Final Thoughts

Last weekend I overheard two library employees chatting.  One confided in the other that a difficult patron treated her “like an angry black woman” for not putting up with the patron’s attempts to goad her.  Before I proceed, I have no idea what took place between the employee and the patron.  I only caught a snippet of the conversation and I was so surprised to hear it that I perhaps rudely and unthinkingly entered the conversation by asking who made her feel that way.  I guess the impulse was that of one woman relating to another and/or future information professional seeking to learn from a current information professional.  Her demeanor changed and she told me not to worry about it and that everything was okay.  I felt embarrassed that I may have made her more uncomfortable and I will never know exactly what transpired.  What I do know is that library employees are subjected to a lot.  I’m not even sure how to further qualify “a lot,” but I get the general sense that for all the hope, idealism, professionalism, and kindness we attribute to library staff, they are also tired and frustrated.  Some of them wear it.  Heck, I don’t even work at a library and I’m tired, frustrated, and it occasionally shows.  Gill Corkindale writes of the importance of kindness at work.  Regardless of whether we are in a public facing role, we will likely interact with a great number of people and underneath our professional veneer, we will struggle with snap decisions and how to interpret certain requests.  I’m sure it happens to patrons too.  I’m a patron and it’s still hard for me to ask for help.  Corkingdale implores us to treat our jobs and colleagues with empathy.  We can’t know the unknown, but we can certainly appreciate the vastness of human experience.  We as information professionals, students, and patrons, will experience all manner of triumph and failure.  I think two of the best lessons we can take away from our time in this course and the program are those of temperance and innovation.

I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom.  I’m truly excited by the possibilities.  The fact that there is a job title called “knowledge manager” is enough to keep me striving forward.  There’s a hell of a lot of knowledge to manage! But here’s a reality that hovers in the back of my mind.  I have friends who attended library school who did not obtain their dream jobs in public libraries or elsewhere.  That’s not a failure.  Just a different outcome, perhaps temporary.  Nearly all of them are on amazing paths, regardless.  Another big caveat.  This is my personal reflection based on personal experiences, particularly approaching the profession as a second career.  Maybe it’s stifling to advise others to temper their expectations.  However, many of the readings in this course focus on doing a lot with a little.  We rightly celebrate the implementation of new technologies, the expansion of buildings, the changing of attitudes.  But we can also celebrate the small things too–the successful compromises, the new hand dryer in the washroom, the introverted teen patron who asked for help.  Lastly, we can acknowledge that stuff happens. Hope for the best, expect (or at least don’t be surprised by) the worst.  Which brings me to innovation.

Stock photos of librarians can tell us a lot about the public’s perception of the profession.  Bespectacled.  Varying degrees of shooshing.  Women.

Image by Lisa F. Young via

Image by Dmitry Shironosov via

Image by Stephen Coburn via

The point I’m trying to make is that there’s a very entrenched perception of the profession.  We know better though.  We know that information professionals are MacGyvers, teachers, plumbers, experts, puppeteers, parking validators, or just about anything else their patrons need them to be.  We are everything or can be what we need to be in a pinch because we’ve learned to do a lot with a little and to rejigger as needed.  I felt like the whole of INFO 204 was an exercise in “what to do when your strategic plan ≠ reality.”  Also, no disrespect to INFO 204.  That’s a hugely important lesson.  As for INFO 287-10, it’s tougher to sum things up but I think Michael leaves us with some sage advice in his article and its title, “Always Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.”

It’s been an absolute pleasure taking this course and getting to know all of you.  Best of luck in summer or fall or whatever’s next!  If you happen to be in the Los Angeles area, drop me a line if you’re interested in taking my tour of Central Library.


Corkindale, G. (2011). The importance of kindness at work. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2014). Always doesn’t live here anymore. Retrieved from


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Virtual Symposium

My presentation can be viewed as a slideshow here or as an image below.  I’ve really enjoyed working alongside all of you.  This course has completely exceeded my expectations and I hope to incorporate some of our learnings into my own personal and professional practices.  Best of luck everyone!

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Director’s Brief: Privacy Toolkit

How do we as digital citizens maintain an active online presence without severely compromising our right to privacy?  What does our right to privacy actually guarantee?  There are no simple answers to these questions however, my proposed library privacy toolkit seeks to tackle those questions at both the institutional and service levels. Libraries deal in information.  At the simplest, ensuring some degree of digital privacy is an effort in safeguarding freedom of information–to seek information without fear of reprisal or consequence.  This ranges from the innocuous but irksome user data collection resulting in targeted ads to more serious and complex issues of freedom of expression.  This toolkit offers some general suggestions and tools to get library staff and patrons in the habit of assessing and owning their digital footprint.  One of my favorite aspects of the toolkit are the Chrome extensions that will be installed on all public workstations.  These include a service called “Terms of Service; Didn’t Read.”  When a user unthinkingly clicks through Terms of Service (ToS), she may in fact be sacrificing her privacy.  By way of example, I recently submitted a review of cat food to Amazon.  Spoiler alert, they don’t like it.  Simply out of curiosity, I ran a ToSDR search and received the following information:

Bummer.  But with a quick click, I have a highly compact and readable version of the ToS that I would not have read otherwise.  The idea behind this toolkit is to keep library staff and patrons aware, but not unduly burden them with privacy concerns.  Rather, this toolkit is intended to empower individuals to make informed decisions about their privacy, taking into account that privacy is not always black or white.  In this instance, someone may have something to gain from knowing that my cats hate their new food, even if that costs me another month of embarrassing, targeted cat product ads.

