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In a perfect world — for reference librarians, that is — every one of a firm’s librarians could get together in the same room at the same time to talk about the latest news in legal research and librarianship. But what do you do when your firm has offices all over the world? Even conference calls get messy. Trying to coordinate lots of busy people, such as the 16 librarians in our firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, becomes practically impossible. Though the logistics never become less complicated, the sharing of information still remains an important goal. Is there a solution? At our firm, we librarians started a text-only blog as our solution. With our librarians serving 18 offices and more than 1,200 attorneys, we just couldn’t find the time to share information directly. “It’s great for sharing strategies and ideas in a nonintrusive way,” notes Morgan Lewis reference librarian Martha Klein. Blogs, of course, had their first Internet role as online journals for trendy teens and lonely folks who wanted acknowledgment of their existence. By writing down every detail of their daily lives and posting them online in a diary format, they offered themselves to the Internet community. Gradually, though, people started thinking of uses for the business world. THE BUSINESS OF BLOGS Marketing departments were some of the first to use blogs for business. Because using a blog requires no programming knowledge, it’s simple to publish one. This allows information to be disseminated as it appears on the screen. And as an inexpensive, or even free, alternative to fancy marketing materials, it is also a cost-effective way to get a message out. In the legal world, some solo practitioners, probably because of cost constraints in other forms of marketing, also picked up on the idea that blawgs (law-related blogs) could be used to attract clients. Provided the blawgs are updated regularly, search engines such as Google will sweep and index the sites daily. This in turn guarantees more hits to the site, which generate more hits, and so on. One attorney in Newport Beach, Calif., was amazed when he realized the number of hits to his blog. Within eight months of establishing the blog, he had brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of new business. Why? He thinks some clients appreciate the idea of an attorney as a real human being who offers a more personal access that Web sites don’t offer. The blog forum allows attorneys to write more personally, in a style that doesn’t always come through in traditional legal writing. As we found out, blogs work well in a library setting, too. In our case, the goal was, and is, knowledge management. In the D.C. office, what that meant in the past was a librarian popping her head out of her office to ask others if they had encountered a specific problem or question. And actually, this worked, and still does work, very well. But sometimes the person with the answer was on vacation. It would also have been nice if all the librarians in the firm could have been around to hear the question. One day, someone expressed this idea out loud. And that was the day that the idea for the library blog was born. We set up a private blog on Blogger.com, one of the big blog-spawning sites. We use IDs and passwords to access the site. Without an invitation from the blog manager, one cannot post to or read anything on the blog. We didn’t ever intend for this to be public, because we wanted to be able to share client-specific information with each other, if necessary. In a sense, the blog is a cross between a listserv and a news group. “I think the blog has great potential for bringing remote information locations together,” says Laura Reilly, legislative and reference librarian for Morgan Lewis. We post all sorts of information: new database information and passwords, answers to difficult questions that come across our desks, information regarding vendor or professional meetings, links to articles of interest to the group, and new discoveries about products and services we already use in the firm. For instance, recent postings have included details such as log-in information for a search engine called “Patent Fetcher,” time lags on updates to court Web sites, and how to obtain data about postings in various Canadian courts. Because the blog is user-friendly, it was up and running in one day. Reilly painstakingly researched various sites before choosing Blogger.com as the platform. We have been using the blog for a couple of months now, and it does take a little getting used to. For instance, not everyone is comfortable yet with the idea of posting to the blog. It is only useful if people remember to make entries. And if you don’t check the blog regularly, you will miss information that might be pertinent to a current project. Blogs don’t work if they become stagnant. But if we can continue to improve the frequency of our postings, we will then have a true knowledge-management blog. It all boils down to getting the information out there to the right people and having it be there when they need it. It’s the key to knowledge management and working smarter. Diahann Munoz is reference librarian at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

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