Member Profile of Catherine Deane: A Servant-Leader, Focused on Facilitating Change and Empowering Others

We are continuing our coverage of the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) inaugural Diversity Summit, hosted in conjunction with the Black Law Librarians (BLL) Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). The Summit’s theme was “From Difficult Conversations to Collaborative Action”, and the session, “Diversity Shares: Listen to Learn”, featured three members of the law library community as panellists, Ramon Barajas, Catherine Deane and Kim Nayyer.

This profile is on Catherine Deane, who goes by Deane, and uses the pronouns they/them. Deane has been a law librarian for over 10 years. Most of their career has been in major cities in California. They also spent 4 years working at Vanderbilt Law Library in Nashville, TN. They have experience in both the academic law library and a law firm library environment and they are currently available for management or senior positions at law libraries in California. They have recently become a facilitator for Come Abide Here LLC, a provider of racial intelligence coaching to White members of diversity, equity, and inclusion committees, strategic planning committees, and other organizational leadership groups that seek to achieve true effectiveness and transformation around diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organizations.

Answers compiled by Megan Moltrup, Librarian at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Washington, DC.

What is your role at your dream job?

My dream job at the moment would be a management position. I would love the opportunity to create a culture of respect for human dignity at work. I would like to foster a workplace where you can bring your whole self to work and where I play a servant-leader role, ensuring that everyone has the support and autonomy they need to do their best work.

How has your role as a facilitator impacted you?

On the weekly podcast that I do with Bathabile Mthombeni of Come Abide Here, we strive to be welcoming and accessible. We are in service to the White community of individuals who choose to do the tough inner work necessary to effectuate lasting and impactful change.

I feel grateful for this opportunity to be the change that I want to see in the world. There have always been White people fighting alongside other races for racial equality. It is a gift to get to support them in their evolution and to empower them to shift paradigms. We offer a dinner conversation where they can express in a safe container their feelings about race based on their personal experiences. They may arrive at the dinner believing that they are allies in our fight. My only goal is to provide guidance so that they can move towards a paradigm where they see that the same systems that oppress marginalized communities, also oppress them. So this is just as much their fight as ours.

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Member Profile of Ramon Barajas: A Nimble Leader, Open to Change and Lifelong Learning

We are continuing our coverage of the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) inaugural Diversity Summit, hosted in conjunction with the Black Law Librarians (BLL) Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). The Summit’s theme was “From Difficult Conversations to Collaborative Action”, and the session, “Diversity Shares: Listen to Learn”, featured three members of the law library community as panellists, Ramon Barajas, Catherine Deane and Kim Nayyer.

This profile is on Ramon Barajas, a Library Manager in the Los Angeles office of Alston & Bird. Ramon has been a law librarian for over 15 years working exclusively in law firms. Prior to joining the world of big law, Ramon was a branch manager of a small rural public library in Central California where he worked primarily with public outreach and children’s services (yes, he did story time).  As the first member of his family to attend college, he earned a B.A. in English from CSU Bakersfield and his MLIS from San Jose State University.  Ramon has been an active member of the Southern California Association of Law Libraries (SCALL) and AALL and served as SCALL chapter president from 2017-2018.

Answers compiled by Megan Moltrup, Librarian at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Washington, DC.

What is your role at your law firm?

I am the Library Manager for the firm’s California offices and also play a role in many of the department’s larger functions such as vendor contract negotiations and managing staff. I also participate in interdepartmental committees working to advance the firm’s initiatives.

What do you believe is the value you and your team bring to your firm?

Research is the backbone of the practice of law. As research professionals and the gatekeepers of information, our value cannot be understated. The library team at Alston & Bird has been especially instrumental during the pandemic in helping the firm make the transition to a digital work environment.

What has been the biggest single change you have seen in the industry?And what changes do you see ahead?

The pandemic has accelerated many of the changes that were slowly taking shape within our industry. In the years leading up to the pandemic, we saw things trending towards flexible work schedules and the move away from print. In the last twelve months we were all forced to completely work remotely and to make the shift to digital libraries. I see many of these changes becoming permanent. Digital libraries will continue to evolve and improve. In the near future, printed legal treatises and practice guides may be completely gone.

