This is the first in a series of posts on SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) analysis for law firm librarians. This post suggests ways we can respond and provide value to our firms in the area of Knowledge Management.
Written By: Alirio Gomez, Director of Library & Information Services, Milbank
There are a variety of activities that are innate to the Librarian’s role which uniquely identify our strengths. These core competencies can be seen in all of the methods that we use to identify and resolve the multiple information needs of our customers by selecting, identifying and providing the best resources using a variety of indicators such as relevance, 24/7 global research support systems, virtualization, web-based technologies, cost-effectiveness, among others. These same strengths provide an opportunity for the Librarian today to go beyond the traditional roles that we typically do to resolve information needs and “go beyond our comfort zone”. This inevitable and gradual incorporation and integration of our research support systems and processes with other valuable knowledge resources located in Firms applications (such as document management systems, financial systems, forms and precedents, expertise directories, records management systems, etc) known as the repositories of institutional knowledge assets is another way the Librarian can provide value.
In the KM world, these resources should be as responsive to resolve knowledge needs as the ones Librarians use and therefore should be made accessible, disseminated and fully leveraged by using technologies web-based such as portals and enterprise search engines. Not only does our skill set as Librarians go beyond the use of these systems (through enterprise search engines for example), but our expertise can also help to define best ways to deploy, organize and manage these systems in order to better utilize and maximize the Firm’s knowledge assets. We are in a very good position to help Firms deploy KM systems and to guarantee productivity as a result. From this view the productivity of a KM system is directly related to the quantity and quality of external and internal knowledge resources available and accessible to the users and codependent on the maximization, utilization and “reuse” of the Firm’s intellectual capital along with other resources we provide. We are now becoming rapidly involved with systems and technologies whose principles are based on concepts we have managed such as taxonomy definition and management, entity extraction, automated categorization and classification systems, data mining and metadata, as well as selective dissemination of information (SDI). They are simply an evolution,empowered by technologies,of our traditional competencies to manage research support systems. And combining both worlds, the external, those coming mostly from the on-line information resources available in a variety of formats and flavors and the internal ones or the Firm’s knowledge assets.
The effective transferring of Firm’s knowledge critical systems from “data dumps” to usability, so all this data can be processed, articulated and integrated to the attorney workflow to become usable knowledge, requires our help and support. There is a wealth of innovation that we can provide and we should look pro-actively for the opportunity to get involved. So look for the best ways for you to “get out of your comfort zone”, get involved and be prepared to lead in the best interest of your Firm by capitalizing on your strengths. Do not be intimidated by the technologies. Just learn what they do to empower and extend your practices, skills and horizons into the KM world. You won’t be sorry!
Links to Articles on KM written by Law Firm Librarians:
Aligning Through Knowledge Management (Information Outlook – June 2011)
Author: Steven Lastres
By adopting a business perspective and addressing the same problems as other managers, librarians can better align their services with the language and values of their organization.