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After I wrote the post last week on de facto embedded librarians, I started getting comments in from my friend Colleen Cable arguing that we shouldn’t settle for de facto librarians in law firm practice groups, but instead we should be pushing for real live librarians in every practice group. Initially, I thought Colleen had misunderstood my concept of de facto embedded librarians (attempting to “make due” with existing resources) but after hammering back at me a couple of times, I began to see that she was attempting to tell me something that I’ve heard before: “Why Would You Limit Yourself To That?”

I still think my idea has merit (as Denise Pagh verified last night!), I can still see the point of not wanting to limit the idea of what is possible. Since we are all about asking the hard questions here on 3 Geeks, what would be better for a law firm in the long run? A common situation where there is one qualified library researcher for every 75-100 lawyers? Or, where there is a qualified library researcher for each practice group within the law firm? If we could start over from scratch, which would better serve the strategic goals of the law firm?

Reality and tradition may smack this idea down, but it is an idea worth asking. Imagine that each practice group had a librarian embedded in the group that understood both the goals of the group and the resources (internal and external) available to help the group reach those goals. Imagine a law firm where the library researchers came together to discuss their individual practice group needs, and then pooled their resources together to create a wealth of resources all while negotiating on behalf of the firm to keep the costs of these resources affordable, reducing duplication of resources, training attorneys and staff on those resources, and identifying the best resources that fit the overall need of the practice group and the firm.

I know, I know, I can hear all the mumbling coming from the other side of this argument… “let’s get back to reality…”  “this is how we have always done it…” “no need to rock the boat…” “we can’t touch that sacred cow…” “it would never work at my law firm…” “no one would be willing to take that risk…” etc., etc.

Perhaps all those people need to be challenged as I was by Colleen and fire back at the obvious reaction with our own version of:

Why Would You Limit Your Firm To That?

Really. Why would you?

  • Greg – my issue with your post is not the day dream of a librarian or qualified reearcher in each practice, that is genius. The bigger day dream are practices with well defined goals….

    • There is a definite chicken and egg problem to deal with here.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps . . . just perhaps, we need a librarian at the table when the group is defining those goals. It can happen.

    Colleen is right to push. The future certainly comes to all who wait. But why settle for what it simply hands you. A little activism and aggressiveness now will help us all in shaping the future we want.

    Enjoyed this discussion very much! Kudos to 3 Geeks and Colleen Cable!

  • Perhaps, just perhaps, there could be a librarian at the table when those goals are being set and defined. It can happen. It needs to happen.

    Excellent, insightful push back from Colleen. She has her finger on the pulse of our industry here. The future will certainly comes to those who wait for it. By why sit back and accept what tomorrow simply hands you. A little activism, boundary pushing, and aggressiveness right here and now will help us shape the future we actually want and that will be most rewarding to us.

    Great discussion! Kudos to 3 Geeks and Colleen Cable!

  • A useful thought exercise might be to ask: What is (or should be) the difference between a librarian and a paralegal? Between a librarian and an associate?