In mid July, law librarians from all across the country gathered for the annual meeting of the American Association of Law Librarians (AALL). This year, the meeting was held in our hometown of Philadelphia, which meant that we were all able to attend and participate in the festivities. Over the next couple of months, we will be sharing our varied experiences at the conference, to give you all a better idea of how we hone our skills and learn about emerging trends on law librarianship.
Financial Literacy: Learning About the Numbers Side of the Library
by Mary Cornelius
This year’s AALL conference offered two sessions on Library finances and accounting principles and practices. Having attended many conventions in past years, I had never seen such an emphasis on “numbers” before, so I attended both of these presentations. What an eduation!
The first session, “Library Finances 101: Developing Workplace Financial Literacy in Your Staff and Institution” emphasized knowledge, teamwork, and cooperation, especially in today’s economically conscious and possibly austere environment. These days, the library must implement the philosophy and action of being a “business” more than it had in the past. Administrators, supervisors, and staff at meetings should inform and educate others, so each person has the capacity to learn principles, suggest improvements, and encourage awareness and action to improve all of us to help make better functioning libraries. Through this kind of teamwork, everyone in the library is encouraged to contribute, and by sharing ideas and processes at staff meetings, we can all be more informed, more efficient, and implement cost savings with innovative thinking and actions. In spite of the changing environment in law schools now, through the collaborative efforts of an entire staff we can still set up our libraries as viable contributors to our larger organizations. Both presenters shared very interesting and thought-provoking information, and it was an excellent and absorbing presentation.
The other financial session I attended, “Balance Your Books – What Librarians Need to Know About Accounting,” was an introduction (plus a little more) to accounting. Financial statements, balance sheets, cash flows, audits, owner’s equity, and retained earnings and assets and liabilities were a few of the principles that were briefly explained and coordinated. The Securities and Exchange Commission, established after the 1929 stock market crash, was created to normalize and oversee financial activities in the U.S.. As part of its mission, the SEC allowed the accounting profession to establish a set of accounting principles, known as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and a board was established to oversee the development of these principles, called the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). The GAAP are codified in the FASB Accounting Standards Codification (ASC). The presenters were excellent and came from many different backgrounds: an executive editor at Bloomberg BNA, Counsel at Buchanan, Ingersoll, and Rooney, and two law librarians, one in a firm library and one in an academic law library. Each presenter contributed invaluable information to this absorbing discussion, and a very helpful list of resources were included in the handout.
All in all, I found that law librarians benefit from adding financial literacy to their repertoire and applying accounting principles to their day to day operations. More and more, I am sure that law students, lawyers, and librarians will be expected to be “numbers” people as well as “prose” people.