worry about your maternity cover: are they doing your job properly, and (crucially) are they doing your job better than you?  I was fortunate to have an excellent maternity cover – one of the assistants in my team stepped up to the role.  She did a great job (she made some great legal research videos), but I think that she was pleased to see me return.  On my first day back, a student came in with an obscure question about south african law reports, and the relief on her face was obvious to all.

I was only away for 6 months, but there were a lot of changes in that time.  There is a new assistant in our team (she started a week or two before I went on premature maternity leave), yet I feel like the new girl.  There is a new acquisitions manager, who has implemented lots of new policies, procedures and systems, which seem to change on a almost daily basis.  And we have a new library search engine – which appears (at least to me) to be much worse than the old library search engine.  Yet at the same time, there is a lot that is familiar: the office door is always locked at 8.45 when my colleague arrives at work, and the team still meet for coffee in the library cafe at 10.30 precisely!  I was also pleasantly surprised to find that Lexis Library and Westlaw had not rebranded and changed their database!

The media is full of stories about full-time working parents, and full-time working mothers in particular, and opinion is polarised.  My university has all the proper family friendly policies and procedures: we have good maternity, parental leave and care for dependents policies, but I don’t always feel supported.  However, I have struggled more with family, health and education services that are not working parent friendly, and entirely inflexible when it comes to making appointments that are not in the middle of the working day.

I hate to admit that I ‘clock watch’ in the afternoon, and I have a recurring daily appointment on my work calendar than simply says ‘go home’!  It’s not because I’m a bad employee, or less committed than my colleagues; but because I have to leave work on time, or face the consequences of not collecting my children from their childcare (upset children, late fees and social services).  I may leave the office at 4 o’clock, but I don’t sit down at home until 9 o’clock, by which time it’s almost time for bed.  I am entirely left out of office conversations about last night’s telly, and going out for drinks after work is unthinkable!

I’ve been really busy since the new year: I’ve been on a couple of training courses, I’ve restarted my teaching course, I’m working on a project to review official publications, and I’ve been accepted to speak at the BIALL conference in the Summer.  I’ve also been out of the office a lot: away on training courses, visiting other libraries, on holiday for school half-term, and on holiday to care for my poorly baby.  I’ve found it really hard to keep on top of my workload, and need more support and flexible working options.

I have considered making a formal request for flexible working, but I’m undecided on what ‘flexible’ should be (let alone if my employer would agree).  I have two children at very different ages and stages, and what would suit us now, would not work in a few years time.  For the time being it is ‘watchful waiting’ – a lot can happen in 6 months, let alone 3 years …

Speed referencing

I first heard about speed referencing at the HEA Teaching Research Skills to Law Students workshop earlier this month.  It’s a format for an activity in a referencing workshop – think speed dating meets OSCOLA.  I decided to give it a go in my Referencing for Law workshop earlier this week.  The workshop started with a traditional introduction to OSCOLA referencing, and the speed referencing activity followed thereafter.

I created 10 referencing exercises – a book, book chapter, journal article, website, UK Act, UK SI, UK case, EU legislation and EU case.  A copy of the title page or key information for each item was placed on a table.  The students were given a blank worksheet and a copy of the OSCOLA quick guide.  They had 90 seconds to reference an item, and then move on to exercise at the next table.  The speed referencing activity took about 20 minutes altogether – allowing some time between exercises.  At the end of the activity, the students were given a copy of the answers, time to review their results, and to ask questions and receive feedback.

The speed referencing went surprisingly well.  The students said they enjoyed the practice.  The time constraint made them realise that they could reference legal materials quickly, and that referencing did not have to take forever.  Eleven students attended the workshop, so it was a fortunate match of numbers – number of students to number of exercises.  The students preferred to stay in their seats around the tables and move the exercises around.  This worked well with the number of students, but did detract from the ‘active’ part of the activity.  I wonder if students are conditioned to learn while sitting still?  It’s certainly not the case for my 5 year old daughter – who appears to learn whilst maintaining a constant state of (com)motion!  

I will definitely give speed referencing another go – I am scheduled to teach referencing again to LLM students as part of their dissertation preparation training.  I think it’s a fun way to liven up an otherwise dull workshop!

HEA Teaching Research Skills to Law Students (5 February 2014)

I attended and presented at the HEA workshop on Teaching Research Skills to Law Students at the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies in London. The event was attended by both librarians and academics, and was so popular even the reserve list was full.  Not even the TUBE strike prevented a full house!

