A few weeks ago I was thinking about how professional associations can boost their membership. Admittedly there is a natural attrition rate, and people also have higher expectations wanting their associations to demonstrate value. Thought leader Gwynne Monahan said that often times the associations engage in push marketing with members as the group pushes out information but does not truly engage with their members. All this fed into my own exploration of social media as communications channels for organizations. If your group is not on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, why not? People across all ages and demographics expect a social presence now. By staying on the sidelines, the conversations are happening without XYZ company and it might hurt the bottom line, stir up and spread misinformation, or make recruiting staff a more difficult task.

Getting back to professional associations, I join them for their networking and educational opportunities to keep me informed in my industry. For starters, organizers with associations can mine Melissa Harrison’s post on “The state of social media in associations and what to do about it”  for some ways to revitalize a group with social media. Networking is probably a top reason for members joining so groups need to ramp up their efforts. It can be as easy as recognizing and congratulating members on work well done. Also if the group is already involved in good causes in the greater community, then publicizing those service projects as a way to promote good causes as well as build membership cohesion.

Now more than ever the world is shrinking, but at the same time people need to feel a sense of engaging in a community, or a conversation on what their peers are doing. Thanks to Gwynne Monahan @econwriter5 and @ABABarServices for the inspiration.

- Brenda


Admittedly public legal education is a unknown territory for me as I worked in a law firm library. But being an information person, all areas that touch upon law interest me. Lois Gander of  the Centre for Public Legal Education in Alberta describes it as:

Deeply rooted in the access to justice movement in Canada, public legal education plays a critical role in ensuring that our laws and legal processes serve the needs of everyone, not just a privileged few.

There is both an advocacy role for marginalized groups, as well as the aspect of dissemination of information to the lay person in order to navigate the legal system. The law affects us from birth to death, and hopefully you and I will always be on the right side of it. When I was born, my birth was registered with provincial Vital Statistics department as per the law. Then my parents got a birth certificate. But my mom does not have such a document as she was born in a different country with different laws. And there are many other mundane examples from there.

A shout out to Shaunna Mireau for connecting with the Centre for Public Legal Education in Alberta, and there is a current job posting for the Executive Director. In Saskatchewan, there are some general resources and teaching resources for elementary and high school students.

Just recently I talked about different landlord tenant situation in different provinces casually with a friend. My sense is that this is a huge and growing area as people come into conflict or just need help navigating the system. As an optimist, I wish the new Director in Alberta the best of luck. New beginnings are an exciting adventure.

- Brenda


Some time ago I read this article, “How Reframing a Problem Unlocks Innovation“, an adapted excerpt written by Tina Seelig from her book, InGenius  (HarperOne). I was struck by how relevant it was to libraries, and well, everything.

I’m always looking at ways to “reframe a problem”. I like the way she phrases that

Mastering the ability to reframe problems is an important tool for increasing your imagination.

I tend to think that I have no imagination, but it’s lurking there, underneath my fear of failure. Thinking of  situations from the point of view of the other person is invaluable in getting to a solution. Getting outside your comfort zone is another way to achieve this.

One of the first steps in creating a marketing plan is to think about who you are trying to reach. What type of language do you want to use, what form of media? All of these depend on who your target market is. Working in a law library my clients are intelligent, but time challenged. They want to know right off the bat how something is going to help them do their work more efficiently. My job is to help them reframe from thinking that training is a waste of time into thinking that if they spend a half hour now, they’ll save a half hour every day.

How are you reframing the problem in your life or work?

- Karen


This month Ted Tjaden is leaving our library team. He is the National Director but he is so much more. He has inspired and mentored many librarians. His door is always open to talk about knowledge management or library trends to others.

My first experience with Ted was by reputation, when he was promoting his legal research book in Victoria in the 1990s. I was new to law libraries and the microcosm of law firms as well. A lot has changed since then but passion, enthusiasm, insight that Ted shares generously with others is still constant.

Ted was a practicing lawyer and a crackerjack legal researcher. He set a service standard at McMillan. He makes research fun and sometimes it’s a bit of a treasure hunt. He has faith that you can push yourself a bit harder and find that obscure article. You learn and grow as a result. You learn that pushing boundaries is scary, exciting, thrilling and  you come out on the other side with new skills and strengths.

Also at this time I asked Ted to look back at highlights of how legal information and law libraries has changed in the past 6 years. Increasingly he sees an integrated approach with knowledge management, library research, records management,  and e-discovery. It makes sense for a unified and coordinated approach in a large company, as it is all internal and external information that funnels into legal solutions. This umbrella approach may be known as information governance.

There has been an ongoing debate about achieving a balance between print and digital resources in legal information. In legal information industry, the huge changes expected have been slow in coming compared to other subject areas. At this stage there is not overwhelming adoption of digital resources, as pricing models have been slow to develop as attractive options. It would be interesting to take stock in another 5 years to see, if the balance between print and digital has shifted.

Another ongoing theme is the speed of technological change is fast,  and likely even accelerated with new devices like iPads, tablets and smartphones. Technology change has led to higher expectations for service. The volumes of email has grown exponentially with professionals having challenges in storing, managing and retrieving emails. Thinking about how this change affects us broadly Ted recommended a book about how artificial intelligence will affect people in the future with Kurzwell’s book called The Singularity is Near. I brought up Present Shock by Rushkoff and how it is hopeful that we can unwind our digital lives to enjoy the present moment.

Lastly free legal information is improving as  there is a growing open access to legal information movement. CanLII is moving beyond statutes and caselaw into commentary with ebooks. Continuing legal education seminars are a gold mine of current information for researchers. In Ontario Access CLE has opened up free access to articles 18 months and older. These are Canadian examples, but there are American groups in the open legal information movement tools like The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction.

