1/6/10

Half of Westlaw's Library Relations Team to Get the Axe

Rumors are floating that half a third (5 of 15) of the West Library Relations Team will laid off by the end of January. Apparently, those being dismissed from the Thomson Reuters group were given notice back in December (so, kudos for keeping it a secret this long!) Those that I've talked to say that the layoffs affect those Library Relations Managers in the small to mid-size regions of the country. I emailed Anne Ellis, Executive Director of the West Library Relations Team, but did not get a response.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with West's Library Relations Team, they are typically law librarians themselves, and are the liaisons between the behemoth Thomson Reuters and us law librarians. It was this team that had to clean up the mess last summer when Thomson Reuters released an ad campaign that many librarians found insulting. They are the conduits that we law librarians currently have to relay our opinions to those within Thomson Reuters, and they are Thomson Reuters direct conduit back to the profession. This team has worked to not only build key relationships, but also introduce new product lines, take feedback from librarians back to the development team, and provided platforms for law librarians to disseminate information across the profession.
I've been pretty critical of this team in the past, and they have been gracious enough to contact me about those issues. Since the Thomson Reuters merger though, there has been a noticeable change in how the "West" side of the house fits under the big umbrella of Thomson Reuters. I still stand by my prediction that what we knew as "Westlaw" will slowly be integrated into the "Reuters" side of the business. The first step to that integration seems to have been taken with these layoffs.
Although it is not completely a surprise that the Library Relations team is being cut in half, it does worry me as to the effect that this will have across the legal publishing world. If the West team is cut this month, how long before Lexis and other major publishers follows their lead? We law librarians should start preparing for the day where sales representatives are our only line of communication between us and the vendors.

UPDATE: Anne Ellis did respond to my email confirming that 5 Library Relations Managers were laid off (so, not quite half as the rumor had it.) Here's Anne's response:

I want to confirm for you that Thomson Reuters recently notified five librarian relations managers that their positions had been eliminated. These are difficult decisions and it’s our sincere hope that employees affected by this action will transition smoothly to new opportunities. We are working with them to identify opportunities they may be able to transition into.

Thomson Reuters is committed to supporting librarians and that remains unchanged. We support librarians through sponsorships, training, continuing education, and library management consulting. Our account management, librarian relations, research specialists, and reference attorney teams include hundreds of experts available to help our librarian customers.

Going forward, our librarian relations program will evolve as librarianship evolves with a renewed focus on online training, more emphasis on the technology aspects of the librarian’s role, and a continuing commitment to fostering and supporting the library community.

As we move through this economic cycle, we will not compromise our commitment to helping legal systems perform better through innovation, service, product excellence and corporate citizenship.


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10 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is a sad day to be sure. I have a little feedback on the last paragraph:

Although it is not completely a surprise that the Library Relations team is being cut in half, it does worry me as to the effect that this will have across the legal publishing world. If the West team is cut this month, how long before Lexis and other major publishers follows their lead? We law librarians should start preparing for the day where sales representatives are our only line of communication between us and the vendors.

I suggest that librarians are very skilled in making the best of what they’re given, and less so in taking positive, proactive steps to guide the outcome of whatever situation. It might be than rather than preparing for the end of librarian advocates, this is the time to voice your support for these programs. Specific feedback about how these programs strengthen the relationships between vendors and the firms they serve, how they benefit both the firm and the vendor company, could be very effective in communicating a real need for these programs.

CPDB Librarian said...

Very sad as I think that the Library Relations program needs more people NOT fewer. There are so many opportunities that our local person is not able to take advantage of because he doesn't have the time. I respect Anne's response, but respectfully suggest that it is the party line and wasn't thought through carefully. Other publishers are sure to follow, which means fewer jobs for librarians.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting that this discusses a group of 17 when the West page shows 20 people.

Greg Lambert said...

The 17 excluded the "Director-Level" people on that page. So, if you want to count them, then only 1/4th of the team was cut.

