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A director of a law firm’s library services and the firm’s manager of technical services share thoughts about their responsibilities over a week. MONDAY: NEW WAYS AHEARN: One of the most difficult things I do now is juggle the needs of users with the cost of technology and the finite amount of money available in the library budget. Recently, an associate called to complain that he no longer had electronic access to a title and he needed it reinstated immediately. How could he have had electronic access to a Lotus Notes trial subscription that we had conducted months before his arrival at the firm? Investigation showed that the publisher had neglected to end the trial, our local area network manager at the time had set the default access on the server for “reader” and the technology-savvy associate had been “server shopping,” found the title and added himself. The publisher apparently recognized its error and pulled the plug. Hence the situation. I explained to the associate that we had paper access and that the title was also available on Lexis and Westlaw if he needed some functionality not available on paper. In case money was an issue, I even offered him the use of some of the “free” time available under our fixed-price contracts. No — it had to be the electronic version, which had been withdrawn from him without any notice. I understood his desire to have the information in electronic form in a timely manner. But, as with many publishers, electronic access to that publication requires a minimum of five users — no negotiation. I simply can’t afford to spend the money the publisher requires to accommodate only one person. Even if other users were interested in the electronic version, we would end up paying more for the same information. In fact, if everyone using the print version wanted the same information electronically, my expenditure for this information would increase by 320 percent. Today’s job then, is to help the associate feel as comfortable as he can with the final decision. COSCIA: One way we balance costs with user needs is by inviting users to participate in our subscription renewal process. Today, I am training our new library assistant while finalizing our subscription renewals for one of our larger vendors. As part of the process, we send an e-mail to all routees on titles up for renewal, informing them of the cost of each subscription and asking for their recommendation on the following options: renewal, cancellation or “not necessary to their practice, but wish to continue receiving.” If we renew, we redo the routing order to reflect current use, placing toward the bottom those who use the title solely for current awareness. When we order or renew an electronic subscription, or a print subscription with electronic access, we summarize the licensing agreement and e-mail the summary, along with a copy of the agreement, to all registered users so they can be in compliance with all stipulations. Some vendors allow portions of their content to be downloaded for personal reference, while others prohibit any reproduction whatsoever. Somewhere in there, fair use comes into play as well, but the line is still blurred, so we try to err on the side of prudence, even though it adds another dimension to library responsibilities. TUESDAY: CONVERGENCE AHEARN: Two meetings today. The library falls under the aegis of the firm’s Technology and Services Committee. I’m sure we were thought of as more on the service side until a couple of years ago. Now, most of the library’s big issues are technology-related. Recently, the technology committee has concentrated almost entirely on firmwide technology questions. Firmwide and library interests have converged as the committee wrestles with the concept of a “locked down,” standardized desktop image, including all the library applications. At today’s meeting of the reference staff, our senior reference librarian, reference coordinator, Jeannie and I will finalize recommendations for our portion of the desktop. We try to stick to a schedule of meeting every other week, as these meetings are a good way to trade information and find out what types of projects the reference staff has fielded. COSCIA: As a newer librarian, I count several mentors among my colleagues. This week, I’ll share lunch, war stories and new technologies with one mentor and be contacted by another to apply for an open position as a head librarian. By the end of the week, I’ll be contacted by another librarian to apply for a digital-content analyst position at his firm. It’s great that yet another firm recognizes the unique skill sets of librarians are ideal for researching and developing new practice group technologies, and that opportunities are opening in established libraries that compare with offerings at dot-coms, which have been hiring more and more of my colleagues. I discuss the positions with Carolyn, who is supportive and encouraging, as either position would be a good step on my career path. After evaluating my opportunities, I decide to stay put for three reasons: I have not yet met the goals I set for myself at the firm; I haven’t exhausted all potential projects; and, most important, working with Carolyn gives me direct access to a mentor on a daily basis. WEDNESDAY: TECH, PART 1 AHEARN: In the old days, the library was just the library. Not any more. Records and conflicts are now both a part of the library operation. On the conflicts side, I’ve been working with our in-house applications developer and the conflicts coordinator to build a database to automate the conflicts process. We’re trying to get away from a paper-intensive, time-consuming process and move to a fully automated system to eliminate all the double- and triple-data entry that occurs now, and to expedite the process from submission to completion. Some of the innovations we’re working on are digital signatures, attached images of relevant documents and the ability to upload and download information from our LegalKey conflicts database and our Rippe Kingston accounting database. COSCIA: The library applications