Providing Career Growth at All Levels of the Library

By Allison C. Reeve Davis, Library Manager, Littler Mendelson

Reposted with permission from PEGA-SIS Blog.

Three years ago, we started discussing ways to provide career growth opportunities in Littler Mendelson’s library. As our library grows, new positions are often entry-level. Promotions to more advanced positions come along less frequently, even when a dedicated employee has learned, grown, and proven their skills for advancement. Here, we provide tactics for retaining valued employees and offering career growth, even without the availability of senior librarian positions.

The Problem

Over the years, law librarians have expressed concern and discouragement with the lack of senior librarian positions available in the job market. The danger for managers and directors is that they will lose their best talent to senior positions open at other institutions. Effective leaders provide their staff with professional development opportunities, challenging projects, and rewards for succeeding in career growth. Finding a solution to the conundrum of limited promotional opportunities for rising star librarians requires creativity and assessment of the library’s goals in advancement of the firm’s mission.

The Solution

Career advancement opportunities will look different at every institution. Our project may not fit everyone’s needs exactly, but the foundations hopefully provide all library leaders with a jumping off point.

Evaluation of current roles and the skills and tasks necessary to complete them is the first step. We looked at projects and tasks completed by all of our Assistant and Research Librarians and listed out the requisite skills employed. This was accomplished thinking in terms of job descriptions. For example, familiarity with legal research databases allows librarians to pull requested documents and train users on using the tools. Expertise with legal information sources expands the research and analysis capabilities necessary for a librarian to perform advanced legal research projects.

With all of the library’s work laid before us, we identified projects that wouldn’t necessarily require the expertise of a Research Librarian but that need expertise beyond an early-career employee. Those we designated as mid-level, or transitional skills: ones attained after an Assistant Librarian has mastered more than entry-level skills, but when they do not have enough experience to move into a more senior position. We also evaluated the extraordinary projects and contributions of Research Librarians, asking ourselves what it looks like when a Research Librarian has performed beyond their job description.

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MOOCS: What’s in it for law librarians?

Katie Thomas, Law Librarian, Toronto, Canada

Web: http://katiemthomas.wordpress.com

 “With a MOOC MOOC here,

And a MOOC MOOC there,

Here a MOOC, there a MOOC,

Everywhere a MOOC MOOC…” *

 Law librarians have many options for professional development opportunities. Annual conferences, meet-up groups, webinars, twitter chats, and collaborating with colleagues are just some of the eclectic ways we can keep our ear to the ground. But what about MOOCs (massive open online courses)? What’s in it for librarians or better yet, law librarians? I thought I would find out.

 What’s a MOOC? The idea has been well covered in the professional press and I encourage you to plug the term into your favourite search engine.  As a starter, you may want to read Susan Munro’s piece entitled MOOC, Distance Education and CLE or Judith Gaskell’s MOOCs: What are they good for?, both posted on SLAW.

 This post focuses on the professional development opportunities offered through MOOCs for librarians. I am not so much interested (at least just now!) in how librarians can provide support for MOOC learning to our clients and students as a considerable amount has already been written in this area, especially in the academic librarian literature. And, as Susan Munro and others have pointed out, there is no lack of topics to address. Quality of the educational experience, student engagement, student-teacher interaction, the business model behind the phenomenon and librarian support for the MOOC are just some of the issues that can be explored. 

 So where to start? Well, that’s the thing. There is no “official” place to start looking for MOOCs, never mind just the “librarian-ish” courses. Yes, you can plug the term library, librarian, information, metadata, legal etc. into any of the MOOC websites like Coursera or edX, but expect mixed results.  An aggregator such as ClassCentral helps, but it does not pull some of the iSchool courses I will describe below.

