Thursday, May 29, 2014

Canadian Association of Law Libraries 2014 Conference - Expanding the Influence of the Law Library

Greg Lambert, one of the contributors to the well-known site 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, was the final keynote speaker yesterday at the 2014 annual conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL) in Winnipeg.

Lambert, a member of the executive board of the American Association of Law Libraries and the Director of Library & Research Services at Jackson Walker LLP in Houston, Texas, gave a presentation on the "Three Foot Radius of the Law Library" .

By that, he means that law librarians need to stop thinking of the library as a place, and start thinking  instead of the services that are provided. This will require working to get clients to a point where they no longer think of the bricks and mortar, the tables, books on shelves etc. when they think of the law library. In other words, the "3-foot radius" means that where librarians walk through their organization, that is the library. It is less a place and more a "bubble of service".

To put that new brand idea into practice, Lambert had a number of suggestions.
  • Get out: your space does not define you anymore, do you really need to be in physical proximity to the collection(s)? Is it possible to become embedded in the space where faculty members have offices, inside law firm practice groups, or where clients spend their time? This can mean suddenly being able to be part of conversations, and to engage with leaders. As an example, he mentioned a library reference desk being moved out into the foyer of a local family court in Texas
  • Listen: what are leaders discussing, what are they doing and not doing, what are their pain points? Law librarians should be looking for opportunities to get involved to help the organization cope with these stresses. And most of all, law librarians must get over being afraid to ask what leaders are up to, what they need, what they are afraid of
  • Solve problems that help customers get back to their core functions: profs want to teach and research, lawyers want to practice, judges want to hear cases. Yet, to use one example Lambert referred to, many judges find themselves spending an inordinate amount of time helping self-represented litigants understand and fill out forms
  • Expand the library's reach: this can be done by doing non-library things. He gave the example of an entreprising librarian in Travis County, Texas who proposed setting up a self-help centre in the library for self-represented litigants in family law cases. The  librarian convinced the court to assign 2 attorneys to work in the library to help with case-related paperwork and litigants were not authorized to show up in the courtroom until one of the 2 attorneys signed off on the forms. Last year, that local family court handled 80,000 clients and was able to speed up many of its procedures
Lambert said that these are times of stress in law firms, courts, law faculties and in their associated libraries, but these are also times of opportunity the law library profession must grasp. If it is related to research and analysis and process improvement, the law library can and should be doing it, and that includes business development, knowledge management, and involvement in legal project management.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:18 pm


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