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Law librarians perform a newscasting role, reporting and communicating news audiences need and want each day. Whether it is in a printed or e-mailed newsletter, on an intranet or in some other form, news — and not just legal news — is a part of the information being regularly communicated by law librarians. This is not surprising. Although the law library today may be more virtual than physical, it remains the hub for all members of the law firm. If the library serves as the place where news is gathered and encountered, it is only natural that librarians take on the role of newscaster to disseminate information. Good librarians and good newscasters have several traits in common, such as integrity, tenacity and patience. Moreover, both require extensive research, knowledge of disciplines outside of the law, an ability to select the most relevant and reliable information and the ability to communicate clearly and concisely. ENSURING NEWS ACCESS FOR ALL Law librarians must do more than just teach “fishing techniques” for attorneys, law school professors and law students to obtain information: They need to go further and communicate information in a concise and convenient form. They must make sure that the right people know about and have access to the information they collect and administer. Librarians choose what will be communicated by categorizing and sometimes analyzing information. As Larry Prusak, executive director of IBM’s Institute for Knowledge Management, has noted, information alone does not help build a successful organization: “The right information to the right person at the right time is not a good algorithm for success of an organization” ( Information Outlook, May 2001). Access to the right knowledge at the right time is much more valuable. When a law librarian provides news to a law firm, the odds that the right knowledge will be accessible at the right time are increased. The vehicles created to provide the news — newsletters, portals and Web sites — can help build communities and share knowledge. If the news that is reported is then archived or placed into databases, it will be accessible and usable in the future. Librarians must consider the needs of their organizations in order to provide news services. Both factual and legal information is of vital importance to the legal community: Up-to-the-minute delivery of current, factual information is crucial to the professional success of an attorney. SDI MINIMIZES OVERLOAD Like all professionals, most legal professionals suffer from information overload. The law librarian helps manage this overload by selecting and disseminating information to those who are most interested in it. In the world of librarianship, this is known as selective dissemination of information. In the legal world, SDI can be difficult. Law firms frequently consist of diverse practice groups, and some practice groups require information from multiple fields. The decisions of the librarian as to what information is relevant could result in a conflict with the information client/customer. “Elite special librarians,” including law librarians, have emphasized their content expertise and skills in identifying what information is useful or relevant. They claim that they know the sources and means to finding materials that working professionals do not have the time to find. But because they decide what information is relevant, they impinge on part of the client/customer’s professional jurisdiction. Providing all the members of an organization with all or most of the news may be the best means of reducing information overload without being overly selective. FEEDING AND ‘BLOGGING’ If librarian newscasting is the solution to the problem of information overload for legal professionals, how is it accomplished? By using any and all media available. The most popular means of communicating news has been the printed and now the e-mailed newsletter. More recently, news has been offered via intranets either through the direct posting of newsletters or through the posting of summaries of news stories with links to the actual stories. Newscasting by librarians may also take the form of news feeds or streaming news reports that can now be offered on law firm intranets. A news feed is an efficient, immediate and sometimes free method of broadcasting news on a particular subject. However, there can be problems with offering news feeds since they are compiled by outside vendors and not the organization “sponsoring” it on its intranet or Web site. In larger firms or corporations, customized current awareness services with feeds from several different vendors can be packaged and sent to interested groups. The hottest new method of sharing information on the Internet — known as “blogging” — could be adapted by law librarians in order to share news with members of their organization. Blogging, or a Weblog, can be a type of online diary used to share some details of their personal lives or summaries of entire industries with links to full news stories published elsewhere on the Internet. For example, as a librarian surfs the Web, he can instantly post information concerning newly discovered Web sites to the log. Later, as time permits, this information can be transferred to sections of the intranet as official, categorized and organized “links.” Or, a librarian could conduct ongoing discussions with members of a particular practice group. By posting questions to the group and gathering answers in one place, the information will be useful not only to members of that group but also to members of other practice groups with similar interests. By producing a type of Weblog, a law librarian can quickly provide ever-changing information to information hungry, time-pressured legal professionals. Susannah Crego, M.L.S., J.D., is a Fairfield, Conn., law librarian and has written and managed several print and e-mail newsletters containing news and information for the legal community.

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