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Well over a year ago, I was asked to present a session at the SLA Conference on behalf of the SLA Legal Division. I instantly knew that if I did present a session, I would like to host a knowledge cafe. I have attended knowledge cafes in the past where I have learnt about the real world experiences of fellow law firm librarians; and it’s this practical knowledge which I have found the most valuable to my work.

SLA 6However, I was very nervous about accepting. I had not presented at a conference in a couple of years and I had certainly never chaired a large group discussion before. Not to mention that I also dislike public speaking (in fact I would have called it a phobia a few years ago) and I was worried that my nerves for presenting a session would ruin my entire conference experience.

But I have learned that, at least professionally, you should never turn down an opportunity to challenge yourself. So I agreed to chair the Knowledge Cafe.

I was very fortunate that I had Victoria North and Bobbi Weaver as my lovely co-chairs for the session, and we worked well together in preparing our topics for discussion. The way we structured the session was to have each of us introduce a topic for a couple of minutes and then pose a leading question to our audience, who then discussed that question in groups of 5-8 people.

Once all of the topics and questions had been discussed, I then went through each question with the audience; listening to and responding to their comments and occasionally chairing further discussion with everyone as one large group. This was something I was particularly nervous about as it is not something that you can prepare for in advance, and I don’t usually think of myself as being very good at thinking on my feet! But I felt that it went really, really well. I underestimated how much knowledge I have accumulated as a professional in the last 5 years, and I was able to respond to comments with views and ideas of my own.

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Of course, as a presenter it is difficult to know how you came across and if the session was useful to the attendees. But I was lucky that one lady came up to me at the end of the session to give some feedback, and what she said is etched into my brain because I was so utterly shocked and so pleased, that I can almost tell you her exact words:

“I can see why you are a Rising Star, you were born to speak and moderate. You were so natural and clear”.

Now this feedback frankly didn’t just make my day, it made my year!!! Fear of public speaking is something that I have had to get over, and improving my public speaking skills has taken a LOT of practice and putting myself voluntarily into uncomfortable public speaking situations. So to receive this feedback really made me ecstatic. And considering what a positive effect this feedback has had on me, it is difficult to imagine someone giving this feedback at a UK conference. So I urge you all – if you have positive feedback for someone, take that extra minute of your time and just go and give it! It could give a huge confidence boost to that person. We shouldn’t let our British reserve get in the way of giving positive feedback where it is deserved and where it could make a world of difference.

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Below is a summary of the group discussions from the Legal Division Knowledge cafe, kindly transcribed onto a flipboard by Victoria during the session.

1. How can active members of the law library profession promote the value of joining organizations such as SLA to the law librarians of the future and to others whose membership has lapsed?

  • Networking, particularly with librarians in other sectors and industries and having access to them
  • Being responsible for your own professional development and expanding your skill sets
  • Access to vendors products
  • Promoting SLA membership on your own social media and personal blogs

2. Embedded vs. central library – where’s the best place for info pros?

  • Being embedded helps info pros gain specialisms in particular areas of law
  • But how do you ensure a continuity of service for embedded librarians when they are away on leave or off sick?
  • Having a central library team is better so that you have an immediate team of fellow professionals to consult with
  • It was raised that not may firms will have a choice in the matter of whether to embed their team or to keep it centralised
  • Is there sufficient space to embed a member of your team in a department? You would have to get partner agreement to use up a free desk within a team
  • Buy in from the practice area is key for an embedded librarian to be successful

3. What do you do when a patron wants an English version of a law from a non-English-speaking jurisdiction? Are translations reliable?

