Strategic Librarian

Using strategy to develop the law firm library.


Creating your Annual Report

Note:  This post includes a template and video tutorial.  Links to those items are included in paragraph 3.

If you are treating your library, resource center, etc. as a business, then you may have already written an annual report or are preparing to do so.  It can be a one page or many page report that you distribute widely or to your own manager, but it is important that you provide those inidividuals you report to and/or those in leadership, an update of what you’ve accomplished during the year and what your goals are for next year.

I’ve written many annual reports over the year and have a format I use for this purpose.  I’ve changed it over the years but the purpose has always remained the same – communicating news and information to leadership that they might otherwise not know and assisting them in understanding what your department is doing for the firm as well as what you are capable of doing in the future.

As a way of commemorating 2010 and because I decided I needed to learn to create online tutorials, I’ve created both an annual report template and an online tutorial on writing annual reports.  The tutorial walks you through the steps of using features in Word 2007 and the content you might want to include in the report.

I created the tutorial using the free streaming video capture software,  CamStudio, and converted it into the mp4 format using the Moyea Video4Web Converter, which is also free.

Also, the mp4 format is supposed to be one of the best flash formats but if you have problems viewing the video, please let me know.  Finally, be kind.  This is a new technology for me that I am just learning to use and since I have an aversion to reading instructrutions it has been created using the trial and error technique.

I am planning on creating other tutorials if there is enough interest and would love to hear your ideas on what topics you might be interested in.

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:

Research Training, Mentoring, and Networking Best Practices in using Print and Electronic Resources

As I discussed in my last post, ABA 2010 Legal Technology Survey – v.5 Online Research,  moving new associates from the research habits they developed in law school, to those they need in the real world is a daunting task.  Some would say it is impossible.  Yet, with every new class of lawyers, we, as librarians attempt to do just that. 

We all have known (or know) the new associates that habitually attend what training they can fit into their schedule; call with questions, or yes, even come to the library with those questions; spend time talking to other lawyers about their research; don’t waste their or their client’s time and money on questions they can’t answer;  and generally, take every opportunity to be better legal researchers.  These are the born researchers.  We love them.  We like to see them succeed as associates or become partners or general counsels. 

We more often have known those associates who attend the required training, spend most, if not all, of their research time online, and call or come to the library for help after the hours of online research didn’t produce the results they needed.   We may not feel the same affection for these associates, but we want them to be successful as well.

They are a tough crowd that may never be good researchers without help.  So, how do we reach them?  Especially, how do we help them understand how to do research using the right resources at the right time?  If we apply these questions to our efforts to teach associates how to combine the use of print and electronic resources, the answers may rest on research training, mentoring and networking.

Some best practices to follow:


  • Create a training session for the combined use of print and electronic resources.
    • Include the training along with other firm sponsored training/education required for new associates.  The endorsement by the firm, by including this training in what they are already doing, will go a long way in convincing the associates that this is serious business.
    • Ask partners to participate in explaining why the editorial analysis including digests and treatises (whether it be used in print or online) is so important.  Their participation and endorsement of good research habits will also resound with the associates. 
    • Consider doing a re-enactment of a partner and librarian working together on a research project.  My most memorable experience as a researcher was doing the online part of the research a lawyer was working on back in the 90’s.  He would browse through the digests and find key numbers for me to search on.  I would run the key number search and give him a list of cases.  He would use the reporters to read the cases (now he would probably ask for the printed case opinions) and come back to me with more key numbers or requests to KeyCite (we were a West shop at the time).  You wouldn’t want to take it to that extreme but you could demonstrate using the appropriate print materials with the online resources for a research project.
    • Provide opportunities for the associates to participate in the training session – one wise librarian told me that she was using games to garner associate interest.  Afterall, they are the gaming generation.
  • After the firm sponsored session:
    • Ask your online fee based vendor to teach the associates how to use their online service as a digest.


