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Turning space challenges into an eLibrary opportunity
Thursday, 10th May 2012
Like the larger economy, the legal marketplace continues to experience unprecedented change. As we barrel forward in the electronic and information age, those changes continue to affect law firms and other organisations across the world. The firm library can turn these challenges into opportunities by applying new strategies to old ideas, and engaging vendors to help solve problems.
Like the larger economy, the legal marketplace continues to experience unprecedented change. As we barrel forward in the electronic and information age, those changes continue to affect law firms and other organisations across the world.
The firm library can turn these challenges into opportunities by applying new strategies to old ideas, and engaging vendors to help solve problems. When we found ourselves addressed with a loss of space to meet staff members' information needs, we decided to use this challenge as a catalyst to try to improve their experience with digital information.
One way libraries and librarians can help their organisation manage structural change is to apply new formats to familiar tools. In our case, we decided to work with vendors to create a visual library that would more closely match the physical collection that we could no longer house, instead of providing a list of links.
New strategies and old ideas
Law firm, corporate, public and university libraries have all had eLibraries for years now. As a team used to helping attorneys, we knew that people often found books based on colour and size. Thus, we decided to take the eLibrary a step further by developing a visual bookshelf complete with images of the covers of the books.
We didn’t want our users to have to remember which vendor supplied which title. Our librarians were familiar with visual bookshelves on social media sites, such as Shelfari, LibraryThing, and Goodreads, and we thought we could make electronic resources more user-friendly by putting them on a visual bookshelf. The project required cross-vendor cooperation, which ultimately paid dividends for both by opening up their content to users who never accessed it via the traditional method of logging into the research databases.
Change is hard, even when it is change for the better. There are some steps you can take to ease the process. For example, it is essential to communicate the changes you are implementing in a way that minimises apprehension.
Another strategy is to give more than you are taking away. Educate users about the benefits through training and handouts, and entice usage through giveaways.
Timing is also very important. We launched the visual eLibrary just when several of our offices were losing library space. The eLibrary combined the familiarity of the book covers in a visual shelf layout with the convenience of seamless click through to useful and familiar content which made the change much more palatable.
The visual eLibrary at Nossaman is a great example of using structural change as an opportunity to enhance and improve services. By providing a visual representation of electronic resources we created a new service which was instantly familiar, while lowering the barrier to access. We put content in a format our users wanted. Branding is important for any new initiative and partnering with vendors is a great way to solve problems. By combining these strategies you can face structural change and identify opportunities to serve your patrons in a better way and come out the other side with even better services and happy patrons.
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By Camille Reynolds
Camille Reynolds currently serves as Director of Risk Management & Information Services at Fenwick & West LLP, a law firm with over 300 attorneys in the US. She directs the Firm's risk management and information services functions including library, docket, risk management including conflicts and new business intake, records and patent & trademark docket. She combines strong leadership and organizational skills to direct the Firm's team of risk and knowledge professionals. The eLibrary case study details work done at Camille's prior Firm Nossaman LLP. Contact Camille via LinkedIn.
More articles by Camille Reynolds »