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Rachel Jones graduated from Catholic University’s library school in 1987. Trained as a reference librarian, she landed a job at the Washington, D.C., law firm Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky. For a few years, Jones performed the duties for which she was hired: legal reference and legislative monitoring. Bob Dickey worked at the Boston Public Library while pursuing his library science degree at Simmons College in the late 1970s. He found that he liked the reference part of the job even though, technically, he was supposed to be shelving books, not answering questions from patrons. He jokes that the library was unionized at the time and he wasn’t supposed to interact with members of the public. Later, he moved to Maryland and began his professional career as a reference librarian at Montgomery College. Dickey eventually made a move to better-paying, more specialized work at the Washington, D.C. law firm Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn, where he answered reference questions, acquired library materials, and catalogued books. For a time, both Jones and Dickey performed the tasks for which they were trained. Now that’s all changed — dramatically so. Although Jones still calls herself a librarian, her current responsibilities in no way resemble the traditional duties she performed when she started her career. Instead, she coordinates Dickstein Shapiro’s in-house professional development program, and her duties find her conducting business well beyond the reach of the traditional library. Most days, Jones finds herself coordinating CLE and other types of training programs with the professional development committee, which comprises two partners, the director of human resources, the manager of the information systems department, and the manager of recruiting. She says that the idea behind creating the committee is to enhance communication across the firm so that, at every level, the committee knows what the training needs are. Her current title is manager of professional education and training, but Jones doesn’t really care what the firm calls her: She likes what she does, and though her present duties bear little resemblance to her former library work, she feels that her professional training allowed her to move into, and in some ways create, this new position. A typical day for Jones might involve meeting with the members of the professional development committee about future training programs, conferring with the head of the litigation department on developing a CLE-approved course in trial advocacy, and teaching a 30-minute review of Internet search engines. Currently, she is designing Web-enabled courses: self-directed asynchronous training programs to be made available “anytime, anywhere” on the firm’s network. Another of her projects is to help create an open university where courses could be offered on everything from taking depositions to parenting teen-agers. The idea is to improve the firm’s community so that all Dickstein Shapiro employees have a chance to grow professionally. Dickey has advanced in his career to become the director of library services at Arent Fox. When he first assumed the position in 1996, the World Wide Web was just beginning to attract attention. Since Arent Fox was one of the first law firms to develop a Web presence, Dickey knew that he had to move quickly to ensure that the library had a role in developing this new technology. His decision was largely intuitive at the time Nobody really knew how Internet technologies would play out in a traditional law library setting — the term “library setting” itself has become an anachronism. It was only a short time before the library was developing a Web page of its own on the firm’s intranet and Dickey is justifiably proud of his contribution. When Arent Fox made Netscape available on everyone’s desktop in 1996, there wasn’t much there. People pretty much ignored it. Working with the people in the marketing and IS departments, Dickey quickly posted some of his favorite bookmarks — sites like Yahoo, the Library of Congress, some government agencies — so that people would have something to click into. The librarians soon started training people on the use of the Internet, and it was no time before they posted general reference information such as recommended Web sites and news events for internal use. But it wasn’t until Dickey gave a demonstration at the firm’s annual retreat in the fall of 1997 that he realized how far he had come. “You can imagine how nervous I was, thinking of all the things that could go wrong during my presentation. We had a dial-up connection to the Internet over a regular phone line, and I was prepared for the worst. Miraculously, the system only crashed once; luckily, an IS person was there to get us going again.” By the time the presentation was over, he could see that he had really struck a chord with everyone in the room, partners and associates alike. Dickey says he still gets butterflies in his stomach thinking about the fast pace of change and the importance of keeping up with whatever comes down the pipeline. And he’s happy that people at Arent Fox still look to the library for guidance on electronic services and how to use them, but he says he’ll never rest on his laurels because “the risks go up and you can get left behind a lot more quickly. I think that we’re looking at the tip of the iceberg and that technological innovation is going to become even more intense over the next few years.” Shortly after the retreat where Dickey proved his capabilities as a technology visionary, he was authorized to hire a full-time electronic services librarian to support the technical side of the reference resources. Now Dickey is working with a team of managers from various departments to come up with a master plan for completely revamping their by-now outdated intranet, which Dickey sees as static and too graphics-oriented. He says that “one of the side benefits has been the chance to work with the other departments “to show them what we could do and to find out about the issues they were facing. Now we all have a better sense of how we can support one another.” Until recently, like many others, I preferred to use the word “evolutionary,” rather than “revolutionary,” to describe the growth of electronic information. When I was a graduate student at the University of Maryland’s library school in the mid-’70s, people were talking about the “information explosion” — and this was well before the advent of the PC. Nevertheless, something more profound seems to be happening in the workplace — and if you think that the new technologies promise to dramatically change the way you’re doing business, you’re wrong. They already have. LIBRARIANS LEAD TRANSITION We tend to think of law firms