POSTED BY Travis Bortz
In a legal world that some perceive to be in a tailspin amidst a less than thriving economy, effectiveness and efficiency have become very important. As law firms search for new ways to operate more leanly, the question arises whether or not there is a demand for law librarians. Law librarians have been in the forefront of cost-cutting measures since 2008. Although it can be argued that law librarians are a wealth of knowledge and a valuable resources, as technology continues to transcend the industry it is becoming more transparent their demand is minimal.
However, over the past five years law librarians have viably searched for ways to maintain their importance in the legal profession; most notably leaving traditional roles consisting of on-demand research and moving towards the support of true knowledge management. How law librarians are to change their roles into the “new normal” in a digital world calls for questioning, rethinking, and reimagining the goals and opportunities to satisfy the demands in the technology first business climate.
Physical law libraries have begun to downsize as most documents, books, and content in general have moved to digital versus paper format. “The new business mantra is: Libraries are a service, not a place.” Understanding it is imperative the importance of selling their service/product coupled with the ability to successfully market their value to firms/attorneys that provides an effective and efficient solution law librarians have been successfully transitioning and catering to the new demands of attorneys and law firms. As law librarians continue to transition into new and innovative roles within the legal world the position of Chief Knowledge Officer has become a position within firms.
The gap between technology and information professionals is becoming narrower and the development of the new law librarian is in full swing. The vision of the new law librarian will create the following new roles: intranet content development, creation of expertise databases, database development and maintenance, taxonomy, develop controlled vocabulary, legal project management, search engine optimization, business and competitive intelligence, development and maintenance of social networking tools, portal knowledge support services, and cost recovery.
With new roles, librarians can create virtual communities that support attorney’s research needs. They can design databases that can aid in readily tracking the correct parties to serve as witnesses, alumni, outside counsel, etc. They can overcome the considerable pain point for digital content, the absence of a taxonomical structure, by simplifying the retrieval of the firm’s intellectual capital. They can utilize their knowledge and insight to In addition, there are few within a law firm that are more capable of providing information in a crunch then law librarians, thus they provide the competitive edge and insight firms seek.
As the profession transcends, the new law librarian has evolved. Today, librarians both enhance the support provided to attorneys and further the business of law; a new efficient and economical approach.