Reflection on the LLNE Fall Meeting

by Rebecca Valentine, Associate Librarian, UMass Law

The fall meeting topic The Fog of War: International and Foreign Legal Research was certainly timely; I think more than anyone realized it would be at the time it was organized. The keynote and subsequent four sessions approached the topic differently, but still shared the common theme of the ways emerging technologies are impacting aspects of international law and information.

However, I must admit that my biggest take away was not just that we need to consider the impact of technology on information, disinformation, and the dissemination of both. But something more personal. About six months ago I transitioned from being a reference archivist to being a public services librarian at the UMass Law Library. While I loved the collections and the work I was doing at the archives, it was time to move on to learn new skills and better utilize the research skills I had already built up.

Entering the field of law librarianship has been both a challenge and a pleasure. The work can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to learning the vocabulary needed to help students and faculty. Sometimes I need to do an hour of research before I can even begin working on the reference question I received. Those situations can be a blow to my confidence in my reference and research abilities.

But one thing I have found comforting, is that the work of public services remains the same; and when I have had the chance to talk to other librarians about these public services, my legal vocabulary doesn’t matter.

One of the chances I recently received to have these discussions was the LLNE 2023 Fall Conference. What I found there was that law librarianship, more than almost any other field I’ve worked in, has been one of the most welcoming and supportive to newer librarians. While I had the privilege of being there with a colleague who facilitated introductions, I don’t think that would have changed the graciousness of the other librarians. Upon being introduced to many different people from all over New England, each librarian was willing to talk to me about the work I’m doing at UMass Law, and the work I would like to do in the future.

The experience made me realize that while I may not know all the buzzwords, keywords, or headnotes, all of that will come with time. But the skills I do have, mean that my work is still good and valuable. From participating in the Service Committee and helping to decide on and promote the fall service project, to attending the conference, being a part of LLNE has made me feel assured in my new career.

Old Members, New Members, and Librarian Thoughts

A few months ago former LLNE member Professor Sarah Ryan emailed LLNE President Michael VanderHeijden to discuss a new Northern New England online cohort at the University of North Texas Department of Information Science. Mike sent the email to me and my interest was piqued.

As a former law librarian in Maine, I know that Northern New England can sometimes be overlooked. While there are three ALA-accredited Library and Information Schools in New England with the University of Rhode Island (Go Rams! I am a proud alum!), Southern Connecticut State University, and Simmons University, none are physically located in Northern New England (for more info on ALA-accredited programs, check out this database). As much of library school is online (because it is designed to be or because of COVID) I wondered what this Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine cohort was all about so I decided to ask a friend.

Amanda Ouellette is a Library Associate at the Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library. She works mainly in technical services and cataloging and is part of a team working on a multi-year digitization and review of historical and current Maine legislative documents. (As I type this she is working on the digitization of the 1967 Maine House and Senate Registers having worked her way back from 2007 with her sights on going all the way back to 1915). She had worked in libraries for about 10 years when, in January of 2022, Amanda began UNT’s MLS program through its Vermont-New Hampshire-Maine Cohort.  

I spoke with Amanda and first I convinced her to join LLNE for the low, low, low student rate of $5 per year! Next, I asked her some questions to learn more about the student perspective on the new cohort. Amanda liked the experience at UNT so far. She likes that the program is all online and affordable. (Also, work reimburses part of her tuition which is an amazing benefit of being a state employee!)  She says she has up to 5 years to finish her program so she can pace herself and manage the school and work and life demands. She likes the cohort model, stating that there are about a dozen people in it. Amanda is the only member of the cohort with an interest in law libraries at this time but there are many other members of the cohort interested in public librarianship. She is most looking forward to a class on information organization like cataloging or metadata because she says her job revolves around cataloging which is something in which she has no formal instruction.

Looking to find out more details about this new cohort, I emailed Professor Sarah Ryan. The first thing I did was convince her to rejoin LLNE for the low, low, low cost of $10 per year. Next, I asked Sarah a bit about the program from her perspective as a professor. As Sarah describes it, “The cohort model is about people. Librarians are more than just walking skills repositories. We are sounding boards for each other, research collaborators, and just plain interesting people to know. The cohort class meetings bring our students together to make connections (and swap cat stories).”

For more information on the cohort, check out this flyer. For more information about joining LLNE, click here. (

-Nicole Dyszlewski