That was the title of the presentation Brenda and I did at the Ontario Library Association’s 2014 Superconference. Dana Schwarz, of the Ontario Association of Library Technicians kindly invited us to appear way back in June 2013 (they really plan a long time in advance!). At the time, Brenda was still living in Toronto and working at McMillan LLP, but by the time the conference came around she had moved to rural Saskatchewan! However, thanks to technology, we co-ordinated our work, although we didn’t actually practice together until arriving in Toronto the day before the conference.

This conference is aimed at public library and school library staff, so we based our presentation on providing information for those wishing to transition to a law library. We outlined the skills needed, the opportunities available, and described some of the situations we’ve run in to personally. I’ve attached the paper we wrote, which gives all the facts (but has none of the personality) of our talk.

What I liked most about doing this was how comfortable it was. When you know your topic as intimately as I do this one, it’s very easy to do. It was like having a conversation with some friends, talking about my job, with no interruptions ;)

I’ll be appearing at another conference later this spring, the Manitoba Libraries Conference. I’m on a panel with several other library technicians talking about “what you can do with a library technician diploma”. Eventually, I’m going to have to learn to talk about something else!

~ Karen

Hidden World of Law Libraries – Paper


It is predicted that by 2015, the supply of colour film for movies will be depleted. For a lot of people this won’t be a game changer as digital photography and movies have been with us for awhile. As late as 2009 I was still using a film camera. For the average person, digital photographs trump the “analog” film. But does it really?

I asked myself this as I was organizing some photographs of family members. I can see 8 year old Olivia progress from baby to skinny girl, but her younger brother Jimmy only exists as pixels within a digital frame. Photographer Robert Burley has mused on the death of film in his book, “The Disappearance of Darkness: Photography at the End of the Analog Era.” I am old enough to recall collections and scrapbooks of the physical object of pictures, and Burley said that they “age along with us.” By going digital and storing pictures in the cloud we gained convenience and permanent storage, but we lost artifacts. We also no longer trust photographs as a true representation of reality, as manipulating digital images is considered common place. The pervasiveness of digital photograph has served to also undermine our connection to them. They are no longer special, when anyone can snap selfies. It is great that the technical capacity exists for anyone to be an Ansel Adams. But eons from now, I wonder how archivists will theorize the place of print photographs in media. They might be considered the Egyptian scrolls of our time.

Something to think about as I go off to print off some pictures for Great Aunt, who still believes in the object of photographs.

- Brenda

Inspired by book on film photography’s demise

Long but worthwhile on near death  of 35 mm film


Ah, the end of the year, and it’s time to nominate my favourite law blogs for a Clawbie. But before I do, a few musings on the writing form of blogging. Has it become passé? I know I have posted much less this year than normal years, fearing I have nothing left to say. And yet others, like Erik Magraken, continue to put out worthwhile content including adding new media like video.

Well, I still read blogs even if I don’t write. What’s recently come to my attention is Marie Grace Cannon’s blog. While not specifically legal, it is described as “a personal blog by a new professional in the legal library and information world”. It’s also based in the U.K., so when she blogs about conferences, such as the BIALL conference, I get a perspective and information I wouldn’t get here.

Another one of my favourites, and a runner-up last year, is On Firmer Ground, a collaboration of authors from a global cornucopia of law library associations. Every post leaves me thinking either “I should do that too”, or “that’s really valuable to know”.

While not a blog per se (ooh, I just had to throw in a legal term), I’d also like to nominate Eugene Meehan’s Supreme Advocacy e-Newsletter. I look forward to receiving this every Thursday. With superb commentary on the latest SCC decisions (with the occasional Eugene witticism thrown in to make sure we’re really reading it all) and the folksy charm of “The Last Word”, it makes for a “must-read” Thursday morning.

This has to be the first time I’ve actually got this out on time. Usually I see the announcement for nominations, think “I’ve got to write something about that”, and then wait until the day after nominations close to get mine in. Well, it’s never too late to change! Thanks to all those who continue to write content that I am happy to read, and keep me up to date on the latest legal information.

