Cool Tool Spotlight #7: Debbie Ginsberg on Grammarly, Word Rake, Perfect It

This week’s featured tool is actually a combo of Grammarly, WordRake, & Perfect It, three writing tools designed for lawyers to check for common style and consistency errors. Debbie Ginsberg, Educational Technology Librarian at the Chicago-Kent College of Law Library, demonstrated this at the 2017 AALL Annual Meeting Cool Tools Café.

It’s never too late for a good New Year’s resolution: use these to help improve your writing!



Cool Tool Spotlight #6: Rachel Purcell on Shorthand Social

(Apologies. This post was originally posted as #7 when it is, in fact, #6!)

Welcome to 2018!

This week’s featured tool is Shorthand Social, an easy to use “story builder” that integrates with social media. Rachel Purcell, Information Management Librarian at the University of Florida Levin College of Law Library, demonstrated this at the 2017 AALL Annual Meeting Cool Tools Café.

Who wants to be the first to share a story of how they spent their New Year’s Eve…? Anyone?

Cool Tool Spotlight #5: Patrick Parsons on Pixlr

Who doesn’t love alliteration?

This week’s featured tool is Pixlr, a browser-based photo editor that can be used to create marketing or promotional material for free. Patrick Parsons, Research Instructional Services Librarian at the Georgia State University College of Law Library, demonstrated this at the 2017 AALL Annual Meeting Cool Tools Café.

Also, who wants to mess with Photoshop* when you can do so much of the same for free (and more easily) online?

* No offense to lovers of Photoshop.

** This will be the last post of 2017. We’ll pick back up on January 2, 2018. See you next year!


Cool Tool Spotlight #4: AJ Blechner on Poll Everywhere

This week’s featured tool is Poll Everywhere, a web-based audience response system that gives presenters immediate feedback with live, interactive audience participation. AJ Blechner, Research Librarian and Librarian Instruction Coordinator at the Harvard Law Library, demonstrated this at the 2017 AALL Annual Meeting Cool Tools Café.

Go ahead. Use it to poll everyone in your next staff meeting on whether that meeting should have been an email…. (or maybe don’t)!

CS-SIS Member Spotlight: Brian Huffman

The Computing-Services Special Interest Section is made up of awesome law librarians doing interesting things.   The CS-SIS Member Spotlight is designed to shine light on our membership so that we can learn more about each other and stay connected.


CS-SIS Member Spotlight:  Brian Huffman


Circular Path to Librarianship

Brian’s exposure to libraries began in a hospital nursing and later medical library when he was an undergrad student at Drake University.   He loved his job, embraced the technology involved, and witnessed librarians who survived high-stakes research (paying by the minute!) in a dialup version of Medline.  He began law school with the intent to work in environmental law, but after clerking he found himself working in family, criminal, and immigration law instead.  Ten years later, Brian’s firm was downsizing, and after careful consideration he opted to begin library school to earn his MLIS from St. Catherine University.  With law already under his belt, he secured employment at a county law library which helped support him through library school.   Brian wanted to find ways to give back, and he did so by bringing in MLIS interns into the county law library, recruiting students into law librarianship, and serving as a mentor.   After working in the Washington County and Dakota County law libraries in Minnesota, he transitioned to academic law librarianship at the University of Hawai’i where he is the Electronic Services Librarian.

Tech Stuff

As an Electronic Services Librarian, Brian handles anything tech related in the law library.  He spends a good deal of time on website develop and database selection, training, and maintenance.  Recently, he’s initiated a program to train law students in legal technology competencies.  He created an assessment program which was taken by his 1Ls during orientation and then designed a curriculum to teach the needed tech skills.  He was pleased with the student participation in the voluntary sessions and saw his students improve their tech ability.

Brian became a CS-SIS member four years ago and enjoys serving as one of our webmasters.  He is happy that CS-SIS brings together colleagues with unique interests who think about, brainstorm, and work on similar library projects.   He appreciates the networking opportunities Computing Services offers and attends AALL annual meetings seeking out CS-SIS content.  He’s also thankful to have programming opportunities available to him while he’s at his sunny desk in Hawai’i, as professional development opportunities are usually an ocean away.

Keeping Busy

In addition to serving in CS-SIS, Brian is vice-president/president-elect for WestPac and a previous president of the Hawai’i Library Association. He has also been active in LISP and MALL.  Locally, he serves as a law school representative for the faculty senate at the University of Hawai’I at Mānoa.

Transitioning from county law libraries in Minnesota to an academic law library in Hawai’i was a fun move for Brian.  He loves working with students and finds the electronic services position to be a good fit.  He confirms that Hawai’i is indeed a beautiful place to live and work with rich culture and history.  When he’s not chauffeuring guests around the island, Brian is actively working toward tenure in 2018.

Good luck and Aloha!


Thanks to Brian Huffman for his willingness to be interviewed for this CS-SIS member spotlight.  If you are interested in interviewing and writing a blog post about a CS-SIS member, please contact Tawnya Plumb at  It is a great opportunity to learn about a fellow member.

Cool Tool Spotlight #3: Cas Laskowski on TOGGL

This week’s featured tool is TOGGL, a time management tool that can be used as a browser extension or on the desktop. Casandra (Cas) Laskowski, Reference Librarian at the Goodson Law Library of Duke University, demonstrated this at the 2017 AALL Annual Meeting Cool Tools Café.

