AALL: Striving to be the Peloton of Law Libraries

By Andre Davison

People love the Peloton experience for the community and empowerment. The two quotes below illustrate this statement.

Andre Davison using his Peloton.
Andre Davison busy in action.

“One of the things that differentiate Peloton from other fitness programs is the sense of community you feel. The instructors serve as coaches both in life and in your fitness journey.”

“Not only do the Peloton instructors have to create amazing playlists, but they need to create daily affirmations for us. I think we’ve all experienced a time when it appears that a Peloton instructor has somehow gotten inside our heads, filling our ears with exactly what we needed to hear at that moment. Their mantras, their words of wisdom, their encouragement push us towards our fitness goals and also speak to our inner thoughts.”1

My wife and I recently purchased a Peloton bike to help us accomplish our goals in our wellness journey. We saw the advertisements and received recommendations from friends, but visiting the Peloton store and demoing the equipment convinced us to purchase the bike. My wife stated, “the Peloton helps keep her accountable and is a two-for-one fitness and therapy session. The instructors constantly remind you [that] the mind is the strongest muscle of the body; therefore, it must be kept strong and conditioned to keep our physical bodies strong and conditioned. Wellness is a combination of mind and body. The Peloton community is a fantastic example of overall wellness.” 

The 2021 American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) virtual annual meeting provided a similar experience to Peloton. The wonderful community of professionals that shared their immense knowledge and expertise bestowed me with a feeling of empowerment after the conference. Peloton uses technology and design to connect the world through fitness, empowering people to be the best version of themselves anywhere, anytime. The AALL virtual conference used technology and design to connect legal information professionals and law librarians to must-have educational programming that empowers the profession to lead with wisdom and insight. I believe we can take this experience and replicate it to advance Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in law librarianship. We can accomplish this by aligning the values of Peloton with the core organizational values of AALL. 

Put members first: Design with a user-centered mindset. Obsess over every touchpoint of the member experience.

The first value of Peloton listed on the website is to “Put Members First.” The way we can enhance DEI in our profession is by including all members of law librarianship. The AALL conference session “Library Infrastructure 101: Technical Services’ Role in Building Your Public Service Foundation and Bridges to Patron Success” advocated for “allied professionals,” new terminology that the panelists used in place of support staff or paraprofessionals. The panelists discussed how these allied professionals are often composed of marginalized groups and proposed that AALL support the “entire library” and create new pipelines for underrepresented groups within AALL through ideas like a tiered membership and creating content specific to them. The session resonated with me as a law librarian from an underrepresented group that received opportunities to advance in the profession. 

Operate with a bias for action: Challenge the status quo by continuously innovating and improving. Take risks, fail fast, and learn from past failures.

The second value is to “Operate with a bias for action.” The AALL Innovation showcase was a great example of this concept. This new concept was a platform to show how law librarians and legal information have innovated during the pandemic. Colleagues presented short videos for three library types: government, law firm, and law school. This change in format from the previous innovation competitions showcased fantastic ideas from a diverse group of librarians. What can AALL and its members do to replicate this concept to innovate and improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the law librarianship? Maybe we can host a hackathon for minority library students, law students, or allied professionals? An example of a potential pipeline to introduce new ideas and individuals to law librarianship. 

Empower teams of smart creatives: Hire the best and get out of the way. Think and act like owners. Stay lean, scrappy, and creative.

The third value is to “Empower teams of smart creatives.” How are we able to empower smart teams? Mentorship has been an incredible source of my empowerment in my career. Several sessions at the AALL virtual conference touched on mentorship. “Management Musings: A Continued Dialogue on Managing Up, Down, and Within” shared anecdotes that reverberated throughout my journey in law librarianship. The sessions discussed two mentorship resources instrumental in developing me as a thought leader in our profession. In 2019, I received a grant that allowed me to attend the AALL Management Institute. There I learned from our instructor, Maureen Sullivan, that “Empowerment is a conscious delegation of responsibility, authority, and accountability within a set of confined constraints.” I took content and concepts from the institute that help me to be intentional in the development and creation of opportunities to empower my team. I received another grant to attend the 2020 AALL Leadership Academy. The academy provided leadership content, but the mentor assigned to me after the conference was the best benefit I received. Our mentor/mentee relationship is the epitome of empowerment. My mentor has provided wisdom and knowledge to help me develop and create opportunities to empower myself. She is an adviser, advocate, and ally. AALL members can replicate to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion in our profession. 

Together we go far: Build a diverse and inclusive community. Uphold the obligation to dissent and listen. Presume trust and be transparent.

The 4th value of Peloton is to “Together we go far.” The AALL conference had several sessions on diversity, equity, and inclusion. I would recommend you watch them all. One thought that stuck with me in the conference was from the session “The Role of Empathy in Improving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives”. In the session, the panelist paraphrased a practical definition from author Michael Ventura, who wrote Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership. She stated 

“Empathy is about understanding, seeing the world from other points of view. Empathy helps us form insight that can lead to new and better ways of thinking and is a skill that we can learn and apply into our daily practices in law librarianship”. AALL and our members can enhance diversity, inclusion, and equity through empathy for marginalized and underrepresented groups in our organization. The AALL programs provided an excellent foundation for creating an empathetic mindset.

The AALL virtual annual meeting provided a similar experience of community and empowerment as Peloton. The conference programming had many examples of how our core organization values align with the values of Peloton. AALL member takeaways from the conference should be used for professional growth and to enhance diversity, inclusion, and equity in law librarianship.

Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. Their essays represent their personal beliefs and not that of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.

  1. https://www.mypursestrings.com/peloton-instructor-motivational-quotes/