Strategic Librarian

Using strategy to develop the law firm library.

You say Tomato, I say Tomato

The following paragaph was part of the editorial comments I made in the Pinhawk Librarian News Digest email (also part of Pinhawk Blog) that I send out each morning.  The topic is something I have something to say about so, instead of taking the entire editorial comment to tell you what I think, I’m posting my ideas here.

Jeff Brandt knows something about working with librarians since he’s had his share of experience doing just that as a law firm CIO. It’s no wonder then, that 3 Geeks and the Law asked him to write a rebuttal to Greg Lambert’s scathing indictment of CIOs. My take on this argument is that both librarians and CIOs (maybe not IT staff) have moved forward in their relationships, but there are still holdouts. Read more at Law firms taking a half-hearted approach to social media.

My further take on this is that we won’t really learn how to work as a team until we acknowledge the difference between library staff and IT staff and do something about understanding our motives. IT is focused on providing a solution for the entire firm by standardizing all users’ experience with technology. They are more successful if they focus on serving the firm as a whole. While a librarian’s role is to provide service to the firm, they are more focused on the individual needs of offices, practice groups and individual lawyers.

Additionally, IT staff can’t seem to move beyond the idea that librarians don’t have technical skills and library staff see IT as inflexible and unable to communicate. Put these beliefs together with the motives each has that drives their work and we get two departments at odds with each other. Even if the CIO “gets” the value of the library, the IT staff can undo any understanding by not providing the support the CIO has promised. In return, the librarians experience what they see as IT’s unwillingness to provide support.

On the other hand, I’m sure that someone in IT can also point out the results of these interactions. They see the librarians continuing to focus on creating exceptions to standardization. In the eye’s of the IT staff, the library staff look like they don’t understand technology. The result is IT feeling nagged by the library and the library feeling unsupported by IT.

To move beyond this, both CIOs and Library (Information Resources, etc.) Directors or sometimes CKOs, need to help their staffs understand the difference between how the other department’s staff approach their work and why it’s OK for each to have a different perspective. Once that becomes known and truly understood, we will see the department’s starting to make a difference in a way that they can’t do on their own.

How to Get a Date

Actually, this posting is more about how to build relationships than getting dates.  The tips that are highlighted can be applied to business relationships as well as advice for the lovelorn. 

Matt Homann’s most recent post on the [non]billable hour titled 25 Ways to Win a Client doesn’t list the 25 ways but does list success tips in how to find a date that rings true for building relationships with just about anyone.  His post referenced another post from Dumb Little Man and included 8 tips.  If we think of our patrons as clients and replace friends and people with clients, the following provides good advice:

  1. Have a simple goal of making new friends. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Seek to find a great friend and see where things lead.
  2. Commit to saying “Hi” first. Don’t be shy. Perhaps set a goal of saying hi to 5 people a day. Start with one a day and then work your way up.
  3. Smile and have fun. Everyone looks better with a smile.
  4. Be open to meeting new people anywhere and everywhere.
  5. Always be dressed and groomed to meet new people even if you’re just running out to get milk. You just may meet that someone special in the dairy isle!
  6. Conversation success tip: Be interested in others and ask lots of questions.
  7. Don’t be afraid of rejection. You’ve got nothing to lose!! What’s the worst that could happen? Someone will laugh at you? That’s hardly likely. And even if they do, who cares! Just say “Next!” and move on!
  8. Go slow for safety and success. Never rush into anything. Go slow.

When I started at my first library position, I was fairly shy and not comfortable with meeting new people.  At the same time, the job I was expected to do relied on me building relationships.  To get myself moving in that direction, I promised myself I would walk into 2-3 lawyer offices a day and introduce myself.  My request to them was “tell me about your practice.”  Since then, I have done the same no matter where I go.  I’ve never been turned down when I ask people to talk about themselves.

If you are like me, it is easier to support lawyers from a distance, then to meet face to face.  Yet our future is in building relationships outside of the library if we want to be seen as serious business people.  I hope you will start today in following the 8 tips above.  You may run into one or two people who don’t have time, but you should be successful if you forget your fears and focus on others.   If you need some additional support, try reading Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.  A great book for those of us who are more introverted than extroverted. 


Developing Business Relationships: The Art of Staying on the Island

I have to admit that I am an avid Survivor fan – the television program where contestants try to “outwit, outplay, and outlast their competitors”.  They spend a lot of time talking about “playing the game”.  Called strategy, gamesmanship, or politics,  playing the game conjures up scary images and even scarier memories for some of us.  What I find interesting on Survivor is that most of the contestants have no idea how to play the game.  You get to watch individuals going about their day thinking they are in control of their existence on the island, when in reality, they are probably the next person to be voted off. 

They are like many of us who need to learn how to stay in the game, get a place at the table, play ball, and other clichéd descriptions of being political.  What do we need to learn to be part of the Final Four and ultimately the Survivor?  Recent articles on and provide some answers to that question. 

How to Build Your Credibility and Increase Your Political Power, an article on, written by Patty Azzarello, addresses the issue from a CIO perspective.  While we aren’t all CIOs, the article does put forth some ideas we could all benefit from.  They are:

Credibility and political power go hand in hand. 

Political power does not come from technology, it comes only from relationships.

CIOs can build their credibility and political power by focusing on two fundamental actions: managing what you are known for and building a communication plan for your stakeholders.

You can substitute whatever your area of expertise is for technology in the second sentence and find what you know will never be as important as who you know.  Sad but true.  Yet, while this last statement seems negative, it is what it is, so, we are better off doing something about it than wishing it wasn’t so.

How to Win at Office Politics, an article on, written by Kelly Pate Dwyer, offers advise that is a bit more practical.  Ms. Dwyer breaks what we can do into 5 steps, providing sidebars with useful information.  The five steps are:

  1. Figure out Why (and IF) You Want to Play – Let what’s most important to you guide your actions.
  2. Create Strong Relationships – Build the personal network you need to reach your goals.
  3. Observe & Listen – Gain the insight to predict and avoid roadblocks, and take advantage of scoring opportunities.
  4. Promote Yourself, Tactfully – Make yourself visible and indispensable.
  5. Help your Colleagues – Gain respect and leverage, and get help in return.

The focal point of both articles is the need to build relationships.   How, you ask?  There are many articles and books on the topic.   The book Relationship Edge in Business: Connecting With Customers and Colleagues When It Counts by Jerry Acuff provides a how to on building and maintaining business relationships. 

I can tell you that developing these skills is not easy for those of us who are introverted, and, while extroverts may find it a bit easer to develop the relationships needed to be successful, it is still difficult work.  They are essential, however, and worth the work.  Besides the articles and book listed above, additional books that may be useful are:

Influence Without Authority, written by Allen R Cohen and David L Bradford, 2nd edition, 2005.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, written by Robert B Cialdini, 2006.

I’m not suggesting you adopt the Machiavellian viewpoint of “the ends justify the means” using any means to stay in power and build support (which, by the way, is not as Machiavellian as it sounds, but that is another post.)  I do believe, however, that we need to be strategic in our work to stay on the island.