Recent developments in legal information literacy by Ruth Bird, Bodleian Law Librarian, University of Oxford

Ruth set the scene for the day, outlining the information skills gap of new university students, and some of the key information literacy standards, and developments in legal education.

Rosemary Auchmuty (University of Reading) made some interesting observations on legal information literacy, including:- the focus on preparing students for careers as lawyers, not as legal academics or into non-law professions (only 50% of law students follow a career in law); and different interpretations of key information literacy skills by academics and librarians, with librarians focusing on information retrieval, and academics on the use of information.

Personally, I think the AALL legal information literacy standard is better suited to developing transferable research skills regardless of the students final destination.

What research skills do our students need? a brainstorming session in small groups

I worked with Caroline Ball (University of Derby), Suzanne White (Coventry University) and Chris Umfreville (University of Wolverhampton).

  • Transferable research skills for students going into non-law professions
  • Understanding the research question and defining the scope of research
  • Practical application of black letter law to the research question
  • Developing advanced skills for LLM students: from spoon feeding to independent research

Case Study 1: University of Reading by Rosemary Auchmuty and Ross Connell

Research skills are embedded into the whole curriculum, and learnt in the context of substantive subjects, rather than front-loaded and taught in isolation in a legal research skills module.  Gave example of embedding legal research skills in a second year land law module (level 5).  Academic and librarian design, deliver and assess legal research skills together.  Reading have fewer contact teaching hours than many other institutions, and so make use of a variety of teaching methods including self-study workbook and online tutorials.  Assessment is in the form of a poster (group work, presentation and research skills), and a multiple-choice quiz on Blackboard.

Case Study 2: University of Greenwich by Sarah Crofts

Again, legal research skills are embedded into the whole curriculum, and learnt in the context of substantive subjects.  Library teaching sessions are embedded across the curriculum.  Librarian writes some of the assessments, but does not mark them.  Gave example of second year (level 5) assessment, where students have to research a topic and write an essay on a student they have not been taught.  Essay question is selected to be current, so that it can not be answered by textbooks, and students have to use primary resources and journal literature.

Case Study 3: University of Leicester by Eugenia Caracciolo, Jackie Hanes, Dawn Watkins, and Loveday Hodson

Our presentation was entitled The Invisible Librarian, and it discussed the challenge of teaching legal research skills to 450+ undergraduate law students with limited resources.  We teach legal research skills in the first year Introduction to Law module (level 4), and they are not embedded into the curriculum thereafter.  My contribution to this teaching is a single 1 hour library induction and legal research skills lecture.  Not an effective method of teaching legal information literacy skills!  I outlined plans to introduce longer practical sessions, for the teaching materials:- to be written by me, but delivered by academics in exisiting tutorial sessions.  I also outlined plans to develop online tutorials, pre-record the library lecture, and perhaps develop an elearning module for legal research.  Dawn Watkins introduced an innovative way of studying case law:- a creative writing exercise based around a real case (true liberal arts education!).  And Loveday Hodson discussed the problems of assessing legal research skills, in terms of both divising an appropriate assessment, and having the resources to mark the assessment.

Case Study 4: City University by Emily Albon

Emily is a law librarian plus – she is also responsible for the Law Bore website, and mooting and careers events at City University.  Emily runs the first year (level 4) legal research module.  Students attend a two hour lecture and a two hour workshop. (Emily repeats the workshop 10+ times to accomodate the 300+ students).  Students are assessed using an online legal research quiz in Blackboard – although Emily marks the assessments manually, because marks are also awarded for method.  Emily has some very good teaching ideas, including using everyday objects (e.g. toy car or shoe) to develop key words, and using ipads and other mobile devices in the workshops (because IT classrooms are not large enough).

Case Study 5: University of Salford by Nicola Sales

Nicola outlined how she has used flipped classroom methods to teach legal research.  Nicola presented a similar session at the BIALL Conference (2013), which is also written up in an article in Legal Information Management.  Legal research skills are taught in a first year (level 4) english legal system module.  In flipped classroom teaching, students undertake preparatory learning in advance of the class (e.g. online lectures and tutorials).  The contact teaching time is then spent in practical workshops (not lectures), and students are able to practice their legal research skills.  Students are assessed by a combination of quiz in Blackboard, and a research trail and bibliography.  They must also complete both Lexis Library and Westlaw user certificates.  I was particular keen on Nicola’s idea of speed referencing (think speed dating but with OSCOLA), and I intend to try this teaching method out later this month.