  • It is difficult to obtain authoritative translations
  • Still requires interpretation by expert lawyers
  • Local counsel websites are a good source for translations

4. How do you overcome barriers to knowledge sharing?

  • There are different ways of working and sharing knowledge for different lawyers
  • Methods to encourage knowledge sharing requires buy-in from senior stakeholders in order to be truly successful – to embed it as a step within processes
  • There’s a risk of not knowing the context of documents, in that a document may not be suitable for re-use in a different deal
  • Documents for knowledge collections could be approved in order to eliminate this risk

5. Business development – working with them or working for them?

  • There’s an issue where the information team provides research/work for the BD team and the BD team distributes that work as their own and takes credit for it
  • A method to prevent this is to provide orientations to new BD team members so as to set their expectations and explain the role of your team – you work with them but not for them!
  • Facilitate training sessions for BD so that they can conduct their own research
  • Look to be given credit for your work – consider branding the library team’s work by using a watermark

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A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend my third SLA conference, which this year was held in Phoenix, Arizona.

SLA 1The European Chapter of SLA generously funded me to attend the conference as its President, but I am additionally grateful to the SLA Europe Board as they nominated me for the SLA Rising Star award, which I received at the conference.

This award is given to new professionals who demonstrate potential for leadership and innovation within the profession, and I received it on the basis of my volunteer work for SLA Europe and for presenting at and organising the SLA, CLSIG and BIALL Graduate Open Day in previous years.

I realise this is no Oscar and that it may come across cheesy, but I really do mean this and want to publicly thank my mentors (and friends!) Tracy Z. Maleeff and Sam Wiggins. Tracy and Sam have both encouraged me to constantly challenge myself professionally, to volunteer in leadership positions at SLA and to present at conferences, even though I used to have a phobia of public speaking. SLA has been a wonderful part of my life for the past 5 years and I really wouldn’t have got to this point without them.

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Receiving the award in front of 1,500 library and information professionals was a little nerve wracking to say the least, but when I did lift my eyes off the floor for one brief second to look at the audience applauding me, it really was a lovely and uplifting feeling! Receiving the award at the opening session was also great in the sense that many people who I spoke to later at the conference instantly knew who I was and congratulated me (in that easy going, not at all awkward, very American way!).

So now I have a very beautiful and shiny award sitting in my living room, but what happens next? My aim now is to try and keep progressing; to keep volunteering with SLA Europe, to keep being active in the profession, and to try and ensure that I have not peaked too early!

SLA 2

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Last Wednesday I went on a tour of the Guildhall library, as organised by CLSIG.  Although I have often walked past the Guildhall when I worked near Moorgate, I never even knew the Guildhall library existed, and I was even more surprised to find out that it is a public reference library. I assumed that it would be a private corporate library, as it is run by the City of London Corporation.

TourJeanie, the librarian who gave us the tour, was extremely knowledgeable about the long history of the library and its most precious collections, and she made the tour very enjoyable. By the way, if you would like to go on the tour yourself (which I highly recommend) there are scheduled public tours of the Guildhall library available via their website.

The first Guildhall library was opened as long ago as 1425, and was originally for students of theology – which is about as different an image as the current City of London Corporation as you can get! Unfortunately in 1549 the Duke of Somerset ordered for all of the Guildhall library books to be taken to his new palace on the Strand, and that was the end of the first Guildhall library. The current Guildhall library currently has only one known book from the original collection, which is a 13th century manuscript of the bible.

London collectionThe City of London Corporation opened the next Guildhall Library in 1828, which became a public library in 1973. Unfortunately, during the Blitz of WW2 the library stores were hit and 25,000 books were lost. Jeannie showed us some black and white photos of the aftermath, and it was devastating – the building had no roof and the floor was nowhere to be seen under the mountains of rubble.

The current Guildhall library was opened in 1974. It provides a modern business library with all of the key electronic databases, primarily aimed at helping those who wish to start up or develop their own business, as well as holding the largest library collection in the world devoted to the history of a single city (London).  Memorable picturesIt has over 7km of shelving in the bookstore, which was an absolute warren of bookcases so that I made sure to stay with the group and not get left behind to never find my way out again! Even the staff have trouble navigating the maze, and they have placed memorable pictures  on to the sides of bookcases to help themselves find their way around (trust me to spot a Disney picture!).

The Guildhall library specialised in London history and has some very special collections of bodies that used to, or still do, operate in the City of London; such as the Livery Company, the London Stock Exchange, organisations that specialised with gardening, clockmaking, archery, as well as anything to do with business history.  Due to its historical collection of trade body materials and directories it is also often used to trace family history, as well as by London historians.

