LIBRARIAN, CONFERENCES, VENDORS AND EXHIBIT HALLS: PROFITING FROM PROXIMITY

handshakeChuck Lowry is an enterprise sales rep for Fastcase, the winner, with Hein, of the 2014 AALL new product of the year award. Chuck can be reached at 202.999.4975 or clowry@fastcase.com.

The other day, I got my thirty-year pin in the mail from AALL. Now this only poses a mid-life crisis for me if I am able to live to one hundred twenty-eight years of age, and my family history screams that such a span is unlikely. Still, I like to think that there may be some benefit to others in thinking about my experience dealing with law librarians, especially at conferences. Much of what I say will be obvious to those of you who have attended several conferences; if I am only able to help you express or articulate what you have learned from the conferences, that will perhaps be useful to some of our readers.
This is not the place to lay out a comprehensive plan of attack for the entire AALL or SLA conferences; both of them are venues very rich in opportunities from the programming, the exhibit hall and the socializing. What I propose to do is to offer three or four practical hints that will, I hope, help you maximize the value of your exhibit hall time.
IT’S OKAY TO HAVE AN AGENDA. A retired librarian, attendee at dozens of national library conferences, once told me that she had a very useful mental trick while planning her exhibit hall assault: “I like to imagine that I am not managing library staff and library resources, but I am assembling them de novo.” She knew, of course, that I would be impressed by de novo. That is perhaps an even more useful step now than it was a dozen years ago, when it was first voiced to me. Law firm libraries live in a world where the only constant is change, and practically every budget year starts fresh. The old assumptions are pretty much gone, so do not close your mind to any product or service that can make your library more effective and more efficient, even if you have not previously considered it.
NOW THAT YOU ARE OUT OF THE OFFICE FOR A COUPLE DAYS, THINK OF THE FUTURE, NOT THE PRESENT. Sure, you had an awkward conversation with the CFO only Wednesday about transactional charges, and three vendors have told you that they want an increase because they have not had one in two years, and your best reference librarian has an offer to go to another firm, but you can think about that when you get back. For two or three days, take advantage of what is in front of you. Let us look at just one example. Do you feel like you are not getting a firm enough handle on usage of your various resources? You will need more comprehensive data, firm-wide and by practice group, to allocate your budget? Well gee, OneLog and Priory Solutions will both be there, and I’ll bet they will be happy to see you. And you are certainly able to have a more informal, low pressure conversation in the exhibit hall than if you made an appointment and had someone come to the office, which elevate the pressure on both parties. Use the exhibit hall contact to determine if you want to have someone come to the office for a more detailed presentation.
THE EHIBIT HALL IS A GOOD PLACE TO FORM AN IMPRESSION, BUT A BAD PLACE TO MAKE A DEAL. When you look at a product or service in an exhibit hall, the wireless may be so-so, the right sales rep may be on a break, in the noise and confusion the presenter may not have formed a clear idea of what you want to see, in the noise and confusion you may not ask the right question or have at your side the trusted colleague whose perspective for this one thing will be crucial. Use the conference to form an impression. Is the vendor responsive and knowledgeable? Are the folks at the booth listening to you rather than reciting canned presentations? Do you see them outside the exhibit hall? After all, a vendor with a strong commitment to an association and an industry will most likely have a strong commitment to individual customers as well. Use the impressions you get of the product, service, vendor and vendor personnel to determine if you want to follow up. The exhibit hall is a better place to explore a relationship than to formalize one.
NO LIBRARIAN BUYS 100% OF DEMONSTRATED PRODUCTS AND NO VENDOR EXPECTS TO CLOSE 100% OF PROSPECTS. It’s fine. You can still be pleasant, still even be friends. Things change rapidly in this industry, and it’s easier to meet on a bridge that has not been charred.
handshake

Take the Start/Stop Poll: What Did You Start or Stop in 2013?