Greg Lambert said...

I've been racking my brain trying to think of an answer for both "Anoymous #1" and for CPDB Librarian.

There is a lot to gain from interacting more closely with the Library Relations team, but the foundation of the overall relationship is still going to be 'adversarial'. That doesn't mean that I don't like or respect my Library Relations person. In fact, I consider many of them as friends. However, it does mean that when our 'bosses' say "this is how we are conducting our business" or "we need to cut subscriptions", we have to toe the company line. Add in this down economy and that relationship becomes even more adversarial.

So, how do you turn this current situation into Lemonade?? I don't have a good answer. We on the law library side will have to accept the fact that "face-time" with the Library Relations team will be reduced, but perhaps "virtual face-time" could increase. I suggest that those remaining on the Library Relations team start preparing for more virtual face-time. Perhaps there could be some unintended benefits such as more meetings, bringing together librarians 'virtually' from different cities, ect.

No one likes it when lay offs happen to your peers. I guess the key is attempting to maintain good relationships during the tough times, and attempt to find new approaches on how to use those relationships to the benefit of both parties.

Greg Lambert said...

It was pointed out to me that my math skills are not very good. There are 15 (not 17 as I posted earlier -- as two of the LRM's were listed twice) Library Relations Managers in the field. If you add the Directors, that brings the total up to 18.

Anonymous said...

Two years ago, I started a position as a law librarian in a patent law firm, which required a great deal of searching on DIALOG for scientific literature as well as patents. I had not used DIALOG since rudimentary training in library school in 2001, so I had a lot to learn. And sadly, practically no one to teach. Thomson Reuters purchased DIALOG (and has since sold it) and in the time of their ownership they dismantled their teams that liason with, and train, librarians. There are THREE training represenatives for the ENTIRE COUNTRY. Dialog is extremely expensive, not intuitive, but potentially very powerful, one-of-kind tool, that barely anyone knows how to use anymore - not even the scientists, and I know, because I was teaching them (and I barely knew). Thomson Reuters is a horrible company, that has zero.zero commitment to teaching, training, education, basically, to making sure that its wonderful tools are out there, being used, to help people work, learn, discover. I think in their perfect world, they would simply collect money and deliver nothing at all.

Greg Lambert said...

For those of us that have worked with West in the past, we've seen the "business side" of things before. When the Bancroft Whitney folks (who were very dedicated to customer service and putting a face on the company) were let go, we all thought how terrible that was... but we adapted. When West merged into Thomson, we saw more "business" changes, but we adapted... now that Reuters is in the mix, we are seeing the next generation of business change, coupled with a bad economy and the need to make sure the bottom line stays in the black. Unfortunately, the "low hanging fruit" in these times are those that do not have a clear ROI. We will all adjust again, but I'm afraid that we will never see the personal interaction that we've become used to over the past few years from our Library Relations Managers. Again, I'm not sure how we can make Lemonade out of this situation, but I guess we'll have to. I'm also thinking that the Reuters merger will only bring more focus on the bottom line and the company will continue to move away from the customer relations version that we've grown use to.

Anonymous said...

Greg...I completely agree with your last comment. It seems to me that the main job of the Director (at a library or of Librarian Relations) is to prove/demonstrate the ROI of their staff on a daily basis. I think that this is the crux of the problem. Smart business leaders do not lay-off employees who contribute to the bottom line. Therefore, the Director must be constantly thinking of new ways to measure ROI and communicate with business leaders in their language. If a person in that position cannot clearly and articulately make a business case against laying-off their staff, then I would argue that they have no business purpose, and should be the first to go.

Anonymous said...

Partner committees run the show. Large law firm partners are the greediest people on Earth.

Wexis has to market to the partners out of necessity. Librarians don't decide which flavor of wexis to buy.

Partners see librarians like all other staff - an expense interfering with the PPP. They don't give a shit about you or your jobs. They just want to buy another lake house or Porsche.

 

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