Although written in the first person this post contains ideas from several members of the Scottish Law Librarians Group.
Social media is a hot topic in UK law firms at the moment with endless articles in the legal press. There are of course many ethical and risk issues and both the Law Society and the Law Society of Scotland have recently issued guidelines for lawyers.
But what if you are a law firm librarian that wants to use social media to talk about professional issues or to join in those interesting chats about libraries on Twitter? When I first started to blog and tweet I mistakenly thought it would be easy to talk about library related topics. After all I spend more awake time in a library than anywhere else, so why the difficulties? I find it’s not the lack of ideas but often when I think of something that it would be interesting to share or explore further I decide it’s not appropriate to do so for a variety of reasons.
Successful social media use is all about sharing. In a corporate library, the employing organisation has invested from their own funds to create their own library service, and properly staff it. A lot of time and effort is spent in a corporate library to create resources that are tailored to the needs and demands of internal service users, and which are therefore a valuable business asset, and definitely not something which could be shared.
As a corporate law firm librarian I must respect the confidentiality of our clients so that makes blogging about the specifics of any enquiry work we receive in the library impossible no matter how interesting it is. I also need to respect the confidentiality of the firm itself so there are other topics related to work that I could never discuss publicly. Most Scottish law firms have very small library teams, and within the SLLG we all know each other, which makes blogging and tweeting about the day-to-day work in the library inappropriate as it’s too easy to work out the specifics of who or what is being talked about. A professional blog and Twitter feed not only represents the author, it could also reflect well or badly on the firm they work for. It is important to present a professional and positive face to the world, in the present financial climate this can be difficult, it would be too easy to blog or tweet a series of moans.
However there are compelling reasons to join in with social media platforms professionally. Arguably the main reason is the ability to share and direct to knowledge between fellow librarians and collect advice and ideas as well as professional news. Lots of law firm librarians are active on social media, On Firmer Ground itself is evidence of this.
Firstly you must read your firm’s social media policy and make sure that whatever you do complies with this, this is especially important if you chose not to be anonymous or to identify your employer. Beyond that much is common sense; abide with the rules of professional civility, no one should be complaining about their job, boss or colleagues on any professional social media platform. Likewise, no one should be following celebrity news or engaging in a Twitter row with a UK dubstep artist during business hours.
And there are ways of finding topics to blog and tweet about which are relevant to your audience and unlikely to cause problems with your employer. Suggestions I’ve received from SLLG bloggers and tweeters include –
- keeping the focus of the blog very wide and inclusive of all library sectors allowing you to blog on general library topics thus avoiding the specifics of your own employer
- discuss law and management and IT topics too where you have the knowledge to do so
- use your blog to review and discuss books you’ve read or events you have attended
- take a situation that you have experienced and turn it into a best practice guide
- use Twitter to share relevant news and to discuss appropriate topical issues
I would be very interested to hear from other law firm librarians on their experiences of blogging and tweeting with a professional focus.