Thursday, 30 August 2007

Podcasts from Sweet & Maxwell

I was on the Sweet & Maxwell website today and noticed that they now have a podcast section. They have a number available on topics such as Employment Law, IP Law and Family Law.

I'm not a podcast person, and I don't know if any of my lawyers are, but they look like useful things to link to on the intranet in case there is anyone interested.

What I'd really like to know is how many hits they're getting on them? Are there actually lawyers using them?

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Biblioblogosphere Survey 2007

Meredith Farkas has put up some preliminary results of her Biblioblogosphere Survey, and there's some interesting stuff there.

The figures for the percentage of bloggers being academic v public are interesting as it makes me wonder what the other 37% do.

2. Back in 2005, only 19% of bloggers were public librarians while 44% were academic librarians. In 2007, that gap is closing. Now, 33.6% of all library bloggers work in academic libraries and 29.3% are public librarians.

Also, this quote made me smile:

6. Want to be happy? Well, you may want to become a school librarian, work in a law library or work for a consortium or library system, because those three got the highest scores for job satisfaction.

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the final results of the survey!

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Blog action day!

We're going to be participating in Blog Action Day on October the 15th - a day comitted to a global effort discussing environmental issues. There are currently over 3000 blogs committed to post for it, reaching an audience of over 3 million, which I think is pretty spiffing.

We don't touch much on the environmental impact of libraries and how we operate - this is a good time to reflect on the impact we make on the world around us.

Watch out for the posts come October 15!

Information ALLA Carte

In September I will be attending my first conference. I've been given the opportunity to go the Australian Law Librarian Association conference in Sydney. I'm incredibly excited, and looking forward to both the sessions on offer, and the networking opportunities. And of course seeing Sydney. I was only 13 the last time I was there, so I'm looking forward to looking at it with new eyes.

The sessions being offered all look good, though I'm especially looking forward to the sessions on training. They'll come a bit late for this years batch of new trainees, but hopefully I can pick up some tips for the next batch. There's also some good sessions on intranets and marketing.

Personally, there's also a session being given by the course convenor of my Masters degree about legal research courses at universities. As I was a student in one of her classes on legal research I'm really looking forward to seeing what she has to say.

I am going to look into obtaining a laptop to take with me, so hopefully I can liveblog, and be on twitter whilst I'm there. And I will of course be posting reviews here.

Friday, 10 August 2007

The Economist Audio Edition

I received an email today from The Economist informing me of a new service they have - the Economist Audio Edition. I'm not a podcast person, I tend to tune out when I'm listening, but I can see this being a good way to keep up with the magazine, especially at the moment when the postal strikes mean that it often comes three or four days late.

You can download the audio of the entire issue, or section by section. At the moment though the only way to subscribe to it is via an email alert, but it's definitely a step in the right direction!

Information Overload - your librarian can help!

I opened up this weeks Legal Week yesterday afternoon, and upon flicking through I found an article titled 'Information Overload'. Upon reading it, I couldn't believe that there was no mention anywhere about the library or information centre!

The first paragraph:

Information overload is a problem for all of us: too many emails, too much data, too many magazine articles to read. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is a major challenge. And if lawyers are to focus on the right information, a lot of the sorting has to be done for them. How can firms approach this challenge?
could easily be answered by getting your library/information department involved. That's what we're here to do!

I wouldn't want the article to be all about the library, but a small mention would be nice.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Some thoughts on productivity

I have something to admit. It's not a big secret, but it's not something I'm terribly proud of. I'm a procrastinator. Through and through. Give me a task that needs to be done today, and I'll think of some way to put it off til the last possible minute. If it needs doing by tomorrow, then chances are I won't do it today. And worse than that, I have no attention span either. Something has to be hugely engaging to keep my attention, otherwise I'll be wanting to do something else, be given new, different stimulus.

Now, this has always been a problem for me, and it's something that's only gotten worse over the last few years. I've always found the internet distracting (in the most glorious and wonderful of ways) and the slew of information available now sends me into such a tizzy of over-stimulation and attention deficit that I scarecely know where to look.

I want to fix this. I really do. It annoys me ever so much that I can scarcely focus on a task without wanting to quickly check my email or my rss feeds or twitter or a news site or whatever or whatever (the list of things that I can find distracting is near endless). But it's hard. There's so much out there to be distracted by, and I'm an information seeker by nature - I want to know all the new things that are happening in the world. But I need to be able to keep it in check, particularly when I have work to be doing. And sometimes it's hard to find the willpower on my own.

In an attempt to deal with this, I've just started using the Leechblock extension for Firefox at work.

Now, I'm not meant to use Firefox at work, but I really do find it far easier to be productive with Firefox. There are so many extensions that make my browsing life easier and more productive, that being without them just makes my day far more frustrating than it needs to be. And tabbed browsing is a blessing when you're looking at lots of articles and cases at once. (Actually, there was a whole good post in the Wall Street Journal last month about tips for getting around backwards IT policies to make your work day just a bit easier, but it wasn't me that sent you if your IT department comes knocking).