Court of Exchange from 1698

Court of Exchange from 1698

Jeanie kindly showed us some special items from the historical collection, including the Court of the Exchange (or the first London stock exchange) from 1698 which only used to be published twice a week (and has items such as “pieces of eight” listed!), and a copy of a chained bible published in 1589 and previously owned by Tylers and Bricklayers’ company (see picture below).

The library obviously has an extremely varied user group from business entrepreneurs to historians, which was reflected in its modern technology and the latest online resources for business, as well as its archive of London materials and 13th century manuscripts. It was a really interesting library tour, and reminds me of how broad and varied our profession truly is.

Chained bible

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Brighton Pier

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend the annual BIALL conference as SLA Legal Division’s representative. Many professional associations invite delegates from other associations (and particularly international ones) to their conferences, and this certainly fitted in with the theme of this year’s conference – Collaboration, Cooperation and Connectivity.

Me on brighton beachAnd rather unexpectedly this theme came to life for me in the social interaction and niceties of the conference. Now, having a few conferences under my belt, contacts and friends in the profession, and some years’ professional experience, I absolutely loved and thrived on the social networking opportunities that the BIALL conference offered. I began the conference by attending the infamous Justis party held on Brighton Pier with the first (of many) offerings of fish and chips, which was so much fun and a great way to meet other people as it was a smaller, more intimate setting than the big formal events of the conference.

PrenaxThere was also the exhibition hall with vendors, who had many games and prizes to be won as well as copious amounts of cake and sweets to be eaten (the vendors had well and truly done their research on librarians!). BIALL also came up with a Magna Carta quiz to celebrate the 800th anniversary, which required you to visit each vendor in order to get an answer to the quiz. This was a great ice breaker to approach vendors with, and I really enjoyed speaking to them and learning of the new and upcoming products out there. It’s also good to put faces to names, when we have worked with vendors either by email or telephone but have never met in person – I feel it makes a huge difference to your working relationship.

Brighton MuseumAnd of course, when we talk of social networking we cannot leave the formal evening events out! The first night was held at the Brighton  Museum and Art Gallery, which was full of the weird and wonderful, and in some cases quite frankly disturbing. The exhibitions served as great talking points, as were the fish and chips served up in small individual bowls, which logistically proved difficult to eat while holding a gin cocktail at the same time (first world/librarian problems!).

The final evening was the formal President’s reception and annual dinner held at the Hilton itself (it was lovely only having to totter down the stairs in high heels and not to walk to a different venue), and this was the highlight of the conference for me.

Myself and Helen

Dancing the night away – Helen and I

Being the SLA rep meant that I had a place at the head table with BIALL committee members and some of the other international delegates. Some of the members I already knew and some I didn’t, so it was really lovely to get to know the individuals I had heard of but had never met in person, and to catch up with old friends. It was also particularly special to see my friend and fellow SLA member Anneli Sarkanen receive the Wildy Law Librarian of the Year Award, which was thoroughly deserved and was given to a very stunned and modest Anneli! The awards were followed by dancing the night away, and I was reminded of the SLA IT dance parties I have attended previously and the great community feel that it evokes. It’s just so nice that everyone celebrates the end of the conference by getting up, having a dance and singing loudly to well known classics. An evening which confirms in my mind that I am certainly in the right profession!

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The third and final speaker for this event was Ian Hunter, from Shearman and Sterling, who spoke on information literacy in the work place, and in particular in a law firm. Obviously this session was of the most relevance to my work, but I also thought it provided a nice flow to the evening following Nancy’s talk on HE and considering how the information literacy needs of law graduates change from HE to becoming a trainee solicitor at a firm.

Ian Hunter presentingWhen a trainee joins a law firm they tend to undergo an extensive training programme, of which the library is usually a part. Ian reported that at his firm they still demonstrate Westlaw and Lexis Library (the 2 main legal databases used for UK case law and legislation) and a treasure hunt through the physical resources (which is very similar to what we do at my firm), but Ian is now also providing training on how to use Google and other business sources, with less emphasis on Westlaw and Lexis.

