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Archive for the ‘SLA events’ Category

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!

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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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Last week I attended an SLA event focused on the (fairly) recent publication of the SLA-FT report in to the modern information professional. It consisted of an interactive panel discussion, followed by networking with a lovely view of the River Thames, excellent company and some very delicious canapés.

The SLA and FT have collaborated on a research study to explore the evolving value of information management in today’s society, and published their results in Spring 2013. This primarily involved a survey asking the opinions of both information professionals (providers) and senior executives (users). The publication of the study can be found here and I would really, really recommend it to you as it gives a lot of food for thought!

The study suggests that there are 5 essential attributes for information professionals to strive for:

  1. Communicate your value
  2. Understand the drivers
  3. Manage the process
  4. Keep up on technical skills
  5. Provide decision-ready information

Stemming from these attributes, there are 12 actions or tasks that information professionals should complete to develop these attributes – and it is these 12 action points that the panell consisting of Sarah Farhi (Allen & Overy), Janice LaChance (SLA) and Stephen Phillips (Morgan Stanley), gave their thoughts and opinions and illustrated them with examples from their own work.

SLA 1Each panellist picked 3 of the action points to speak on, and then questions and discussion was opened to the floor. It was interesting how information professionals from different sectors viewed some of the action points so differently, particularly with decision-ready information (but I will expand on that later on).

Rather than describe the discussion as it happened, I think it makes more sense to cover the 12 action points in order, so that you can skip to the ones you’re most interested in.

1) Understand the business

This topic is largely hinted at in a number of the other actions, but here are 3 key points:

  • Understand the business and the practice of the customer, and then interpret the information for that user (to some extent!) with that context in mind.
  • Consider threats in the market and react to them before you are forced to act and it is to late
  • Fit our unique skills in to other areas of the business – for example, can our skills be used for risk mitigation?

2) Deliver decision-ready information

The debate on whether to be objective an provide all of the information available or to use your own opinion and analysis and provide decision ready information is a long and ongoing one. People value and trust the abilities of information professionals to provide their own opinions and analysis, and to render the information understandable to the user. Consider the context of the user and what their enquiry is for, and then present the information appropriately for them – don’t overload them with information which they won’t need.

This can be a tricky issue when it comes to an information service within a high risk environment – such as a law firm or financial services. Should we start interpreting information when we do not have law or finance degrees, and encroaching on the practitioners’ toes? If we did, we would have to carry the risk of our interpretation of what information our users need being incorrect, and potentially losing the firm their reputation and work. Sarah Farhi suggested that in these circumstances communications with your users is essential, and that reference interviews, although a historic tool, can be very useful for finding out what your users want and expect from you. Additionally, users are changing. Users previously wanted all possible information on the subject for them to filter themselves, but newer users used to Google and Wikipedia are happy with low level summaries.

3) Actively communication with your colleagues – Know your audience

It is important to know your audience, whether they are users, stakeholders or sponsors/advocates. Speak at their level (whether that is high or low) and use their language to send your message across at the most appropriate level.

Think about how you present yourself within your organisation – if you present yourself at a high partner level, people will see that, and you may be able to help parallel others leverage their products and goals in the hope they will do the same for you.

Make an effort to go to internal events and socialise with colleagues outside of the library service – hear it on the grapevine, learn about the organisation and what is concerning or bothering users.

4) Link your work to savings and profits

Make measurements of your performance relevant and relative to other parts of the business, such as by using unit costs like cost per hours. If you can, find out how you rank compared to other departments.

Also, be transparent and accountable to your own departments with the figures and costs of things.

5) Link your work to risk mitigation

As information professionals, we can provide an objective view within the firm with no agenda other than quality and ethicacy. We should instruct our users on good and reliable sources which they should be using, and equally, we need to teach users what they do not know by demonstrating our expertise, and what could go wrong if they use unreliable sources.

6) Proactively create solutions for the business

This can link to some extent to the action point of delivering decision-ready information. Sarah used the example of providing a picture with blobs to demonstrate the size of their various offices, which apparently the lawyers much preferred to the numbers. However, the risk here of presenting something so simple, is of not making the user understand fully how much work went in to the picture!

Additionally, you need to question your users of the utility of the information you provide – does it need to be repackaged? How exactly was the information used? This can be difficult if you are afraid of criticism, but ultimately it will makeyou more confident in the work you are doing and more valuable to your users.

7) Build relationships with key stakeholders

This is touched on in some of the other actions, but is primarily about integrating yourself as deeply as possible in to the business.

8) Be a technical mastermind

Make sure that you are better than your clients at technology! Customers may want to receive information from you in new and different ways, and you don’t want to create the impression of being old fashioned, so make sure you are aware of the current trends and keep your CPD current.

9) Go to the top

This is asking a lot. However, you need to know your value and most importantly be able to articulate it. To know and articulate your value, you have to know how you fit in to your organisation and how you contribute to its success, and you need to understand and be aware of the current goals and aims of the organisation. Additionally, to go to the top, you need to understand the bureaucracy and who are the key decision makers, and who influences those decision makers and who they listen to. Have an elevator pitch ready!

10) Walk the floors

Network, stay on the pulse of the business and seek out new opportunities to make a contribution.

11) Pursue initiatives that reduce the burden of stretched resources

  • Ensure that if you have self-service platforms, that they are being used efficiently.
  • Don’t feel that you have to do everything yourself – use your colleagues in different departments, and then offer your services in return. Recognise your own skills and knowledge that you have to offer!

12) Change your mindset

Changing your mindset can make many of the other 12 action points possible. Try to change your mindset to that of a business owner – think about what departments/services within your organisation you are a customer to, and can you use that to your advantage in any way? Think about your users as customers and give them a reason to use your service repeatedly.

I think it has been very useful to evaluate my work and my service against these action points, and consider how I may further improve on them. Coincidentally, I have an appraisal coming up at work and considering these actions points has been very helpful to me in setting myself some objectives and goals. It really was a fantastic presentation from an impressive panel, and overall a very enjoyable evening.

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The SLA Legal Division, who generously enabled me to travel to Vancouver to attend the annual SLA conference, have published my article summarising my conference experience in their  quarterly publication Legal Division Docket (2014, Volume 3, Number 2): http://legal.sla.org/newsletter/lddv3n2/beyond-borders/

I can’t believe it was over 2 months ago! It was such an amazing experience, and re-reading this article, which I wrote immediately on my return from the conference, has brought the memories flooding back.

SLA Europe members

SLA Europe members

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