are unique within the firm, and it falls to me to understand how they function and to perform triage, even though they are supported by our Information Systems (IS) Department. This morning, we are unable to use our Serials module, which allows us to check in and track most of the publications and updates we receive. An IS technician arrives to investigate the problem while I run routing lists and reports — just in case. I can print most of the lists, but the largest report freezes repeatedly on the same line of data; it looks like an index problem. I re-index the data, to no avail. In the meantime, two more IS staff members arrive, but neither has any familiarity with library programs, and I spend time explaining to the three of them what Serials is, how we use the program, how much data is in it, its importance to the work of the library and the firm — and why the program can’t just be reinstalled from disk. I suggest that the call be passed on to the technician familiar with this program when he is available. When the other technician arrives, he places a call to the Serials vendor for technical support. It is an index problem, but on the system level. We have two choices: Ship the vendor our data for analysis and rebuilding, at a cost of three to five more days without the system, or restore from back-up. We decide to restore from back-up. The technician returns to IS, finds out our back-up is only being done once a week, and speaks with his manager about bumping other jobs to get our system restored from back-up. The system is restored by the end of the day, but with a loss of one day’s work and two additional days’ data. THURSDAY: TECH, PART 2 AHEARN: I’m fortunate to have a very capable records manager who takes care of the day-to-day issues of records. He and I meet weekly to keep up to speed and to strategize about ways to meet the department goals established at the beginning of the year. The big issue right now is maximizing the value of the space the firm dedicates to file storage, both in-house and off-site. We’ve been struggling for several months to design a firmwide retention policy that will please everyone. We’re down to our final proposal, which we’ll clean up today for presentation to the Administrative Committee. With its approval, the policy will become the law of the land. Under the plan, financial savings could be significant, but because there are very few formal guidelines on these issues for legal materials, the policy we’re proposing may yet get bogged down. COSCIA: I rarely used the term “access” before library school; now it is my mantra. Librarians strive for access for users in so many ways — for example, access to resources, intellectual access to content, alternative access to data. Access is such a defining part of librarianship that it’s been offered as a primary explanation for the disconnect between library and information technology professionals. Where the former strive for the full use of resources and content, the latter strive for restrictions on networks or data. Fortunately, we have bridged the gap with our IS department over alternative access. The library has developed alternative print and electronic access options for our CD-ROM applications, and it has worked with IS to ensure that we can provide needed services such as printing or connections via modem to the Internet, Lexis, Westlaw and generic firm e-mail accounts so urgent client needs are covered if one application or several are down. When several network applications go down today, our preparations and coordination pay off as the library assists users, freeing us to concentrate on restoring functionality. Downtime means we’re busier still — hand-holding both in the training room and via telephone, and performing Lexis, Westlaw and Internet searches that attorneys normally would do on their own. But we’re all in this together, and that includes the library and IS staff. FRIDAY: TRAINING GROUNDS AHEARN: It’s time to update the information packet we give summer associates. There have been so many changes in the library and library services since last year: more titles available electronically via Lotus Notes or the Web, and more CD-ROMs available on the network. When the library consisted of just books, things were pretty easy. Now, providing access to the electronic resources and training the folks on them is a challenge. We’ve got a fixed number of concurrent user slots for many of our CDs. Will summer associate usage strain our limits? The reference staff will have to try to guide them to the print sets we’ve kept and encourage them to use Lexis and Westlaw. That’s a different approach than we would ordinarily use, and it won’t really train them completely for “real life” as associates. But then again, maybe it isn’t a bad thing for them to learn to use hardcopy loose-leaf reporters before they use the titles electronically. COSCIA: In preparation for training the summer associates, I designed a survey of electronic research skills, which we mailed to them in March. We queried them on their Lexis and Westlaw, CD-ROM and Internet skills and preferences. With their arrival looming, I’m reviewing their responses and finalizing my training plan, examples and handouts. From the results, it is clear that despite predictions of law students’ arriving at firms with a command of electronic searching, only two out of 23 have familiarity with CD-ROMs and, as a whole, they are not savvy Internet researchers. In response, I’ll devote half of the session to CD-ROMs and half to Internet training. I’ll also emphasize the 10-minute rule: If you spend more than 10 minutes researching — especially on the Internet — contact the library staff, who not only will be able to help you tailor or reconstruct your search queries, but also will know whether what you are looking for is likely available in the source you are using or best found elsewhere. Carolyn P. Ahearn is the director of library services at Washington, D.C.’s Wiley, Rein & Fielding. Jeannine Coscia is the manager of technical services at the firm.

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