Maybe this can help you figure out where all the time in your day goes….

Cool Tool Spotlight #2: Heather Simmons on PowerNotes

As a reminder, for the next several weeks a different tool presented at the 2017 AALL Annual Meeting Cool Tools Café will be featured with a link to a video demonstration by the presenter.

This week’s featured tool is PowerNotes. Heather Simmons, Law & Business Reference Librarian at the University of Illinois College of Law, demonstrates a useful browser extension, designed by former law students and lawyers, for organizing notes, links, and more.

Check it out! Because even research experts can use a little help.

(*PowerNotes was also recently featured in the November 8th KnowItAALL email newsletter.)

Cool Tool Spotlight #1: Kris Turner on browser extensions for productivity

Starting today, and continuing over the next several weeks, a different tool presented at the 2017 AALL Annual Meeting Cool Tools Café will be featured with a link to a video demonstration by the presenter.

This week’s featured tool is actually multiple tools. Kris Turner, Head of Reference at the University of Wisconsin Law School Library, demonstrates various browser extensions for productivity and legal research. Most are available for Chrome and Firefox, but Kris points out when they are available for other browsers too. Extensions include UnPayWall, LastPass, RECAP, Momentum, Jureeka! and more…

Let’s be honest, who couldn’t be more productive?

Hadi Amjadi at AALL in Austin: The Last Waltz

Hadi Amjadi in AustinBy Hadi Amjadi

I am very grateful to CS-SIS for providing me with a grant, which covered the registration cost for the AALL conference in Austin. This is my last year as an AALL member, as I have changed jobs and now work in a public library.  It was especially nice to be able to attend this year’s conference to see a good friend and colleague, Vicki Szymczak, receive the Ken Hirsch award.   

Austin was a wonderful town to visit! There were so many enjoyable events, as happens every year at AALL. Highlights for me include the West party at Speakeasy. I swear, I tasted the best potato salad that I had ever had my entire life at that event! The barbecue and fixings in Austin are simply the best, and is second to none!  Another unforgettable adventure was my visit to see the bats at the Congress Avenue bridge.  That is something you must do if you ever come to Austin.  I reckon parts of the year you may see more of them, probably in the Spring. However, there were still a huge number of them and it was a delightful experience to see them take off from under the bridge in such masses.  

Experiencing the heat in Austin was quite a shock. Ninety-nine degrees at 10 p.m. was a little hard to take! And speaking about the heat, I must mention the incredible adventure I had swimming in the Barton Springs Pool in Austin. That is most definitely something to experience when you want to escape the heat in Austin. You can only take a couple of minutes of being in the pool at first with water temperatures of 60-70 degrees! But it is worth staying in the water as long as you can. It was absolutely charming!

The conference schedule included a number of programs which were of interest to me. Since I just started switching from Library Systems to Technical Services, I really needed to gain more insight from the Tech Services folks.  I attended many programs with that focus and learned a great deal. However, the program I enjoyed the most was one describing the Linked Data project done at the Rice University by Scott Carlson. He described an experiment done at his institution for their library’s online catalog data. The data was enriched with URI’s from LC subject headings and reloaded. This project allows OPAC data to be discoverable by search engines which connect outside users who were previously unable to see the library’s online collection be able to find that data through the web. It was fascinating to learn about MarcNext tools available under MarcEdit which was what they used for this project.  

This year’s conference was also significant because I got to see my wife, Prano Amjadi, pass the gavel after serving as ALL-SIS chair, and my friend, Ron Wheeler complete his term as president of AALL. I have watched Ron throughout his career at AALL, and he is definitely among my most favorite AALL presidents. This was probably my last AALL conference, and it was very special to be there and see Ron in all his glory.  I will miss him very much.    

I want to thank the CS-SIS grant and awards committee for providing me with the assistance that made attending this year’s memorable conference possible.   I plan to continue working with the Awards committee to stay engaged with this great association.  


We Want You… !

In May of this year, AALL President Ron Wheeler charged a special committee to review and update two documents, the Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers and the Procurement Toolkit and Code of Best Practices for Licensing Electronic Resources. Both documents have been around for at least 15 years, and they were last revised about five years ago. The special committee will present recommendations to the AALL Board at its spring meeting in 2018, and we are spending the fall soliciting input from the membership about necessary changes or updates.

CS-SIS members are among the most qualified people to do this review, given that much of the need for updating arises out of the constant new developments and new uses of computing technology. Are the principles described in these documents broad enough to encompass issues arising from current and future technologies (e.g., social media, e-books, mobile devices, wearables, internet of things, biometric authentication, data mining, cryptocurrencies)? At this point I am just listing trendy technology words in an effort to spark some thinking… I don’t actually know much about many of these topics (and you can probably tell). That’s why we want you! Are there trends that should be addressed specifically? Or can these documents in their present form continue to accommodate the ongoing rapid developments in technology that we will undoubtedly continue to experience?

In an hour you can probably read both documents and make some notes about necessary fixes and possible updates. Keep in mind that the principles in each document are best crafted as broadly as possible, so that they may continue to reflect both innovative new resources and practices as well as those that are tried and true. You can send your suggestions to me: eoutler at barry dot edu.

In addition, in mid-November we will conduct a discussion forum open to all AALL members. If you have particular interest or expertise in these topics (and even if you don’t) please plan to participate. Announcements about the schedule and how to participate will be coming soon.