Submitted by Jean O’Grady, Library Director at DLA Piper

The Poll: Please take the brief (10 question) Start/Stop 2013/2014 Poll

I am a big believer in new beginnings. The dawn of a New Year always provides a good excuse to hit the “pause button” and reassess my trajectory both personally and professionally. I started 2014 with a good omen – being bumped up to first class on my first flight of the year. I will add it to my “good luck” inventory of the year – a list which I consult in those inevitable moments of psychic whiplash.

Knowing When to Stop. I am a big fan of Jim Collins author of the business classic “Good to Great.”

stoplight

He counsels that deciding what to STOP doing is as important as the projects which we START. It is so easy to continue doing things – because we have always done them. But managing change involves risk. You may take some heat when you stop or radically alter a service… it’s part of the job.

Decades ago I took one bold leap into the future. I decided to stop sending law reviews to the bindery. It was after most current law reviews were on Lexis and Westlaw but before the full archives and images appeared in HeinOnline. I could no longer in good conscience spend the firm’s money and staff time on this legacy ritual that was creating gilded buckram volumes destined for the dumpster within a few years. OK I can hear the snickers – what’s the big deal? Well I was at a rather …”scholarly/nerdy” law firm at the time – lawyers even wanted us to bind their private sets of law reviews from their alma mater… so my decision did raise some eyebrows. I was later reviled for suggesting that we should stop delivering the daily newspapers to every lawyers office (redundant, inefficient, not green.)

shepards volumes

I was pilloried for suggesting that the associates no longer looked at Shepard’s in print – a notion which I tested by putting rubber bands around all the volumes – to prove that this work had all moved online. But to the partners Shepard’s Citator volumes were so iconic that practicing law without these books was unthinkable. So we also have the unenviable task of building consensus around our changes. Luckily the “Great Recession” has had a remarkable impact on making lawyers more amenable to change, especially if you can show them the dollar signs. But there is no question you need to choose your battles, prepare carefully and assess the impact on lawyers – your clients when you introduce change.

Deliver More Value. The speed with which old processes and assumptions become obsolete is accelerating. We can only deliver more value by eliminating or streamlining the routine, the redundant and the unexamined.

The Wisdom of Colleagues. In the spirit of collecting the wisdom of colleagues, I thought it would be interesting to do a poll on what we started or stopped in 2013 and on what we plan to start or stop in 2014. What products did we stop using? what new ones will we adopt in 2014?

The Poll: Please take the brief (10 question) Start/Stop 2013/2014 Poll

The Survey will remain open until January 15th and I will report on the results. Thanks in advance to all participants.

Wrapping up 2013.

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Kate Greene Stanhope, Manager Library & Information Services, McInnes Cooper

 2013 is winding down and planning for 2014 well underway. Historically, end of year was the natural time to evaluate departmental performance and set new goals. However, in 2013, we seemed to be doing this weekly – daily sometimes. Our small Library and Information Services group has moved away from the emphasis on library as a physical space and is focussed on the information services that add value to our firm’s business. Research advisory and reference services are still in high demand, though their value is diminishing in the eyes of some. The recent transition to a sole source environment for online research has resulted in increased requests for assistance finding material previously available at our fingertips. This is not a bad thing, but achieving balance between active participation in firm knowledge and information management projects and availability for “just in time” research is challenging.

So, as I contemplate my 2014 Business Plan, I reached out to colleagues in other Canadian firms. They shared their thoughts on what kept them busy this year and what 2014 might look like. A few common themes emerged.

 Beyond legal research – The intersection of library and marketing:

More law libraries are collaborating with marketing, whether formally or informally, to lend expertise in the areas of Competitive and Business Intelligence. In the past year, our L&IS group has worked with Marketing to produce client and industry profiles and we foresee this continuing. Currently, we are trialling an online research product that will enhance our ability to turn these requests around more efficiently and without sacrificing detail (I learned a lot about CI in law firms at the CALL 2013 conference at a session moderated by Agathe Bujold of McCarthy Tetrault).  