 I began with the article entitled MOOCs to Watch written by librarian Courtney Brown. She provided a helpful list of courses that would be of interest to librarians. They are primarily technology related such as Creative Programming for Digital Media & Mobile Apps.

 iSchool MOOCs which have received rave reviews (based on the website comments and speaking with colleagues who have enrolled) include the New Librarianship Master Class open online course taught by Dave Lankes at the Syracuse University iSchool. Professor Lankes writes that “Through this course, [librarians] will learn how to better capture, store, and disseminate the conversations of their communities.” The videos, slides, readings, and structure have remained available for free on the website but you will first need to register with the provider COURSEsites. By the way, the first MOOC offered at the iSchool was A Brief Introduction to Data Science with R and a second is planned for autumn 2013 entitled Applied Data Science: An Introduction.

 Over at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Dr. Pomerantz at the School of Information and Library Science has been teaching the MOOC, Metadata: Organizing and Discovering Information, again to rave reviews. It is being offered again for the fall of 2013.

Then there is the Hyperlinked Library MOOC at San Jose State University SLIS, which explores how libraries are using emerging technologies to serve their communities. Last I checked, the course had reached its full capacity of 400 students! It is clearly filling a niche for professional development for librarians.

In Canada, Wendy Newman at the University of Toronto iSchool is very excited to be offering, in the winter of 2014, a MOOC on Library Advocacy through edX.  She says, “The MOOC description is not yet fully confirmed, [however]…it is a 6-session adaptation for a wider audience of my regular credit course.” Keep your ear to the ground for further updates.

And what of MOOCs for law librarians? I did not find any that were purposely geared to law and librarians. There are courses on environmental law, criminal law, English common law, constitutional law and more. I think Wendy Reynolds raises a good point when she surmises in a comment on SLAW that, “I also wonder about the value of MOOCs in helping librarians gain exposure to other disciplines and emerging ideas. Are employers willing to treat these programs as “real” learning? Does it matter?” We should be exploring new ideas and thinking outside our box. So yes, as to MOOCs, there’s lots “in it” for law librarians.

Finally, if MOOCs have caught your fancy, you could attend the symposium Pushing the Envelope in Education: Roles for Libraries — MOOCs, eLearning & Gamification taking place in Toronto from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, 2013 at the University of Toronto. A session on MOOCs for Librarians will cover how to plan and implement a MOOC for the library community. Also, you may want to follow up on any archived materials available from two previous conferences MOOCs and Libraries: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (July 2013, London, UK) and MOOCs and Libraries:  Massive Opportunity or Overwhelming Challenge? (March 2013, Philadelphia, PA).

In researching this paper, I found that the only MOOCs being offered, at least through iSchools, are those that are described above. If there are any I’ve missed please let me know! It would be great to see more. It would also be good to have a repository listing of iSchool MOOCs somewhere. Is this being done? Lots to think about. I think I hear a follow-up article being written!

*With sincerest apologies to Old MacDonald.

Law Librarians Expand Into Tech and ILTA

ILTA Logo
Deborah Panella is Director of Library & Knowledge Services at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, and Information Management Track Team Coordinator for ILTA 2013.

The ILTA annual conference is now underway with a record number of attendees, a growing number of whom are from the law library community (including representatives from AALL). The International Legal Technology Association brings together law firm and corporate law department professionals from a wide variety of career tracks and disciplines, and members come from around the globe. Continue reading

TRAINING AS A LIBRARY FUNCTION: SOME OBSERVATIONS FROM THE OUTSIDE

Posted by Chuck Lowry. Chuck is an enterprise sales representative for Fastcase.  He can be reached at (703) 740-5941 or clowry@fastcase.com.

Over the past many years, I have been in and out of law firm libraries pretty regularly.  I have observed a few things about how librarians train themselves, train their staffs and train the attorneys.  I offer a few thoughts on the subject, not from the heights of expertise, but from the trenches of experience.  A few areas of concern present themselves, and we shall take them up as they occur.  I am neither so credulous nor so arrogant as to think that I am offering more answers than questions.  Indeed, I think it is likely that different libraries and different librarians will not necessarily have the same answers to these questions.  As resources and situations differ, solutions will necessarily be tailored to individual firms.  There is no group better able to make the adjustments and alterations, I suspect, than law firm librarians. Continue reading