Please see my  Director’s Brief for additional details.  Perhaps it inspires you to incorporate some of these tools into your own routine!


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Libraries: Multimodal Learning

I recently read an article in the Los Angeles Times about the UC Berkeley library remodel and similar efforts to modernize academic libraries by weeding collections and reallocating space to make room for social and collaborative spaces.  Many of the Module 11 (Infinite Learning) readings cover this very topic, in addition to issues of digital literacy, the digital divide, and lifelong learning.  For purposes of this blog, I’d like to focus on an issue raised in the Los Angeles Times article.  A petition was circulated by UC Santa Cruz faculty in response to similar efforts to modernize that library, a plan which called for significant weeding of the print collection.  The quotation below speaks to the concerns expressed by many who signed that petition.

Richard Montgomery, a UC Santa Cruz math professor, said online access or interlibrary loans are fine for those who know exactly what they need. What’s gone is the ability to browse for ideas.

I have a few thoughts on this.  First, let’s consider the notion of browsing.  As many of our readings suggest, major innovations are occurring in libraries of every kind promoting creativity and self-exploration while also familiarizing learners with current and emerging technologies.  Monticello High School in Charlottesville, Virginia is a prime example, boasting a Makerspace, 3-D printer, and music authoring software (Vangelova, 2014).  Likewise, Chicago Public Library’s Harold Washington Library Center is heeding the call to combine and integrate technology, contemporary pedagogical practice, and Maker culture in its YOUMedia learning space.  Though I agree with Richard Montgomery on some level, particularly because I myself recall wandering my high school’s library and coming across topics and literature that would later influence my academic and personal interests, I feel his sentiments fail to take into account the myriad ways browsing and discovery can occur.  Just think of the terms “Internet rabbit hole” or “inspiration board.”  What is the Internet if not a place to browse?  And what is the future of libraries if browsing is limited to books?  Browsing is an integral aspect of lifelong learning and in fact, many libraries support incidental or informal learning in the form of maker-oriented programming and spaces as well as flexible design that enables reconfiguration as opposed to the rigid use of space and rules.

Montgomery also mentions “those who know exactly what they need.”  That’s also a tricky statement.  True, some people do know exactly what they need.  But let’s consider individuals such as Christine, the student profiled in the article The Library as a Gateway to 21st Century Skills.  In that article, Christine was empowered to further her education after taking a digital skills course offered through Chicago Public Library’s Learning Circles.  In this case, Christine sought information on a particular subject but was still drawn to another incidentally.  Let me reiterate that there is a great need for library programming and tools that provide assistance with basic pillars of learning such as literacy. However, current trends seem to indicate that the library’s role in education is multifaceted.

In the case of my local public library, the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL), the library is partnering with Gale/Cengage to offer a free high school diploma course for adult learners who never completed high school.  Interestingly, in the course of researching this topic, I discovered that LAPL offers a variety of educational opportunities that I was not previously aware of.   Circling back to my previous point, a successful and forward thinking library must not simply fill the gaps in education as LAPL does, the library must provide a comprehensive education.  That is not to say that it must act as a school in the strict sense, but it should provide several levels of educational opportunities, including supplemental learning, foundational learning, and open-ended incidental learning such as Oak Park Public Library’s Idea Box, that seeks to “surprise and delight” but does so in the form of an open-ended ever evolving learning environment (Greenwalt, 2013).  Michael refers to “learning everywhere” in his lecture, and it is the job of the library to facilitate that as a “platform to share and network imaginations.”


Digital Promise. (2016). The library as a gateway to 21st century skills. Retrieved from

Greenwalt, R. T. (2013). Embracing the long game. Retrieved from

Los Angeles Public Library. (2017). Career online high school. Retrieved from

Los Angeles Public Library. (2017). Http:// Retrieved from

Vangelova, L. (2014). What does the next-generation school library look like? Retrieved from

Watanabe, T. (2017, April 19, 2017). Universities redesign libraries for the 21st century: Fewer books, more space. Los Angeles Times

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Fear and Loathing in the Mobile Learning Environment

I am writing on the topic of mobile learning environments as I enjoy a belated spring break.  To the left is a photo of my current situation in lovely Palm Springs, CA.  It’s been awhile since I’ve taken any time off from work but when I do, I wrestle with the notion of disconnecting.  On the one hand, I feel the need to truly take a break from the day to day, which includes compulsively checking in at work via mobile e-mail and calendars.  It’s easy to say “well don’t.”  That’s the advice I’d give anyone in my situation.  Yet I can’t resist.  I feel it’s easier and indeed more relaxing to keep myself apprised professionally, socially, and globally.  It causes me anxiety to think that I’m returning to some unknown.  In this way, I comprise the frequently cited statistics concerning millennials and their use of mobile devices: I wake and check my phone almost immediately.  I monitor my mobile nearly constantly throughout the day.  I check it in the time between brushing my teeth at night and falling asleep (Deloitte, 2016).  I check so often in fact that I probably consume all updates in real time.  Though excessive, my behavior is probably not unlike many.

