Strategic Librarian

Using strategy to develop the law firm library.


Knowledge Management all the Time: Transitioning into a New Role

NOTE: While the first 3 paragraphs look like this is an article about me, it is really about all of us in the library profession.  Please read on.

It’s been some time since I published a new post.  My summer has been filled with a new job, new industry, new co-workers, new terminology with an overload of acronyms, and knowledge management all the time.  I’m going through a transition that has had plenty of surprises for me and more to come if I’m right.

As someone who has been a director in a public library, technical services librarian in an academic library,   information specialist, cataloger, systems librarian, technical services manager, and director in law firm libraries, as well as a couple stints as a consultant, I ‘ve had plenty of opportunity to develop and use the knowledge and skills of a librarian.  I love my career.   It’s provides me with challenges and variety of work that few people would expect a librarian to experience.

So why would I set aside the library part of the work to take on a role where I will be working as a knowledge manager without any library duties?  In fact, I’m part of the company’s talent development team.  It’s probably because it is a challenge I haven’t tackled.  I’ve worked in knowledge management during the last 25 years but I always had traditional and not so traditional library duties as well.  Knowledge management is what I’ve always said I wanted to do.  Why then, is the transition so difficult.

While many new librarians are coming  into the profession expecting to do work that isn’t traditional, most of us who have been working as librarians find the change just a tad bit difficult.  It’s what keeps us from moving forward beyond the boundaries of what we know and will probably be our undoing.  At the same time, it is our future.  We have a lot at stake here.  It isn’t news that the library and our responsibilities as we know them are changing.

You, like me, have probably taken forays into the unknown by stepping outside your level of comfort while taking on new responsibilities.  When we do that we start a transition from what we know and how we operate, to the future knowledge and skills we will gain.  The change may be easy, but it’s the transition that may send us heading back to what was if we have the opportunity to do so.

When a change takes place, the transition that follows, according to change management expert, William Bridges**, are three phased:

… transition is very different from change. Change is situational: the reduction in the work force, the shift in the strategy, and the switch in reporting relationships are all “changes.” Transition, on the other hand, is a three phase psychological reorientation process that people go through when they are coming to terms with change. It begins with an ending—with people letting go of their old reality and their old identity. Unless people can make a real ending, they will be unable to make a successful beginning.

He then goes on to describe the next phase, which he calls the neutral zone:

This is a no-man’s land where people are (in Matthew Arnold’s graphic image) “Wandering between two worlds, one dead, The other powerless to be born.” The neutral zone is a time and a state of being in which the old behaviors and attitudes die out, and people go dormant for a while as they prepare to move out in a new direction.

Sounds terrifying, right?  Despite the fear it brings, there is hope for a new beginning, which is the final phase:

Only after going through each of these first two phases of transition can people deal successfully with the third phase: beginning over again, with new energy, a new sense of purpose, a new outlook, and a new image of themselves.

While I’ve studied change management and have looked to Bridges as one of the great minds on change process in his focus on the transition instead of the change, when I started this new position, I still stumbled in my recognition of the transition I am in.  It wasn’t until this week when I told someone else that I’m going through a transition, that I realized it myself.

I’m not telling my story because I think it is extraordinary.  I tell it because I believe we are all going through a transition. We’ve been very focused on helping our users with change but what have we done for ourselves?  In past posts, I’ve talked about doing what we need to do to stay relevant.  If we want to be here to experience working with users, information, knowledge, and more in the future, we need to focus more on the transition we are going through rather than the change.

How do we make it through all this?  We need start by saying goodbye to what we’ve known.  This is where I am struggling – you may be struggling with it too.  If Bridges is right, we won’t make it if we try to hang on to the past.  If we do let go, the neutral zone in the next phase, will be a time when things just don’t seem right and we will probably want to go back to what we’ve known.  If we manage to keep moving forward, we will experience times that make changes worth it.  Bridges tells us that the neutral zone is a place where innovations and experiments are possible.  When we get to our new beginning, we will arrive with new ideas, ready for the future.

