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How many hats are on your hat rack? The many positions a law librarian can hold
Senior Lead, LexisNexis Librarian Relations Group
The information age has had a major influence on librarianship. Computer-related technology has changed the way librarians do their jobs, their duties and has created a whole new realm of opportunities for librarians. Today we are going to explore a few of them. Librarians are evolving and their skill set is transferable to many different positions.
Non-traditional jobs for special librarians require a fearless, non-superstitious, and forward thinking mind-set coupled with an acute ability to self-promote. Because of the organizational, research, and evaluative expertise that belongs to practitioners of library and information science they are ideally suited to become Chief Knowledge Managers, CIO’s, Marketing Directors and CLE Coordinators. The skills of the librarian naturally lend themselves to a myriad of professional settings that require efficient and productive use of information. Rapid-fire computer technologies are a major force in the changing nature of librarianship and the career paths of information professionals.
Chief Knowledge Officer
Many firms are turning to librarians for expert skills in analyzing, evaluating, organizing, and disseminating needed information in the most accessible format. The skills and expertise of librarian and information workers becomes fully realized in the information age. We are moving from an ownership of information to a shared network of information society, and information is commodity. Often, the conversion of information to knowledge is the link between success and failure. The critical professional combination of superior finding skills and technological expertise plays an important role in the transfer of knowledge by providing people with access to the information they need and want.
Librarians do indeed have the skills to open up to others KM (Knowledge Management) possibilities. The smaller firm librarian can fill the technology gap finding other ways to accomplish the goals. Librarians in the larger firms can help put the heart into the technology, building links between people.
Personal sharing of expertise and knowledge are at the core of Knowledge Management. Those that have been in law offices know that librarians have been engaged in knowledge management for years. Examples of the work they have been doing are many. As Nina Platt says, “on the traditional end, law librarians have been working within their organizations to develop what the MBA types are now calling Best Practices collections. We have called them Brief Banks, Research Memo Collections, Attorney Work Product Systems, Pleadings/Forms Banks, etc.”
Chief Information Officer
“There is a huge demand for librarians with strong research skills, a solid management background, Internet experience, an understanding of their employer’s industry and indexing and analyzing capabilities,” according to Carol Berger president and CEO of C. Berger, a search firm in Illinois.
Librarians can sort through the jumble and pick out the most valuable information discarding the stuff that is irrelevant and useless. As technology continues to evolve it becomes more and more difficult for companies and organizations to find professionals with the qualifications and experience to run their libraries efficiently.
Top candidates for CIO or Director of Information Services roles today are expected to have a master’s degree in library science and 10 to 20 years of experience in their specialized knowledge area. Linda McKell, president of Advanced Information Management, a search firm in California, says “The best candidates have worked at several different library settings within the same field.”
The trend of merging library and computer skills is perfect for a librarian getting an appointment as Chief Information Officer. The political savvy and communication skills developed in the library are useful to the individuals and their institutions.
Being responsible for strategic and tactical marketing activities has always been a part of the librarians’ repertoire. They are forward-thinking providing leadership in administering the library which can be translated to marketing programs. One might think of marketing and business and client development in the same breath. Librarians are a natural at this.
Simply retrieving information does not cut it anymore. Librarians are being asked more and more to analyze information too. As the nature of the relationship between business development and the law library changes, the role of the librarian is expanding.
Librarians are effective marketers and the more that business development/marketing is aware of the services that the library can provide, the more likely the department is to request these services. So why not run the department?
What we often see is the never ending conflict with marketing and the library over who gets credit. Attorneys go to marketing asking for background info on a company. Marketing then comes to the librarian, gets the info, and frequently passes it on to the attorney as information they attained on their own. Instead band together to work on ways to package and deliver research so the lawyers will know where the value adds comes from. Or if the right time comes up volunteer to take over that department.
Librarians’ strengths lie in the fact they are good searchers and good with databases. They know a variety of databases and know their content well, making better database selections knowing how to elicit the desired information. Marketers work with the lawyers more closely and understand their individual marketing plans. If a librarian were included in more department meetings and strategic sessions with the firm management they could do it all.
More and more librarians are being asked to oversee the MCLE collection. This can include purchasing CLE materials for the attorneys as well as the firm. Most purchases wind up in the Library Budget so why not run the department and have full ownership?
Responsibilities might include developing and teaching CLE and research training programs for attorneys, legal assistants and administrative staff. Experience would include working as a supervisor with continuing responsibility for completing projects. This is what librarians do on a daily basis.
Some typical qualifications required include the following:
- Demonstrated ability to set priorities among multiple competing tasks.
- Demonstrated ability to see to conclusion requests for information and/or assistance, including using available personnel and resources.
- Demonstrated ability to respond promptly and professionally to requests for information and/or assistance.
- Strong attention to detail and excellent follow through are mandatory.
- Experience in locating information using electronic resources, including, but not limited to, the Internet.
- Experience in using databases to access and store information.
- Excellent managerial, communication and organizational skills.
I am sure you can see by now how this almost reads like a job description for a reference librarian. The point is librarians have all the necessary skills and qualifications needed and required to be a CLE Coordinator.
The single most significant factor in the changing information jobs of the 1990’s and beyond has been the Internet. It has changed everyone’s job, some people’s job descriptions, and the job market itself.
New titles have arisen since the dawn of the Internet including CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer), CIO (Chief Information Officer), and E-Resource Licensing Specialist to name a few. And if you don’t know what an E-Resource Licensing Specialist is either… Found in an academic environment this position entails assuming the lead role in negotiating licenses for major shared electronic resources with major providers among other institution-wide duties. For example in one university that would mean handling licensing and usage issues for over 250 licenses for active resources and provides access to 17,000 e-journal titles & 675 databases. One might even include CLE Coordinator in this list.
Capturing and reformatting valuable legacy information, creating new proprietary digital resources, and harnessing the exploding world of Internet information within a Web-based law firm network, or intranet, are increasingly under the domain of the law librarian. Leveraging the firm’s information capabilities requires an integration of its knowledge base, the world of information resources utilized from commercial information vendors, the vast resources of the Web, and the considerable resources of the hard copy library. Law firm librarians are the experts in the administration and utilization of all of these powerful tools.
Librarians have to be willing to expand their horizons and apply for jobs for which they would be highly qualified for with an MLS degree, but for which they might not think to apply. All of the positions examined in this article are a perfect fit for the law librarian in a law firm.
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