Announcement from AALL’s Government Relations Office: free training!

Emily Feltren, Director of AALL’s Government Relations Office, announces that registration for AALL’s free online training, Advocating for Information Policy Change on Capitol Hill,

(April 11 at 11:00 a.m. CDT), is now open. This training is designed to sharpen your advocacy communication skills and prepare you to take action on AALL’s hottest policy priorities, including passage of the FDLP Modernization Act (H.R. 5305) and the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (H.R. 4631).

Emily says: You’ll leave this bite-sized 30 minute session prepared to contact your member of Congress with a pro-law library message during AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day on April 12, all from the comfort of your desk. I hope you’ll join me!

Members of Congress are currently debating key information policy issues that could change how law libraries access, use, and preserve government and legal information.

Join AALL’s online advocacy training to learn how you can influence your members of Congress to modernize current laws to benefit law libraries and their users. The training will prepare you to take action during AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day on April 12, 2018.

(Hat tip to Anne McDonald for passing this along to the blog!)

LLNE /SNELLA Fall Meeting: Hysteria, Hyperbole and Witch Hunts: 1697 & 2017 Report

By Anne McDonald

This was a very interesting meeting that tied together the above themes and shed light on many common assumptions.  Here are some highlights.

Salem, Massachusetts is indelibly associated with witchcraft, but it was not the first place to hold witchcraft trials in the colonies or even in Massachusetts.  Witchcraft trials started in Europe and were then carried over to the colonies.  The earliest witchcraft accusations in the English colonies took place in Virginia: the trial of midwife Joan Wright. Her neighbors testified that she caused the death of a newborn. She was acquitted despite admitting that she had some knowledge of witchcraft.   Mark Podiva of West Virginia University College of Law gave the keynote speech, saying we need to focus on implicit and explicit bias in sources, both historical and current.

Anne Rajotte of the UConn Law Library discussed Connecticut witch trials, which were lesser known than the Salem witch trials because the trials were spread out over many years and information was scattered.  Salem’s witch trials, while not the earliest, are the best known, perhaps because of the high number of deaths in a short period of time. Between June and September 1692, nineteen men and women were hanged for witchcraft in Salem.

Amazingly, there was a time when the courts allowed “spectral evidence”; if a witness said the accused came to him in a dream, that could be admissible as proof of the devil’s work.   The witchcraft laws all had biblical language.  Rhode Island had a statute forbidding witchcraft from 1647 until it was abolished in 1767. There was never a prosecution for witchcraft in Rhode Island.

Witch trials serve as an early example of fake news, the first Salem trial was started by bored teenagers spreading lies. They listened to a servant’s stories, after being told they were not supposed to, then said she cast spells on them.  There are still witch hunts going on in parts of the world, most frequently in developing countries. When people get sick, witchcraft is suspected.

Gary Smith of the Berkshire Law Library, who is both a librarian and art historian, showed and discussed a painting by a 19th century artist named T.H. Matteson of the “Witchcraft Trial of George Jacobs.”  It was painted in 1855.  He showed how art can help us remember things.

John Barden and Mike Hughes gave interesting, edgy, humorous presentations that kept us awake following lunch.

The last speaker, Ron Wheeler, put us in a deep, reflective mood when he read from his  article about his lifelong journey towards empathy, which sums up the theme and main takeaway of the entire program.  As Tanya Johnson notes in the SNELLA newsletter, misunderstanding and lack of empathy can lead to horrific consequences.

I would like to thank Ellen Phillips of LLNE and Jordan Jefferson of SNELLA for their joint efforts in putting together this program.  I would like to thank LLNE for arranging for the services of professional CART reporters Stephanie Farrell and Kathleen Dwyer, who worked hard all day to make the program accessible to me.

Here is a link to SNELLA’s January 2018 newsletter with two items related to the Salem meeting: Anne Rajotte’s article: Witch Trials in Connecticut on pages 3-4, followed by Tanya Johnson’s report titled “10 Things I learned at the LLNE/SNELLA meeting in Salem.”

Changes to LLNE’s Service Committee

By Michael VanderHeijden

I’m writing to relay a change to the LLNE Service Committee approved by a vote of the attending members at the Fall meeting in Salem, MA.

In an effort to more effectively pursue two divergent initiatives (service projects and Legal Link), LLNE’s Service Committee has become two committees. The Service Committee will remain focused on planning and executing the public service projects associated with LLNE’s Fall and Spring meetings. A new Access to Justice (A2J) Committee has been created to continue the work on Legal Link and to pursue projects promoting access to and understanding of legal information.

The committee’s charge is copied, below.

Jessica Dziedzic Almeida, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Law School, is chairing the Service Committee. If you’d like to volunteer for the Service Committee, please contact Jessica at jessica.almeida@umassd.edu. Mike VanderHeijden, Yale Law School, is chairing the A2J Committee.