Saying goodbye isn’t easy.  The good news is, even if the changes we’re experiencing now and in the future seem troublesome, and the transition to the new beginning is fraught with frustration, we have a lot to look forward to.  I say, let’s go for it!

** William Bridges, author of several books on change and transition including:

PLL Offers Summit Again at the Annual Conference

More training opportunities from  PLL (Private Law Libraries SIG of the American Association of Law Libraries) courtesy of Caren Biberman.

The PLL Summit will be held on Saturday, July 23, 2011 in Philadelphia.  The theme of the Summit is Change as Opportunity.  Plans for the Summit are proceeding quickly and the keynote speaker has been selected.  PLL leadership has shared that Jim Jones, Senior Vice President and Co-Managing Director at Hildebrandt Baker Robbins will be one of our keynote speakers.  Jim will be sharing with us his insights on where the legal profession is headed, and the challenges and opportunities that exist for law librarians and how we can best position ourselves.  Hildebrandt provides management consulting services to law firms and corporate law departments.  This is a not to be missed program.  Stay tuned for further details on the Summit.

There will also be a series of PLL webinars (held in concert with AALL) leading up to the Summit.  The first webinar will be held on December 8, 2010 at noon ET.  This webinar is entitled “What Law Firm Administrators Want Librarians to Know” and features as speakers the Executive Director and Director of Finance at Sterne Kessler, Goldstein & Fox P.L.L.C., Robert Burger and Thomas Annick, respectively along with Joan Axelroth who is a consultant/owner at Axelroth & Associates.  They will discuss the administrative and financial issues that determine a law firm’s success.  The cost is $45 for members and $60 for non-members. To register for the Webinar go to:

A “Bodacious” Proposal for AALL Programming

With the Annual Meeting program proposals safely in the hopper for selection, it’s time to revisit discussions regarding AALL educational programming.   Before I start, I would like to say that the programming like the PLL Summit, the recent announcement of a six-week library management course, and the changes to the structure of the 2011 Annual Meeting programming have been great.   

I promised something ‘bodacious’ which Merriam-Webster defines as remarkable or noteworthy. I’m not sure I will really take it that far but here goes.

I propose that we need to :

Look at the annual meeting and professional education as a whole and plan as such.  In other words, put both under the same umbrella which provides a strategic direction for providing educational opportunities for the association’s members.

Create an Education Committee that serves for two years with staggered terms.  This committee would be created by the President and would have a liaison from the Executive Board as well as the Director of Education on the committee. 

It’s charge would be to:

  • Define the structure of the educational programming efforts of the association.
  • Create a subject curriculum that reflects the competencies for individual law librarians and strategic direction of the organization.  Once approved by the Executive Board, the committee uses the curriculum as a guideline for the creation of educational programming as described below. 
  • Ensure that the programming is offered in as many formats as is fiscally possible.
  • Provide programming to those in remote locations or without the means to travel to one location for programming.
  • Work with the incoming president to develop subcommittees that will carry out the bulk of the programming itself, as described below.
  • Work as an oversight committee to ensure the subcommittees are carrying out the programming as defined.

Annual Meeting

This subcommittee would consist of one individual from each SIS group who would serve one year terms.  The chair or co-chairs of the group would be a member or members of the  Education  Committee and would serve a two-year term.   The incoming president would serve as the Executive Board liaison with the Director of Education serving as staff liaison. 

Each SIS would be given a number of program and workshop slots in relation to the size of the membership of the SIS.  Members of the Annual Meeting committee would go back to their SIS and work with a committee from the SIS to create the program/workshops.  

Professional Education

This subcommittee would have the same makeup as the Annual Meeting sub-committee as far as the membership coming from each SIS group and the chair being assigned by the Education Committee in tandem with the incoming president.  That chair would also serve as a liaison back to the Education Committee. 

The difference with this subcommittee would be the role of the Director of Education.  One way to think about this role would be to relate it to a public library board and library director.  The subcommittee would work with the director of education to make the policy decisions and develop plans based on directives from the education much like a library board works with their library director.  