  • Assign research mentors to each associate.  We assigned librarians to touch base with associates on a regular basis to do additional training on subject based services and to create a relationship that allowed the associates to start learning the value of engaging the library staff in their research. 
  • Create a training program for the librarian research mentors to ensure they understand their role and know how to provide mentoring in this instance.
  • Create documentation with procedures & checklists for the tasks each librarian mentor must complete.
  • Conduct regular mentor meetings to keep the staff engaged and the program moving forward.  These don’t have to be burdensome time wise.  Schedule them as your firm’s time constraints allow.
  •  Ask the firm to consider assigning senior associates or partners as research mentors to new attorneys.  If a mentorship program already exists, as the firm to consider part of that mentorship include research.
  • Work with senior associates and/or partners to develop and conduct the same training, documentation, and meetings.


  • Host regular brainstorming sessions where associates can get together to network and share their research issues while sharing suggestions on how to approach the problem.  Before starting any networking sessions, train librarians in their role as facilitators rather than participants.
  • Consider building a research wiki that would be available to associates only, with the exception of librarian moderators who would respond to questions and post tips.  This would be a wiki that would allow the associates to network with each other by:
    • Asking for assistance when they need it
    • Posting how they conducted a particular research project
    • Contributing research tips 

These are some practices that are already in place in firms or new and ideas I think would work (I haven’t seen or done what I suggest in the networking section of this post.)  I would love to hear other practices that you are engaged in or ideas you think might be worth trying.


ABA 2010 Legal Technology Survey – v.5 Online Research

I received a copy of the ABA 2010 Legal Technology Survey last week.  I was more than happy to get it as I’ve regularly used statistics from the Online Research volume.  I would recommend its purchase as this year’s survey is exceptional in its review of how lawyers use technology while researching.  It also provides a look at how those same lawyers interact with their law firm library. 

Here are a couple questions and answers I found especially interesting for the 100+ lawyer firm population.  Note: all percentages are rounded from the original % in the survey:


How often do you request legal research (both legal materials and non-legal materials that are case-related) from the following – Firm librarians?




While the 12% for never doesn’t surprise me, the 43% for occasionally is troubling and the 18% for regularly is even more disconcerting.  As to the occasional users, this is 43% of lawyers who have asked the library to do research but did not decide to return for help regularly. 

If I were in marketing, I would focus on that group in particular.  They’ve seen the benefit of the library doing research enough to return occasionally but haven’t turned into regular customers.  If I were to ask the same question in a survey that I did for a law firm library and got these results, I would suggest that the library interview those who are occasional users to find out why. 

The interview should start out with the question, “Would you tell me about your practice?”, followed by “What are your biggest frustrations in finding information?”, and go from there.  Don’t focus on telling them what you can do for them, instead, find out what their needs are.  This approach is marketing.  Telling them what you can do is selling.

Additionally, I would suggest that they talk to their regular users to find out what makes them so.  I would also ask those users if they would be willing to provide testimonials and referrals when they have the opportunity – or more formally, at their practice group meetings when the library presents.


Where do you go first to start a research project?



These statistics paint a somewhat bleak picture.  I really don’t know where to start with my thoughts on this.  If you think back to how research used to be done, it generally started with editorial analysis of a legal issue using a print treatise.   I guess shouldn’t be surprised by the 13% for print.   Afterall, it is well-known that lawyers coming out of law school during the last 5-10 years prefer online.

It’s the 54% for free online services and the 30% for online fee based services that are more troubling.  I’m not saying that free services have no place in research.  They do if they are services that are authoritative, can be relied on, aren’t biased, etc. 

What worries me is that I don’t really know what resources these lawyers are using.   According to the ABA survey, 36.7% of lawyers in the 100+ lawyer firms are using Google search most often for their “free” research rather than using authoritative sources.  While the number is the largest in a group that included Findlaw, 10.9%; LexisOne, 1.4%; Government websites, 22.4%; State Bar Association offerings, 9.5%; or the Cornell Legal Information Institute, 13.6%, it doesn’t tell us much about what resources are actually being used.

I guess I should trust that these lawyers know what they are doing.  If I didn’t have 20+ years of experience of seeing new law classes coming to work in law firms without a clue of how to get started with their research, I might be able to do just that. 