 April Brousseau, Assistant Director, Library and Knowledge Management at Stikeman Elliot, shared that her group works closely with Stikeman’s marketing department to provide in depth company and industry research, and assists in the preparation of related materials for RFPs. Another colleague from a smaller firm notes that marketing related work now approaches 50% of his time and includes input into the use of social media, assisting in the creation and editing of visual advertising, and even assisting with the creation of individual lawyer strategic business plans.  Although this work often gets set aside when a lawyer requires research assistance, he delegates some research to students when things are really tight.

 KM for Library & Information Services  

Legal information professionals continue to drive Knowledge Management within firms, but KM practices have relevance in helping us manage our internal know-how, specifically the collective knowledge amassed in the provision of research and reference services. Leveraging this knowledge through identification, classification, and retrieval of “frequently asked questions” can free up time to devote elsewhere. April’s group at Stikeman’s plans to enhance the database of reference question responses they maintain and my group continues to improve our use of Outlook categories to profile reference answers.  We are also looking for better ways to capture metrics about the kinds of questions we receive and the resources used to answer them (See Eve Ross and Bess Reynolds’ presentations Library Metrics and Metrics 101: Proving Your Value for detailed discussions of the value of metrics for information professionals).

 Prominent Roles in KM and Technology Projects

Fellow Nova Scotia law librarians Linda Matte (Library Manager, Cox and Palmer) and Cyndi Murphy, (Knowledge Manager, Stewart McKelvey and current CALL Past President) devoted significant time this year to projects which introduced new technologies to their lawyers practices.

 The cost of updating of print versions of Civil Procedure Rules (CPR’s) is a significant line item in many library budgets. With 30 subscriptions to manage, Linda sought to reduce these costs while still providing current, convenient access to this information. She investigated the use of iPad’s to access CPR’s and discovered that pdf versions of the rules, freely available online, don’t require wifi to use after they’ve been download. She tested the $5 GoodReader app to manage content (bookmarks, notes, highlighting), and found it to be very effective. The pilot project was optional and was implemented over 11 month, with an initial trial group of 10 lawyers. It was a success from the start and as word spread Linda eventually had 100% buy in, with savings approaching $18,000 by 2014.

 When Stewart McKelvey decided to deploy Recommind’s Decisiv Email Management software to better manage e-mail volume, Cyndi was a key member of the implementation team, along with a project manager, technical advisor, and a member of the Stewart McKelvey IT staff (a consultant was retained to assist with the planning and change management aspects of the project because of its impact on lawyer practices). Reporting to the Chief Professional Resources Officer, who was actively involved in the roll-out, Cyndi took the lead on liaising with the IT trainers to compile one-page handouts on the filing and searching features of Decisiv, created the portal page dedicated to Decisiv, and worked with the trainers to populate it. When Decisiv was rolled out to users throughout the firm, she assisted in conducting training sessions. Cyndi acknowledged that it was difficult at times to balance the demands of the project with her day to day work, especially with the travel required to the firm’s other offices. But, support from her staff and recognition from the firm of the role she played in the success of the project contributed to personal and professional gratification.

 Looking ahead, the dynamic nature of the work we do as Legal Information Professionals will probably be reflected in the changing composition of our groups. At Lawson Lundell, an innovative, team approach is described in the advertisement for a new position, Manager of Information Resources.  And, in 2014, my group will welcome the firm’s Conflict and Audit Coordinators as we become more involved in the life cycle of information within the firm, from new business intake to closed file management, and everything in between.

 Now, if I can just get that Business Plan done before Christmas Eve . . .

 

 

Renaming the Private Law Libraries Special Interest Section (PLL-SIS) of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL)

self-imagepost authored by Michael Ginsborg, Reference Librarian, Arnold & Porter LLP

In the Devil’s Dictionary, Ambroise Bierce (re)defines “lawyer” as “one skilled in circumvention of the law.” If Bierce were our authority in the matter, it would seem that a law firm librarian aids in circumventions of law. But as the Devil’s Dictionary makes clear, certain identifications carry a host of associations, whether or not within standard use. Given changes in our profession, what we call ourselves has become a renewed subject of interest.

