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.


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!