Survival Tips for Firm Librarians

by Elliott C. Blevins, Manager of Library & Information Services, Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard, P.C.

I am not a national or international expert on anything much, but I have been a Law Librarian for over 20 years, and a member of AALL since 1992.  It seems to me that in these harsh economic times, it is as important to focus on keeping your job as it is to work on improving the profession.  When management starts looking for places to cut, the Library is seldom the last place they look.  I have seen many articles about how to make sure that management knows the value of the Librarian, but it is also important that others in the firm know it.  It is one thing to make sure that the managing partner and the firm administrator value you and your work, but they also answer to those partners who never come near the Library, and they may not value you very much at all.

Below is a list that I call 10 Survival Tips for Law Firm Librarians.  There could be many others, of course, but these tips include ideas that often go unheeded, and, I think, may be at least part of the reason that some of my dearest colleagues are currently unemployed.

If you are interested, here they are:

10 Survival Tips for Law Firm Librarians

  1. When you leave your desk, always carry a notepad and pen, or a book, or both. If you are seen walking around the office with empty hands, someone is going to wonder why you’re not doing anything.
  2. Go to practice group meetings. Even if you don’t say anything, you will be there if anyone has questions, and you will know the direction the group is going. And some members of the group will appreciate the fact that you are there.
  3. Take advantage of training programs provided by publishers. Even if no one shows up, you will have let people know you are offering it, and they will remember.
  4. Start an email newsletter – announce new purchases, offer tips, anything – just make sure something is out there that reminds people that the Library – and you – are there.
  5. The best way to keep from having your budget arbitrarily cut is to share with practice group leaders what you are buying for them and how much you are spending. Practice Group Accountability is your safety net.
  6. Good PR is more important than good cataloging. Announcing free cookies in the Library during Library Week is quick and easy, but offering one month of free trial access to an online product will get you a lot further.
  7. Buy as much material in electronic format as possible, and use your name and/or your email address for passwords. Every time someone has to enter your email address to access the local law journal, they are reminded that you are important.
  8. Put together a manual of all the Library’s resources, both electronic and print, and share it with everyone who ever has reason to do research. And put your name on the front cover. Keep the sections handy in your document storage so that when someone emails you asking how to access a online product, you can attach the pages about a particular product to a return email. Fast and helpful.
  9. Most firms have at least a couple of partners who have trouble using their computers for anything but email. Make sure that they know that when they need help, you are there for them. Always. They won’t forget.
  10. Go to lunch with the attorneys and paralegals. Even those you have nothing in common with. You can talk about work. You can talk about what they need, and sometimes find out what you can offer that they didn’t even know they needed.

10 thoughts on “Survival Tips for Firm Librarians

  1. Excellent tips! We also keep statistics logs of the numbers of research questions we answer, interloans we fill, items circulated, cataloged, etc . We publish annual reports and share these numbers. New attorneys receive a Quick Research Guide that has our phone numbers, and their personal passwords- so they need to read through it.

  2. I haven’t even read to the end yet and I applaud tip #1. I never leave my desk without paper and pen – mainly because I often have people catch me in the hallway and simply start talking “Hey, I was going to call you later and I need…” Then I get about 15 very specific details to remember.
    I’ve worked hard to be seen as a person of action… my constantly carrying pen and notepad is my equivalent of Clark Kent ripping open his collared shirt to reveal his Superman suit underneath, ready at a moment’s notice.

  3. Excellent post Elliot. I would add “remember key clients” to your list. It is very well received by a library user asking a question if you speak their shorthand language for client files. For example: “Would you like that charged to the “insert company name” GA file or is there a new matter?”
    It helps if you forward the latest news article about a partners client to them as well.
    Everything we do, every impression we leave someone with is Law Library marketing.

  4. These are brilliant suggestions. I agree that one important key is developing great relationships with the Practice Group Leaders. I let them know how much I spend on their practice, which office copies I give out etc.
    Also, I have a tag line on my email and the email of every Librarian on staff that says,
    “Need some research help? – Ask the Librarians by emailing your message to ‘Library” or call us on ext. 4702. It keeps our name and number in constant circulation.

  5. These tips not only apply to law firms. It’s all facets of librarianship. Unfortunately in these recessionary and just plain “strange” times, we have to prove ourselves daily or we will be eliminated.

  6. I am a retired School Librarian, July 1, 2011, yet these tips are equally applicable to the educational community. The governing tip is accessibility to the people, by the people and for the people. Thanks so much!

  7. I am a retired School Librarian, July 1, 2011. These tips are applicable throughout the educational community in which librarians play the important roles of advocate and educational leader. Within the world of school librarianship, we are also busy hanging on to our jobs through our accessibility to students, staff and administrators. Thank you for these valuable tips and reminders!

  8. Pingback: Survival Tips for Firm Librarians | On Firmer Ground | Flora W.'s Portfolio

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