In 2009, members of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) considered a change in name to the “ Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals” (ASKPro). The proposal was the result of extensive research by SLA. Although SLA members did not adopt the change, proponents advanced compelling reasons for it. They found that “libraries” no longer adequately represented the range and variety of their skills and careers, now often pursued without library affiliation. As a result, continued identification with libraries failed to convey their unique “strategic” value to their employers and clients. The SLA Board offered the proposed rebranding to more clearly communicate this value..

Jean O’Grady, PLL-SIS Chair, recently announced that the PLL Board will examine the merits of renaming our PLL-SIS, and the Board discussed the issue in the October 23rd Law Librarian Conversations. Jean advances equally compelling reasons in the context of law firms. First, PLL’s use of the word “libraries” reveals nothing specific about we do. PLL members provide a wide array of services, including “Competitive Intelligence, Business Intelligence, Knowledge Management, records, docket, web development, and other emerging digital roles.” As Jean observes, our roles have radically changed, reflecting “seismic” shifts in the legal industry. “Librarian” and “libraries” fail to convey how our new responsibilities and skills serve the goals of our law firm or corporate employers and clients.

Second, law firms with libraries are rapidly reducing their print collections and “embedding” librarians in practice groups. In fact, at least one AmLaw 100 firm has no print collection, and smaller firms, like this one, have done likewise. Available data – as in this presentation by Bess Reynolds – clearly show an accelerating trend toward digitization. So it can be persuasively argued that changed circumstances warrant a new organizational name without the reductive and outdated connotations of “libraries” and “librarians.” Carol Ottolenghi describes a familiar connotation in her article about naming those we serve as clients. If called “patrons,” some users “initially think of us as ‘clerks who like books.’” Changing PLL’s name could also help reverse such unwelcome perceptions.

The PLL Board has invited us to offer our comments. I find myself rather conflicted over the Board’s proposal, in much the same way that one SLA member said she was over ASKPro. Why? On the one hand, law firm clients and attorneys will continue to misunderstand what we do if we bill our time as librarians – a point that Jean makes in the Law Librarian Conversations program. On the other hand, the symbolism of “libraries” and “librarians” still matters. Indeed, it has assumed greater importance in our era of digital transformation. Among senses in which we still “like the books,” we believe copyrighted works deserve the widest dissemination among our clients. The words “libraries” and “librarian” suggest that we care about sharing resources and expertise, and maintaining a right of access as close to ownership as possible. They suggest that we favor the continuing availability of interlibrary loans and that we oppose digital licensing restrictions impairing access rights. And they suggest that we belong to a collective enterprise that sustains the indispensable benefits of these unique forms of sharing and preservation for future use.

My ambivalence has no ideal remedy. The nearest approximation to a remedy falls consideration short, but I cannot think of a better alternative than to offer a “hybrid” idea for rebranding. For example, the name “Private Law Librarians and Allied Knowledge Professionals” (PLLAKPro) comes perilously close to sounding like a Dickensian Office of Circumlocution. Whatever name emerges, perhaps PLL-SIS can accommodate a hybrid, emphasizing the primacy of librarians, so that we can continue to signal the ideals of librarianship.

MOOCS: What’s in it for law librarians?

Katie Thomas, Law Librarian, Toronto, Canada

Web: http://katiemthomas.wordpress.com

 “With a MOOC MOOC here,

And a MOOC MOOC there,

Here a MOOC, there a MOOC,

Everywhere a MOOC MOOC…” *

 Law librarians have many options for professional development opportunities. Annual conferences, meet-up groups, webinars, twitter chats, and collaborating with colleagues are just some of the eclectic ways we can keep our ear to the ground. But what about MOOCs (massive open online courses)? What’s in it for librarians or better yet, law librarians? I thought I would find out.

