AALL Executive Leadership Institute: Listening a Key Component of Leadership

By Maureen Burns, Research Services Manager, Godfrey & Kahn

I recently had the privilege of attending the recent American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Executive Leadership Institute, which was held on July 28-29, 2021, following the AALL Annual Meeting. Thank you to the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) Grants Committee for the opportunity to learn, grow, and connect at the Institute.

The Institute provided relevant and timely leadership-related sessions, covering topics such as inclusive communication, collaboration, driving change during transitional times, and the integration of wellness into leadership.  Communication was a common thread throughout the one and a half-day Institute, coming up both in the excellent presentations and in small group discussions.  The word that kept coming to my mind as I heard each of the presentations and participated in discussions with my fellow attendees was “listen”.

While discussing inclusive communication and how to move from conscious bias to conscious inclusion, Dr. Daisy Lovelace presented us with ideas to help lead us to an inclusive mindset, recognizing that teams diverse in identity, background, and experiences lead to better problem solving.  One element Dr. Lovelace talked about was listening to understand, validate, and offer support. As librarians trained in the art of the reference interview, we are accustomed to asking questions in order to solve a problem.  When someone we lead comes to us with an issue, we should validate their feelings and seek to understand.  Listening, without fixing, is important in today’s world where often stress-inducing change is a part of our everyday lives.

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PLLIP Diversity Summit 2021: Using Personalized Experiences to Apply DE&I Initiatives in Your Library

By: Ana Ramirez Toft-Nielsen, Research Attorney; Jill L. Kilgore, Research Librarian; and Autumn Collier, Assistant Librarian II, at Littler Mendelson, P.C.

Our experience attending the virtual 2021 Diversity Summit was unexpected and invaluable. Each of us left with surprise takeaways, including some that hit close to home. In particular, the panel and breakout sessions provided us with more than one perspective or dialogue on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We agreed that these personalized sessions made this a reflective experience. The personal stories were affecting—whether allowing us to relate to someone else’s experience, or by showing us a glimpse of what marginalized groups experience regularly. Being aware is a priority, but what’s next? As individuals, we should evaluate how to apply our experiences from the 2021 PLLIP Diversity Summit. What actionable steps is your workplace taking? What actionable steps are you taking? Let this be one phase in your progress toward change.

Leading where you are

We can lead in this work from where we are by identifying the initiatives and commitments made to DE&I at our institutions. We all work at Littler, where leadership supports Diversity, Inclusion and Equity opportunities for our library department. Examples of opportunities include attending conferences such as this Diversity Summit, internal initiatives, and organizational involvement. For this Summit, our director provided the team with the program’s information, supported the registration costs, and provided us with coverage for our daily work, enabling us to focus solely on the conference. When a call to write was sent out, we were urged to write about our experience. With other conferences, such as the AALL Leadership Management Institute, we were encouraged to attend, and offered guidance and assistance with alternative ways to reimburse our costs or help in applying for grants. This encouragement and financial support made us feel empowered to learn and grow. We have the latitude to reflect on these experiences and bring back what we learn to our team.

Within the “walls” of our library, opportunities for open dialogue and professional development abound. We can subscribe to newsletters, including a Littler library-curated weekly newsletter with a DE&I section. We have round-table discussions on a rotation of topics in our book club; this month we are taking time to discuss our experience at the Summit and share with our colleagues.

Our leadership wants us to take an active role to further Littler’s overall Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion goals. Many of our team members are involved in special interest or other professional organizations. Given the uniqueness of our library department, we have the option to attend development opportunities offered not only by AALL, but also by the American Library Association, local chapters, the International Legal Technology Association, and many other professional organizations. These experiences allow us to bring back new knowledge to team members who might not make that step. We can increase awareness and open discussions in our team meetings, book clubs, and newsletters. The work is ongoing. We will continue to explore DE&I initiatives and continue the conversation that brought us to the Diversity Summit.

Additionally, firm initiatives such as Littler’s Volunteerism Program provide a means for employees to voluntarily participate in social justice opportunities. Employees donate their time, and in exchange, Littler will make a monetary donation to an organization of the employee’s choice. Messages of support flow from the Managing Director and are always accompanied with personal growth and learning opportunities.

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Leader Profile of Kim Nayyer: Building Bridges and Amplifying Voices

We are continuing our coverage of the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) inaugural Diversity Summit, hosted in conjunction with the Black Law Librarians (BLL) Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). The Summit’s theme was “From Difficult Conversations to Collaborative Action”, and the session, “Diversity Shares: Listen to Learn”, featured three members of the law library community as panellists, Ramon Barajas, Catherine Deane and Kim Nayyer.

This profile is on Kim Nayyer, Edward Cornell Law Librarian, Associate Dean for Library Services, and Professor of the Practice at Cornell Law School. Previously, she was Associate University Librarian, Director of the Law Library, and Adjunct Associate Professor at University of Victoria in Canada. Before joining academia, Kim worked for many years as a research lawyer and information specialist at an appellate court and in small and large private law firms in Edmonton, Calgary, and Toronto, Canada.

Answers compiled by Megan Moltrup, Librarian at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Washington, DC.

What is your role at your institution?