The director of education would be charged with administering the professional education offerings including:

  • Keeping the professional education programs aligned with the curriculum developed by the Education Committee.
  • Working with SIS members or outside speakers to develop classes/programs/regional conferences, webinars, etc. 
  • Working with Chapters to bring programs to local or regional venues.
  • Tracking the success of the program and reporting those metrics back to the Professional Education sub-committee.
  • Administering the funding provided to the committee for its work.


  • This proposal does not have the details that are needed to make the proposal work – those would need to be developed further for success.
  • The goal of this proposal is to formalize the SIS’ role in developing educational programs for their members and provide a structure for implementation.
  • This goal cannot be achieved without adequate funding.  To address this the Executive Board would develop a budget that integrates vendor funding, SIS funding and the dollars that are assigned to this budget by the board from the associations income.  In other words, there would be three sources of funding.   Some thought should be given regarding what percent of the income derived from membership fees should be attributed to education.
  • Training/educational programs already being offered by the vendors should be integrating that training with the association training whenever possible to reduce duplication of effort. 

As I said before in this post, these ideas are just that, ideas expressed by one individual.   Whether any of them makes sense is up to our elected Executive Board.  I would like to hear your thoughts on these ideas.

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ILTA 08 Conference Materials

ILTA 08 conference session materials (handouts, slides) are available on the ILTA 08 Conference website.  This includes materials from all conference tracks including topical tracks:

  • Applications
  • Business Strategy 
  • Communications and Collaboration Tools
  • Executive
  • Finance
  • ILTA U
  • Information Management
  • Infrastructure Technologies
  • Knowledge Management
  • Law Department
  • Litigation Support
  • Miscellaneous
  • Mobile Remote & Wireless
  • Open Source
  • Practice Management
  • Professional Development
  • Project Management
  • Records Management
  • Risk Management
  • User Support
  • Voice & Data Communications

and vendor tracks:

  • Interaction
  • Interwoven
  • Microsoft
  • Open Text
  • Thomson Elite

You can also purchase audio recordings of the sessions.

~ Nina Platt

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Knowledge Management (KM) Certification

The SLA Knowledge Management Division has been having a lively discussion regarding KM certification via the listserv that members are automatically subscribed to when joining.  This division is relatively new to SLA but, if the programs at the annual conference and the traffic on the listserv is any evidence of success of the division , it is well worth the membership dollars.  While SLA offers cerficates in KM, some members in the division question how their organizations will view the certificate.  Will management accept it as validation of education and experience?  With this question, the group has started to discuss what other certification programs exist.

While this seems like a simple discussion, it could lead the group to discussing whether certification is even worth pursuing.  I’ve learned what I know from 20+ years in the trenches with a lot of trial and error so will most likely not seek certification at this time.  I have, however, thought that pursuing a certificate in KM would be useful to those starting out in the field where they are expected to hit the ground running, knowing enough not to make the same mistakes that those of us, who have been working at this for a while, made in the past.  At the same time, earning a certificate, does not necessarily make one certified.

One member of the group pointed the rest of us to a recent blog post by Stan Garfield in his Weekly Knowledge Management blog which is part of HP Communities.  His post on KM Certification is in the form of a question and answer.  The question, “What are his thoughts on certification?”.  His answer provides links to certification vendors and opinions put forth by seasoned KM practitioners including Patrick Lambe, Dave Snowden and David Gurteen who come down on the side against certification. 

Dave Snowden’s quote, “I am totally opposed to any attempt to certify people in a developing field such as KM.” from his Cognitive Edge blog.  At the same time, he offers an accreditation program based on Cognitive Edge methods. Certification vs Accreditation?  That’s a topic for another post.  Another quote by Dave Snowden addresses KM experience, “True Eureka innovation is not going to happen by an internal training programme but from engagement in the real world.”  I’ll stop here as I really haven’t spent enough time researching this topic to be able to make a decision one way or another or to understand the nuance of being certified or accredited in this context, nor would I attempt to argue points made by the experts referenced in the paragraph above.

