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Archive for January, 2014

A shorter version of this piece appeared in the CLSIG Journal for January 2014 which is available from the CLSIG website: http://www.cilip.org.uk/about/special-interest-groups/commercial-legal-and-scientific-information-group

Having walked past the Wiener library so often when studying for my library Masters at UCL, I was thrilled when CLSIG offered a tour of the library on Tuesday 7th January 2014.

The Wiener library is one of the largest Holocaust collections in the world. The tour covered the development of the library and how it has morphed from the collection of one man, Alfred Wiener, a German Jew who fought in WW1 and was awarded the Iron Cross. Alfred Wiener became alarmed at the increase of anti-Semitism and started to collect evidence of it – from board games to letters. His collection expanded and was eventually transformed in to the Central Jewish Information Office which was initially moved to Amsterdam during WW2, and then moved on again to London where the British government funded the library as it used it to receive information on the Nazis. Although Alfred Wiener managed to escape, he was unable to protect his family and tragically his wife died in 1945 shortly after her release from a concentration camp

The Wiener library in its current form in Russell Square no longer receives funding from the Government, but subsists solely on donations. The purpose of the Wiener library is not to solely to preserve documents surrounding the Holocaust, but is also to actively expand its collection and obtain evidence and documents surrounding other more recent genocides. A part of the Wiener collection that really touched me was a display of drawings by children who have experienced the violence in Darfur, and these drawings have actually been used by the UN as evidence of the genocide.

After learning about the history and active role of the library we were taken to the archives, which contained all kinds of objects; from Nazi propaganda colouring books for children to tea packets that were smuggled out of Germany containing anti-Nazi information; from a signed copy of Mein Kampf to a magazine celebrating the SS, which disturbingly is still being published today. The archives contain over 2,000 unpublished personal accounts by those who experienced the Holocaust and Nazi regime, and we were shown the documents and photographs relating to a few individuals, which really helped to humanise and contextualise the Holocaust.

We also viewed the reading room, which was a beautiful room with books shelved from floor to ceiling, and where there were a number of people working. What struck me in particular was a video display in the reading room inspired by Walter Benjamin, who committed suicide trying to escape the Nazis, and a wall of gold plaques nearby in memory of those who had experienced the holocaust and had played an active role with the Wiener library.

The library is primarily used by academics and those conducting family research. The library plays a very important role in reminding us that each individual’s experience of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust is unique, and how important it is to preserve the evidence of these individual experiences as a vital part of history that we should not be allowed to forget.

It was very refreshing to explore a library that is so unique and so completely different to the corporate law environment that I am used to, and I would like to thank CLSIG for organising it.

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Navigating your career by Malcolm Bryant (from Morgan Stanley)

Malcolm’s session was the first of the day, and it was extremely entertaining and gave plenty of advice for thinking about your career. I came away feeling very enthusiastic and determined to look at my own career progression. So rather unusually, this post is going to summarise Malcolm’s advice, but I am not going to fully evaluate my own career publicly on my blog (I am sure you can understand why), although I will do so privately.

Dentist with PatientAs an introduction, Malcolm compared managing your career to taking trips to the dentist – it is something that we know we should be doing, but we either don’t have time or find it embarrassing. However, it is extremely important as we need to make our work as enjoyable and productive as possible. If you spend 40 years working 250 working days a year, that is 10,000 working days in your life! Also, Malcolm made the observation that doing a good job will not necessarily lead to career progression on its own – we need to manage it ourselves:

  • You should think about your personal development every 3-6 months, every 12 months is OK, but any less is not good!
  • Personal development is your responsibility, and not your managers – so make sure you act to benefit yourself.
  • If you are a high performer, then don’t think that you are above professional development and you don’t need it; in fact, you probably need it more than others.

Malcolm’s presentation focused on planning and netowrking, and included  some really useful action points!