Name one thing that you or your team is doing this year to meet the challenges ahead.

We are working hard to streamline access to our various online subscriptions. Attorneys need resources to be as easily and readily accessible as possible. Converting our brick and mortar library to a digital space continues to be a challenge, but we are making strides.

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PLLIP Inaugural Diversity Summit: Keynote Explores Challenges and Steps to Achieving Genuine Equity and Inclusion

By Douglas Southard, Research and Reference Services Manager at WilmerHale

The Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals Special Interest Section of AALL held their inaugural Diversity Summit on Friday, February 26th.  The below post summarizes and reflects upon the keynote address, and we’ll follow up with more coverage of this insightful and thought-provoking program.  Many thanks to the Summit Committee for planning this well-received event.

Michelle Silverthorn kicked off the AALL Diversity Summit for 2021 with a powerful keynote speech, exploring the challenges we face in achieving equity and inclusion in the workplace. Silverthorn is the Founder and CEO of Inclusion Nation, a diversity consulting firm based in Chicago. Silverthorn spoke for 60 minutes on the prevalence of unconscious bias and how it blocks us from achieving equity in our society. 

Michelle opened her talk by identifying the obstacles to racial equity in the workplace and in society. She argued persuasively that racism and unconscious bias continue to be prevalent in our society, resulting in the numerous microaggressions that people of color encounter in their daily lives. Unconscious biases are rooted in the ways we think; we look at the world through two systems of thought: Stage One thinking and Stage Two thinking.  Stage One thinking is automatic and unconscious, while Stage Two is slower and more rational. We spend most of our time in Stage One thinking, which is when our unconscious biases take over, and we are at risk of accepting stereotypes at face value. 

The speaker demonstrated the power and prevalence of bias using powerful personal stories and thought-provoking exercises, though I did find the exercises difficult to complete in the Zoom environment. She related her life history, coming to the US from the Caribbean. Her effective storytelling really held the audience’s interest. She spoke, for example, about the countless times that she has taken her children to playgrounds on Chicago’s North Side and been mistaken for a nanny by white mothers at the playground. She drove home how painful and exhausting it is to face these microaggressions on a daily basis. This section of the talk really resonated with participants, judging from the comments in the chat window.

Silverthorn explained why diversity matters, showing a slide with detailed statistics on how the country has changed demographically. The Depression and WWII-era generation, who she refers to as “traditionalists,” was 80% white. Each succeeding generation has been more racially diverse; The Baby Boomer cohort was 72% white, Generation X was 61% white, and Generation Z (which includes those born in the 21st century) is only 44% white. For children growing up right now, the US has already become a white-minority country. She also emphasized other ways the country has become more diverse, for example the increasing number of people identifying as nonbinary. This is the world of our clients, and we need to embrace it if we are to serve them effectively.

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Inaugural Diversity Summit Announced: From Difficult Conversations to Collaborative Action

Two American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) sections are joining together to offer a summit focused on diversity, and on putting words into action.

———————————————————————————————————————–The Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) and Black Law Librarians (BLL) Special Interest Sections are excited to announce the inaugural Diversity Summit: From Difficult Conversations to Collaborative Action. The year 2020 was one of upheaval and change, but the year’s events made it obvious that serious and important conversations need to take place regarding race, both in the world and in our profession. PLLIP Summits have historically been a place to explore ways to embrace change and we are excited to partner with the BLL-SIS to launch the first ever Diversity Summit, which was created to facilitate these discussions in order to find a call to action in which we can all take part.

The Diversity Summit will be held as a virtual event on Friday, February 26, 2021. More details about the day’s programming and the keynote speaker, Michelle Silverthorn, will be forthcoming.

Keynote Speaker: Michelle Silverthorn

Michelle’s Tedx Talk, How to stop talking about implicit bias and start talking about race.

Authentic Diversity: How to Change the Workplace for Good

How to Register: Registration is limited to AALL members. To register for the 2021 Diversity Summit, please visit the AALL registration page here. Registration for members of BLL, PLLIP, and any other diversity caucus is $0.  There is a promo code available on the site that must be entered using the online payment form to get that price. All other registrations are $10. 