as monuments: hierarchies with partners at the top, associates in the middle, and support staff bringing up the rear. But don’t be fooled — even this structure is undergoing some important changes, with CIOs and CEOs commanding partner salaries and middle managers working closely together and combining some of their staffs’ functions. The business publications abound with articles about the “flattening out” of management, and this phenomenon, while slow to infiltrate law firms, has been at work in corporations for at least a decade. By definition, this means that the workplace has changed from a predictable structure to something much less rigid. In many ways, librarians have led this transition. For example, when lawyers were just beginning to realize how the Internet might affect their practices, librarians were already offering “Surf the Web” training classes. When firms were designing Web pages to help market their expertise, librarians were partnering with people in the IS department to produce Web pages for internal use. The technological revolution — yes, revolution — of the past decade has changed not only the work librarians do, but also how they do it. SKILLS FOR THE INFORMATION AGE � Ability to work in small groups. Many people up and down the chain of command pay lip service to the concept of teamwork. Sloganeering about joining teams has proliferated in the want ads since World War II — Remember Rosie the Riveter? “We Can Do It!” — We took it for granted that with any new job situation we’d meet the other members of the “team,” but who among us really expected to be interacting on a regular basis with our co-workers, particularly those from other parts of the organization? Teamwork was a popular concept, but in the final analysis, we knew that we would be evaluated on our individual work product, as measured in billable hours, budget reports, and management style, not on our ability to work in groups. In the old model, the person in charge made the decision and the members of the group sat around waiting for it. The new model involves people working toward a common goal where final credit is shared among group members. Carl Clavadetscher, professor of information resource management at the Defense Department’s National Defense University, in the early 1990s surveyed CIOs of some major American corporations as to what capabilities they were seeking in new employees. He found that their first priority was interpersonal skills, including a commitment to team-centered problem solving. Fran Durako, who is the director of information technology and services at Dickstein Shapiro also looks for people who are team players. Durako feels that the key to success in any position is the ability to interact in a positive way. She adds, “Virtually everyone on my staff interacts directly with the attorneys and other firm personnel. Also, in today’s networked environment, it’s not unusual to find a technical staff member working with a client to set up a link between offices.” � Ability to use the new technology. It may sound prosaic, but every person on the library staff must have a minimum level of technical expertise. For example, the person who checks in the mail must have the ability to work with serials programs, word processors, perhaps even spreadsheets. It isn’t enough to have good writing skills, good communication skills, and good people skills. Librarians are looking for a certain level of technical capability before they will consider hiring candidates for any position. Indeed, many librarians feel that the technical capabilities are at least as important as the people skills. When asked what skills she looks for when interviewing prospective library staff members, Linda Will, research center director at Greenberg Traurig, replies, “People skills and technical skills — and not necessarily in that order. I used to look for people skills with the expectation that staff could be trained on a technical level. Not anymore.” Surprisingly, Will also named hardware maintenance as a desirable skill. About four years ago, she realized that technical support was becoming as important as selecting the right product; consequently, she authorized the reference librarian to pursue training on the firm’s Citrex server. Now that person is becoming certified as a Microsoft software engineer. � Ability to be flexible. In her book “Managing in the New Economy”, Joan Magretta interviewed Dell Computer Corporation founder Michael Dell, who argued that technology and information have blurred the traditional boundaries between departments. He noted that networking technologies “have enabled coordination across company boundaries to achieve new levels of efficiency and productivity.” As librarians, we’ve always expected a certain amount of flexibility among our staff. In a busy library, service is important, and librarians wind up doing any number of tasks. We are secure in our own areas of expertise, yet we can be called upon to retrieve a book from another library, photocopy a news article, or conduct online research. Flexibility in the workplace has evolved to mean something quite different. In the old days, for example, if a librarian was hired to compile legislative histories and that function changed or disappeared altogether, she would start looking elsewhere for a job where she could continue the legislative work. Today, that same person could simply apply those skills to another job within the same organization and continue advancing. The definition of job security has changed; there is no longer any need for turf wars. Law librarians must do two things at once. We need to maintain and build upon all the skills we have developed in selecting and organizing materials. At the same time, we must manage this technological transformation. When asked about the effect of changing technologies in the workplace, Clavadetscher responds, “We have a major responsibility to realize that competitive edge or competitive advantage comes today from wise use of information technology. … We need to conceptualize the next generation(s) of technology and be able to apply that to our potential environments and products and services.” He adds that because computing power doubles every 18 months, we need to be able to change and to grow. Changes in technology have altered the familiar structure of law libraries. These developments have influenced how we work together, how we view new technologies, and how we incorporate flexibility into our work environments and our personal habits. Success for law librarians in the future will mean traveling paths that are similar in many respects to those traveled by Rachel Jones and Bob Dickey. Marjorie A. Leary is the head librarian in the Washington, D.C. office of Cleveland’s Baker & Hostetler.

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