Data-Driven Decision-Making: Getting Started with Reference Tracking Systems & Data Analytics

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 23, Number 1 (September/October 2018), pgs. 20-23.

By Amy Atchison, Associate Law Librarian for Public Services at the University of California Irvine School of Law Library, and June H. Liebert, Firmwide Director of Library & Research Services at Sidley Austin LLP

We both started as research librarians at the University of California Los Angeles Law Library more than 20 years ago. Back then, we tracked reference desk requests each day with tick marks on a sheet of paper. We refer to this now as “data gathering for dummies.” While this simple method recorded the number of requests in a given time period, it provided almost zero value (how often do tick marks ever get aggregated?), and we lost the most useful information, such as the questions and the answers.

Faculty submitted requests almost exclusively via email or phone back then, which is still true today. Our biggest innovation at the time was to print each unassigned faculty request and tape it to an old file cabinet with the idea that a visual of our growing workload would encourage us to take more requests. The unintended effect was group avoidance of the file cabinet and a de facto game of chicken with the faculty requests.

Time passed and things got better. Although we now work at two very different  institutions—a law school and a law firm—both of our libraries must run efficiently and cost-effectively while still exceeding our users’ expectations. One way we accomplish this is by tracking research requests in an online system that provides us with the data we need to better understand our users, staff, and organizations. Continue reading

Law Library Budgets & Staffing On the Rise

The 2017 AALL Biennial Salary Survey & Organizational Characteristics Survey shows that budgets and staffing for law libraries are on the rise, according to an article in the January/February issue of AALL Spectrum.

Some key figures/takeaways from the survey results include:

  • More than half, 270, of the 502 responses were from law firm/corporate libraries.
  • Budget information was provided by 366 law firm/corporate, government, and law school libraries. When compared with law school and government law libraries, law firm/corporate law libraries had larger budgets on average ($1,577,734). But law firm/corporate libraries “allocated only 25 percent of their information budget in 2017 to hard copy information” (p. 39).
  • Law firm/corporate library budgets were 10 percent higher than in the 2015 survey.
  • Staffing totals for all libraries show that the “the average number of total staff for all libraries increased from 9.23 in 2015 to 10.32 in 2017” (p. 40).
  • On average, firms had a ratio of 1 professional for every 42.99 attorneys.
  • For billable hours in 2016, the ranges were from “a low of 300 hours for law firm/corporate law libraries with 41-90 attorneys to a high of 4,206 hours for those with 451 or more attorneys”  (p. 40).

More statistics are available in the AALL Spectrum article Budgets & Staffing for Law Libraries are on the Rise, starting on page 40 of the magazine. The complete Salary Survey is available here to AALL members only.

The developing skill-employment disconnect in law libraries and what to do about it

By Sarah Sutherland, McMillan LLP, Vancouver, Canada

The press has been reporting skills shortages coupled with growth in unemployment. This situation comes from a transition toward new highly skilled jobs and away from legacy lower skilled jobs (you can read about this further here, here, and here). This is already happening in the greater library industry with a shift from some traditional roles, which are often very repetitive, towards roles that require more management and technological skills. Continue reading

Not lesser. Just different.

Working within a law firm, there is a very clear division in staff: there are lawyers, and there are non-lawyers. Lawyers believe that they are important, intelligent, innovative, indispensable, and all sorts of other “i” words.  In the eyes of the lawyers, us non-lawyers are often seen to be none of those “i” words…we are other i’s – irritating, in-the-way, inconvenient. Which can create quite a number of problems for those of us who make up that generic mass of non-lawyer staff, particularly librarians. Continue reading

Demonstrating the value of your legal research programme

by Pamela Stephens, National Training Librarian, Ashurst Australia.

Our articled clerks (graduates) participate in an intense programme aimed at building their legal research skills in the first three months of joining us. They attend a one hour workshop every two weeks on legal research method (that is, how to find judicial consideration, NOT how to use LexisNexis). Our passionate and creative training librarians try to make these workshops as engaging as possible, with games, competitions, video and lots of hands on participation. The feedback is always great! Continue reading