PLAN

  • Like and dislikes

Evaluate your current job, and list your likes and dislikes. Once you have identified these, create a game plan to maximise your likes and improve your dislikes where possible. Think about whether there are opportunities to increase scope on the aspects of your job that you do like, and whether there could be new ways to add value or improve your skills.

Something that I have really enjoyed in my current job is profiling articles written by Trowers staff for the firm’s Intranet, to make the content discoverable by our staff. It introduces a huge variety of legal topics to me and has taught me a lot about classification using our internal taxonomy. On mentioning this during my annual review, this part of my role has expanded so that rather than just profiling the articles by my departments (B&F and Corporate), I now profile articles from all of the departments and different practice areas, which gives me the opportunity to learn about more legal topics, which helps improve the service I provide on the Enquiry Desk.

  • Think of your 3-5 year future

What possible roles would you like to take on? If they are different to your current role, what skills and experience would you need to acquire? Discuss any skill gaps with your line manager and see if you can incorporate them in to your professional development plan.

  • Create a professional development plan

I am currently in the process of chartering, and as part of the chartership process you are required to create a Personal Professional Development Plan (PPDP). I have found this exercise and the template for the plan to be extremely useful, and this is something I hope to do every year after chartership (although possibly not in so much detail!) to force myself to evaluate my skill gaps, what actions I can take to obtain these skills, and how they will benefit my work. This is also an opportunity to align your personal development priorities with those of your firm or department’s goals; which will stand you in good stead for your annual review.

NETWORK

SLA Europe social

SLA Europe social

The typical excuses for not networking mainly consist of fear of rejection, that you’re too busy, feel too junior or you don’t see the point. But networking is really important in managing your career as although we can’t change our very basic intelligence, we can easily create and develop relationships with others. Something that has really stuck with me from Malcolm’s talk is the 6 month rule – speak to the people in your network every 6 months, otherwise they become meaningless contacts. This has highlighted the importance of attending events hosted by BIALL, SLA and CLSIG which provide networking opportunities, as having since looked at my LinkedIn network there are lots of contacts who I met a year or 2 ago but have not spoken to since; and would not feel comfortable asking for advice or more generally speaking with them at an event without re-introducing myself.

  • Benefits

There are numerous benefits to networking with regards to developing your career; you can better understand your firm, solicit advice and feedback and benchmark yourself against others.

  • Role models

Watch those you admire, and take 5 minutes to note what makes them successful. If you can, incorporate what makes them successful in to your own style.

  • Mentors

By networking you may be able to find someone whom you can trust to give you good advice, and a mentor is often someone not part of your line management. This is something I have certainly experienced as a huge benefit of networking at SLA and BIALL events, and I often value the opinions of those not in my work team, as they can offer objective advice and insight, and also because I know that anything I say is not necessarily fed back to my line manager. Not that I am embarrassed about any such conversations that I have! But there are particular career progression questions that I would feel awkward speaking to my line manager about.

  • Elevator pitch

I have written other posts on the elevator pitch (please see my summary of Suzanne Wheatley’s excellent BIALL session), but the idea is to create a 1 minute summary of who you are and get it perfect. Firstimpressions are really important, and you will always need this no matter at what stage of your career you are at – so make sure you update it with what you are currently working on.

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As I mentioned, the PI conference is the best conference I have ever attended in terms of content. And day 2 (as the only full day) covered some very high quality sessions. As such, I am going to split my experience of day 2 in to themed posts – so this post is focused on a mobile technology and BYOD presentation.

Content in their pockets by Robin Neidorf

This was a really thought provoking session on user demands for library content on portable devices. This session made me stop and think about how technology has developed in just the last couple of years, when I confess that naively I often think that technology surely can’t develop much further than the magnificent lengths that it already has! Covering the very recent leaps in mobile technology has made me realise how completely and utterly wrong I am.