The marketing or business development teams, as well as junior lawyers, are increasingly asking the library for economic information, and Google is an important resource to conduct this search with. Ian has been offering training on Google and demonstrating the advanced search, which has been very well received. This also touches on something Nancy Graham mentioned in her presentation – if you know your users are more likely to be using Google (particularly the ‘Google generation’) rather than the authoritative subscriptions you promote to them, then you might as well work with their current way of searching and teach them how to best use Google and teach them to critically analyse the sources they find on Google. In the legal sector, there is a tendency for lawyers to simply Google for a piece of UK legislation, which they are most likely to find on legislation.gov.uk – but most of them will fail to realise that the legislation on this website is not kept up to date and cannot be relied on. That is why law firms subscribe to databases such as Westlaw and Lexis Library, which are updated daily and provide added value with analysis and links between related cases and legislation. However, if we provide training on how to use Google for business development information, then we can use the opportunity to highlight that for legal information they should be using primary sources that we subscribe to, and not Google.

PanelOne thing Ian reported as an issue for more senior lawyers is the information overload problem. Ian raised an interesting point that clients take it as a given that they are going to receive high quality legal advice; what they are really looking for are lawyers with an understanding of their business and the industry that they operate in, and so the research the library is increasingly being asked to undertake is business development rather than legal information. Furthermore, information retrieval is playing less of a role and the pushing out of business and industry information via alerts and updates is becoming more important. However, as a result, the number of alerts and emails can be overwhelming and information overload is a problem. There a number of third party services that offer solutions to this, combining numerous alerts in to one daily email.

Ian also touched upon knowledge management and how important it is in the legal sector. There are issues where younger layers expect the internal knowledge management system to behave like Google, and Ian wondered whether making lawyers use filters and tags to search for information rather than creating their own free text search is a good thing for information literacy – as a searching strategy it doesn’t help if they are looking for something obscure. Ian referred to an article published in the Law Society Gazette entitled “Net Surfing Lawyers Warned of Compliance Risk”, and how as a result BIALL published their Legal Information Literacy Statement which was picked up by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA), who then launched an education and training review. Professional bodies may have a role to play in information literacy and providing reward or accreditation for attending information literacy sessions. Ian concluded by summarising that there is a lack of information literacy in the corporate world, and that teaching needs to focus more on the choice of sources rather than the mechanism of searches.

Overall it was a very enjoyable and engaging evening – there were lots of questions for the panel, and lots of drinks and nibbles for the networking afterwards. Myself and my colleague were already excitedly discussing offering Google training as we left the lcture theatre, hoping to offer it in team meetings and possibly introduce it to our trainee training too. If you have any thoughts or ideas about information literacy, whether in the legal sector or elsewhere I would love to hear them!

Nibbles and networking

Nibbles and networking

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This is the second post in a series reporting on the evening event I attended on information literacy in the work place. The second speaker was Nancy Graham from the London School of Economics, who’s presentation was titled “It’s the (knowledge) economy, stupid”, which I thought was great. Nancy focused on how higher education (HE) libraries help to equip future graduates with high level skills for their future jobs.

Nancy introduced the topic by referring to the Leitch Report (2006) and the Wilson Review (2012), which both examine the move from a traditionally industrialist and manual work force to an increase in university students and an increasing high level workforce and ‘knowledge economy’. There is a pressure on universities to attract students by persuading them how the university will prepare them for work in such a way that they will be able to obtain good work easily. Libraries play an important part of this; obviously playing a central role in helping them research for their current studies, but also in how they can help students to become information literate for after they graduate for their future job roles. Nancy spoke of the balance between helping them to enjoy their studies and learning in the moment, and the need to prepare them for the world of work without turning them in to mini-librarians themselves. I am sympathetic to this, remembering how the last year of my degree I was very focused on finding a job and how I could improve my employability, and it did take away the enjoyment of purely studying philosophy and English for the joy of it. It is a fine balance to strike.Nancy Graham presenting

