Try to shut the library at your peril. That is what the Washington legislature tried to do with the law library and the lawyers, judiciary and public rallied to keep it open. Chief Justice Barbara Madsen of the Washington State Supreme Court told the 1400 plus crowd this tale as the opening speaker at AALL 2013. Chief Justice Madsen stated that there is a lot of misinformation about libraries not being needed anymore. Her view is that with increasing self represented litigants clogging courts and relying on libraries, there is a greater need to have strong state law libraries to support access to justice.
Chief Justice Madsen’s talk was followed by a keynote talk by David Weinberger on libraries as platforms. Weinberger is co-director at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab and was an entertaining and engaging speaker. He explained that the characteristics of knowledge are also characteristics of the mediums of knowledge, eg books and libraries. Weinberger argues that physical limitations have has been applied to the body of knowledge, eg how we structure books and libraries. This is changing with the emergence of a new knowledge medium, the internet. The internet is a network, and knowledge will take on properties of this medium. Knowledge is becoming a network, rather than a fixed, known and manageable object. Weinberger proposed that to take advantage of the way the internet amplifies the value of knowledge, libraries need to become a platform for knowledge by making available what they know, engaging in knowledge networks, and meeting emergent needs. Libraries can do this by providing open access to data and knowledge, for example through APIs. He showed some interesting examples from Harvard to illustrate what he meant, such as Stackview.
The rest of the day’s programs were split into multiple streams to cater for different interests. Of the sessions I attended, the one I found most interesting looked at different ways to assist self represented litigants. The speakers explained some interesting strategies for libraries to help people who did not have lawyers to represent them in court, such as legal advice clinics, outreach services, online legal information and simplified court forms. Another session focused on ways social media was being used successfully by libraries in law firms, universities and courts.
So far, what I have found the most interesting is talking to people outside the sessions and hearing about their experiences in the variety of law libraries and different settings they work in. Courts, public law libraries, law schools. Big cities, small towns. Large teams, solo operators. There really is an amazing diversity here that you don’t find as much in Australian law libraries.
Libraries, libraries, libraries. Tell me more about Seattle I hear you say. Well, I was pretty busy geeking out today, but I did get the chance to check out Capital Hill, hipster central. Beards, tattoos, vegan restaurants, yoga studios, book stores, records stores, sex shops and rainbow flags. Ahhh, feels like home…