This year, the 51st SCALL (Southern California Association of Law Librarians) institute took place here at the Downtown Riverside Convention Center. The staff here at the Riverside County Law Library was very excited to share all the new changes the downtown branch has experienced with our colleagues. Externally, many new restaurants, museums, and infrastructural adjustments have sprung up over the years in the urban landscape of Downtown Riverside. Internally, the downtown branch completed the long and arduous process of the total renovation of its north wing. Despite the rain, the Mission Inn hosted over 70 Law Librarians and professionals, pouring in from all over Southern California. The event was titled “Pipelines to Success: Creating essential connections to people, resources, and expertise.” In the spirit of the talk, participants discussed remote work, collaboration, communication, and other means of professional development.
Presentations from various speakers covered numerous topics including API applications in Libraries and Hybrid work models. The unifying theme of these interventions was the emphasis on reflection upon what has changed in the library-sphere since the beginning of the pandemic, what we have learned, and what we want to integrate into our regular practices moving forward, now that the pandemic is all but over. A big change many participants noted was that their processes for receiving and answering reference questions have changed with more people submitting their questions online through programs like Quest, Google forms, or Microsoft forms. Additionally, technology has become more integrated into our daily tasks. The session related to API applications had many participants thinking about how they could implement automated tasks into their organization to save staff both time and effort. It was surprising to see how many participants were still working from home, almost 3 years since the beginning of the Pandemic. Many shared how the hybrid work from home model has benefited them in unexpected ways, such as being available at alternative hours to assist people in different time zones. For professionals working in large law firms or with clients across the country, this flexibility has provided them with new opportunities.
Continuing on with these reflections, panelists and participants noted that the 2020 SCALL conference took place only weeks before the big COVID-19 shutdown in March of that Year. At that conference, technological integration into libraries and alternative work set ups were discussed, but no one anticipated that such speculations on the future would become a reality within 3 short years. As a participant myself, it was inspiring to see so many of my colleagues adapting to these digital, social, and professional changes with the optimism to further improve their services and work ethic.
Lastly, with all the changes, both good and bad, we ought to take a step back and ask ourselves: how are we connecting with our professional colleagues and personal friends? How can we create a healthy work-life balance after many were forced into “survival mode” with the pandemic, and can’t seem to pull themselves out? Two sessions discussed these issues by sharing tips and tricks on how to both connect and disconnect successfully. Michael Saint-Onge, Director of Research Training and Engagement, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, discussed connection in his session titled “30 Essential Connections in 30 minutes.” He shared professional development opportunities with AALL (American Association of Law Libraries), applications that encourage reflection and mental health, and healthy ways to share personal experiences with our colleagues, such as creating a travel board with staff. Additionally, as many of us are communicating with staff on new applications such as Microsoft Teams, Saint-Onge discussed effectively using the app as a “break room.” Such as creating a chat solely for staff to share pictures of their pets, families, travels, or other appropriate topics. Moving forward, I hope to see the steady progression of my colleagues utilizing the digital space. Creating a healthy work environment starts with communicating effectively, learning your teams preferred communication style, and doing so in a fun and helpful way.
Written by: Andy Valencia, User Experience Librarian