David Whelan

Explorations with information and technology.

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Latest from David Whelan

It has been almost a year of working from home in the pandemic. This time last year, I worked at an organization with a dedicated IT team, and took a 2 hour commute to and from our physical space. Now? I work at an organization with a dedicated IT team but on my own internet, my own computer, my own software licenses, and reliant on my own know how. The regular interruptions caused by keeping our household connected to work and school directly impact my ability to be a knowledge worker. Pick your poison. I expect we all have found…
Let’s cooperate. I do a thing. You do a thing. Win-win. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Over the years, I’ve had people pitch ideas for law library collaboration or cooperation. It came up again recently and I asked my now standard question: how do we pool the money to get this done? In other words, what resources that aren’t “in-kind” are you putting in to the collaboration? A partnership requires more than, as we say in the pandemic, acting separate but together in order to have coordination and accountability. It’s a little mercenary…
A couple years back, there was some really interesting law library survey research done. I was talking to someone about it recently and I commented that I thought it had been underutilized, that it contained some real opportunities to learn. But it became clear that the research is not being used because there is a misunderstanding about response rates and statistical validity. This has been common in my law library and legal professional experience. A group does a survey. The response rate comes back in the <10% range. The lawyers then discount the validity of the information based on that…
This post follows on from an earlier one that highlighted the gap around law libraries that unrepresented parties may not cross. I’ve been thinking a lot about whether law libraries should be focusing on reducing their footprint – especially space and staff – to shift the interaction points closer to the point of need. It’s not a value judgment nor a recommendation to reduce a library’s activities. It’s one of logistics. Is the need to access a law library a barrier to getting law library resources? There may be opportunities to change your services or your staff or your space.…
Multi-factor authentication has slowly crept forward but it’s remarkable how difficult some organizations find it. Or that hobble it by using weak security questions as a backup or recovery method. Our organization is rolling out multi-factor authentication and I’ve been surprised that we’re using multiple methods, a suite of xFA. Each element creates friction which challenges adoption. We started with the weakest multi-factor option, text messages. SMS or text are the weakest because there is the ability for the phone to be cloned, virtually, by swapping SIMs. Something is better than nothing, though. I emailed the IT manager responsible…
This all started with a residential lease. A kid was getting a first place and wanted a second set of eyeballs on the contract. It’s not the first time I’ve given parental assistance of this sort but it was the worst lease I’ve ever seen. It made me wonder if, when you have two unrepresented parties and neither knows what they are doing, law libraries have any way to impact this chaos. I expect renting an apartment falls into that category of legal activity that people do not hire lawyers for in most cases. We make lots of decisions that…
We use the term “social” to make social media seem inviting. But we are also inhibited, so social media often involves people following but not interacting or being social. On email, the biggest social media tool, we call it lurking on discussion lists. In lieu of conversations, most social tools seem to be broadcast tools. I’ve been thinking about how I can participate without contributing to the bad network effects. It was once more common – perhaps it’s a given now – to see people say on Twitter, “this is too complicated/deep to discuss in 140 characters”. So conversations shift…
A law library contacted me recently about our operations. I wasn’t special. They were contacting a couple dozen with a questionnaire, attempting to gather comparative data for an operational review they are undertaking. I am always happy to help but I suggested that I didn’t think it would be useful, and pointed them to a couple of more similarly-sized law libraries. As is often the case with comparative exercises, like benchmarking, the context matters. If you’re a small law library, comparisons with larger law libraries at a data level are unlikely to be useful. It’s the ideas you should…
I recently handed off a project I’d been running for a couple of years. It’s not the first time I’ve gone through this sort of transfer. Sometimes it’s leaving and taking on a new job. Sometimes it’s managing a team temporarily. There is a tension as you give up something you invested a lot of time in. You want it to succeed but you also had a vision. Your successor may struggle or choose a different vision. But there are no take backs. It’s a growth experience. It’s a good opportunity for you to take a look at yourself…
Occasionally on this blog I touch on music I’m listening to. I’ve been delighted to see the uptake of sea songs and sea shanties on the internet. It’s such a great source of shareable – people being able to sing together without a lot of skill required – music. It made me think back over some of the tunes that I sang the kids at bedtime. There are lots of great resources on sea songs. I used the Digital Tradition database to find the words for songs I *mostly* learned growing up. The keepers were printed out and put in…
Law library discussions are dominated by format discussions. They tend to revolve around print, licensed databases, and discrete electronic files (ebooks). I have been wondering what an audio format might look like for a legal text, and whether it has a place in our information delivery. If it sounds painful, I admit that it might be. In fact, this post may need to come with some sort of reader warning! Wait until you hear me read about contractual performance! There be vacuity in these waters! But that’s no reason not to consider it, and how law libraries would help…
I’ve been thinking about how audio formats could be used for legal research texts. Unlike commercial fiction audiobooks, a legal research text is unlikely to be read cover to cover. But can the text be separated – just as it is in the table of contents – to make audio useful?…
I do a lot of things from habit, moving from one thing to the next almost by rote. One can forget to stop every so often and look around and say, “what else can I improve while I’m here?” Over the last year, I had a number of opportunities to reflect on this as I was plugging away at an accessibility project. The biggest hurdle about change may be stopping to make a deliberate choice to do it. We had a legal obligation at work to make our web sites accessible. Sometimes when you can’t get people to change voluntarily,…
Leadership requires patience. Some things will take years to unfold. That’s the job. If you’re good at it, and circumstances allow, you’ll see your strategy work out. For more than a decade, I have kept watch for opportunities to make my staff positions less precarious. Fortunately, it’s been working out. For context, I manage a variety of information professionals. We don’t all work in the library domain and so our operational demands vary. But most are long-serving (20-30 years) and full-time. I’m not sure how well this reflects the law library profession. I took a quick look at the AALL…
We’re engaging in holiday merriment. That’s what it’s called and you will be merry. I was asked to provide a favorite song for the work-related festivities. It’s funny how such a small request can be so difficult. We want to and are encouraged by other professionals to engage in social media and sharing about ourselves but the self that is shared is often only one face. If you’re a law librarian wondering how much to share, I feel your pain. You want to be out there. But you don’t want to be too far out, out there. I had a…
I went live during a work meeting with my first attempt at using non-verbal phrases. One thing I’ve discovered is that you can chroma key – green or blue screen – any input into the Open Broadcaster Software Studio. This creates a lot of flexibility that I hadn’t imagined, since I can now stack inputs in different ways. Here’s what I did with PowerPoint. The first person I saw do this was over on Opensource.com. They used OBS Studio and text overlays, which are built into the OBS program (listed under Sources). As I have posted before, though, PowerPoint