Case Study 6: Keele University by Fiona Cownie and Scott McGowan

Fiona has introduced a legal research skills module at three universities, and has published many well regarded books on the english legal system and legal skills.  Again legal research skills are taught in a first year (level 4) module, and include a mixture of lecture, self-directed study, and workshops.  Students are assessed by completed an essay on a topic that they have no previously studied.  Like me, Scott is not just a law librarian, and he supports a number of other departments, and his time is limited.  He cited use of mixed media and availability of a wide range of support materials as key to teaching legal research successfully.

What is best practice?

It is most common for legal research skills to be taught in a stand alone module in the first year, in isolation from substantive subjects.  There is a risk that students do not practice their legal research skills, and that they may not be assessed again.  (Law students are generally assessed by 100% unseen examination for their substantive subjects).  It is better practice for legal research skills teaching to be embedded into the curriculum, and taught and tested in across the 3 or 4 years of study.  However, this requires cooperation across the law school.  There was general agreement that academics and librarians need to work together to improve legal research skills teaching.  This is something that is alredy happening at the University of Leicester – but that may take a few years to achieve.

2nd Teaching Observation

I completed my second and final teaching observation in mid October.  I was observed delivering a library and legal research induction lecture to 450+ first year undergraduate law students by my Pg Cert tutor.  I am a guest lecturer on the Introduction to Law module, and so have some claim to being embedded in the curriculum.  While I am very confident with my subject matter; I am less comfortable with lectures as an effective method for teaching information literacy skills.  However, it is not currently practical to deliver the session in 10 x 2 hour small (50 student) group seminars.

The lecture theatre was full, and the students a little rowdy – it was a Friday afternoon, and I suspect many were either going to or coming from the pub!  I had to make use of all my classroom management skills to take control of the lecture theatre and manage the students behaviour.  At times, I had to interrupt myself to ask for quiet in the lecture theatre, which did disrupt my flow.  I also suffered the indignity of my mouse falling off the lectern, and having to put it back together, while remaining composed!  However, I was pleased when my observer commented that I managed the difficult situations well, and the disruption did not show in my lecture.

The first half of my lecture followed a standard library induction script. This is new for 2013/14, and is delivered by all liaison librarians at the university.  The focus of the script is to provide general information about the library, and how the library can support students in higher education, rather than the detail about opening hours and borrowing rules.  This included a live demonstration of a new interactive library map in Prezi format.  I have had varied success with this, because the Prezi refuses to display in selected teaching rooms, but I was pleased that it worked in the large lecture theatre!  My observer commented that I used different media formats well in my presentation.

The second half of my lecture enables me to deliver subject specific information.  For example, finding books, journal articles, cases and legislation on a reading list.  I was able to use real examples from their curriculum, which hopefully made the demonstration more immediately relevant to the students.  I was also able to talk to students about the research they would need to complete for their forthcoming workshops and assignments.  I then demonstrated Westlaw and Lexis Library, two of the key legal research databases.  In a 1 hour lecture, there is not time to teach students how to use these databases, but I was able to show them how to access online training tutorials, and obtain certificates in database research skills.

In an ideal world, I would like to have a follow-up session with students in IT classrooms. I do this with other departments, for example criminology, and it is an effective way of assessing student learning, and providing feedback on any problems encountered. I have been surprised at the number of students who can not distinguish books from journal articles, let alone find them in a library. However, the size of the law cohort makes small group sessions like this impractical at the moment. I have since been invited to attend and present at a HEA workshop on Teaching Legal Research Skills with academics from the School of Law. I am keen to get involved, and find more effective ways to deliver legal research training, perhaps with the aid of technology.

BIALL Conference 2013 (Glasgow)

I attended the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) annual study conference held on 13-15 June 2013 at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow.  The theme of this year’s conference was “The Business of Law”, including “Business for Managers” on the final day.  The BIALL conference is the annual gathering of law librarians from all sectors across the UK, Ireland and beyond.

The conference began with a game of ‘spot the law librarian’ at Glasgow’s airports, train stations and hotel receptions on Wednesday afternoon.  I attended Justis Publishing’s legendary pre-conference social event on Wednesday evening.  This year’s theme was “100 Years of Bollywood”, and it was held at the Kama Sutra restaurant on Sauchiehall Street.  The dinner, drinks and entertainment (our unique take on bollywood dancing and gangnam style) were fabulous – photographic evidence is available.