Members of the A2J Committee:

Sherry Xin Chen (Boston College School of Law);
Nicole Dyszlewski (Roger Williams University School of Law);
Suzanne Hoey (Barnstable Law Library);
Jessica Pisano Jones (Social Law Library);
Natalia May (Vermont Law School);
Sara McMahon (Western New England School of Law);
Misty Peltz-Steele (University of Massachusetts School of Law);
Jennifer Robble (Boston University School of Law)
Mike VanderHeijden (Yale Law School)

Access to Justice Committee Charge:

  1. The Access to Justice Committee shall consist of a chair, or co-chairs, and such additional members as the President shall designate.
  2. Recognizing the acute need in many New England communities for access to legal information and recognizing the unique training, expertise, and resources of New England’s law librarians, the Access to Justice Committee shall partner with public librarians, court personnel and others to leverage collections, professional knowledge and skills to promote access to justice through greater understanding and availability of legal information.
  3. Further recognizing that there are many as-yet unidentified opportunities to partner with Access to Justice communities of interest, the Committee shall not limit itself to familiar librarian roles. Rather, the Committee shall remain open to new and alternative modes and methods of supporting the Access to Justice movement.

Service Committees Raise $7,700 for New England Innocence Project

By Jessica Almeida

In conjunction with the fall meeting, the Service Committees for LLNE and SNELLA partnered up to raise funds for the New England Innocence Project (NEIP).  Since 2000, the NEIP has been promoting criminal justice reform and exonerating the wrongfully convicted in the New England area.  To date, the NEIP has helped free 70 wrongfully convicted individuals through the use of DNA testing, questioning of faulty eyewitness testimony, and revealing the misconduct of the police.  To read their stories, go to http://www.newenglandinnocence.org/new-england-exonerees/.

Thanks to the generous donations of our members, the LLNE Service Committee is pleased to announce that $3,850 was raised to help NEIP provide legal assistance to the wrongfully convicted in the New England area.  This amount was matched anonymously, so a total of $7,700 was donated to this worthy cause.  This is the most money the Service Committee has ever raised for one cause and we couldn’t have done it without the kindness and generosity of our members.  A special thanks to Kathy Ludwig and her father, Bruce Williams, for their substantial donation.  For more information on the New England Innocence Project or if you would still like to donate, please see their website at http://www.newenglandinnocence.org/.

Thank you to Nicole Dyszlewski and the rest of the Service Committee for organizing the New England Innocence Project Drive.  The LLNE Service Committee is always looking for more volunteers!  If interested, go to https://llne.org/committees/service/.

Harvard hosting Fair Use Week Symposium

Harvard’s Office of Scholarly Communication is pleased to share registration information on the fifth annual Fair Use Week symposium, “Tried and True: Fair Use Tales for the Telling” that we will be hosted at Harvard on March 1!

The conference will feature a community of librarians, artists, scholars, lawyers, archivists, and other leading fair use experts in a day of panels and discussions. Featuring Kenneth Crews (keynote), Laura Quilter, Chris Bavitz, Zena Agha, Rebekah Modrak, Brandon Butler, Pia Hunter, and more! Its a free, day-long event of fair use art, tech, food, and fun!

We would love to have you join us! For more information and to register please visit https://5th-anniversary-fair-use-week.eventbrite.com. If you have questions, please contact Emily Kilcer at emily_kilcer@harvard.edu. And follow us online on Twitter: @Fairuseweek and #FairUseWeek

SolutionsWear: Service Committee Project for the LLNE Spring Meeting

By the LLNE Service Committee

Because the theme for the spring meeting (register here!) is professional development, the service committee asks you to consider donating professional clothing, toiletries, or money to SolutionsWear. SolutionsWear provides interview-appropriate clothing and accessories to homeless and low-income men and women. Check out the list of especially needed items, as well as a complete list of the kind of donations SolutionsWear accepts. We will be collecting clothing and toiletry donations at the meeting. If you would like to make a monetary donation directly to SolutionsWear, you can do so here.

Government Relations Committee update

By Anne McDonald and Emilie Benoit, Co-Chairs, LLNE Government Relations Committee

Massachusetts UELMA Bill

Thanks to the tireless advocacy of the UELMA in Massachusetts Subcommittee of the LLNE GRC, the UELMA bill is making its way through the Massachusetts legislature. H 812, sponsored by Rep. Carmine Gentile, was heard in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary on May 2, 2017.  The UELMA Subcommittee will keep the LLNE membership apprised of further action on its web page, where it has added an updated UELMA in Massachusetts one-pager.