The first iPad was released only in 2010 – at this point, users are not really interested in using apps to access library content. However, after a short span of 3 years, there is now reasonable and ever growing demand for iPad library content from users – without the users understanding the difficulty of getting content on a platform/device of the user’s choice which is not supported by the library service.

How do we deal with these high user expectations of being provided with content using mobile technology? Robin said there were a number of things that have led to these high and difficult user expectations in the work place:

  • We now have better technology at home than we do at work – which is very different to the situation 10 years ago.
  • Users have expectations that the process should be as easy as their experience of downloading apps for personal use; for example, putting the corporate FT subscription on to tablets and phones should be as easy as downloading the FT app.Smaug
  • There is a tendency for users to simply want to have access to the content; to hoard information and harvest it on the tablet, but barely use it 6 months later (very much like Smaug the dragon, from The Hobbit… not that I would normally compare our library users to dragons of course!)

So how do we tackle user expectations for library resources on mobile devices?

Consider whether it would be useful to implement a BYOD (bring your own device) strategy at your work. Don’t think that this is automatically the appropriate action to take and that it will happen eventually anyway – really think about whether BYOD would truly benefit your organisation in a substantial way. Another really useful way of thinking about it is what is the risk of not going mobile for your organisation?

  • Be strategic – is it important for the user to have information on their own devices? Will it save money? Will it make working more efficient?
  • Have clear project objectives – otherwise it will be impossible to evaluate whether BYOD is successful within your organisation
  • Prioritise – do all your users need to go mobile, or is it only a particular user group who would benefit?
  • Time – if you think of an estimated time as to when your company will go mobile, then halve it. Technology is developing (and with it user expectations) a lot quicker than you think! With this in mind, you need to think a year in advance to properly plan for BYOD, as it will really take that long to consider all of the various issues and challenges with a mobile strategy.

So what challenges are there if you are considering BYOD?

  • Limited ownership of ‘mobile’ projects’ – make sure you are involved from the beginning, and don’t let your IT department to take over the project and ignore you
  • User demand v business requirements – what your users want may not necessarily be the same as what is the best for the organisation that you work for, so be aware of the business requirements in order to explain to users and mediate their expectations
  • User expectations v complexity of process – as touched on earlier, there are a number of challenges to do with BYOD that users will not understand; particularly different vendors having different pricing structures and licensing agreements, and why it is not just as easy as downloading an app.

When I think of our situation in a law firm, we have had a couple of individuals ask if they can access library resources on their tablet devices. There are obvious benefits for them, such as being able to work while travelling – which, funnily enough has often been an argument put to me as to why lawyers prefer print magazines that they can read on the train rather than attempting to read a digital magazine on a blackberry. At the moment, the compromise we are doing is that where the licence terms allow, we download articles as PDF documents and email them to the few individuals who want to read them on their tablet devices.

I think users also struggle to understand why products from different vendors have different licensing agreements – if they can access the digital edition of a product from one publisher, then why are they not allowed to with a different product? There are also various cost implications as well. A print magazine can be circulated around as many people as you like (albeit many of those people will end up receiving it rather late), while digital editions tend to be one user license only; and consequently  more expensive depending on the number of users who require access to that publication.

However, I think BYOD is still a very long way off for my firm, and I think traditionally law firms are quite slow with adopting new technologies – they are only just getting to grips with LinkedIn and Twitter! I think there are a number of challenges to implementing BYOD that are particularly important to law firms – security for example. If someone leaves their mobile device on the train, then anyone could pick it up and access the library resources on it, but more importantly client information as well. Additionally, what if a member of staff leaves the firm – how do you police the content they access on their tablet device once they have left? Can you delete the information remotely?

There are a myriad of issues and challenges surrounding BYOD, and it is something we may all have to face at some point in the future. So I think Robin’s advice of planning at least a year in advance is very wise, and the importance of thinking it through strategically so that BYOD is working for you and really benefiting your organisation, rather than simply having it because users expect it, is absolutely crucial in order for BYOD to be successful!

