Who needs a Librarian anyway?

By Mark Gediman In his recent post on the ABA Journal’s The New Normal Blog (“Does it Pay to Hire a Law Firm Librarian”), Patrick Lamb posits that only those firms that need a resident expert for online research would need a Librarian. In fact, Mr. Lamb doesn’t think a library is necessary. Needless to say, this post has created some waves in the Law Library Community. In my mind, I agree with John DiGilio that this post is a consequence of the “they know what I do and where to find me if they need me” mindset that we find all too often in law firm libraries. How to change this dynamic?
  • Sell your services.
  • Posts both here and elsewhere have discussed in detail the value of continually marketing both yourself and the library to the firm.
  • Provide simple user interfaces to facilitate access to firm resources.
  • See my previous post on this topic.
  • Create products and services customized for practices and departments.
Something as simple as a daily news sheet, offering customized resource training or meet with each practice group. Create specialized products for Competitive intelligence. In short, only you can raise your profile. Now, I do think Mr. Lamb is wrong about a few things:
  • Print is not obsolete for four reasons (at least):
  1. Some specialty treatises are only available in print;
  2. It is more efficient to use the print materials in some cases (such as the Rutter Guides);
  3. Attorneys still prefer to use the codes they reference daily in print;
  4. It’s easier to bring book when a visiting a client than going online.
  • Librarians are not only research consultants.
  1. We may not know the answer but we do know how to find the answer, quickly and efficiently.
  2. We can identify opportunities for savings through elimination of redundant resources and contract expertise
  3. We know how the firm works as a whole as well as its parts. We can tell you who knows what or where to find what.
My feeling is that Librarians and Libraries are morphing beyond just keepers and repositories of knowledge. They are becoming high-speed retrieval and analysis specialists that leverage the vast knowledge base of the firm, both internal and external, online and print. Without our expertise (yes, full disclosure, I’m a Law Firm Librarian), firms would waste time and money-wait…those are the same thing. Mr. Lamb does not appear to be very well informed when it comes to the role of both Libraries and Librarians in the Modern law firm. Librarians are not a holdover of a bygone age. We have evolved into necessary navigators through the hybrid (both digital and print) world of legal research.

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