Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Making a Stand

Lore Librarian today posted to an interesting article on Law.com entitled Law Librarians Should Learn to Drive Their Stock Up.

Though it does indeed, as Lore Librarian points out, start a little tritely (I can't say I've ever been known to shush, or be shushed in a law library, and it's just that kind of image we're trying to move away from), the article is actually quite interesting. Particularly as it isn't written by a librarian.

Librarians wages are all over the place, there doesn't seem to be any sort of consistent industry standard, and what's more, compared with other professional industries, we are not paid a comparable wage.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services in the US, in a recent study on the future of library workers found that:

law firms are looking for librarians who not only have both a master's in library science and a law degree but who alsohave expertise in law, business, finance, science and/or medicine. And an MBA, fluency in a foreign language and technological know-howwouldn't hurt either, a panel on law libraries found. Many are expectedto manage resources and handle research requests across multiple offices.

And that there? That's an awful lot of skills. Skills that should be recognised.

We provide an invaluable, but often undervalued service in our firms. We are increasingly on the cutting edge of new technology and information. We are expected to provide multiple services at once (researcher, knowledge manager, press searcher, marketer, IT consultant, cataloguer, administrator, general dogsbody and finder of things, to name a few). We are a professional industry, often with more qualifications than the lawyers we work for. But if we don't stand up and make a case for ourselves, we are never going to be recognised for the service we provide, whether that recognition is fiscal or otherwise. (how many of you work for firms that don't recognise what work you do, and don't see the value in what the library does for the firm?)

But, as the article says, there are things we can do. Start charging back our time - we're doing work for clients, there's no reason it can't be charged back. The libraries income isn't likely to be comparable to that of a fee-earner, but it's still going to be more than nothing, and that's something. Prepare reports - tell management what you're doing, why you're doing it, how much time you're saving for your fee-earners, how much money you're making the firm. Raise your profile within the firm - don't make people come to you. Be out there on the floors, asking people what they need, telling fee-earners what you can do for them - make yourself seen and people will start to realise how much you do for them.

And if all else fails, I say call a strike. You just see how quickly the firm realises how much they value your team when you all don't do your jobs for a week :)

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