Recently while speaking at the Ark Group’s Best Practices & Management Strategies for Law Firm Library & Information Service Centers conference in New York, I said something that seemed to really resonate with the audience. I was talking about methods for driving resource utilization and optimization, when I shared my opinion that there is little room in the law firm information industry for passive librarians. What we need to survive and thrive as a profession, I postulated, are true activist librarians. Judging by the discussion after my presentation and the tweets I saw online, my point hit home.
What is an “activist librarian” you ask? It’s usually not what many of us were taught to be and definitely not what most folks envision our roles to be. There was once a time when firm librarians, when not shelving books, could bide their time at their desks waiting for the work to come to them. That is not to say that we have not always been busy. But the nature of the beast that we call law firm workflow has changed. Reference desks, physical libraries, the things that anchored us in days gone by are going away themselves. If we want to avoid going with them, we have to get out and get upfront with our services and our skills.
Activist librarians not only demonstrate their skills, but the value those skills bring to the firms and their clients. It is not just about doing a great job, but also about doing it in a way that speaks loudly for itself. Activist librarians do not wait for work to come to them, they are out there drumming it up and proving their worth. From embedded librarians to resource managers, research tracking to project management, librarians on the forefront of this profession are conducting their duties in proactive new ways. One of the most exciting aspects of this evolution is that we are talking about our efforts, comparing notes, and sharing our best practices.
In just a few weeks, I will again be in New York talking about the latest leaps in our industry. This time it will be at the Integrated Management Evolution Conference, hosted by Integrated Management Services. My co-panelists and I will discussing Proactive Research Services. As much as it promises to be a fascinating session, it also makes clear that we need to be having more conversations of this nature. I have long said that librarians are survivors. In our future as activists, this requires making a concerted effort to best share our survival skills.
John DiGilio is the National Manager of Research Services at Reed Smith LLP, the Treasurer of SLA, and a former chair of its Legal Division.