The conference was formally opened by James Mullan (BIALL President) on Thursday morning.  We were asked to remember Sarah Spells, whose young life was tragically cut short in September 2012.

The Keynote Lecture was given by Prof Hector MacQueen of the Scottish Law Commission.  Entitled “Invincible or just a flesh wound? The Holy Grail of Scots law”, Prof. MacQueen presented his thoughts on the challenges and future of the Scottish legal system, with a little help from Monty Python.  Recurring issues included the Scottish civil courts and role of Supreme Court; the choice between English and Scots law and litigation, and the outcome of the Scottish Referendum in 2014.

The second Plenary Lecture was given by Carol Tullo of The National Archives.  Entitled “ – Essential for the law business”, Carol outlined the history, development, challenges and current status of the legislation database.  Carol acknowledged the importance of providing up-to-date legislation, and outlined their innovative use of Expert Participation to update resources, with a view to completion by 2015.

I also attended the Academic Group Forum, and was able to raise the problems experiences with Talis Aspire.  Many others shared similar frustration, and we were urged to contact both law publishers and Talis Aspire to complain.  Also discussed, was the perennial matter of parallel purchasing of print and electronic resources.  I was surprised at how much love remained for our print resources …

At the end of the first day, I attended my first BIALL SCOSAF (Standing Committee for Finance and Strategy) meeting.  As incoming Chair of BIALL’s Professional Development Committee, I was introduced to the BIALL Council and other Committee Chairs, and had my photograph taken for the BIALL website.  I also discovered that my former colleague Marianne Barber would be BIALL’s new President Elect, becoming BIALL President in 2014.

On the second day, Nicola Sales of University of Salford delivered my highlight of the conference.  Entitled “Flipping the Classroom: Revolutionising Legal Research Training”, Nicola recounted her experience of implementing Flipped Classroom teaching methods with undergraduate law students.  In the Flipped Classroom, students complete online (instructional) tutorials in advance of their teaching session, and then use the teaching session to complete higher level learning activities with support from their teacher.  If a librarian were to implement the Flipped Classroom, they would need to be fully embedded into their curriculum, and I am (unfortunately) not yet at that stage.  However, Nicola certainly presented some interesting ideas, from which I can borrow and experiment.

Another useful second day session, was Tony Simmonds of the University of Nottingham on open access publishing.  Entitled “Green Shoots? Golden Opportunities? The Story of Open Access at a Leading UK Law School”, Tony gave a clear summary of the history and current state of open access publishing from the perspective of legal academics.  An ornithologist’s delight, Tony discussed the impact of the Finch Report 2012, and the Green (institutional repository) and Gold (article processing charges) routes to open access publishing, and the challenges faced in his everyday work.  The University of Nottingham is the home of the SHERPA Romeo (journal publisher requirements) and Juliet (research council funding requirements) open access publishing databases.  Since this session, several academic law librarians have formed an informal working group to consider open access publishing issues in law.   See Presocraticatomist for a full report.

The BIALL conference dinners never disappoint.  The First Night Dinner was held at the Hilton Hotel and sponsored by LexisNexis.  We were welcomed with a cocktail of scotch whiskey, raspberry juice and lemonade – which I could quite happily have drunk all night long!  I was pleased to see my former colleagues at the University of Law win the award for Best Legal Information Services (Commercial Sector) – London Only.  It should’ve been me!  A special award was also given to Catherine McArdle of Lincolns Inn for attending 25 consecutive years of BIALL conferences.


The President’s Reception was held at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and sponsored by Thomson Reuters.  The venue was magnificent, and I would’ve loved more time to view the exhibits.  Ruth Bird of the Bodelian Law Library won a lifetime membership of BIALL, and Catherine McArdle of Lincolns Inn won Wildy BIALL Law Librarian of the Year, her second gong of the conference.  After the formalities, we were treated to entertainment from traditional Scots drummers and pipers.


The closing day of the conference was dedicated to Business for Managers.  Sarah Fahy of Allen & Overy’s presented “Nailing that Business Case – success and failure”, and Stephen Phillips of Morgan Stanley presented “Defining Value: Rethinking Your Position”.  The recurrent themes from both sessions were alignment to organisational strategy, and measuring the value of your library service.  Stephen also advised us to use more KISSES with our senior managers: Keep It Simple, Smart And Especially Short!