 What’s a MOOC? The idea has been well covered in the professional press and I encourage you to plug the term into your favourite search engine.  As a starter, you may want to read Susan Munro’s piece entitled MOOC, Distance Education and CLE or Judith Gaskell’s MOOCs: What are they good for?, both posted on SLAW.

 This post focuses on the professional development opportunities offered through MOOCs for librarians. I am not so much interested (at least just now!) in how librarians can provide support for MOOC learning to our clients and students as a considerable amount has already been written in this area, especially in the academic librarian literature. And, as Susan Munro and others have pointed out, there is no lack of topics to address. Quality of the educational experience, student engagement, student-teacher interaction, the business model behind the phenomenon and librarian support for the MOOC are just some of the issues that can be explored. 

 So where to start? Well, that’s the thing. There is no “official” place to start looking for MOOCs, never mind just the “librarian-ish” courses. Yes, you can plug the term library, librarian, information, metadata, legal etc. into any of the MOOC websites like Coursera or edX, but expect mixed results.  An aggregator such as ClassCentral helps, but it does not pull some of the iSchool courses I will describe below.

 I began with the article entitled MOOCs to Watch written by librarian Courtney Brown. She provided a helpful list of courses that would be of interest to librarians. They are primarily technology related such as Creative Programming for Digital Media & Mobile Apps.

 iSchool MOOCs which have received rave reviews (based on the website comments and speaking with colleagues who have enrolled) include the New Librarianship Master Class open online course taught by Dave Lankes at the Syracuse University iSchool. Professor Lankes writes that “Through this course, [librarians] will learn how to better capture, store, and disseminate the conversations of their communities.” The videos, slides, readings, and structure have remained available for free on the website but you will first need to register with the provider COURSEsites. By the way, the first MOOC offered at the iSchool was A Brief Introduction to Data Science with R and a second is planned for autumn 2013 entitled Applied Data Science: An Introduction.

 Over at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Dr. Pomerantz at the School of Information and Library Science has been teaching the MOOC, Metadata: Organizing and Discovering Information, again to rave reviews. It is being offered again for the fall of 2013.

Then there is the Hyperlinked Library MOOC at San Jose State University SLIS, which explores how libraries are using emerging technologies to serve their communities. Last I checked, the course had reached its full capacity of 400 students! It is clearly filling a niche for professional development for librarians.

In Canada, Wendy Newman at the University of Toronto iSchool is very excited to be offering, in the winter of 2014, a MOOC on Library Advocacy through edX.  She says, “The MOOC description is not yet fully confirmed, [however]…it is a 6-session adaptation for a wider audience of my regular credit course.” Keep your ear to the ground for further updates.

And what of MOOCs for law librarians? I did not find any that were purposely geared to law and librarians. There are courses on environmental law, criminal law, English common law, constitutional law and more. I think Wendy Reynolds raises a good point when she surmises in a comment on SLAW that, “I also wonder about the value of MOOCs in helping librarians gain exposure to other disciplines and emerging ideas. Are employers willing to treat these programs as “real” learning? Does it matter?” We should be exploring new ideas and thinking outside our box. So yes, as to MOOCs, there’s lots “in it” for law librarians.

Finally, if MOOCs have caught your fancy, you could attend the symposium Pushing the Envelope in Education: Roles for Libraries — MOOCs, eLearning & Gamification taking place in Toronto from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, 2013 at the University of Toronto. A session on MOOCs for Librarians will cover how to plan and implement a MOOC for the library community. Also, you may want to follow up on any archived materials available from two previous conferences MOOCs and Libraries: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (July 2013, London, UK) and MOOCs and Libraries:  Massive Opportunity or Overwhelming Challenge? (March 2013, Philadelphia, PA).

In researching this paper, I found that the only MOOCs being offered, at least through iSchools, are those that are described above. If there are any I’ve missed please let me know! It would be great to see more. It would also be good to have a repository listing of iSchool MOOCs somewhere. Is this being done? Lots to think about. I think I hear a follow-up article being written!

*With sincerest apologies to Old MacDonald.