I am of two minds on the subject of constant mobile connectivity.  I feel like a baffled, fist shaking senior, deliberate in eschewing advancements in mobile technology.  It overwhelms me at times and sometimes I wish I could just take a pause and skip the iOS updates, proceed without downloading the app, and go a day without authorizing a download with my index finger.  I understand why some Luddites are that.  In their mind, and also mine, exist fears about privacy, “me time,” the erosion of a former, simpler way of life.  But to my other mind, and to all other children who have ever sighed in consternation at the prospect of an obstinate parent who refuses or seems incapable of remembering their Apple ID, this is a necessary and innate life skill.  I wasn’t born into this but it was introduced so gradually and seamlessly that I couldn’t identify a tipping point when the mobile device became an extension of myself.

These are two realities in my life.  The desperate dependence upon and vague fears of the effects of constant mobile connectivity.  There is a third, more optimistic reality that I will address later in this post.  My initial response to Matt Enis’ article on Beacon technology (2014) was the same as Richard W. Loomis, Jr. interviewed for that article.  “It needs to be an opt-in service…It can’t be something where [the beacon notifications are] more spam, more garbage coming at someone.”  That statement almost perfectly encapsulates the dichotomy of fear of information overload versus the desire to acquire additional information.

I feel that mobile information is best when augmented by sorting aids or when mobile services assist with making judgments regarding the quality of information rather than simply acting as a platform for more of it.  Most of all, I feel that the mobile information environment must be thrilling, creative, and NOT anxiety inducing.  I was genuinely excited to read about Mentira and its innovative approach to language instruction as well as UW Madison’s DowDay and WeBIRD apps.  All three are opt-in services that expand educational horizons, providing unique perspective through geographic context and gamification techniques (Gagnon, 2010).

The benefits of mobile information are numerous and indisputable.  Information is the currency in which all humans trade and anything that brings us more information, quickly and easily is undeniably good for all.  And yet my fears persist and I know I’m not alone, even if everyone experiences that vague, nagging fear differently.  I keep grasping at what specifically that means for me and I think the best way I can express it is that one day we will have so much information readily available to us that we will become bored by or inured to it.  I feel that it’s already happening anytime I refresh the same feed over and over again in hopes that it will tell me something new and exciting.  There’s always something new and exciting but it doesn’t always excite me because it’s so easily available to me and it has become a habit or a background activity rather than an act of discovery.  My partner recently confided that he is sometimes unsure how to use the internet or manage the constant stream of information available to him through his mobile device.  He too can be overwhelmed by it.  I realize I’ve bemoaned a great deal, which seems ridiculous given the blessing that is mobile information and what that has done for education, democracy, connectedness, etc.  I do not deny those benefits. Rather, I fear that we may lose sight of the significance of mobile information.  Gagnon asserts that some of the greatest or best-known achievements in mobile education “simply repackage, with minor advances, what is already available through other forms,” rather than truly disrupt and innovate how we consume and disseminate knowledge.

Which brings me to my third reality.  Mobile information still thrills me.  I can keep up with school, work, and friends, all from the comfort of this poolside lounge.  The thing about that is I can’t take a break from it.  Mobile learning is also constant learning.  Keeping up with the apps, trends, platforms, devices, and technology.  I bemoan and love this and my advice for others is to acknowledge both our hopes and fears when it comes to technology because we cannot fully appreciate it without a healthy skepticism and optimism.


Deloitte. (2016). How do today’s students use mobiles? Retrieved from

Enis, M. (2014). “Beacon” technology deployed by two library app makers. Retrieved from

Gagnon, D. (2010). Mobile learning environments. Retrieved from



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Emerging Technology Planning – Ravel Law


  • To encourage direct and more meaningful interaction between private (corporate) law library patrons and case law. As it stands, many law libraries operate on a closed model in which a librarian facilitates access to materials and conducts most reference research, in particular, case law.
  • By utilizing an open participatory model, corporate law libraries may reduce expenditures on subscription services that currently have a monopoly on access to published case law as well as the time of thinly stretched law library staff. Further, this approach empowers in-house counsel to conduct their own legal research with the aid of a legal bibliometics tool powered by Ravel Law and Harvard Law School’s Case Law Access Project.
  • While many law firms already use the PACER system to access digital case outcomes and trial proceedings, many, including information professionals, find this system to be glitch prone, limited in scope, and difficult to search. Use of open access case law API will enable users (both attorneys and library staff) to easily search a broader trove of case law while bibliometrics tools such as Ravel Law will improve insights and outcomes by providing customizable filtering tools and data visualization to easily search and link cases.
  • To reduce or eliminate subscriptions to costly case law aggregation services. According to a 2016 Forbes article, Westlaw and Lexis Nexis dominate this market and offer access to case law with limited or no analytical tools (Marr, 2016).
  • Implementation of such open access research tools may reduce reliance on outside counsel and free up space currently occupied by physical case law materials as well as funds dedicated to maintaining those collections and access to digital subscription services.

