by Jill Strand, Legal Division, Minnesota Chapter
I’m borrowing the title of recent American Bar Association Journal article in which the authors Patrick Lamb and Paul Lippe ask if anyone starting a new law firm today would have a library or even a librarian. Although unsure about the value of a physical library, they favored having a librarian, noting that “finding essential information is more important than ever. When you live in a value free world, someone who finds the right information efficiently is really valuable.” While I would debate their assumption that all the resources lawyers need are available online, they are right to recognize that “the role of the librarian is becoming more critical as the volume of information in the world grows.”
Yet the authors go on to wonder if there is a disconnect between how they would define librarians’ value and how librarians themselves define it. Mr. Lamb and Mr. Lippe see librarians as professionals who can manage internal knowledge and external information, understand the costs involved and the connections to marketing and business development. They go on to quote an unidentified survey of a small group of librarians who describe their value using phrases such as “loyal, accurate, friendly and smart.” The authors see this disconnect as a challenge to everyone (not just librarians) “to figure out how to add real value to their enterprise.”
Sound like a familiar challenge? Nearly two years since the ground-breaking research of the Special Libraries Association Alignment Project was released, this challenge persists. More importantly, how do we make sure that we, as librarians, are aware of the value our customers perceive in us, and how do we change our perception of our own value? I chose to see the challenge as an opportunity for librarians to demonstrate that we understand these concerns and are already several steps ahead in addressing them. SLA’s Alignment Task Force is currently turning the Alignment Project research into tools and tips to help members align themselves and their libraries with the goals and values of their organizations.
In a way, being Future Ready is really just a form of Alignment put into action. Even better, it offers an open slate – you get to decide the how, when and why of your own Future Ready agenda. As a law firm library director I’m taking the advice of another Future Ready librarian, Nina Platt, and spending 15-20 minutes to meet with individual attorneys and learn a little more about the focus of their practice, their business development goals and how they stay informed. Each interview gives me a glimpse into the future. Rather than wait and respond to a last minute request, it allows me think ahead about tools and information that can support their goals.
Even before the economy took a nosedive, librarians and knowledge professionals were investigating innovative and cost-effective ways to add value to their organizations. Mr. Lamb and Mr. Lippe note that “we create five exabytes of information every two days and that pace is accelerating.” In order for lawyers, doctors, scientists, professors and other professionals to be able to fully use their unique training and talents for success, they require the unique training and talents of librarians and knowledge professionals to evaluate and manage the information searching, sifting, analyzing, synthesizing and delivery that affords them that focus.
Jill Strand is an active member of SLA at the local and national levels. She has held several leadership positions in the Minnesota Chapter, and is currently a member of the Annual Conference Advisory Council, and Nominating committee and past member of the Public Relations Advisory Council.