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There is rarely a day when someone on the “law-lib” listserv doesn’t offer a substantial collection of hard copy resources to any interested takers, for the cost of postage. Is this a cause for anguish or a golden opportunity? I think it’s a good omen. As a new attorney, I read E. F. Schumacher’s book, “Small Is Beautiful; Economics as if People Mattered” (Harper & Row, 1973). It redefined economic growth, and discussed the philosophy and the politics of moderation (as well as the environmental impact of growth). During the big-is-better ’90s (where we lusted for powerful SUVs and warehouse-sized homes) I discovered a beautiful book by Sarah Susanka, “The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live” (Taunton, 2001). Susanka develops the architectural design theory that what really matters is not the size of the home, but its quality. The same is where we should be going with our law library design and implementation. LESS IS MORE To paraphrase Susanka, “The not so big law library isn’t just a small library. Rather, it is a smaller library, filled with special details and designed to accommodate the life style of its users.” Her philosophy of home design, when applied to libraries, can improve the quality of our working life while we also improve the services that we render to our users. Susanka reminds us that “the quality and detail of a Mercedes, Lexus, or Jaguar are far more important than the size of the car. More space does not equal more comfort. In fact, size has nothing to do with the appeal of these cars. If you want nothing but space, you buy an equally expensive diesel truck.” Unlike home designers, however, we have three areas of major concern: collections, physical space, and staffing requirements. Susanka suggests three guiding principles: cost, quality, and quantity. Once again, these principles carry nicely to our goals: 1. Cost is our overriding concern. It is what sets the parameters and guides all of our choices in reference to quantity and quality. It is the budget within which we must work and design our library services. 2. Quantity was our historic focus. Big was better. Big in the area of space, in the area of hard copy, volume counts, and staffing. 3. Quality is, and should be, our focus. When we look at our collection development, obviously, we no longer look solely at hard copy resources. We need a blend of tools including treatises, microform, CD-ROM, dedicated online databases and the world of the Internet. These collections will not necessarily be less costly than our old hard copy libraries. But they will be different and they should be better. Today, function matters far more than mere format. An excellent collection will have a mix of hard copy treatises with links to online databases that link the researcher from the treatise to its primary source material. Microform will retain its usefulness, because of its archiveability. CD-ROM will benefit some users because of its portability, functionality and networking. Databases will link to libraries such as Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw. The Internet is, of course, another portion of our collection. But gatekeeping will become increasingly sophisticated, as search engines become even more competitive and refined. PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS The physical requirements of the library are also changing. We may not have “virtual libraries,” but do already have a blend of the electronic and traditional libraries. Today’s library must serve as a multifunction room; expected to be not only functional, but also technology friendly and elegant. After all, it may double as conference room, war room, or even as an overflow office. For example, our designer (Pittsburgh’s Frank Golba of Golba & Associates Design Inc.) at Baker & Hostetler created a broad expanse of windows and natural lighting, (as well as artificial lighting for our Cleveland winters). The library includes open tables as well as private study areas. We have a public conversation area that uses lowered ceilings and special carpeting and a half wall to make a separate comfortable conversation area. We are wired for phone and technology. Photocopiers are outside the library. STAFFING As our libraries have grown in complexity, our staffing needs have also become more challenging. Librarians must offer traditional skills to maintain the traditional service orientation; but must also be leaders with new-economy skills: be technologically sophisticated, creative and flexible. Even staffing tactics are changing in the new millennium and with new technology. Jobs and duties are being redefined: shifted, both inside firms and with outside help. Information technology, housekeeping and messenger functions can be borrowed from other departments. Outsourcing (especially of tasks deemed outside a firm’s “core competencies”) is becoming increasingly popular. The not-so-big library is a triangle of collection, physical space and personnel balanced by the triangle of quantity, quality and cost consideration. To paraphrase William Morris as he was quoted in “The Not So Big House”: “We must not keep anything in our libraries that we do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Alvin Podboy Jr. is director of libraries at Cleveland-based Baker & Hostetler.

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