I oversee the Cornell Law School library and serve on the administration team of the Law School. My law library is one of few in the US law school landscape to be administered by a university library system in conjunction with its law school. I see my role as a bridge-builder and an advocate, ensuring responsible administration of law library spaces, resources, services, and staff, and upholding of my ABA accountabilities in our legal education program. As a Professor of the Practice, I also teach credit-bearing courses in the Cornell Law School JD, LLM, and MSLS programs.

What has been the biggest single change you have seen in the industry? And what changes do you see ahead?

Since I began either legal practice or legal information practice, I’ve seen many changes, several of them pretty big and influential. The single biggest one I can identify, though, is one that we’re in the midst of right now. This is the immense amount of data—legal data, practice and operational data, user-generated data. Information professionals have understood for some time that we can extract value from data to make better operational decisions, to support our colleagues and organizations, and to make better predictive legal analyses in support of our clients. The significant influence of data we’re still wrestling with, is the impact of the vast amounts of real-world data and how they influence the innumerable machine-manipulated tools and resources we use daily. The influences are difficult for our users and communities to see, for information professionals to discern, and—increasingly—for even developers to know and address.

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Member Profile of Catherine Deane: A Servant-Leader, Focused on Facilitating Change and Empowering Others

We are continuing our coverage of the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) inaugural Diversity Summit, hosted in conjunction with the Black Law Librarians (BLL) Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). The Summit’s theme was “From Difficult Conversations to Collaborative Action”, and the session, “Diversity Shares: Listen to Learn”, featured three members of the law library community as panellists, Ramon Barajas, Catherine Deane and Kim Nayyer.

This profile is on Catherine Deane, who goes by Deane, and uses the pronouns they/them. Deane has been a law librarian for over 10 years. Most of their career has been in major cities in California. They also spent 4 years working at Vanderbilt Law Library in Nashville, TN. They have experience in both the academic law library and a law firm library environment and they are currently available for management or senior positions at law libraries in California. They have recently become a facilitator for Come Abide Here LLC, a provider of racial intelligence coaching to White members of diversity, equity, and inclusion committees, strategic planning committees, and other organizational leadership groups that seek to achieve true effectiveness and transformation around diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organizations.

Answers compiled by Megan Moltrup, Librarian at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Washington, DC.

What is your role at your dream job?

My dream job at the moment would be a management position. I would love the opportunity to create a culture of respect for human dignity at work. I would like to foster a workplace where you can bring your whole self to work and where I play a servant-leader role, ensuring that everyone has the support and autonomy they need to do their best work.

How has your role as a facilitator impacted you?

On the weekly podcast that I do with Bathabile Mthombeni of Come Abide Here, we strive to be welcoming and accessible. We are in service to the White community of individuals who choose to do the tough inner work necessary to effectuate lasting and impactful change.

I feel grateful for this opportunity to be the change that I want to see in the world. There have always been White people fighting alongside other races for racial equality. It is a gift to get to support them in their evolution and to empower them to shift paradigms. We offer a dinner conversation where they can express in a safe container their feelings about race based on their personal experiences. They may arrive at the dinner believing that they are allies in our fight. My only goal is to provide guidance so that they can move towards a paradigm where they see that the same systems that oppress marginalized communities, also oppress them. So this is just as much their fight as ours.

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Member Profile of Ramon Barajas: A Nimble Leader, Open to Change and Lifelong Learning

We are continuing our coverage of the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) inaugural Diversity Summit, hosted in conjunction with the Black Law Librarians (BLL) Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). The Summit’s theme was “From Difficult Conversations to Collaborative Action”, and the session, “Diversity Shares: Listen to Learn”, featured three members of the law library community as panellists, Ramon Barajas, Catherine Deane and Kim Nayyer.

This profile is on Ramon Barajas, a Library Manager in the Los Angeles office of Alston & Bird. Ramon has been a law librarian for over 15 years working exclusively in law firms. Prior to joining the world of big law, Ramon was a branch manager of a small rural public library in Central California where he worked primarily with public outreach and children’s services (yes, he did story time).  As the first member of his family to attend college, he earned a B.A. in English from CSU Bakersfield and his MLIS from San Jose State University.  Ramon has been an active member of the Southern California Association of Law Libraries (SCALL) and AALL and served as SCALL chapter president from 2017-2018.

Answers compiled by Megan Moltrup, Librarian at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Washington, DC.

What is your role at your law firm?

I am the Library Manager for the firm’s California offices and also play a role in many of the department’s larger functions such as vendor contract negotiations and managing staff. I also participate in interdepartmental committees working to advance the firm’s initiatives.

What do you believe is the value you and your team bring to your firm?

Research is the backbone of the practice of law. As research professionals and the gatekeepers of information, our value cannot be understated. The library team at Alston & Bird has been especially instrumental during the pandemic in helping the firm make the transition to a digital work environment.

What has been the biggest single change you have seen in the industry?And what changes do you see ahead?

The pandemic has accelerated many of the changes that were slowly taking shape within our industry. In the years leading up to the pandemic, we saw things trending towards flexible work schedules and the move away from print. In the last twelve months we were all forced to completely work remotely and to make the shift to digital libraries. I see many of these changes becoming permanent. Digital libraries will continue to evolve and improve. In the near future, printed legal treatises and practice guides may be completely gone.

Name one thing that you or your team is doing this year to meet the challenges ahead.

We are working hard to streamline access to our various online subscriptions. Attorneys need resources to be as easily and readily accessible as possible. Converting our brick and mortar library to a digital space continues to be a challenge, but we are making strides.

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