Community Analysis

Law libraries, corporate law libraries in particular, tend to be utilitarian in nature and operate very differently than public and academic libraries.  Change comes about slowly and is often more closely tied to budgetary and technological considerations than in other information settings.  Corporate law libraries tend to be small with minimal staffing, serving potentially large employee populations comprised of attorneys and legal support staff.  In addition to typical librarian responsibilities, law librarians often assume roles that require specialized legal training including legal research and analysis.  While some law librarians do hold law degrees or related training, many do not.  Conversely, while in-house attorneys hold law degrees and state bar membership, they do not necessarily possess the information seeking skills of a librarian.

In private law firms, the financial model is based on billable hours, in which attorneys are incentivized to maximize the amount of time spent working on a case.  This is not an environment typically associated with disruptive innovation, though it is beginning to occur.  In-house counsel works on a different basis in which an in-house (dedicated) law firm solely represents the business or business unit and is built into the budget as a standard expense.  There is a little bit more room for technological experimentation and expenditure given the flat fee model.  Further, the legal department is one of many departments that comprise an organization and so there is some expectation that the legal department will have the full range of enterprise-wide technology available to it.  Smaller or independent firms may not have the budget for technological experimentation and software licensing can be quite cost prohibitive without bulk license pricing.  The corporate law environment is ripe for disruptive innovation due to a rapidly expanding pool of young attorneys and the growing intersection between law and technology.

The corporate law library presents an interesting and challenging environment in which to incorporate emerging technologies.  It is a special library dedicated to the unique needs of in-house legal departments and much of the work conducted therein revolves around legal research.  In an interview with the lone law librarian of a major corporation, she described her position as one in which she wears many, and sometimes all the hats.  She facilitates access to the collection and maintains it, conducts reference interviews, catalogs, researches new technology, and conducts UX surveys and implements improvements.  Open access case law tools such as Ravel Law may foster a closer working relationship between in-house law librarians and legal staff while improving efficiency throughout the legal department, reducing the strain on understaffed law libraries and providing flexible adaptation to changes in the law and best legal practices that are not well served by continued heavy reliance on physical materials.

Action Brief

Convince corporate law firms that by employing open access case law tools such as Ravel Law they will enhance accessibility to case law, which will promote flexible research methods and produce greater results because it allows legal professionals to conduct research independent of a law librarian, thereby reducing costs and the burden on the librarian while simultaneously expanding research results and insights.

Evidence and Resources in Support of Ravel Law

  • In a recent article published in American Association of Law Libraries’ (AALL) Spectrum, Mark Gediman explores the practical application of artificial intelligence in law firm and libraries. He specifically references Ravel Law as a technological service with the potential to reduce time spent on legal research.  “Ravel takes case data and creates visual tools that show relationships and provides context to the analytics (2016, p. 36).” Gediman further asserts that “finding information in these systems can often be a difficult, time-consuming process.  AI can simplify this process considerably (2016, p. 37).”
  • A 2015 New York Times profile of Ravel Law highlights the transparency aspects of the Harvard Case Law Access Project and Ravel Law. Here, Erik Eckholm, highlights the monumental scope of the Harvard case law collection and what it means to provide their case law archives free of charge to software developers such as Ravel Law.  “Shelves of law books are an august symbol of legal practice, and no place, save the Library of Congress, can match the collection at Harvard’s Law School Library.”  Eckholm also notes the significance of the availability of state case law through Harvard’s project, materials typically only accessible through cost prohibitive commercial services such as Lexis Nexis and Westlaw.
  • In a 2016 interview conducted by AALL, the developers of Ravel Law highlighted the following applications and features of the software for large law firms:
    • “We’re building something highly intuitive that doesn’t take a lot of training.” See staffing considerations.
    • “It helps librarians and information scientists position themselves as thought leaders within their firms, having identified technology that can help attorneys be more strategic.”
    • “We also see Ravel fitting into the entire workflow—from research to writing memos or sharing information within the law firm. We call it a research center, but it’s basically an area where actions are recorded and are easily drag-and-dropped into Microsoft Word or email.”
  • A 2014 profile of Ravel Law in Venture Beat notes that “…young lawyers grew up with Facebook and are glued to a smartphone, so to force them to use antiquated products at work is unnatural.”
  • The same Venture Beat article calls to light the huge amount of time that lawyers and legal professionals spend conducting research – a task that consumes up to 30% of their time. Ravel Law provides search and data visualization that substantially reduces the amount of time spent conducting legal research.
  • Forbes offers the following review of Ravel’s judge analytics tool:

One of their services– Judges Analytics – lets lawyers search through every decision made by particular judges to find those most likely to be sympathetic to their arguments. The data is visualized through Ravel’s dashboard in a way that makes it easier to spot connections and opportunities that otherwise would have been missed.

Policy Guidelines

Given that Ravel Law provides customizable search tools, data collection is a consideration that may affect implementation and policy guidelines.   Ravel states that it provides “…caselaw data and expert-trained algorithms to answer your specific knowledge management and research needs.”  If data collection occurs automatically to inform the search algorithm, the organization may wish to involve its information security, compliance, and legal teams (particularly technology and privacy groups) to clarify what information is collected from the organization and how it is used and stored.

