A value proposition


My colleague, Emma, who blogs at Ballad in Plain E, brought up an interesting point regarding law library staff in Winnipeg. Coming from a firm in Vancouver, which is about the same size as my firm, she is surprised at how few library staff there are here. Her old firm had both a librarian and a library technician, and they were both very busy. She wonders why law firms here don’t seem to value library staff, and what can we do to change that.

Good question. As I think about it, though, I wonder if it’s the lawyers not realizing what the position could be. When I started at my firm, this position was easily a library assistant position. The firm was happy if I kept the library tidy, and dealt with the mail. That wasn’t enough for me, however, so I started adding things that I could do, like creating a monthly newsletter (cribbed from Brenda W.), expanding the current awareness offerings by reading blogs and other rapidly-updated websites and forwarding the appropriate material on. I kept asking for more to do, and when that didn’t work, I just took on responsibility. I looked for opportunities to go above and beyond what was expected.

Now, I’m considered part of the team. I train new hires in the products we subscribe to, as well as guide the articling students in their transition to becoming full-fledged lawyers. I not only purchase appropriate texts, I recommend and negotiate with our vendors.  I make sure all our bills are paid and our credit rating is secure. I determine the annual library budget and keep our expenses within it. Most importantly, I let my firm know what I’m doing, and why it’s a benefit for them. After all, they’re lawyers – they understand that sort of thing!

Another colleague is in a similar position. He was hired to replace a librarian on a leave of absence, and he has ended up surpassing his firm’s expectations. Now that leave of absence is almost over, and he’s disappointed about leaving what has become the best job he’s ever had. Emma’s firm also has been ecstatic about what she brought from her law library experience. So, how do we get the other firms in the city, in particular, the largest ones, to get behind library staffing?

One initiative is a joint Law Society-Bar Association-Law Libraries effort to produce a continuing legal education program for new articling students. We’ve copied shamelessly from ELLA‘s “Head Start“, although with obvious regional differences. We also plan to make it only one day. This collaboration will bring library staff to the attention of these future lawyers, and help them see our value. I hope there will be other opportunities for partnership in the future.

To me, the question is: is it the person in the position, or is it the position that has the value? Tell me what you think.

~ Karen

3 Responses to “A value proposition”

  1. Karen, a great post – thank you for taking the time to think it all our and write it down! I’m going to post my own thoughts on my blog shortly.

  2. 2 Karen

    Thanks Emma! I’m looking forward to reading your ideas – they’re always very insightful.

  1. 1 Ballad in Plain E » Blog Archive » The value of law library staff: the position, or the person?

%d bloggers like this: