Voices Across the Spectrum, Tough Conversations About Race: Let the Book Start the Discussion

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 25, Number 3 (January/February 2021), pgs. 39-41.

By Cynthia Bassett, Collection Management and Electronic Services Librarian at University of Missouri School of Law and Kara Phillips, Law Library Director at Seattle University School of Law Library

Below are excerpts from the article, including a section highlighting how private law librarians have participated in diversity initiatives.

Talking about racism is tough. Not talking about it is not an option when people are dying. Across our country, people are having difficult conversations about the racism they see in their communities and the effects that systemic racism—racism that is built into the very structures of our society—have on people of color.

The University of Missouri School of Law has been having intentional conversations about the many ways that people in our country are treated as “other” for many years, but the need to talk about it in a new way surfaced after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, in the fall of 2014. Some of the University of Missouri Law School students called Ferguson home, and his death hit them hard. Others in the school simply could not see why people were protesting and blocking highways, which seemed to be counterproductive to their cause. Tensions rose and the school needed to find a way to talk about and understand how different members of our society experience the world.

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Practical Competitive Intelligence: Taking on CI in the Virtual World

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 25, Number 3 (January/February 2021), pgs. 44-45.

By Kevin Miles, Manager of Library Services at Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP

Your reference librarian recently transferred to a competitive intelligence (CI) professional role. How does he or she get and keep a seat at the firm’s virtual (remote) business development table during this pandemic? Even though we are not currently working together in an office, collecting, analyzing, and acting on information from CI efforts is more important than ever. The financial markets are increasingly volatile, more attorneys and support staff are changing firms, and some practice groups are underutilized. A physical table has size limitations, but a virtual table is infinitely large. In other words, there is room for more seats and voices at the virtual business development table.

Changes and Challenges

As we all know, the pandemic has challenged how we conduct business. For many law firms, employees work well from home. Yet working from home sets new expectations, such as 24/7 availability. What are the boundaries between home and work during the pandemic? Having a working knowledge of communication via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, WebEx, or similar tools is now critical for sharing ideas. But because we also know that law librarians are very adaptable, such challenges can be readily met and overcome.

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Successful Onboarding: Creating an Environment Where New Employees Can Succeed

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 25, Number 3 (January/February 2021), pgs. 18-20.

By Janeen Williams, User Services Librarian at Texas Tech University Law Library and Allison Reeve Davis, Librarian Manager at Littler Mendelson

Strategies, guidelines, and a checklist for creating a structured, purposeful, and engaged onboarding process.

Onboarding is exciting for both new employees and the law library. The organization has likely operated short-staffed for a few months, and new librarians are hopeful for new challenges and opportunities. A methodical orientation program is the first step to creating a successful environment for new staff and the institution. Employers provide training and orientation to welcome new hires to the law library, make them feel part of the team, align them with institutional initiatives, and teach procedures. These goals are not reached as a result of a few emails or brief meetings. It takes time for someone to feel confident in a new job. It is also imperative for managers and existing staff to recognize that they possess institutional knowledge and acknowledge that an expectation of early retention of all new information is untenable. Structured, purposeful, and engaged onboarding will alleviate future struggles with integrating a new hire into projects and the library’s culture. Additionally, a standardized onboarding process helps to ensure that all new employees are given equal opportunities to succeed.

Goals for Orientation and Onboarding

New employees lack three areas of knowledge necessary for job success and satisfaction: policies and procedures, institutional culture, and colleague personality. Policies and procedures are passed down through manuals and training. The other two types of knowledge are tacit and challenging to transfer. A manager’s response to continued inquiries from a new librarian should not be to ask them to memorize or refer to previous emails, because new hires should feel comfortable contacting colleagues, requesting meetings with management, and asking questions. However, gaps in knowledge need to be addressed early in a librarian’s tenure. The goal is to provide undocumented information in a methodical trajectory that also encourages collaboration and continued communication throughout the first few months after a new hire begins.

There is a balance between spacing out information and keeping a new hire engaged. We all remember new jobs where, during the first two weeks, we read manuals front to back with little hands-on experience. This scenario creates boredom and confusion over the job description. Instead, offer a variety of emails, videos, meetings, and task training to keep the day interesting. Below are strategies for creating successful onboarding programs that can easily be adapted across various institutions.

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Jean O’Grady of Dewey B. Strategic Marks 10-Year Anniversary of Blog Covering the Legal Research Market

Congratulations to Jean O’Grady of the Dewey B. Strategic blog, who recently reached a milestone of 10 years of blogging about the legal research and information industry. Jean recalls her initial posts from 2011 in a walk down memory lane here.

The law librarian and legal information professional community appreciates Jean’s dedication to the law librarian profession, the legal industry, and to staying on top of what’s hot and what’s not in the legal research and technology world.  Jean has been, and continues to be, a great advocate for the role of legal information professionals in assessing and promoting legal research and tech products, while also being a cheerleader and “nudge” for emerging and established legal information vendors.

Jean and her blog have merited a number of honors–Fastcase 50 Award, The ABA Blawg 100, The ABA Blawg 100 Hall of Fame, ABA Legal Rebel podcast, and the AALL Private Law Librarians Blogger of the Year.  We look forward to the blog’s continued success and to future posts!