Monday, May 16, 2011

CALL Conference Session on How Not To Be Swamped

This morning at the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL) in Calgary, there was a panel discussion on "Workflow - How Not to Be Swamped".

It was sponsored by the Courthouse and Law Society Libraries Special Interest Group of which I am co-chair.

The first speaker Pam Borden is a solo librarian at the Law Society of Prince Edward Island. Her main point was to find ways of "thinking smarter" to avoid wasting time. She emphasized the importance of the CALL listserv, conferences and regional law librarian networks for resource sharing.

Joan Rataic-Lang of the Toronto Lawyers Association was the second speaker. Her main recommendation: go out and buy David Allen's book "Getting Things Done".

Her main points had to do with developing a system for collecting and organizing incoming information (e-mails, RSS feeds, calls, walk-ins, voicemails etc.), and determining which items are actionable, which should be delegated or deferred.

A list-lover, Rataic-Lang explained her system for organizing to-do lists into categories such as a projects list, calendared actions, "waiting for" lists (info or decisions that must come from others) etc. She also underlined the crucial importance of procedure manuals and checklists.

The final speaker was Wendy Reynolds, a manager at the Legislative Library of Ontario.

She described their Library Client Request Database (LCRD), a repository of reference Q and As (she estimates the system has many tens of thousands of questions). Based on an Oracle platform, the LCRD was developed in-house and has functions that allow for assigning questions to the appropriate team member, delegating parts of questions, and tracking research answers. The LCRD is searchable, so reference staff do not reinvent the wheel. A field for tips describing how to handle particularly sensitive questions (or particularly sensitive politicians?) helps to ensure a consistency in quality of service.

Depending on the size of your library, there are sure to be ideas from the speakers that can help you avoid going crazy.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:00 pm


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