Why is UELMA important?  As the above-mentioned fact sheet notes: “enactment of UELMA will put a set of principles in place if a body in the future decides to publish in only online form or designate their online materials for use of the public as official.” Updates will be posted on this page and on the LLNE blog when available.  AALL also has a wealth UELMA resources on its Government Relations site, which is constantly being updated. It is important for LLNE members who reside in Massachusetts to contact their legislators at critical times, so please check the website from time to time and follow through.

AALL Virtual Lobby Day

AALL’s Government Relations Office Director Emily Feltren reports that the AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day on April 26 enjoyed very active participation by AALL members who sent a flurry of emails to their legislators in support of its top priorities.  The most popular action alert was in support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, followed by funding for the Legal Services Corporation and net neutrality.

If you were unable to participate in Lobby Day, there’s still time to act: visit AALL’s Action Center  to learn more about these issues and to email your Members of Congress directly from the site.

AALL is focusing on these issues:

  • Full funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, (IMLS)
  • Full funding for the Legal Services Corporation
  • Net Neutrality
  • ECPA (Electronic Communication Privacy Act) Reform
  • Keep Appointment authority for Register of Copyrights with the Librarian of Congress.

A word on the Copyright bill:  The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017 (H.R. 1695/S 1010) which makes the Register of Copyrights subject to Presidential Appointment and Senate confirmation passed in the House on April 26th with bipartisan support and is now in the Senate Rules Committee. Emily Feltren stated in an email that this bill is deemed a compromise because it does not go as far as the CODE Act (HR 890) and keeps the Copyright Office within the Library of Congress. Nevertheless, AALL opposes the bill because it would have a detrimental effect on interactions between the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office.

The LLNE Government Relations Committee is providing this information to you to further its committee charge to keep you apprised of developments which may be of interest to you as an informed law librarian.

Register for the Spring LLNE/ABLL Meeting!

LLNE/ABLL Spring Meeting Registration is LIVE!

Join us on Friday, June 9th at the Boston University School of Law to discuss professional development and career paths.  Please register as early as possible. For more information and a schedule for the day please go here.

IMPORTANT: If you need a parking permit, you must let us know by May 19th to ensure that you receive your permit.

Helping My Neighborhood Library through the LRIP Program

By Emily Todd*

Legal literacy is an important area that can often be overlooked by public librarians, despite the fact that our patrons come to us regularly with questions involving a variety of legal issues. While I cannot interpret the law for my patrons or offer them legal advice, I can conduct a reference interview in which I can determine the nature of their legal information request. For example, do they need a lawyer, or do they simply want to find out what the law says (minus an interpretation)? Typically, my inclination is to err on the side of caution with these types of reference questions. Sometimes the offer of the number for the Lawyer Referral Service or a public law library where a qualified law librarian could assist them is the best answer. However, for patrons with legal research questions, I am missing an opportunity to serve my patrons and instruct them in information retrieval.

The Legal Research Instruction course is equipping me with the skills and knowledge to assist my patrons in tackling their legal reference questions. Like many people, the last time I learned about the legal system of the United States was in high school. During each session, the experienced teachers guide us through the ways our legal system works.  We discuss leading our patrons to the information they seek, whether it is publicly accessible (e.g., on a government website) or a fee is required.  This opportunity is invaluable to me professionally. Developing these skills will allow me to take my legal research training back to my neighborhood library, where I can put them to good use helping my patrons and perhaps teaching them some basics about the legal system along the way.Professional Headshot

*Emily Todd is the Program and Community Outreach Librarian for the Fields Corner Branch of the Boston Public Library.  She is a recipient of the 2017 LLNE Service Committee scholarship to attend the Legal Research Information Program.

Enhancing Capabilities through the LRIP Program

Law booksBy Brian Hodgdon*

If pressed, I imagine that most public librarians will admit to struggling with the unique challenges presented by patrons seeking legal help. These requests, like those of the medical variety, can leave us feeling less than helpful and often require a punt to the experts at the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries or the nearest legal aid program. While we know we’re doing the right thing by not diving into a subject area where errors or misinterpretations can have very real consequences for patrons, we don’t feel great about “getting to no”. That’s why I’m excited to be participating in the Legal Research Instruction Program this Spring, and grateful for the scholarship award. In the first half of the 6-week course we’ve been introduced to the finer points of case law and statutory research.  We have also learned how to assemble legislative histories, covered administrative law, and honed our searching skills in Westlaw and Lexis. We’ve also attempted to break out of the databases that most of us in public libraries won’t have access to on the job, replicating our searches in Google Scholar and scouring government websites for the information we need. While enhancing our capabilities as legal researchers, we are also building the confidence to determine what we can and cannot provide to the public. Thanks to LLNE for offering this important program and encouraging public librarians to participate. A special thanks to Brian Flaherty for steering the ship and to the expert lecturers that have joined us so far.

*Brian Hodgdon is the Director of the Saugus Public Library and a recipient of the 2017 LLNE Service Committee Scholarship to attend the Legal Research Information Program.