Further, the organization needs to consider Ravel’s policy toward user-generated content.  Ravel’s Terms of Service include the following:

Subject to the foregoing, you hereby grant to Ravel a non-exclusive, irrevocable, perpetual, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to store, reproduce, adapt, modify, create derivative works of, publish, transmit, display and distribute your User Content, and to otherwise use any of your User Content as Ravel may deem necessary or desirable for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Services and future improvements. You agree that this license includes the right for Ravel to make your User Content available to others for the publication, distribution, syndication, or broadcast of such User Content on other media and services. Such additional uses by Ravel or others may be made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the User Content that you post or otherwise make available through Services.

Depending on the organization’s position on release of proprietary information or any content developed by the organization while using the tool, the organization may wish to negotiate Ravel’s Terms of Service in a separate contract.

Funding Considerations

Ravel offers a seven-day free trial, during which time, the organization’s legal department can invite a cross section of employees to sample the product.  The organization should also involve its IT and law library staff during the trial period to develop an implementation strategy and discuss organization-specific concerns such as compatibility with existing technologies (Ravel offers plugins and software integration).  Ravel does not offer standard pricing but rather tailors its price plans to each individual organization.  However, according to an Indiana University Jerome Law Library LibGuide, 2012 pricing for Ravel Law ranged from $1,100 to $1,700 a year depending on account features.  Some of this funding can be reallocated from funding from the aforementioned case law subscription services provided by Westlaw, Lexis Nexis, and similar services.  In addition, the PACER system charges $0.10 per page, which adds up given the lengthy nature of court proceedings.  Use of Ravel Law is intended to supplement or possibly supplant use of the clunky PACER system with the added benefit of analytical tools.

Action Steps & Timeline

  • Participate in a seven day free trial of Ravel Law. Legal, IT, law library, compliance, and information security teams should be involved in this initial free trial and any subsequent trials.
  • Solicit feedback from the above-mentioned teams. If consensus is reached and representatives from each team approve adoption of Ravel, the legal and finance teams will contact Ravel for additional pricing and contract information.
  • Once contracted, purchased, and installed, the IT team and law librarian will work in concert to install Ravel and work out integration with existing enterprise software.
  • Meanwhile, the law library and technology teams will create internal publicity materials advertising Ravel’s benefits. These materials may be uploaded to the company’s intranet, disseminated by email, or advertised during all hands or training meetings.
  • Use and implementation of Ravel will be assessed quarterly during the first year after companywide rollout and yearly thereafter prior to annual renewal. A random sampling of users and law library administrators will be involved in the annual renewal process with input from IT to scale licensing and service plan to account for changes in departmental needs.
  • IT will work continuously with Ravel to implement updates as needed.

Staffing and Training Considerations

As cited earlier, Ravel prides itself on providing an intuitive service that requires minimal training (May/June 2016 issue of AALL Spectrum).  As this is a service that can be used by anyone across the legal department of an organization, the primary concern is making potential users aware of the service through internal promotion (see Promotion & Marketing).  The law librarian should serve as the primary point of contact or knowledge center for training questions, however simple documentation such as FAQs or “how tos” may be sufficient to address training and ongoing use questions.  Ravel provides training content including a “quick start” guide and FAQs and so little in the way of original training content or activities need to be developed by the adopting organization.

Promotion & Marketing

  • A small group of beta testers should be organized, including representatives from the law library, legal staff, and IT. Upon completion of beta tests, this group will report their findings to be relayed at a staff all hands or technology summit.
  • An email campaign should be organized to disseminate basic information regarding implementation of Ravel with a more targeted campaign posted to the legal department’s intranet and blogs.
  • During the initial months of rollout, the law librarian will liaise with individual legal teams to promote Ravel and host Q & A sessions
  • As Ravel can only be used internally, the organization must consider how and whether it will disclose the use of Ravel and clearly specify whether Ravel can in turn use the company’s name to promote the product.


Ravel touts itself as a tool that “…helps librarians and information scientists position themselves as thought leaders within their firms, having identified technology that can help attorneys be more strategic.”  These claims should serve as the partial basis for evaluation and can be simplified into the following evaluation criteria:

  • Cost-benefit (over similar products used by the firm/library such as WestLaw and Lexis Nexis, PACER);
  • Time benefit to law library staff – How much time is saved by library staff by involving legal staff in case law and other legal research?
  • Time benefit to legal staff – How much time is saved by conducting research on their own rather than waiting on potentially understaffed library staff to conduct legal research for the entire organization?
  • Quality of research and insights yielded by Ravel’s analytical tools — Did the analytics tools provide benefit over the simple case law results provided by existing subscription services?
  • On a departmental scale, do performance reviews reflect increased efficiency and insights?  Does use of the tool reduce time spent on projects overall?
  • Annual renewal – As discussed above, does the service warrant annual renewal?
  • Does the service provide benefit to the business unit? The law library and legal department work in service of a specific business unit.  Is Ravel sufficiently customizable to yield targeted benefit to the business unit?  Is the case law and insight provided by Ravel current enough to inform product and service development across the organization?


Eckholm, E. (2015). Harvard law library readies trove of decisions for digital age. Retrieved from

Farr, C. (2014). Ravel law raises $8M to help lawyers gather data — and cut costs — in a new way. Retrieved from

Gediman, M. (2016). Artificial intelligence Retrieved from

Greenberg, J. (2016). Tech will force lawyers to do more for those billable hours. Retrieved from

Harvard Library Innovation Lab. (2016). Project: Caselaw access project. Retrieved from

Marr, B. (2016). How big data is disrupting law firms and the legal profession. Retrieved from

Ravel Law. (2017). Who we are. Retrieved from

Ravel Law. (2017). Tutorials. Retrieved from

Ravel Law. (2017). Terms of service. Retrieved from

Ravel law’s approach to data-driven research (2016). Retrieved from

United States Courts. (2017). Public access to court electronic records. Retrieved from

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The Big Tradeoff

…if you’re feeling blindly optimistic.

Information science is a field of contradictions and while I’m here for it, I am in no small part intimidated by the tradeoffs.  In this post, I briefly explore the tradeoff between the acquisition of digital information and the sacrifice of some degree of user privacy.

First, a little background.  Sometime last week I received a work email reminding me that my compliance training was due.  Cue moaning and groaning. The overdue training had to do with information security. I’ve taken the training many times before and we are required to retake it an ongoing basis as a refresher and as best practices change.  In fact, many employees working in enterprise settings are required to take similar forms of compliance training representing a proactive information governance measure.  Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company, provides the following definition of information governance:

Information governance is the specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to encourage desirable behavior in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archival and deletion of information. It includes the processes, roles, standards and metrics that ensure the effective and efficient use of information in enabling an organization to achieve its goals.

Underlined elements were added for my own emphasis.  These portions in particular amount to business motivations to protect user privacy,   namely, risk management, best practices, and cost benefit.  Let’s unpack that a bit.

Here in the U.S., there are a number of laws and regulations that not only codify information security and privacy practices, they impose penalties when they are skirted or ignored.  We might be familiar with a few of these from INFO 204.  Laws such as COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) as well as safe harbor exceptions to DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and other intellectual property laws.  Generally speaking, it is in the best interest of an organization to adhere to these laws to shield themselves from audits, lawsuits, and to maintain consumer confidence.  Of course, risk management motivations tend to speak towards best practices and cost benefit, but viewing those latter two considerations on their own, it is quite simply desirable for an organization to maintain the required degree of transparency concerning its information collection and retention practices in order to achieve some level of consistency and efficiency in its transactions and instill enough consumer confidence so as to maintain the bottom line.

However, the privacy path of the Hyperlinked Environments module largely underscores the flip side of this — the motivations and logic behind the collection of users’ digital information and people’s opinions and fears concerning their digital privacy.  Taken as a whole, all three Pew findings in the privacy pathway indicate a general consensus that people fear how much of their digital information is recorded or collected and a sense that they do not have enough control over their digital privacy.  One study in particular conducted by the Pew Research Center, Privacy and Information Sharing, illustrates both active and passive tradeoffs that occur when internet users utilize digital content. The authors of the study, Lee Rainie and Maeve Duggan, acknowledge that some internet users knowingly sacrifice a degree of privacy in exchange for certain benefits such as financial incentives (discounts or other membership loyalty perks) or targeted content.  Others unknowingly relinquish control over their personal information by signing up for free social media and other sites that essentially act as massive ad targeting services.  It is not always simply a matter of unchecked data collection because we as users do have a degree of input concerning when to opt in and information concerning what exactly we are opting into.

Rainie and Duggan describe several scenarios in which users actually opt into situations resulting in loss of privacy. “The potential benefits of sharing personal information include saving money, gaining access to useful services or information, and facilitating commercial and social encounters.”  It is the useful information portion of that statement that interests me most because what is the internet at its simplest but a repository of information?  The largest repository of information.  Where does that leave privacy in relation to information if much of the information that is presented to as vis-a-vis the internet is available to us conditionally?  Specifically, what if nearly all the information that we access via social media, ad-supported news sites, shopping sites, academic and institutionally affiliated sites, etc. (essentially all information available through the internet) takes some information from us in return?  Well, it does.  Rainie and Duggan’s study acknowledges that many users understand and accept that fact and that they exercise some form of cost-benefit analysis when accessing and relinquishing information.

People often need convenient and inexpensive access to information, goods and services. Moreover, they generally understand that disclosing personal information makes those transactions possible.

The overall tone of all three Pew studies conveys a simple reality.  People are annoyed at best and fearful at worst that these tradeoffs must occur.  But these studies also suggest an increasing awareness of these tradeoffs and methods with which individuals employ to safeguard their privacy.  Much of this is contingent upon a specific brand of digital literacy that emphasizes knowing your rights or limiting exposure.  Mary Madden explored a related tradeoff in Americans’ Attitudes About Privacy, Security and Surveillance.

