Elephant Post: The Platt Challenge – Answered

Ruby the Painting Elephant
Image [cc] leesean
I wasn't sure if dusting off the old Elephant Post idea would work, but I'd have to say that we had a lot of people step up and answer the call. Nina Platt threw out the challenge to Law Librarian Bloggers, and like the true delegator I am, I asked all of you to step up and answer that challenge. There are still many outstanding questions, but this was a good start.

I will have to say one personal note about the challenge, from the standpoint of a blogger. I blog, and many of those that I know that blog, do so simply as an outlet for our own personal ideas and experiences. We sometimes stumble upon a suggestion that helps others, but we tend to ask more questions than we answer. All of our situations are unique, and we all have the ability to step up and solve most of our own problems.

Blogs like this one create a quasi-community. However, most of the conversation in this community is one-sided. It helps with getting the idea out there, but it takes someone on the local level to actually do something. In order to make that happen, I suggest that we all go beyond the writings found on a blog and find someone that you can bounce your own ideas off of. That might be a peer within your firm, a peer or friend outside your firm, or even a consultant if the issues are really tough. The key is to find someone to have that conversation and will act as your sounding board.

It was fun bringing back the Elephant Post idea for an ad hoc issue like this. Hopefully, we'll have additional reasons to do it again in the near future. Now, enough of my waxing nostalgic, here are the answers that you provided:

Brian L. Baker
Better Treatment and Help for Those Laid Off in 2009

Having been on the outside, for almost 4 years, after being laid off in 2009, I wish the profession would have done a couple of things.
  1. Better prepared librarians who were laid off, with survival skills. I was adrift, and I know many others went through the same thing.
  2. Be more open, when hiring, to older applicants who used to make a lot of money. We just want a chance to prove ourselves. We would reward that chance with loyalty, because, no matter what the salary cut would be, it is better than unemployment, minimum wage, or spending retirement money to survive.
Maybe I'm to sensitive. Who knows? :)

How will libraries need to be staffed in the future?

Be responsive to internal pressures on expenses by outsourcing all non-core services. Ensure that each member of the library team spends the majority of their time directly supporting the business of the firm. 

Al Podboy
How we can support changes in the legal industry

By using our voice. Speak up, share ideas, be fearless. Tell them (employers, bosses, vendors, educators etc.) what you need and what you think. Honesty and the best policy. Being a ʺyesʺ person does not grow anyone or anything.

Digital Transition

Our libraries will not be a physical place very soon and yet many of us have never figured out how to replace the visual field that would allow a user to see what is actually available on a given topic. Instead we live in vendor silos and endless link lists. We need better visual graphic skills. If we don't figure this out, our users certainly won't.

Rebecca C.
What skills will librarians need to have that they don't have now?

I have two years post MLIS experience in special libraries, but no experience in law libraries, nor do I possess a J.D. Would someone like me have a shot at a future working in a law library, or is the existing barrier too difficult to breach?

Tony Chan
How we can support changes in the legal industry?

I would rephrase the question as "What can we do in our individual roles to support firm initiatives that are catered to changes in the legal industry?"

As information (I) & technology (T) professionals, we must collaborate with our firm's COOs, CFOs, CIOs and other relevant business units to ascertain how IT affect practice efficiency and firm economics in response to market changes.

The firm as a whole must identify and ready to tackle those changes and a cultural consensus among the firm's stakeholders is critical for its success.

So my suggestion is to:
  1. Start/restart conversations with the firm's leadership with the goal of identifying knowledge gaps that would help bridge the firm's business solutions.
  2. Educate yourself on technology issues by staying current on new tools/services.
  3. Keep your finger on the pulse of various practices by dropping in on meetings and organizing CLEs.

At the end of the day the dotted I and the crossed T mean little when there's no real impact on improving current practices to meet the clients' wants and needs.

Shirley Crow
What staffing, research, resources, services, processes, etc. will we need to have in place?
Clients are declining to pay for first and second year lawyers (the people who generally do legal research). There is an oversupply of lawyers in the marketplace, and many of them are available to put their skills to work in ways other than the traditional. I don't think it is feasible for law firms to do without research resources. Putting those pieces together, I see the librarian of the future being a revenue-producing resource, who conducts legal research efficiently and cost-effectively, the way clients want their law firms to do their work. It is possible that law firm library managers need to prepare themselves to manage a cadre of JDs who are qualified to research efficiently as well as interpret the law. In my opinion, wise is the law firm library manager who starts *now* to promote her staff's ability to conduct efficient, cost-effective, and *valuable* research.

Lucy Curci-Gonzalez
What staffing, research, resources, services, processes, etc. will we need to have in place?
And how to get C levels to understand the receptionist can't do this at all!

What staffing, research, resources, services, processes, etc. will we need to have in place?
I think what depresses me most is how little actual control we have over any of these changes. Publishers are going around us to the end user with their e-books; they dictate the licencing; in my experience, my budget gets cut, but the demand for texts / services doesn't diminish. I guess the skill we'd best learn is juggling. In the end, you can run the perfect library, have your clientele bowing in gratitude before you, and it all goes to heck when some 5yr associate decides he/she wants your job, because you've made it look easy, and its an easy way to guarantee his/her longevity. Maybe the best skill we can learn is schmooze and schmooze HARD!!!

Steve Lastres
Rebooting Legal Research in a Digital Age [See PDF article]
Law Librarians need to partner with publishers and others in the
legal profession. We cannot stand alone as an isolated profession. ILTA is a
good example where IT, KM, Librarians, Records, Conflicts and lawyers all come
together. Below, is a white paper I just published based on research
underwritten by Lexis but independently conducted by a research firm. In order
to understand how we can be valuable to the practice and business of law, we
must be intimately aware of the pain points. Lack of research skills is one of
the pain points. This white papers seeks to address these pain points and
provide an opportunity for law librarians to fix the problem. Our clients will
no longer pay for training our young lawyers.

Business Research and Competitive Intelligence Skills

I am surprised no one mentioned the tremendous opportunities librarians have to leverage their skills toward the development of business research and competitive intelligence. Of course, this career move is interesting to those who have both an analytical bent and training that prepares them for this work.
I would like to hear more from law firm librarians who have made this transition to business research/intelligence. I know of only a few firms that have utilized their library staff well in this way. I also know some librarians who have transitioned completely from the library to research/intelligence units. However, most librarians don’t seem vert interested in playing this kind of role. Why not?

How Will Library Eduction Need to Change?
Chris Graesser

Many experienced librarians who are back in the job market are seeing jobs requirements they never had to learn on the job and for which training is rarely offered by association programs.
Proposition #1:

Change the basic library degree to a four year undergraduate BS, with graduate degrees in library management, law, medicine and others I can't think of.

The economics don't support requiring a librarian to get an undergrad degree in something else, then a Masters (and in many cases a JD, Masters in Biology, or other discipline) just to land a job that might start at 35K.

Besides, I think there is a lot more to learn to be an effective librarian these days, enough to fill four years. Multidisciplinary stuff like accounting, IT, communications and marketing, effective writing and presentation. Stuff that will make a librarian valuable right out of the gate.

Proposition #2:

Library schools should offer continuing education courses to librarians in the field. Much of what I see in library school curricula and in job requirements these days don't match what many librarians have been able to learn on the job or in association programming.

Proposition #3:

Close the gap between library schools and the profession. In my experience, the twain never meet once a librarian has graduated. The schools rarely make an effort to interact with practicing librarians, at least not in the law library world. Maybe it's different for public and academic libraries.


Bookmark and Share



© 2014, All Rights Reserved.