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This time last year I remember thinking that I should write a blog post with some new years resolutions for 2013 (one of them being to blog more regularly)… and I never got round to it! Not a great way to start the year.

That being said, although I do not have a list of resolutions to use in my evaluation of the past year, 2013 has been an extremely busy and eventful year with numerous achievements both in a professional and personal capacity.

So, as well as setting up some resolutions for 2014, I thought it would also be useful to look back on 2013 and reflect on what has gone well, and what I could do better in 2014.

My job as an Information Officer

In January 2013 I would have been in my first professional role for six months. The initial period of blind panic was over, and I could settle in and focus on improving my role. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how I have done this over the past year, but an example is how I began to develop relationships with the PSLs of my departments (B&F and Corporate), and attend the department meetings and introduced myself to the departments. From January I also started providing inductions and various other training; having reached a point where I felt familiar with and sufficiently confident with the resources in order to provide training on them, and I managed a 2 week work experience placement. These are just a couple of examples that first spring to mind when I look back, and compare my role before and after my first 6 months. I think in 2012 I had learnt the basics in order to do my job well, but in 2013 I started developing added value and I was given extra responsibilities by my manager, which enabled me to learn more and gain a lot more confidence.

2014 resolutions:

  • Continue to develop relationships with the B&F and Corporate departments so I can better understand the department’s work and anticipate their information needs.
  • Develop my current awareness of B&F and Corporate legal news, so as to feed it to the departments and provide an improved information service.

Speaking at the BIALL conference

I think my biggest achievement over the past year was speaking at the BIALL conference. Public speaking has always been a weakness of mine – I have always avoided it where possible – but I was given the opportunity to speak at the conference with a friend, and I thought there would be no better chance of conquering this fear of mine. I have always believed that people tend to be natural public speakers, or (like me) not have the gift of public speaking, and I honestly thought I would never be able to stand up and give a presentation to a large group of people. It took a lot of time, practice and hard work, but I am really truly proud of myself for doing this, and I am very thankful to Sam Wiggins who encouraged me to do it. As a result, of our session at the BIALL conference I have also had an article published in a prestigious journal (Legal Information Management), which I doubt I would have put as a new years resolution last year thinking it was way, way, out of my reach! But this was something on my bucket list.

2014 resolutions:

  • To public speak again (so as not to lose the habit and become afraid again!)
  • To publish another article in a journal

Chartership

Late in 2013 I began the chartership process. I feel that it is especially useful as a new professional to start the habit of evaluating your development needs early on, so that you can continue to do this throughout your career. This is why I feel that having a blog can be so helpful – if you say you are going to write a post a week, then it really makes you stop and think exactly what you have learnt or what you need to improve on a frequent basis, and how this can help you in your job to improve the service that you provide to users. For much of 2013 my blog has been poorly abandoned, and so I have much still to write about from 2013.

2014 resolutions:

  • Complete chartership and (hopefully) pass
  • Continue to catch up with backlog of posts for 2013, and try to blog weekly from now on

I also feel that a life-work balance is important, and so I am going to mention a few non-work related achievements and resolutions as well:

  • I made my very first wedding cake this year for a close friend of mine. I was over the moon with how it turned out, but it was so stressful that I never want to do it again! Resolution to say no if asked to do a wedding cake in 2014.Wedding cake
  • Irish dancing has been a hobby of mine for as long as I can remember. After a few years of not dancing, and 5 years of not competing, this year I went back to Irish dancing initially just for fitness, but after a lot of hard work I entered a competition and came 2nd. My 2014 resolution is to keep the dancing up, and hopefully come 1st at another competition.
  • I entered a 10km in April 2013 (having only ever done a 5km before) but couldn’t compete due to injury. I want to enter another 10km and complete it injury free.

I wish you all the best for 2014, and for completing your new years resolutions!

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