Ultimately change is good as we both expand our abilities and our business opportunities. On a more personal level, it is hard to imagine that Ted and his incredible energy will not be around. We wish him the best in the next phase of his life.

- Brenda Wong


IT security

22May13

Computer security is something we don’t think about, when computers, tablets and smart phones are working smoothly. But things can easily spin out of control.

James Lee of TD Bank Group, Technology Risk and Control Governance spoke about information technology security to some Toronto law librarians. I was struck by the human variable or social engineering ways in which security can be breached. It can be as simple as shoulder surfers, with good eyesight, who can see what I am doing on my Ipad on a crowded bus.

My interest lies in improved smartphone security. James Lee reminded us about basics, like locking phones with a password. I know not to use public wifi for banking or other sensitive information. Some wifi networks still use WEP encyryption standard, which is older and has been superceded now.

As smart phones come with preloaded apps, the convenience is traded off with data privacy issues. I might be a urban professional, so I don’t mind sharing my shopping and other consumer habits with Google Maps as my data will be be lumped into Big Data and for  Google’s commercial enterprise. The compromise is worth my sharing the data then.

Lee has noticed that the Globe and Mail uses bitly for shortening URLs, so their articles will be an easier link to share. But Lee issued a strong warning that major banks wouldn’t send links using bitly link as security is not strong enough.

At home,  the best laptop security involves setting up profiles for each family member, plus an administrator as a user profile. So if a situation arises, where the laptop is compromised by a hacker then individual users would have less rights than the  administrator. Then less damage would result if there was a compromised user instead of a user with full administrative rights.

There is so many portable and convenient ways to store information now. But the proliferation of SIM cards, SD cards  and flash drives also means they should be treated as valuable things. and one should protect them. SIM cards can be password protected too.

Finally I threw out a case of saving documents to Dropbox with 2 step authentication for password procedure.  Was it a good idea or not? James Lee gave a nuanced answer in which the documents were not sensitive, then he would be satisfied with the security level at Dropbox. But if the documents included sensitive business information,  then the assessment changes as Dropbox is cloud service with some risks involved. Potentially there could be problems with Dropbox’s U.S. servers falling under the jurisdiction of the Patriot Act and Dropbox management could be in a situation to release the sensitive business documents to third parties.

Ultimately James Lee stressed the need to strive for balance as we want usable technology and not technology that is so locked down that it is not being utilized. Lee believes some situations require top levels of security. In big companies, the guests are vetted at reception. Once they are past the gatekeepers, then they can plug and play in open wifi environment in meeting rooms. If guests were asked to sign in with passwords, it would off putting and increase hassles. To my mind, having open wifi with vetted guests would be an acceptable level of security.

Thanks to Toronto Association of Law Libraries organizing the talk and Goodmans for hosting the event.

- Brenda Wong

Resources:

Electronic Frontier
Educate yourself on digital rights issues

Onguardonline.gov
Lots of good information about avoiding online scams and protecting children


Tech tips

06May13

We are all geeks as we play with electronic devices. But somewhere along the way we became impatient. David Pogue shares tech tips aimed at a beginner audience:

Did you pick up a few tricks? I like space bar for scrolling — news to me. And I see there are useful presentation tips on blacking out or whiting out to draw audience back to speaker. My tip for undoing last action is using Ctrl + Z. It works wonders. Thanks to H. Kramer for the tip.

- Brenda Wong


You need training for ebooks? It’s so easy to use. That is a typical response to researching with ebooks. This is not an article about leisure reading of ebooks. Fundamentally the process of studying or researching ebooks is a different process than leisure reading. Students and researchers need to annotate or add sticky notes to the text. There is some ability to do that with ebooks. Often lawyers need specific pages of text so they can match it to another document. So librarians work with “pinpoint citations” or matching to page or paragraph in a judgment. People want save and print chapters too. They may not always be reading on an ereader. Legal ebooks either don’t have page numbers or the page numbering is unique to the electronic version and not synching with the print book. Clearly this is a problem if you are trying to print pages 1 to 10 as instructed. This does not meet the needs of lawyers and perhaps students as well. (Hey folks can publishers test the user experience and expectations before selling a product?)

All this is background for my argument that ebooks for research and study is in its infancy. I was reminded of real world uses and problems with ebooks by my own experiences, as well as a splashy positive press release about open textbooks initiative out of British Columbia. I spent a solid hour and needed help of 2 librarians to print pages from a legal ebook, when I am familiar with ebooks from Kobo and Overdrive. It was an unsatisfactory experience.

In the near future B.C. college and university students will be thrust into studying with open textbooks. There are hopes that cash-strapped students will save money with these free ebooks. I counter that likely around 30% if not more students will print out or save their ebooks instead of reading online only. Some will grasp the full potential of annotating them. And I predict headaches all around when students try to arrange for printing them. Ebooks are not meant to be printed in my experience, as it may break licensing terms and that is not their primary use as intended by publishers. Graphs, tables and other illustrations may or may not translate well when printed. Technical capacity of computer servers will also need to be factored in equation as potentially 200,000 students are downloading en masse.

Faculty hopes that there will be collaboration with online textbooks. Possible but technology has its limitations as I have seen. Servers have outages, and faculty needs training to become savvy at working with editing ebooks. Coordinating the collaborative process and editing standards are also unchartered waters.

The public relations angle sounds good as students save money but students may become frustrated if they can’t print or annotate their textbooks. Although again online textbooks sounds like a great thing, faculty may not be able to fully realize its potential. In fact there could be hidden costs with upgrading server capacity, and increased IT support staff for interventions.

- Brenda Wong

Read more

Solid orientation to open textbooks



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