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Today’s law library users have been trained to put a few words into a convenient search engine, like the now-ubiquitous Amazon, Google or Yahoo, and plow through the results hoping for that perfect nugget. In this brave, new world, the law library catalog must work to find its niche among these online players. Librarians may need to stretch the boundaries of their catalogs in order to keep up with the online Joneses. The hill is not as steep as it would seem. The law library catalog is well positioned to be a cost-effective first step in research. The library must be willing to use some of the same tactics as the online leaders to bring the information to the people, including marketing, budgeting, providing products people want and continuously evolving and responding to market forces. The law library catalog should be the first stop in a researcher’s quest for information. Each law firm’s library catalog can take a variety of forms: from stand-alone proprietary software, which is accessible only in the library, to application service provider-hosted, Web-enabled systems available to anyone from any computer. Not only does a library catalog provide fast results and authoritative links to other sources, the information is reliably up-to-date and authoritative, and it describes items that are available immediately. The library catalog is tailored to the firm’s practice areas, and library staff are experts in squeezing out the perfect piece of information. No single format can fulfill all of a researcher’s needs. Books, online services, Web sites and journal articles must all be used together to provide the attorney with the best overall picture of a topic. A library catalog, containing a variety of formats, with its consistent metadata forms and taxonomies, can provide the structure for different types of information. To move forward on enhancing a library catalog, librarians are fortunate to have a number of helpful tools at their disposal. Library catalog software has become quite sophisticated in recent years. Gone are the command-line search interfaces and boring green screens. The sophistication of current library software packages allows librarians to add features without necessarily adding costs, which is always easier on the budget. Using features available in many software packages, librarians might consider the following: Adding graphics, such as cover art. Amazon.com and other Web-based booksellers have changed the standard for online catalogs. Users are visually oriented. The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” tends to be true for attorneys who are used to relying on a certain red book rather than remembering the title. The ever-improving Web interfaces have also upped the ante in terms of expectations for the use of graphics in user interfaces; thus, adding graphics to the catalog is not just an option anymore; it is a necessity-a necessity that will create a more attractive product. Increasing the amount of information about each item available in the catalog. Attorneys and other library users rely on the librarian to manage the data in the catalog and to access it for them. Another simple step might involve increasing the information that users can find in the library catalog about the books. Attaching related documents, such as white papers, studies and reports. This will increase the resources immediately available to busy attorneys. Linking outward into online resources. Including links to Lexis and Westlaw databases as well as other online services will provide attorneys with even more immediate access to resources. In this way, the catalog becomes a place for attorneys and paralegals to start their research, and they learn that the catalog can help them reach the areas of Lexis and Westlaw they need more directly, without an endless search through menus and submenus or an excess of needless searches and charges. Additionally, CD-ROMs that accompany books, containing forms and models, can be added to the firm’s network and linked to the catalog. This provides a method of accessing materials for which the firm has paid, that are usually relegated to a drawer. Retail organizations are driven by what people want. In the case of libraries, people want to find a book, a start for research or another resource. Among the common complaints about library catalogs is the difficulty of searching and finding relevant results. One way to satisfy library “customers” is to add additional indexed fields to provide a broader base for searching. Better keyword searching Another strategy would be to add better keyword-searching capabilities. Library of Congress subject headings do not always reflect the vernacular. The Library of Congress does, however, provide a standard taxonomy, which can provide a consistent framework for groups of materials. This is especially useful with the law, where every practice area and subspecialty has its own terms of art. Librarians can add local terms to their catalogs to supplement the Library of Congress terms and enhance search results. A contents note can be used to great advantage to supplement the Library of Congress subject headings as well. Many law books have both a simple table of contents and a more detailed table of contents. If a detailed table of contents is contained in a contents note, attorneys will have much more success finding the books for which they are looking using the language they would ordinarily use. Additionally, special topics hidden in a chapter would become accessible. Data entry projects can be a manpower drain. In order to keep personnel costs under control, many publishers post tables of contents on their Web sites, providing an easy method to copy and paste the information into the catalog. Also, with Adobe Acrobat it is possible to scan tables of contents and transform them into editable documents. Formatting is, perhaps, the most time-consuming aspect. Here, the word-processing staff can assist the busy library staff in formatting contents notes correctly, just as they learn to format a pleading or other law firm document. Master’s students in library and information studies as well as summer interns can also provide a ready source of assistance. Enhancing the library catalog in the ways described above can help the catalog to market itself. Effective internal marketing of these changes would certainly draw more users to the catalog. As attorneys and paralegals begin to find the catalog more attractive and more useful, librarians will have the opportunity to encourage them to provide articles and program handbooks from their own files and offices. This contributes to a firm culture of sharing information, which makes the library a much richer resource. The catalog would become a dynamic source of information that simultaneously serves the needs of its users and grows from their contributions. Jaye A.H. Lapachet, who has a master’s degree in library and information science, is the library manager at San Francisco-based Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass. She has written numerous articles about practical aspects of library management and technology. Andrea Rubin, who also has an MLIS degree, is the library assistant at the firm. She has worked in law libraries for 10 years and is pursuing a second master’s degree in literature.

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