The surveys find that Americans feel privacy is important in their daily lives in a number of essential ways. Yet, they have a pervasive sense that they are under surveillance when in public and very few feel they have a great deal of control over the data that is collected about them and how it is used.

Again, Americans express a combination of awareness and helplessness with regard to their privacy.  And yet, that awareness exists.  In this module we are largely exposed to scenarios in which the tradeoff is either explicitly consented to or if not consented to, takes place with some expectation that a tradeoff or violation will occur.  We rightly fear illegal surveillance but have some degree of recourse or the knowledge to take preventative measures.  However, one statement in this study struck me in particular.  “…but many were already engaged in more common or less technical privacy-enhancing measures.”  I was not surprised that many individuals take basic privacy-enhancing measures, but rather intrigued by those who must go to more extreme lengths to ensure a basic level of privacy–those who are not afforded government privacy protections and in many cases fear an invasion of privacy by their own government.

As my final thought on this topic, I recount the story of a friend who was so alarmed by the data collection practices of many of the websites he used on a regular basis that he took the very extreme measure of cessation and divestment where possible.  Among his list of offenders was Google, which I do not feel it is hyperbolic to say, would be impossible to stop using.  Still, he tried.  He started by turning off the chat log in Gmail and updating his data collection preferences.  Later, he shuttered that account altogether.  Several years later, he moved to China in pursuit of a professional opportunity.  During that time, his approach to privacy (which was in my book, alarmist), came in handy when he realized that many of American websites he used to keep in touch with his friends and family back home were either limited or blocked altogether by the Chinese government.  He employed a VPN scrambler to circumvent the blocks and relied on highly encrypted messaging and communication services to maintain full and open communications.  That was an eye opener for me.  My friend had to actively obfuscate certain basic information seeking behaviors not because of minimal data collection but because of outright surveillance.  This was not a tradeoff.  It was all out circumvention.  And so I leave you with this:


Duggan, M. & Rainie, L. (2016). Privacy and information sharing. Retrieved from

Logan, D. (2010). What is information governance? and why is it so hard? Retrieved from

Madden, M., & Rainie, L. (2015). Americans’ attitudes about privacy, security and surveillance. Retrieved from

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Participatory Service and Transparency in the Los Angeles Public Library

I was particularly excited to see a reading in this module regarding my local library, the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) and thought it might be helpful to frame the ideas in a local, more personal context.  Thus, I endeavored to explore some of the ways in which LAPL directly engages and solicits user input and its efforts toward capturing a portion of the long tail, to which I sadly belong.  Though I regularly volunteer with LAPL, I’m ashamed to admit that the last time I checked out a book from LAPL had to be at least 2 years ago and I’m having a tough time thinking of a recent occasion that I utilized the library for anything other than books or wifi.  With all this talk about library website design and the shockingly low number of people who utilize library websites, I opted to start there.

“Your website is your ambassador to tomorrow’s taxpayers. They will meet the website long before they see your building, your physical resources, or your people. (Schneider, 2006)”

Schneider’s point is always relevant but it’s incredible to think that she wrote this just a few short years before the recession, which severely impacted libraries on the whole but reduced LAPL’s staff by 30% and its hours to its lowest levels in the system’s history (  LAPL does not take its recent history for granted and that is clearly reflected in its website, which devotes an entire page to Measure L, a ballot measure passed in 2011 intended to restore library funding to pre-recession levels.  This page serves another purpose: to highlight the connection between citizens, not even necessarily library users, and the library.  That is to say, to remind the public that they are stakeholders in the library’s existence and future and to encourage them to participate.

Perhaps more relevant to our current readings are the methods in which LAPL allows its users to evaluate its services and offer suggestions. According to Michael’s week 4 lecture, one of the basic elements of participatory service is an evaluation mechanism, by which libraries can respond to strengths and weaknesses and adjust their services accordingly.  I recently visited the LAPL website to determine if a simple user survey was available and if so, whether it was easily accessible using the following criteria:

  • Is the survey easy to locate?
  • Is it easy to understand?
    • Is it available in multiple languages?
    • Does it ask broad or specific questions?
  • Is it time consuming?
  • Is it self-serving?
    • Does it allow for flexibility of user input, e.g. free-form suggestions?
    • Does it ignore potential areas of weakness?

I initially located the survey with ease, perhaps one or two clicks from the homepage but when I attempted to do so again, I could not remember how and entered the term “survey” into the search toolbar, which brought me directly to the customer satisfaction survey.  I’ve attached a copy of the full survey, available in four languages and in a short, medium, or long version.  I opted to take the long version of the survey and found it to comprehensive and open-ended enough to allow for substantial criticism, if relevant.  It’s worth noting that user surveys probably have little impact if they are not pushed and I cannot imagine a situation other than an exceptionally good or exceptionally bad experience that would motivate an individual to actively seek and take a user survey, no matter how well placed it may be.  This is why I was interested to discover that in 2013, LAPL did in fact push a brief user survey intended to crowdsource the system’s future decisions concerning design, technology, and programming.

“Despite our size, the expanse of the area we serve, the programs we currently offer, the library is nothing without its community. So, we’re surveying the public and asking them to tell us how we can best continue to fulfill our mission and help us create a collaborative vision of y/our library of the future (Mack, 2013).”

I know from personal experience that the international languages department at LAPL’s Central Library offers materials in the 29 most commonly spoken languages in Los Angeles County and in that very basic way, the system seeks to engage diverse elements of the local community.  Similarly, LAPL’s website conveys easily accessible information about ESL classes, a dedicated Spanish language version of the website, and resources devoted to immigrants, all available within one-click of the site’s main page.  Though these are common offerings among public libraries, I think it is worth noting that this is an attempt to meet the user where she is comfortable rather than imposing standards such as the English language proficiency on the user.  Referencing Schnieder once more, “You cannot change the user, but you can transform the user experience to meet the user.”

This post is far from a comprehensive user experience analysis and is based largely on a cursory exploration of the LAPL website but I would like to conclude by noting that the LAPL’s strategic plan and results of past user surveys are readily available on its website, along with an open comment system and several avenues to receive user feedback, all measures suggested by Stephens and Casey in their Roadmap to Transparency (2013).  The current strategic plan includes a section titled “Engaging and Listening,” which synthesizes the results of 11,000 survey responses, some of which were solicited in Candice Mack’s outreach.  The section outlines the following goals based on user input:

• Cultivate and Inspire Young Readers
• Nurture Student Success
• Champion Literacy and Lifelong Learning
• Contribute to L.A.’s Economic Growth
• Stimulate the Imagination
• Strengthen Community Connections and Celebrate L.A.

I find the final point particularly inspiring and reflective of LAPL’s efforts to promote a participatory and transparent library, which I hope to explore in greater detail in future coursework.


Casey, M., & Stephens, M. (2013). A road map to transparency. Retrieved from

Los Angeles Public Library. (2017). Los angeles public library 2015-2020 strategic plan. Retrieved from

Mack, C. (2013). Crowdsourced design: Why los angeles is asking the public to create the library of the future. Retrieved from

Schneider, K. G. (2006). The user is not broken: A meme masquerading as a manifesto. Retrieved from



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Foundations: Participation and Iteration

Back in my first term of the program, I was enrolled in Professor Liu’s Digital Libraries seminar.  Truthfully, the course was my third and last choice.  The idea was to take a light, early start course to ease into the program.  Instead, I wound up taking a survey course with nearly zero background in librarianship.  How glad I am that things worked out that way because the course served as a bridge between a rapidly evolving aspect of librarianship that I, as a patron have only just begun to witness and participate in, and that I now realize is foundational to the understanding of current trends in information pedagogy and professions.  It also illustrated the sea change that occurred as libraries began to adopt digital strategies with a closer eye to emerging technologies.

Two of the main themes from that course were iteration and the power of participatory library services, both of which form a pillar of the Hyperlinked library.

Iteration occurs in information currency in terms of repetition and versioning—incremental modification of knowledge, be it documents, software or apps, policy, even in terms of the physical editions of books.  Information is constantly evolving and although Library 1.0 made fine work of the task of collection and knowledge development tied to physical assets, that model is perhaps most closely tied to format rather than process.  All three of our foundational readings emphasize the need for both short and long term thinking and made cases for effecting incremental change within library organizations so as not to cause a shock to the system.

Michael Casey and Laura Savastinuk’s Library 2.0 describes a new model of the library based on the iterative in which the information organization engages in a “continual process of reviewing and updating services” (2007, p. 13) and a successful information organization “builds cycles of change into their organization structure” (2007, p. 38).

Michael Buckland describes a similar, ongoing process of updates to the information organization based on three assumptions: (1) the value of near-medium term strategic planning (2) one hand on existing technology with another stretched toward emerging technologies and; (3) the value of consulting and utilizing experience (1992, p. 8).  Those assumptions can be distilled into the notion of tempered change.  Change WILL occur but growing pains can be mitigated through a process of circumspect, gradual, and constant reevaluation and implementation.

The second major theme, the participatory library, is particularly relevant not just to our readings, but to the format of this course.  This very blog entry is an exercise in the participatory.  We contribute our individual learnings to a communal source of information.  Similarly, Library 2.0, Think Like a Startup, and Redesigning Library Services contain observations and projections about the trend toward the participatory.  Buckland frequently refers to the transition from closed to open stacks—the self-service model and its effect on contemporary library services.  Casey and Savastinuk base their definition of Library 2.0 on a user-centric library model, achieved in large part by soliciting and promoting user participation.

We create information.  Experts.  Lay people.  Fans.  Naysayers.  The creation and dissemination of information is not solely the purview of experts.  Every day people create information and are increasingly empowered to do so through technology and constant innovation.  This requires participation.  Further, it requires iteration.  We suggest, edit, rewrite and contemplate.  That is iteration and it is perhaps best served by maximum participation.  Thus, with an eye toward iteration and participation, library services are becoming increasingly flexible through incremental change and by expanding participation at all levels.


Buckland, M. K., Gorman, M., & Gorman, M. (1992). Redesigning library services: A manifesto American library association Chicago, IL.

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service Information Today, Inc.

Mathews, B. (2012). Think like a startup: A white paper to inspire library entrepreneurialism.


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