Please note that once you register for the 2021 Diversity Summit through AALL, you must then also register for the Zoom meeting, which is available via the thank you page and email.

Registration deadline is February 12, 2021 with zero exceptions.

PLLIP Summit Law Librarian Panel–The Way Things Were, and the Way Forward: How We Coped, Managed and Succeeded in Unprecedented Times

An earlier blog post by Linda-Jean Schneider, Manager of Digital Access, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, covered the keynote address for the American Association of Law Libraries’ Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals’ annual one-day Summit.  Linda-Jean’s second post provides a summary of the law librarian panel that followed the keynote address. 

Following the rousing keynote address by Ari Kaplan, the 2020 PLLIP Summit continued with a second session focused on law firm information professionals’ responses to the recent seismic changes to the industry. The intrepid Jeremy Sullivan moderated a panel which featured knowledge repository leaders from a cross-section of firms.

Panelists:

  • Amy Eaton, Director of Library & Research Services at 1100-attorney Perkins Coie, based in Seattle with 16 staff among 4 offices;
  • Tina Dumas, KM & Library Manager at 140-attorney Nossaman LLP, resident in northern California with 3 staff members;
  • Andre Davison, Research Technology Manager at 600+ attorney Blank Rome, staff of 4 FTE plus some part-time contractors.

Jeremy occasionally weighed in with responses too, based on his role as Manager of Competitive Intelligence & Analytics at mega-firm DLA Piper.  In addition to the panel member comments, there were audience polls and chat questions eliciting responses and observations throughout the session.

The six questions tackled by the panel covered a range of territory–how  quickly staff members pivoted to remote working, along with an examination of firm policies for WFH; identifying changes in attorney request/response tools prior to and after the conversion to remote work; the difficulties and challenges of migrating from print to electronic formats, which segued into identifying specific tasks no longer deployed; and the impact of the stressful changes on staff.

Each of the panel members recounted that their staffing was already pivoting to working remotely, if not already there, and that the majority of their research and administrative operations had been primarily online. With the addition of some equipment and accessibility for Technical Services staff, the firms were all fully WFH in a few days, all by mid-March of this year. As for firm policies changing in response to the situation, there were definitely adjustments for non-exempt staff, but a predominance of attorneys and professional staff were permitted to work remotely pre-pandemic. The audience poll confirmed that about 32% of attendees reported they had ‘situational’ formal firm policies allowing remote work; 21% said they did have permission through the firm edicts; 24% including Amy said “No, but changes were in progress;” 18% said only attorneys had permission to work remotely in their policy.

The panel next highlighted their existing pre-pandemic operation systems, and how those had changed with the lockdown. Andre reviewed his firm’s prior deployment of the Quest request-tracking system; a OneNote notebook with a taxonomy consistently updated as a team knowledge repository; and Research Monitor to manage passwords and resources, which were all still being utilzed.  There seemed to be no change for attorneys according to Amy, but staff has been able to focus on back-end administration and projects, which has been a boon. Tina declared that backlog projects and operations reorganization are still on her wish list. She does not have a separate tech services team to focus on those tasks, as her staff primarily performs reference. However, they have been able to implement some digital initiatives and create new content for the firm’s intranet since the ‘lockdown.’ Tina identified specific challenges with access to IP-authenticated resources, but this was also a chance to connect with the attorneys and demonstrate staff capability to provide personalized service.

Next, to respond to attorney requests for both research and content, the panelists dived into a discussion of how to transition from their usual protocols, “specifically when migrating from print to electronic content”?   Amy posited that their digital initiative was already in place, but this pandemic pushed the project in a fast-forward fashion. This reflects the “fundamental shift that has been happening” all along. She also stated: “Print puts staff at risk,” as someone needs to have contact with the format, whereas digital is ‘safer.’ Amy also referred to the ‘unbundling of agreements’ as essential for the full transition. Amy says this transition to electronic is in fact a great equalizer. She expressed surprise at the very few requests for print since working remotely, and how attorneys and staff are rapidly familiarizing themselves with digital formats, leaving their print comfort zones far behind.

