Thursday, 18 June 2015

Blog Every Day in June Day 18: The Past the Present the Future and the User.

Today's post comes from Phil Mullen, who is the Australian Library & Information Services Manager for K&L Gates.

The Past the Present the Future and the User.

There was a time before the Internet when I was starting my life as a law librarian. This world was really just books and indexes, how we loved those indexes and updates. The endless looseleaf filing, missing updates and misfiled pages. We used thousands of stickers very much like postage stamps that updated the Law Reports; happy days.

There was the occasional screaming modem (and babies) with green online screens staring out at you asking you to spend money and incur the wrath of the managing partner for spending 200 dollars on a computer search.

Retrieving an unreported judgment required us to attend the Law Courts Library and photocopy. Large law libraries such as Sydney University Law School Library and the NSW Law Courts Library reigned supreme and seem impermeable and mired in legal tradition.

Looking back today it is hard to believe we are living in the same world. The pace of change in law libraries has gone into overdrive since the GFC, as the legal industry has seen profits fall away and have recognised the economies the internet can bring creating what is called New Law.

We can now access online looseleaf services, Law Reports and books. Who needs indexes when we can access everything on the internet and often free through Austlii. You can see how the internet has torn apart a very comfy cartel between legal publishers, law firms and law librarians.

So where are law libraries going? Are they going? Well, I have no idea nor much of a sense what all this means for law libraries yet.

But I do know we have to recommit ourselves to the user and their information behaviour. Throughout this evolution there has been one constant; we know our users, we know what information they need and when they need it and maybe we have forgotten this.

In this world of New Law our users have to be at the centre of what we do and how we do “things” (not necessarily library "things"). We need to leave behind catalogues and all those back office jobs that simply distract us from our users information needs. We will need to be multitaskers - we are going to have to be training librarians and research librarians and intranet librarians and current awareness librarians and subject specialists and social media librarians.
In 2014 the SLA in association with the Financial Times (note how the SLA is working with publishers to redefine what we do) produced a very influential report called, The Evolving Value of Information Management And Five Essential Attributes of the Modern Information Professional. (2013)

The report asked business executives what they believed information professionals should be doing to add value and then the report identified five common attributes of the successful information professional in the modern era.

The Five Essential Attributes are:
      Communicate Your Value
      Understand the drivers
      Manage the process
      Keep up on technical skills
      Provide "decision ready" information

In the rush to  protect and defend the old "law library traditions" we have forgotten our users and the New Law world they occupy. Using the Five Essential Attributes as a starting point we might be able to refocus our efforts back to user and as Sheryl Sandberg says, Lean In.

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