Explorations with Information and Technology

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I’ve been thinking a lot about how to amplify and reuse reference interactions. Fundamentally, a reference librarian is available until they engage in an interaction. At that point, the librarian-as-resource is unavailable. Any ability to capture that interaction, then, can potentially allow the reference librarian to remain available and allow the interaction to occur. We attempt this all the time by capturing interactions as video and text resources. But what is the best place to position the law library amidst all that content? Reference capture tends to be rudimentary, which I find continually surprising. We create pathfinders using tools like…
I’m going to touch on audience segmentation. I’ve had a couple of discussions since the start of the year about law libraries, usage, and audiences. In most cases, one audience is “the lawyers.” In courthouse law library contexts, we also have “the public” and “the judges.” If you stop there, though, I think you can miss nuance that may help you think about how to improve your service delivery. Just as important, I think there is the possibility of identifying new revenue streams if you spend time identifying your audience segments. This isn’t the first time I’ve gone on about…
We are bound by our margins. I was thinking about information presentation when I was working on a personnel issue this week. Our corporate organization chart is a set of linked PDFs. My team – library, corporate records, and archives – lives on one page. An 8.5″ x 11″ (or almost A4) page. I was struck by how we continue to present digital information constrained by its physical analog. So many questions. I don’t really think about digital format much because it is usually in the background. We are so accustomed to responsive web sites, that resize in your browser.…
One thing I particularly enjoy about running my own blog, on my own platform, is seeing people use it. Posts on law libraries, on data visualization, and other business topics are visited during the week. Late at night, it’s posts on games, fixing devices, crafts. They come from all over the world and I hope they find what they’re looking for. But as I’ve noted before, there are other visitors I’m not so glad to see. I learned about autonomous system numbers (ASNs) recently and decided to add them to my site’s approach to security and resource preservation. I’m…
The reference question came from the C-suite. Normally, we run our reference inquiries through a traditional process but sometimes they travel down the hierarchy. Did we have access to this article in this journal? The answer: no. We spend literal millions of dollars to have access to legal information and don’t have a journal article. The why: it’s complicated. Your response to a request from a senior executive (managing partner, dean, senior judge) may differ depending on your circumstances. In most cases, if it’s a clear cut legal research request, I tell them that I’ll pass it on to…
I try to avoid red meat posts. When I see people making bad decisions about libraries, it’s easy to rile people up. Libraries are an easy thing to support because they often have a positive connotation: smells, experiences reading, free-to-access learning. Which may be why organizations cut the staff instead of the things that are used, without realizing that a library exists only with its staff, not because of its information. This whole post was set off by the recent decision by the province of Alberta to close its government library. And this isn’t a post about how staff are…
It has been almost a year of working from home in the pandemic. This time last year, I worked at an organization with a dedicated IT team, and took a 2 hour commute to and from our physical space. Now? I work at an organization with a dedicated IT team but on my own internet, my own computer, my own software licenses, and reliant on my own know how. The regular interruptions caused by keeping our household connected to work and school directly impact my ability to be a knowledge worker. Pick your poison. I expect we all have found…
Let’s cooperate. I do a thing. You do a thing. Win-win. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Over the years, I’ve had people pitch ideas for law library collaboration or cooperation. It came up again recently and I asked my now standard question: how do we pool the money to get this done? In other words, what resources that aren’t “in-kind” are you putting in to the collaboration? A partnership requires more than, as we say in the pandemic, acting separate but together in order to have coordination and accountability. It’s a little mercenary…
A couple years back, there was some really interesting law library survey research done. I was talking to someone about it recently and I commented that I thought it had been underutilized, that it contained some real opportunities to learn. But it became clear that the research is not being used because there is a misunderstanding about response rates and statistical validity. This has been common in my law library and legal professional experience. A group does a survey. The response rate comes back in the <10% range. The lawyers then discount the validity of the information based on that…
This post follows on from an earlier one that highlighted the gap around law libraries that unrepresented parties may not cross. I’ve been thinking a lot about whether law libraries should be focusing on reducing their footprint – especially space and staff – to shift the interaction points closer to the point of need. It’s not a value judgment nor a recommendation to reduce a library’s activities. It’s one of logistics. Is the need to access a law library a barrier to getting law library resources? There may be opportunities to change your services or your staff or your space.…
Multi-factor authentication has slowly crept forward but it’s remarkable how difficult some organizations find it. Or that hobble it by using weak security questions as a backup or recovery method. Our organization is rolling out multi-factor authentication and I’ve been surprised that we’re using multiple methods, a suite of xFA. Each element creates friction which challenges adoption. We started with the weakest multi-factor option, text messages. SMS or text are the weakest because there is the ability for the phone to be cloned, virtually, by swapping SIMs. Something is better than nothing, though. I emailed the IT manager responsible…
This all started with a residential lease. A kid was getting a first place and wanted a second set of eyeballs on the contract. It’s not the first time I’ve given parental assistance of this sort but it was the worst lease I’ve ever seen. It made me wonder if, when you have two unrepresented parties and neither knows what they are doing, law libraries have any way to impact this chaos. I expect renting an apartment falls into that category of legal activity that people do not hire lawyers for in most cases. We make lots of decisions that…
We use the term “social” to make social media seem inviting. But we are also inhibited, so social media often involves people following but not interacting or being social. On email, the biggest social media tool, we call it lurking on discussion lists. In lieu of conversations, most social tools seem to be broadcast tools. I’ve been thinking about how I can participate without contributing to the bad network effects. It was once more common – perhaps it’s a given now – to see people say on Twitter, “this is too complicated/deep to discuss in 140 characters”. So conversations shift…
A law library contacted me recently about our operations. I wasn’t special. They were contacting a couple dozen with a questionnaire, attempting to gather comparative data for an operational review they are undertaking. I am always happy to help but I suggested that I didn’t think it would be useful, and pointed them to a couple of more similarly-sized law libraries. As is often the case with comparative exercises, like benchmarking, the context matters. If you’re a small law library, comparisons with larger law libraries at a data level are unlikely to be useful. It’s the ideas you should…
I recently handed off a project I’d been running for a couple of years. It’s not the first time I’ve gone through this sort of transfer. Sometimes it’s leaving and taking on a new job. Sometimes it’s managing a team temporarily. There is a tension as you give up something you invested a lot of time in. You want it to succeed but you also had a vision. Your successor may struggle or choose a different vision. But there are no take backs. It’s a growth experience. It’s a good opportunity for you to take a look at yourself…
Occasionally on this blog I touch on music I’m listening to. I’ve been delighted to see the uptake of sea songs and sea shanties on the internet. It’s such a great source of shareable – people being able to sing together without a lot of skill required – music. It made me think back over some of the tunes that I sang the kids at bedtime. There are lots of great resources on sea songs. I used the Digital Tradition database to find the words for songs I *mostly* learned growing up. The keepers were printed out and put in…