Nancy commented that improving the employability of students is a university wide collaboration, and as such the different university departments such as the careers department and the library should all work together to accomplish this. This is particularly successful when the information literacy becomes embedded in the course, with maybe 3 information literacy sessions a year being taught by librarians. However this requires the support of the teaching faculty, and some are more supportive than others! I found this a very interesting parallel, as this is very similar to the challenges we face in a law firm; trying to get the support of the leading partners of a department (e.g. Banking) so that we can attend their team meetings and offer refresher training and promote library services to encourage lawyers to make full use of our resources and to ensure they are conducting legal research in an efficient way. Their time is very valuable (lawyers tend to charge clients hourly), and so we have to demonstrate the return on investment for them if they give us half hour of their time to providethem with training, how much time (and consequently money) they will save in the future by searching more efficiently. And similarly to Nancy, and I am sure in all library settings, there will be some stakeholders that are more supportive than others, and it is a constant challenge to get everyone on board.

And this links back nicely to Stephane’s concluding point (see post 1) – we need to speak to stakeholders in a language they understand, in terms of a return on investment. For universities, it is how the library and information literacy education will improve the employability of students, which will as a result attract new potential students to attend their university. For lawyers, we need to speak in terms of time and money, and with regards to the choice of information sources, the quality of work that we provide to our clients.

Post 3 on Ian Hunter’s presentation to follow soon!

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One of my work objectives for this year is to review our induction process to see if we can improve it in any way, and so I was thrilled to see SLA Europe and the Information Literacy group (ILG) co-host an event called  Information Literacy in the Workplace.

The structure of the event was 3 speakers each with a different focus, followed by a Q&A session with the panel and then networking with nibbles – hosted at the University of Liverpool on Finsbury Square in London. Since there were three separate presentations, I think it would be most useful to do 3 different posts in order to do each of the speakers and their presentations justice. So stay tuned for more posts to follow!

Information Literacy in the WorkplaceThe first speaker was Stephane Goldstein from InformAll, who spoke about the value of information literacy to employers. InformAll is an initiative to promote the value of information and research data literacy from within and beyond the higher education (HE) sector, and to try and work with the both the HE sector and employers. Stephane commented that information literacy is relevant to employment settings, even if employers do not recognise it explicitly, or recognise it but by another name (such as digital literacy). In the workplace, information literacy is important for information and knowledge management, the ability to make sound judgements regarding information and data sharing, as well as contributing to skills that employers value highly such as problem solving, critical thinking and research skills.

Stephane spoke on people being key information resources themselves, and being able to tap in to their expertise and accumulated knowledge of the organisation they work for is important for their colleagues. Stephane used the example of people working in the nuclear industry, but this is every much prevalent in the legal sector where knowledge management is incredibly important in saving the lawyers time, and consequently money. For example, if a lawyer needs a particular type of agreement, he or she will most likely search their firm’s knowledge management system for a precedent or an example of the agreement that has already been used by the firm before, rather than write one from scratch. But re-using and making the most of the knowledge of colleagues is important for employers and organisations from all sectors, but the existence of a formal knowledge management system to capture this information and make it discoverable is not necessary as widespread as it should be.

Finally, Stephane spoke of the importance of talking to employers in a language they understand – if they are more aware of the concept of digital literacy, rather than information literacy, then use that terminology instead. Explain how information literacy relates to factors important to them; such as by providing operational efficiency, providing them with competent and confident staff, and aiding their success in the marketplace by having accurate and timely information. I feel that this advice to demonstrate a return on investment and speak in their language in terms they understand and deem valuable is very important; whether you are trying to persuade a stakeholder of the value of information literacy or whether you are trying to obtain their support for something else. It was an interesting talk that certainly set up the next 2 speakers’ sessions very well, one of which spoke about information literacy of students before they enter the workplace, and one who spoke about information literacy within the corporate workplace, and specifically within a law firm.

Posts on these talks to follow soon!

Info Literacy in the Workplace

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