The CALL Grants and Awards Committee graciously provided me with a Grant to enroll in the AALL Introduction to Law Libraries virtual course. The course was self-paced which created flexibility in my scheduling; while I received the grant in March, I was able to take and complete the course in June after the semester and grading had ended. Additionally, the course itself was only one hour long allowing me to complete it gradually over the course of a full day, rather than being required to sit during a one hour slot. This flexibility was wonderful and allowed me to focus on work while also completing the course.
The course design was made up of three substantive modules covering budgets generally, managing funds, and working with budgets. Each model was formulaic providing general background, examples, questions to answer, and “knowledge check” which included questions about the content just covered. Another benefit of the self-paced course was that when certain topics were particularly complicated, I was able to go backwards and re-watch the topic coverage so that I could understand it better. This happened quite a lot, so I was very appreciative of the option.
While this course was titled “Introduction to Law Library Budgets”, this did not mean the course was meant for complete novices. Instead, the three modules introduced budgetary topics along a spectrum, beginning with the most general to the most specific. The first two modules presented information that was very intuitive for anyone who has created a personal budget, and much of the information seemed obvious to myself. The third module was the most informative for myself detailing issues concerning cost sharing, lump sum expenditures, cost recovery, and other budgetary topics that were more nuanced and specific to large institutional budgets, such as law libraries.
To help with the course, there were several supplementary documents, including the Participant Guide (which was a pdf version of the entire course presentation), a glossary of terms which was accessible at any point during the course, and a sample excel sheet with a mock budget that was referenced throughout the course. The glossary and excel sheet were the most helpful since they could be used in the moment to follow along with real world situations and get a fuller understanding of the terms being used.
While the course was informative, there were some deficits with it as well. First, the narration was computer generated which was more off-putting than I would have thought. I understand the cost implications of this style, but it did not feel like I engaged with the presentation, and may have been just as informed by reading the Participant Guide. Similarly, there were too many assumptions made about understanding in the examples. One example claimed to show an accounting error and highlighted parts of an excel sheet to demonstrate the error; however, the narration did not help point out why the error was obvious nor how a novice would be able to spot it, and just assumed the viewer would see the error (which I did not, even after viewing this particular part four times). Finally, while the course was helpful, I believe the same information would be gained if consulting with a member of my library or budget organization and simply going through the process, which would not have cost anything.
Overall, the course was beneficial if overpriced. It would be helpful for someone who does not have easy access to the budget making process in their organization or for those who really have no experience whatsoever creating a budget.