In the days when print research was used more readily, at least, I knew that someone using the print to learn about a legal issue before going online (fee based) was using a resource that was generally credible and authoritative.  Now, I’m not so sure.  So what can be done to allow librarians (and partners) to feel better about the use of online over print?

Whether law firms what to invest the time or not, training is really the best way to handle this troubling issue.  At my last law firm, we were able to get a training session approved as required training for new fall associates (we did something similar for summers).  This session focused on how to use the print and online resources most effectively. 

If I were working with a law firm in today’s research world, I would suggest offering similar training, followed by assignments of research mentors (something we did at my last firm as well).  

Look for more highlights from the survey along with commentary in our next blog post.  Also, I would be extremely pleased to hear from you on these thoughts.

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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Why Each Member of AALL Is Part of the Whole

The following is the post I promised where I said I would share my ideas on what we should change to make sure that all AALL members enjoy the educational programming they need from their association.  That’s a tall order that may not be possible to achieve.  At the same time, I think it is a goal worth working towards.  My fear in missing this target is that we won’t have the skills to stay revelant in our positions.

The other statement I made at the end of the last post was that “we are the AALL.”  Since then I’ve received emails suggesting that this isn’t so.  That the AALL we have been talking about is the leadership.  Having been part of that group at one time, I learned how little the association leadership can do in achieving change if the membership is involved.

I ran for and served on the executive board because I wanted to make a difference.  At my first board meeting, I expected a them (the much aligned academic members)  against us (the disenfranchised private and state, court and county members) kind of atmosphere filled with more process and tedium then I could bear.  I went in asking myself what possessed me to think I could be part of the board.

What I found was a group of individuals who wanted the same as me without thought of what library type they came from.  I was the only private member the first year with two more privates joining during the next two years and an equal number of state, court and county members serving during that time as well.

During orientation we were reminded that we were there to serve the entire association and not to lobby for our individual library types.  While we all agreed that we would follow that model, I was surprised to be regularly asked to speak on behalf of the private members.  The other members on the board were constantly concerned about what the members of PLL would think about the various topics we discussed. 

Despite my concerns at the outset, I truly enjoyed my time on the executive board.  My term covered the years where AALL moved to a more open  and flexible schedule during the annual meeting.  We tinkered with additional parts of the meeting including moving the opening reception to Saturday from Sunday night hoping that this would work for everyone, as we heard from all library types that the meeting was too long.

We weren’t sure that all of the changes would work but we knew that some change was necessary.  I personally didn’t get everything I wanted to see changed (including doing away with the dance that followed the banquet as I do believe it serves too few members for the expense incurred), but I wasn’t there to get what I personally wanted.

What I learned during my stint on the board was that:

  • The association was no better than each individual member
  • Without the sole purpose of providing the appropriate services that would support each individual member and at the same time the group as a whole, the association had no reason to exist.
  • Meeting that one goal would be near to impossible
  • We couldn’t do it without member participation from all library types
  • We would never make every member happy with each decision made.

and, finally that it is easier to sit back and criticize “AALL” than to participate in changing what doesn’t work.

I’m guilty of falling into that trap during the last few years where I’ve been unhappy with the programming but did nothing to change it.  I’m glad that Caren Biberman started this discussion as I found while promising a “bodacious proposal” and saying “when we are talking about “AALL” we are talking about ourselves”, I had to sit back and think about why AALL is more about members than anything else and doesn’t work unless the membership sees themselves as a vital part of making necessary changes.

So with this diatribe I need to promise once more that I will come through with a proposal.  Why not now?  Because I don’t believe anyone should have to read a post that is this long and the how long the next post will be without a break.  I promise, I will get to the “bodacious proposal” where I share what “I” think we can do about improving educational programming.


My Experience in Participating in the AALL Programming Process or AALL Educational Programming Needs to go Back to School

The recent discussion and blog postings regarding the upcoming AALL meeting piqued my interest.  For background see:

Some Thoughts on Programming at AALL – Caren Biberman

A “Modest Propsal” on Programming at AALL – Mark Gediman

Dream Big or Comments on “A “Modest Proposal on Programming at AALL” and the Report of the AALL Annual Meeting Review Special Committee – Caren Biberman

I found myself discussing this with a friend and fellow librarian, which reminded me of my experiences with  AMPEC and with CPE.  Besides the many times my programs were turned down for various reasons, I had three experiences that made me rethink my support of AALL programming (I’m not keen on SLA programming either, but that is another post).

