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Past Presidents Look Back

For this 70th anniversary issue, we thought it would be a treat to gather reflections from past CALL presidents. Below are a collection of responses to a variety of questions about CALL and law librarianship generally. Many thanks to Judy Gaskell, Sally Holterhoff, Heidi Kuehl, Sheri Lewis, Maribel Nash, and Betty Roeske for sharing their thoughts with us.

What would you say was the association’s greatest accomplishment during your time on the board?

Judy Gaskell: We worked to continue the CALL tradition of cooperation and mutual support.  One example of this was the annual salary survey that helped members know what current salaries were and negotiate to receive full compensation.

Sally Holterhoff:  My term as CALL President was in 1995-96. Reviewing some old (paper) files I saved, I see that at that time, CALL was still firmly in the age of print communication—for the CALL Bulletin, elections, business meeting announcements and reservations, and so forth. I found mention of the “mail problem,” which I believe was getting our mailings delivered to the offices of members in a timely fashion as well as the timely receiving of mailed checks to the CALL post office box. However, I was reminded that in 1995-96 we were discussing the possible creation of a CALL listserv and a CALL website, both of which a few other AALL chapters already had up and running. Today it’s hard to imagine what it was like to depend primarily on print mailings to communicate back and forth with our members!

Also, in 1995 we began the planning for CALL’s 50th anniversary coming two years later in 1997. With a special committee chaired by Mary Lu Linnane, CALL spent the next two years planning and carrying out some great golden anniversary events and projects.

Heidi Kuehl: From a project management standpoint, it would be moving the old CALL website to the new CALL website (with the great work of the members of that committee, of course!) and implementing a content management system (as well as exploring social media tools for marketing events, etc.).

Maribel Nash: I appointed Jamie Sommer, Julie Pabarja, and Eugene Giudice to a task force charged with investigating strategies for CALL to engage with new members and further develop CALL’s role in fostering and mentoring young law librarians. As a result of their work, CALL formed the Mentorship and Leadership Development Committee.

Sheri Lewis: Perhaps the greatest accomplishment was initiating a strategic planning process and crafting a Mission Statement for the association.

Betty Roeske:  CALL no longer paid a penalty to the IRS for not filing taxes, even though we did not have to pay taxes. 

What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen in the profession in your time in CALL?

JG: The incredible developments in technology that have revolutionized legal research.  In the “old days” we waited for Supreme Court opinions to arrive in first class mail from BNA.  Now they are released electronically almost immediately.  This has caused expectations that everything is available on the internet which we law librarians know is not always true.

SH: One major change I’ve seen in over 30 years in CALL and in the profession has been the advent of online communication. Now we simply take for granted the speed and ease of connecting with others and staying in touch.  But back in the early and mid-1990s, in our workplaces we basically had postal mail, the fax machine, and the telephone . . . so that was how CALL members communicated with each other.

HK: The influx of a variety of low-cost legal databases and enhancements of the major legal databases (Westlaw, Lexis, HeinOnline, and Bloomberg Law) would be the biggest changes. The interfaces and search algorithms of legal databases are always changing, but the major databases have really experienced a sea change of new content, revamped ways of delivering information in various formats (e.g., e-books), and streamlined searching/filtering to meet user needs. This is an especially vivid contrast to ten or fifteen years ago when visualization tools and artificial intelligence would not have even been on the horizon as futuristic conversation or in my mind’s eye because only Westlaw Classic and Lexis Classic had been in the market (and print resources were still heavily used in academic law libraries). More recently (in the last five years or so), law and technology educational efforts and the use of more innovative technology tools in the market have now driven the legal practice to become more efficient. Law librarians are at the forefront of the law and technology movement and have also facilitated open access to the law (via institutional repositories of faculty publications).

SL: The shift in collections from print to digital, fueled by the emergence of the Internet, has to be among the most significant change since I joined CALL in the mid-1990s.

BR: Information going from a print format to digital format.  Communication going from letters and phone calls to email, texting, etc.

How has your involvement with CALL helped you either personally or professionally?

JG: I cherish the many wonderful friends I have made through CALL. I am grateful for the professional opportunities that opened up for me in Chicago and ultimately led me to one of the very best law library jobs in the US.

HK: CALL has been an invaluable component of my career as a law librarian. I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing law librarians, network at CALL events, and learn from every committee work experience and leadership role. You never know when these CALL service activities will have a synergy with work or leadership at one’s home institution, so I would encourage everyone in the Chicago-area to contribute to CALL and AALL and “carpe diem” to further your career and educational opportunities will abound.

SL: I have learned a tremendous amount about other libraries, their collections, services, practices, and priorities, from CALL colleagues.  And I have benefited personally on numerous occasions from the kindness and generosity of CALL members.

MN: Some of my closest friends are people who I met at CALL lunches. I’ve also been extraordinarily fortunate professionally because of the connections made through CALL. I met and sat with Sally Holterhoff and Naomi Goodman at my first CALL meeting, and just a few weeks later I got a job offer to work with them at Valpo Law Library. I have my current job because I served on committees with Megan Butman, Valerie Kropf, and Julie Pabarja. Serving on CALL’s various committees and on the board, I had great opportunities to work closely with, and learn from, librarians from law schools, firms, courts, and agencies, most of whom I never would have met if not for CALL.

BR: My involvement enabled me to have contacts to ask advice on new resources. My questions were usually what you wish you had known before you installed it or rolled it out. That way we would have a procedure to handle possible problems.

What advice would you give to someone new to the profession of law librarianship?

JG: Be active in CALL and AALL in order to get to know your colleagues and be part of our robust mutual support system.

HK: Get involved with CALL!!!!  You will never regret it . . . although the association is very large with myriad types of law librarians, you will meet lasting friends and colleagues and continually learn from each other by sharing ideas at CALL events (and serving on committees).

SL: Be curious and eager to learn as much as you can from as many colleagues as possible. Our professionals have a wealth of experience and a range of interests and personalities.

MN: Be active in the law library community, at both the local and national level.

BR: Volunteer for committees in professional organizations and also within your organization.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing CALL moving forward?

JG: We need to support members in their ongoing struggle to prove their worth to their employers and preserve the role of law librarians and law libraries.

HK: Keeping up with new technologies and new changes in the legal practice (e.g., artificial intelligence and the law, law and technology in practice, etc.).

SL: CALL seems to continue to be a strong and vital organization. I suppose that continuing to attract and benefit new members is a continual challenge for any organization.

BR: Providing resources to members to prove their value to their managers.

What do you hope for the future of the association?

JG: I hope CALL will continue its essential role of supporting and informing Chicago law librarians. I hope to be back for the 75th anniversary celebration and as many more as possible.

SH: That CALL will continue pursuing the same goals that have been consistent for the organization for more than seven decades now—to bring together colleagues to work together in a spirit of cooperation, sharing ideas and resources and advancing the goals of our employers and the legal profession as well as our own personal and professional goals. Individual members and leaders of CALL have come and gone, replaced by subsequent generations. However, CALL has evolved as an association to meet new challenges while retaining values that are still relevant today, in a much different time than our founding mothers and fathers could possibly have envisioned.

SL: I hope that CALL continues to have members who are engaged in the association. Active participation would seem to be vital to CALL’s future and essential for a responsive organization.

MN: CALL has always played an important role in connecting local law librarians. I hope that its members continue to be involved and engaged as the profession evolves so that CALL can continue to play that role.

BR: That the association continues to be a resource for members to network, then be able to discuss with their managers the ways that whatever organizations are doing might be utilized within their organization.