Last week, the 2009 conference of the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction was held at the University of Colorado Law School in beautiful Boulder, CO. #CALIcon09, is it was affectionately known and tweeted about by the law school geeks who attended, is an annual event for law school faculty, librarians, IT and A/V staff, and students to learn, share, and network about the latest in classroom and library technology.

Harvard Law School Library was well-represented among the presenters. Our director, John Palfrey, gave the keynote address on Thursday morning on the topic of Legal Information: A Vision of the Future. There is a great liveblog recap of John’s address by Gene Koo at the Law School Innovation blog.

Reference librarians Karen Storin Linitz and June Casey along with Educational Technologist Denise Grey presented Thursday afternoon on “A Holistic Approach to Academic Computing: Librarians and Instructional Technologists Are Better Working Together.” Integrating video clips featuring faculty and Law School IT staff, Karen, June, and Denise discussed how collaboration between librarians and academic technologists can create synergy that better supports faculty in the classroom.

Meanwhile, John, Denise, and yours truly assisted with moderation of the subgroups at the Social Media Best Practices for Law Schools/Students Workshop. The workshop was the result of University of Iowa law student Laura Bergus challenging her school’s career placement office to go beyond simply telling students not to use social networking sites like Facebook to providing positive guidelines for use of social media by students to enhance their job prospects rather than detract from them. The workshop went beyond guidelines for just students–we broke out into groups to discuss social media in relation to alumni relations; recruiting; research, writing, and publishing; and teaching and learning. The workshop was just a beginning to these discussions, which we hope will continue in other formats and venues. For more on the topic, check out Laura’s draft website, Social Media Best Practices for Law Schools.

There were many other great programs, with the only downside being the impossibility of getting to them all. I enjoyed Bonnie Shucha’s presentation about Firefox addons. I use quite a few myself, but as usual Bonnie taught me some new things, including that the CiteGenie addon, which copies and formats citations into BlueBook format from a number of websites including Lexis and Westlaw, was created by a South Carolina attorney on a bet. Roger Skalbeck presented the results of his law school website survey, an impressive undertaking that quantifies the technologies and design elements law schools are using in their websites. Lots of future elements to the survey were suggested by Roger and others, and I think it would be great if such a survey were repeated every few years so we can see what the trends are. Lyonette Louis-Jacques and June Liebert discussed the Kindle and its possible applications for law schools and law libraries. Although there are potential drawbacks (lack of pagination still being the big one, as well as cost), there were some good suggestions for Kindle use by faculty (creating their own, free casebooks for students) and librarians (filling Kindles with subject-specific titles that students can then check out). Finally, Jason Eiseman and Tom Boone showed us that it’s not so scary using WordPress and Drupal to create some cool web applications, like Yale’s great Judicial Nominations Database.

Outside of the library sphere, I found Professor Timothy Armstrong’s thoughts on crowdsourcing historical legal documents intriguing. Expanding on the theme of John Palfrey’s talk, Armstrong provocatively suggested that the current single-institution repositories as they exist now are merely marketing gimmicks that must give way to inter-institutional communication and collaboration. His discussion of the merits of Distributed Proofreaders and Wikisource (with the latter having the edge) for proofreading of scanned legal documents was quite useful. There was also an excellent presentation by a team of IT staff and faculty from the University of North Carolina about teaching with technology in smart classrooms.

The University of Colorado was a wonderful setting for the conference. The Law School and Library are set in a beautiful new building that takes full advantage of a great view of the Flatirons–a view that I am definitely missing on this grey and rainy day in Cambridge.

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