Experience #1

First, the year after I was on the Executive Board for AALL, I was made chair of CRIV.  We proposed two programs in three time slots for the following year’s annual meeting.  One would be librarians talking about the issues they face when working with vendors in the then current economic climate and the second would be the vendors talking about the same issues but from their perspective.  They would be asked to address how their business needs were driven by the economy as well.

A third time slot was proposed for a discussion with speakers from both groups available for questions and answers.  We planned to have moderators at each of the programs to collect questions with a third moderator managing the discussion session to keep it moving in a business like manner.  Our goal was a discussion that would help to help build a better understanding of the issues facing both the librarians and the vendors which we hoped would continue after the conference.

AMPEC approved one of the programs and dismissed the other two.  We were allowed to plan a program where librarians would discuss their issues (which seemed like preaching to the choir without the rest of the programs and the focus we would get from vendors).  AMPEC said we would not be able to get vendors to participate.  That made absolutely no sense to me as I had already asked for vendor participants and did not receive any unwillingness to speak or answer questions.

We were more than disappointed and even more confused when the same vendor program was proposed in the spring by an academic library director as a hot topic and accepted by AMPEC.   It seemed strange that an individual member from academia could do what an AALL committee could not.

Experience #2

The same year, CRIV decided to focus on education which was one of the charges that we felt had not had enough focus in the past.  We applied for a continuing education grant to present two programs via web conference.  One was on Licensing, while the other was to focus on understanding and applying the Guide to Fair Business Practices.  The CPE committee approved one and not the other.  Evidently they knew better than CRIV as well.

Experience #3

The following year, I was asked by Lucy Curzi Gonzales to determine what PLL could do with education outside of the annual meeting.  I suggested that we ask for funding for three programs that would be offered as webinars.  We summited a request for those programs which were Cost Recovery: the Basics, Cost Recovery from the Trenches, and Cost Recovery: Understanding Client Needs.

The CPE committee approved two of the three programs.  Again, they said they thought that we would not get participation for the third program where we planned to ask law firm partners and general counsels to participate.  Does that even make sense?  They thought they knew better than the private librarians and the SIG leadership who planned the programs.

I have been concerned about the education offered for private librarians for several years.  This concern is what prompted me to start the NPCI webinars where I work to get speakers on various topics and present some topics myself.  My dream in starting this was to keep the costs low (enough to pay expenses and provide speakers with some type of honoriam), make it available online so those who could not attend AALL would have some education opportunities.

I have often scoffed at AALL members that said the programming was uneven with respect to library types.  I didn’t see it.  I still do not think this is necessarily true even though I did describe one example where an academic received different treatment from AMPEC.  What I do see is little thought given to how to approach member education in a more outcome based orientation with set goals and objectives.  Would the schools your children attend create programming in the same manner as AALL?  I would hope not.

CRIV had a goal that followed the mission of the committee in providing education and addressing specific issues that continue to be unresolved by the association.  It understood it’s mission and was trying to fulfull it.  PLL had a goal as well that followed along with its mission and directly met the needs of its members.  How is it that the AMPEC and CPE committees can disregard those goals and their expected outcomes?

One of my last acts as CRIV Chair was to make a proposal to the Executive board that CRIV be given time for two programs at the annual meeting and a budget to support the educational programming in between meetings that was part of the charge the board was saying we should focus on.    Does it make sense that the committee was given that charge but did not have the budget to support it?  It mystified me that I got a straight no on the proposal – to be honest it made me angry.  It was a sad way to leave the leadership ranks of AALL but I was too disgusted to remain.

Caren and Mark are both right.  There is something wrong and we need to do something about it!

I have more to say on this topic but will stop for now.  My next post on this topic has a goal of attempting a “bodacious proposal” for fixing our educational programming problems while remembering when we talk about AALL we are talking about ourselves.

To eat an egg, you must break the shell.  ~Jamaican Proverb