Law.com Article on Librarians Making Themselves Heard, Performing Firm-Critical Functions

Steve Kovalan, Senior Analyst at ALM Intelligence, wrote a great Law.com article, “Quiet No Longer: Law Librarians ‘Forgo the Status Quo,’” highlighting how law librarians are making a difference within their organizations. Steve helped compile ALM’s 2017 Survey of Law Firm Knowledge Management, Library, and Research Professionals (aka The Law Librarian Survey), so he is well-aware of the roles librarians currently play at their firms and how those roles have evolved. The “Delivering Value” section of the article includes some charts from the ALM survey and “illustrates just how many functions critical to the success of firms are performed by their libraries.”

Excerpts from the article are posted below with permission from the author.

“Delivering Value

In the post-recession new normal, libraries and knowledge services departments serve as an indispensable resource. Figure 1 below, reflecting responses to ALM Intelligence’s Survey of Knowledge Management, Library, and Research Professionals, illustrates just how many functions critical to the success of firms are performed by their libraries.

Figure-1_Law-Library-Brief

Those key functions include libraries and their staff filling their more traditional roles in legal research support. As clients become more cost conscious, firms can source legal research to their library staff as an efficient, low-cost alternative to billing the same tasks to firm attorneys. And they also include the effective procurement of the growing array of technology-based research and analytic solutions fundamental to the day-to-day operations of today’s firms. In evaluating the effectiveness of tools and negotiating subscription details, libraries are responsible for identifying new tools and controlling costs through negotiating favorable contract terms.

Next, there are the roles that library staff are increasingly filling as researchers in support of firm business initiatives (Figure 2 below).

Figure-2_Law-Library-Brief

Those business research responsibilities are growing to the point that many survey respondents expect the number of business research requests to eclipse the number of legal research requests in the near future.

Finally, as information and research experts, libraries and knowledge services departments are perfectly positioned to facilitate knowledge sharing within the firm through activities such as conducting training sessions and curating newsletters on key subjects. Furthermore, because knowledge not shared is knowledge lost, for law firms operating in the age of the lateral move, knowledge sharing can also be a key mechanism promoting institutional stability.”

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Interview of Research Services Librarian Yael Rosenblatt

This post introduces Yael Rosenblatt, Research Services Librarian at Reed Smith in New York.

What was your path to law librarianship?

Law librarianship was a natural outgrowth of my 9+ years spent at Westlaw which brought me into contact with some of the largest firms in New York City.  I really enjoyed seeing what law librarians do and was so impressed by the wide range of projects within the law firm that they were involved with.  I believed my skill set would dovetail nicely with that and was excited when an opportunity presented itself.

Did you have a mentor or librarian who helped you and/or influenced your work style/ethic?

I was fortunate to work with so many smart and talented librarians at many firms and to observe many different work styles and many different work settings.  I think most of the librarians I had contact with have served as a mentor for me in his or her own way.  I have tried to adopt for myself some of the qualities I most admire.  Since moving to Reed Smith, Brian Blaho’s help and guidance has obviously been invaluable to me.  I have also kept in regular contact with many of my librarian contacts who have provided lots of advice.

How has your job evolved from the time you first began your career?

My career really began when I served as law clerk for a judge in New Jersey.  Even then, I always loved research.  I even served as a research assistant for a professor in law school.  I transitioned to Westlaw and so my focus was exclusively on Westlaw , and eventually on the whole suite of Thomson Reuters’ legal offerings – and how those products can bring value and efficiency to lawyers and law firms.   Now my focus (in terms of research) is finding out how each product I have access to can bring value to the work I am doing.  It’s a learning curve – and it’s exciting to learn — in depth – about other resources.

What is your biggest challenge at work?

Currently my biggest challenge is still learning about all of the available resources.  I have so many great research tools to choose from.  It takes time to figure out what is available and then what is the most cost effective and thorough research platform to use in the particular instance.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy working with all different people in a law firm – and I enjoy learning about the diverse practice areas.  In my prior position, I always tried to meet attorneys in different practice areas.  I’ve continued trying to do that and enjoy working with corporate attorneys as well as litigators.  It keep things challenging and interesting.

How do you keep up with news and trends in law libraries?

I joined AALL and the local library associations.  I also follow popular blogs.  The librarians in my firm are also great about meeting regularly to keep in touch and keep each other up to date.

What job would you have if you had not become a law librarian?

I would be a private investigator.  I love the quest for information.  It keeps things interesting!

How do you reach out to your attorneys to let them know how the library can help them?

I am fortunate that I get a chance to meet with each and every attorney that starts – whether they are new associates or laterals or partners.  In this way, I can impress upon them the many ways the library can help them and show them what an essential resource the library team can be.

Keeping Current with News Aggregators

by Stosh Jonjak, Manager of Library Services for the Pittsburgh office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius

digital-marketing-1563467_640Librarians and information professionals are accustomed to delivering relevant, late-breaking current awareness to our users. We have access to the latest and greatest news aggregating software currently available on the market. Yet, we have a tendency to overlook our very own information needs. We specialize in using news aggregators, so why not use them to stay current with law librarianship and related fields?

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Contemplating a Name Change

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Change:  A Constant Refrain

By Andrea K. Guldalian, Research Librarian at Duane Morris LLP

Over the years, American Association of Law Libraries’ members and presidents have ruminated on the growth and evolution of law librarianship, and on the internal and external forces affecting our profession.  These AALL advocates have called for the association’s members to look forward, to adapt, and to be proactive in addressing the challenges facing the legal information profession.  Law librarians answered that call by shapeshifting into knowledge managers, competitive intelligence professionals, information specialists, and research analysts, among other roles.  However, many of us maintain that, despite new titles and new roles, we are still essentially librarians, putting valuable and timeless librarian skills to good use organizing, finding, and disseminating information, regardless of format.

Have we finally reached the tipping point though?   In the face of all the changes, does the librarian name still properly convey all that we contribute to our organizations, and all the roles that our positions encompass?  Or are the cumulative changes to our profession so great that a new, broader name for our association is warranted?   Well-informed, reasonable minds will differ on this point, and American Association of Law Libraries members will have a chance to vote on a proposed name change beginning tomorrow, January 12, 2016.

As we mull over whether Association for Legal Information appropriately represents our soon-to-be 110-year-old association and its members, we thought it would be worth reviewing some of the myriad reflections on our ever-changing profession and professional environment.

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Librarians and Vendors: Some Thoughts As Conference Season Approaches

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by Charles J. Lowry, enterprise sales representative for Fastcase

The poet Dante took great relish in describing the sign over the entrance to the underworld. There is a part of that sign that all vendors secretly fear is in the hearts of librarians as they contemplate the exhibit hall:

Per me si va ne la citta dolente,

Per me si va ne l’etterno dolore,

Per me si va tra la perduta gente.

Inferno III.1-3

“Through me you enter into the grieving city; through me you enter into unending sorrow; through me you enter to be among a forsaken nation.” What I hope to do over the next few paragraphs is to offer a couple thoughts that might enable both librarians and vendors to appreciate the opportunities and challenges of the exhibit hall. These thoughts are based on years of experience, but it is my experience only. I make no claim to speak for all vendors or for any particular vendor, including my employer. Continue reading