Andre echoed that this would definitely be the year to address this commitment to the transition from print to electronic, and look at the available e-book platforms, which have greatly improved in the past few years. His firm has been renegotiating with all of the major research platforms. Their current policy is “If the content is already owned online, no print will be purchased.” (A standard that should be welcome everywhere!) Blank Rome has a committee to approve any print expenditure that might be proposed.

Tina has seen the need for everyone to work remotely as a tipping point with management, and an undeniable opportunity to accelerate to full transition. The audience poll reflected similar situations among the firms represented by attendees. In response to “What impact has the pandemic had on your plans to migrate from print collections?”, the results were: 53% are ramping up electronic content; 41% had already transitioned to a high degree; 6% are maintaining prior systems; and 0% have even purchased print recently.

In response to the question of whether there are tasks from which you have pivoted after discovering they were being done routinely, without questioning or evaluation, the panelists named the routing of newsletters, papers, or print of any kind, as well as massive orders of numerous deskbooks—e.g., individual copies of the IRC for the tax group, both of which strategies result in tremendous savings. Amy identified the opportunity for staff members to attend Practice Group meetings, to be invited to provide more print-to-digital training, and to command increased flexibility with vendor agreements.

A question about the impact of the stress and demands of the situation elicited recommendations to encourage staff to take advantage of “Emergency Care Time,” or ‘mental health days.’ Andre discussed flexible work schedules, with a firm-wide wellness program. Tina shared that trivia contests, using Skype and random check-ins, were beneficial. She uses Skype to ask about favorite library jokes or most useful freezer items, and initiated a firm trivia contest. Perkins Coie has granted an additional 30 hours off to assist with personal issues. The Research Staff created a Spotify list of staff-recommended music — *LIBRARY will get you there. (Your humble reporter’s staff has enjoyed a variety of team activities–sharing favorite food, books, movies, dream vacations, etc.)

The final question to both the panel and the audience was “When do you think we will get to the ‘New Normal?’ ” The results were enlightening: 5% said the end of 2020; 21% said things will stay in flux; a combination of 74% said either mid-2021 or year-end 2021. Of the panelists, Amy selected the end of 2021 (seeing increased reliance on training videos, increased digital, reduction in real estate, limitations on travel, and a chance to radically ‘de-clutter’ offices and streamline the various collections). Andre agreed with Jeremy that everything is “in flux,” and that this is an opportunity for knowledge repositories to pivot, focus on professional development, and re-purpose the Vision and Mission Statement for the Research Department. Tina concurred, specifying that even with the vaccine, people on the front lines should get the vaccine before lawyers or our staff, and that everyone will be forced to increase our collective digital ‘savvy’ in order to move forward in the practice of law. The recurring theme was: Reduced office space, more WFH!

Overall, this session was a thoughtful, insightful examination of how firms are coping, managing, and thriving in response to the issues, changes, and challenges currently faced by legal information professionals. The bottom line, as always, is to be able to adapt to ongoing situations, and to be flexible in our efforts to provide a high level of content curation and research services to our respective users.

Throughout our 2020 PLLIP Summit law librarian panel session, The Way Things Were, and the Way Forward: How We Coped, Managed and Succeeded in Unprecedented Times, we received a variety of questions from attendees which we were not able to address due to time constraints. A good number of inquiries centered around the transition from print to electronic materials, and whether the COVID-19 pandemic had accelerated that process. In my subsequent discussions with our panelists, consensus seemed to be that there were opportunities to be seized upon in this area – whether from revitalizing stalled digital initiatives, marketing the ubiquity of electronic sources and training reluctant attorneys on their use, or bringing vendors to the table to revamp their sales approach to the print/electronic mix. Additional, related questions had to do with staffing concerns – if you move away from print, doesn’t that make your technical services and paraprofessional staff vulnerable? Here too, the panelists were optimistic. Electronic materials still need to be cataloged. Staff can be cross-trained to focus on higher level work or spend their freed up time addressing dormant projects. Perhaps with HR’s help in tweaking job descriptions, and as long as staff are interested in these new opportunities, there’s no reason to think that those jobs need to go away.
Q&A summary submitted by panel moderator Jeremy Sullivan, Manager of Competitive Intelligence & Analytics, DLA Piper