~ Karen


I am a digital teenager of sorts. I have had too many email accounts and remember Netscape. So John Gregory’s summary of Internet Voting Revisited resonated with me on a few levels. My knee jerk reaction was internet is good and democracy is good, so combine both and I am supporting internet voting right? Not so easy as I delved into it. Voting is an an anonymous transaction at one level after validating one’s identity. It is a different transaction than buying something as e-commerce transaction. This article highlights some internet voting issues. Also there have been some Canadian municipalities experimenting with internet voting with mixed results. Dean Smith of an electronic voting system company said flatly that he expected 5% voter turnout for an election. That is hardly an encouraging number given the cost and resources put into such a project. Maybe in the future there will be technological breakthroughs that will make internet voting a reality.

- Brenda


A few weeks ago I was thinking about how professional associations can boost their membership. Admittedly there is a natural attrition rate, and people also have higher expectations wanting their associations to demonstrate value. Thought leader Gwynne Monahan said that often times the associations engage in push marketing with members as the group pushes out information but does not truly engage with their members. All this fed into my own exploration of social media as communications channels for organizations. If your group is not on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, why not? People across all ages and demographics expect a social presence now. By staying on the sidelines, the conversations are happening without XYZ company and it might hurt the bottom line, stir up and spread misinformation, or make recruiting staff a more difficult task.

Getting back to professional associations, I join them for their networking and educational opportunities to keep me informed in my industry. For starters, organizers with associations can mine Melissa Harrison’s post on “The state of social media in associations and what to do about it”  for some ways to revitalize a group with social media. Networking is probably a top reason for members joining so groups need to ramp up their efforts. It can be as easy as recognizing and congratulating members on work well done. Also if the group is already involved in good causes in the greater community, then publicizing those service projects as a way to promote good causes as well as build membership cohesion.

Now more than ever the world is shrinking, but at the same time people need to feel a sense of engaging in a community, or a conversation on what their peers are doing. Thanks to Gwynne Monahan @econwriter5 and @ABABarServices for the inspiration.

- Brenda


Admittedly public legal education is a unknown territory for me as I worked in a law firm library. But being an information person, all areas that touch upon law interest me. Lois Gander of  the Centre for Public Legal Education in Alberta describes it as:

Deeply rooted in the access to justice movement in Canada, public legal education plays a critical role in ensuring that our laws and legal processes serve the needs of everyone, not just a privileged few.

There is both an advocacy role for marginalized groups, as well as the aspect of dissemination of information to the lay person in order to navigate the legal system. The law affects us from birth to death, and hopefully you and I will always be on the right side of it. When I was born, my birth was registered with provincial Vital Statistics department as per the law. Then my parents got a birth certificate. But my mom does not have such a document as she was born in a different country with different laws. And there are many other mundane examples from there.

A shout out to Shaunna Mireau for connecting with the Centre for Public Legal Education in Alberta, and there is a current job posting for the Executive Director. In Saskatchewan, there are some general resources and teaching resources for elementary and high school students.

Just recently I talked about different landlord tenant situation in different provinces casually with a friend. My sense is that this is a huge and growing area as people come into conflict or just need help navigating the system. As an optimist, I wish the new Director in Alberta the best of luck. New beginnings are an exciting adventure.

- Brenda


Some time ago I read this article, “How Reframing a Problem Unlocks Innovation“, an adapted excerpt written by Tina Seelig from her book, InGenius  (HarperOne). I was struck by how relevant it was to libraries, and well, everything.

I’m always looking at ways to “reframe a problem”. I like the way she phrases that

Mastering the ability to reframe problems is an important tool for increasing your imagination.

I tend to think that I have no imagination, but it’s lurking there, underneath my fear of failure. Thinking of  situations from the point of view of the other person is invaluable in getting to a solution. Getting outside your comfort zone is another way to achieve this.

One of the first steps in creating a marketing plan is to think about who you are trying to reach. What type of language do you want to use, what form of media? All of these depend on who your target market is. Working in a law library my clients are intelligent, but time challenged. They want to know right off the bat how something is going to help them do their work more efficiently. My job is to help them reframe from thinking that training is a waste of time into thinking that if they spend a half hour now, they’ll save a half hour every day.

How are you reframing the problem in your life or work?

- Karen



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