I’m going to start this blog post by making an assumption about Law Librarians, which is that we’re all passionate about the service we provide and how we provide it. But what if your organisation doesn’t feel the same way as you? How can you demonstrate your value and ensure you don’t become obsolete.
Laura Woods, Research Analyst at UK corporate law firm Addleshaw Goddard, asks exactly this question in the latest issue of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) Update and handily provides some practical tips on how you approach this often tricky aim.
In the UK its never been more important to demonstrate the value we provide since the credit crunch reared its very ugly head a few years ago. In light of the credit crunch many firms including CMS Cameron McKenna, Osborne Clarke and Freshfields and others made the decision to outsource their Library services. In the light of this what are some of the techniques Law Librarians can employ to ensure they’re demonstrating their value:
Laura starts by talking about brand and ensuring people know you exist. There are a number of was you can do this including having consistent messages and using logos and templates whenever you communicate with anyone in the firm. Knowing you exist is crucial in developing trust with fee-earners, practice groups and other individuals within a law firm. Once a fee-earner knows you exist it’s only a short step before they use you or someone within your team as go-to-person, demonstrating their trust in you and acknowledging the value that you provide within the firm.
The second point that Laura makes is about making yourself indispensable. Whilst it should be obvious that we need to be good at our jobs, what we need to be is really really good at our jobs. In reality this might mean that we need to move out of our comfort zones and undertake activities that as Law Librarians we might find unfamiliar or challenging. This might be talking to Partners or decision makers regularly to understand what is happening within the firm. Essentially we should be acting as champions for the service we provide and it’s something we need to do actively! Laura’s third point is around embedding information professionals within teams. This is something that has been increasingly happening within UK law firms and has proved very successful in ensuring practice groups understand what Library and Information Services can provide. Also you never know what you might find lurking in a corner in a practice group, those missing books you sent that firmwide email about or those looseleaf updates that need filing, who knows what you might find.
Laura’s final points are around outsourcing admin work and delivering differently. Whilst outsourcing your own work might sound like you’re shooting yourself in your foot. What this actually means is looking at what work you do regularly to see if it can be done more efficiently elsewhere. This will free up time for more skilled and and potentially much more valuable tasks. Finally it;’s important for all members of a Library & Information services to look at how they can do things differently, what this means in reality is thinking about how existing processes and workflows could be updated to make them more efficient or updating them to make the most of opportunities to save money, thereby demonstrating the value the service provides.
Laura’s article reminded me of a blog post I’d read recently by Bonnie Cheuk called “What is the future of information professionals“. In it Bonnie asks “What do information professionals do? What do others think we do? What should we be doing now? What is our future? How should we define it?” The context of these questions is the massive transformation that internet, mobile and social media technologies have had on information professionals and the type of information that we’re now expected to manage. Whilst there are a number of challenges associated with the new information landscape we work in there are also some opportunities to demonstrate the value we provide.
These include becoming a strategic partner with business leaders to help resolve business problems. To offer new perspectives and practical solutions to help facilitate knowledge sharing within organisations. As Bonnie says this should go beyond managing intranets and document management systems, instead it should be about playing a role in an organisations strategic IT roadmap, communication practices and more. Bonnie also suggests that information professionals should become champions of new ways of working. This might be helping people understand how new technologies work or helping them resolve an issue they have creating or sharing information.
As Bonnie and Laura both say there are plenty of opportunities for us to demonstrate the value we provide. We need to do more than just talk though we need to get out into the business and demonstrate what we can offer and how we can assist people. I recently saw a quote that I think sums this up “They say actions speak LOUDER than words…
But a lot of times, It’s better to have both”
So what are you waiting for!