My parting thought?  While we do need to train newcomers in the theory of KM, practical experience can not be replaced and is often more valuable.  When I’ve taught Knowledge Management in the past, my focus was more on experience than theory.  A potential employee who can provide a certificate will make me take notice, but, unless that certificate is accompanied with experience, the candidate would be limited to very entry level positions in my organization and, finally, I would never equate having certificate with being certified.

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Looking for Guest Writers/Reporters

Are you going to the AALL meeting in Portland next week?  If so, would you be willing to be a guest writer/reporter of a review(s) on the following programs that have a focus on management/planning/strategy?

AMPC Programming

A3: Educating the “C” People: Engage Your Decision Makers and Help Them to Evolve Sunday, July 13, 2008
1:30 PM – 2:45 PM
C2: Strategic Plans That Work: Creating a Strategic Plan for a Law Library Sunday, July 13, 2008
4:15 PM – 5:15 PM
E3: The Evolving Role of the Solo Librarian: How to Do It All without Losing Your Mind Monday, July 14, 2008
9:45 AM – 10:30 AM
E6: Fostering and Recruiting the Next Generation of Law Librarians Monday, July 14, 2008
9:45 AM – 10:30 AM
G1: Beyond Volume Count: Exploring the Evolving Tools for Evaluating Library Quality Monday, July 14, 2008
4:00 PM – 5:15 PM
K4: Marketing Your Library: Exploring New Technologies to Create Evolving Newsletters That Energize Your Patrons Tuesday, July 15, 2008
3:30 PM – 4:00 PM
W4: “So Now You’re Conflicts”/”So Now You’re Docket”: The Evolving Law Firm Library Manager Saturday, July 12, 2008
12:00 PM – 5:30 PM

SIS Programming

CS-SIS Hot Topic I: Keeping up with technology: advice for librarians Monday, July 14, 2008
4:00 PM – 5:15 PM
OBS-SIS Program: You want me to do what? Bridging the gulf and building understanding between technical services and public services managers Sunday, July 13, 2008
12:00 PM – 1:15 PM
PLL-SIS Program: Explore: Best Practices in the Small Law Library Monday, July 14, 2008
10:45 AM – 11:45 AM
PLL-SIS Program: Litigation Support and the Role of the Law Librarian Monday, July 14, 2008
10:45 AM – 11:45 AM
PLL-SIS Program: “Who moved my pencils? Managing change in the Technical Services Department Tuesday, July 15, 2008
7:00 AM – 8:45 AM
PLL-SIS Program: Using Consultants and Contractors (aka Outtaskers) to Tame Your Budget Monday, July 14, 2008
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
TS-SIS Program: Energize Personnel in the Library: Managing Difficult and Change-Resistant Staff Members Tuesday, July 15, 2008
2:45 PM – 4:00 PM

Please send me an email if you are interested.  We will be posting the reviews during and right after the conference.

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Ark Conference Session : Developing the Library Business Plan

j0385553.jpgI will be speaking at the Ark Conference, Best Practices & Management Strategies for Legal Library & Information Services on February 26th in New York, along with Jean O’Grady (DLA Piper), Linda Will (Dorsey & Whitney), Silvia Coulter (Hildebrandt), Kit Hartnett (Proskauer Rose), Gayle Lynn-Nelson (LexisNexis), and Joseph Meringolo (Dickstein Shapiro) with Joel Alleyne (Borden Ladner Gervais) as the moderator.

 My contribution to the day will be “Developing the Library Business Plan” described below.

What services do you offer? Who are your clients and how can you impact the bottom line? Developing a library business plan is limited only by your business acumen and creative skills.  The goal is to be able to demonstrate to your leadership that your plans are based on the firm’s business goals and that you have skills that go beyond what they think of as a traditional librarian.

I’m looking forward to spending the day with the other speakers and attendees. 

See the Business Plan category on this blog for articles on the topic.

~ Nina Platt