But anyway. Leechblock is fabulous - you can give it a list of sites that you don't want to be able to access (I go with the basic timewasters - Facebook, Bloglines, Flickr, stats sites), and give it exceptions for one's that you do, and a list of times, and that's it! You won't be going there. You can even turn off the ability to access the edit screen during the times you've set, to remove that extra piece of temptation. There is also the option to set up multiple profiles, so you could have different settings for different situations.

This is a bit of a hardline approach (I have no willpower, I know!), and does rely on me pretending that IE isn't on my desktop (but that's ok, I don't want to use IE anyway), but it does seem to help in putting a bit of a barrier between me and my procrastination.

Does anyone else have any good tricks for keeping the internet timewasters at bay when you have work to get done? I can't be the only one fighting off the lure of the internets :)

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Professions don't stand still.

Michael Stephens over at Tame the Web has posted a fantastic post titled 'Professions Do Not Stand Still'. I particularly liked the first paragraph he quoted from Blog About Libraries:

Have you ever met a plumber who doesn't work with PVC? An electrician who only uses knob and tube wiring? A firefighter who thinks those new fangled breathing masks are just too complicated? No, professionals who don't keep up with the technologies that affect their work go out of business. Librarianship is not immune to that.
That is such a true statement. In a law library, it's not as pressing an issue, but as times goes on, there are going to be expectations that the services provided by the library are current and making the best use of the technologies available. Technology is not the be all and end all of the profession, but it's important that we know how and why to use it.

David Lee King has been making a number of posts on just that topic lately, starting with his 'Am I a 2.0 Librarian and the Library 2.0 Spectrum' post. After focusing on the technology aspects of Library 2.0 in that post, he followed up with a post 'Library 2.0 - Is it Techie Or Not?' about how important technology is to the provision of a library 2.0 service. And really, library 2.0 isn't about the technology - it's about taking the technology that's there, and providing a fantastic service for your users. And ultimately, that means keeping up with what's available. It's a continuous process. Technology is constantly changing, and so too will the services that we can provide.

There will always be the early adopters, those who are constantly picking up new technology. And within the library sector, or even the legal library sector, it's important that the ones on the edge are sharing their knowledge with others. As a knowledge sharing profession, we need to all be involved in keeping each other up to date. That's what I love so much about the 'biblioblogosphere' - we're all out there, sharing, discussing and learning from each other. It's an amazing thing to be a part of.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Opinion matters - ours and theirs

Following on from my earlier post about image and perception, I've been thinking a lot about how we perceive ourselves in the profession, and how others perceive us from outside it.

But first, an anecdote. Last week I went to the dentist and it set me to thinking. I have a good dentist, professional and skilled, and snarky, in the way that the best dentists seemed to be. And he was oh so very cranky at me for not looking after my teeth as well as he thought I should - amazed and annoyed that I wouldn't spend the time to floss three times a day. And it occurred to me that, being so embedded in his profession, so caught up in what he does everyday, that he had forgotten what it was like to be on the other side. It wouldn't occur to him that his patients might value their time differently, and not want to dedicate a half hour a day to their teeth, or that they might not know the best and most effective ways of brushing and flossing. As a professional in his field, dealing with these issues every day, they are of the utmost importance to him, and he couldn't imagine anyone else feeling otherwise.

I can't help but think that in the library profession, particularly within law firms, that we tend to be blinkered in the same way. Dealing with our work everyday, we can't help but value it very highly. And we should value it - we're providing a professional service to the users in our firms. But I just don't think our users value it as much as we do. And not just in the general, 'oh those silly lawyers, they don't know half the work we do for them' kind of way, but in a more tangible way, I don't think that our work is as immediately important as we would like to think it is. So much of what we provide, particularly in the way of raw data, needs to be filtered and refined in some way - usually by an overworked PSL or trainee - into something more relevant for the fee-earners. Whilst we have the skills to find the information, and provide somewhat of a refined product, we generally don't have the skills to interpret it, nor the place within fee-earning departments to have the knowledge of exactly what is needed and when. What we provide is important, yes, but it's often a raw product, and not the end in itself.

I think that much of our frustrations within firms stems from this - it's not that the lawyers don't value what we do for them, but that they often don't know what we do for them. Our research and work feeds into many aspects of the firms information flows, but the source of this information is rarely acknowledged. Our information arrives in their inboxes or on their desks seamlessly or silently, and they, understandably, don't really know the work that went into getting it there. And most lawyers, unless they have had a lot of experience with a good librarian, won't know what we can offer and what skills we have. They will hold faint memories of librarians from their university days, or maybe from their days as a trainee, not knowing that we can give them much more. They don't know, and they wouldn't even think to ask - it's just not within their sphere of interest. They feel that they need to know the details of what we do as much as they need to know exactly what their finance or IT or HR departments do.

Buried in our work, and knowing it's value so completely ourselves, we complain that people don't value us, but don't spend a lot of time thinking about why that might be. We need to step into the minds of our users and think about how they gain their perception of the library. What do we do for them that they can see? That they can't see? Where does the information that we provide flow throughout the organisation? What can we do to make our presence more visible and more valued? What can we do to educate people in the services that we provide? When do we need to step back and realise that what we're providing isn't as important or valued as we think? And what are we going to do about it?

How do you all feel about this? Do you think that we are placing an unrealistic expectation on our users to value us? Or do you think that your firm or organisation values your service as much as you would like?