Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Putting A Value On Priceless": New Study Reports that Librarians Deliver ROI of $5.43 Per Dollar Invested

Library Week has brought us a gift from “the land downunder.” The Australian Law Librarians’ Association
(ALLA)  and 3 other Library organzations (The Australian Library and InformationAssociation (ALIA), Health Libraries Inc (HLInc),Health Libraries Australia (HLA)) collaborated on a study to measure the Return on Investment of Australian special libraries.The partners commissioned award-winning firm SGS Economics and Planning  to study special libraries across the nation. This week,  the final report was issued “ Putting a Value on Priceless”  which provides an independent assessment of the return on investment provided to organizations which have their own special libraries and information services in Australia.

The Survey was conducted between June and September 2013 and was supplemented by in depth case studies. 5% of Australia’s 2200 special libraries participated.

Conservatively, special libraries are estimated to deliver $5.43 in value for every one dollar spent. The true value is likely even higher

The study does not calculate the additional economic benefit of two benefits which information professionals provide. 1. improved quality of results provided  and 2. the savings negotiated by librarians in procurement and assessment process. So it may not be a stretch to assume that if these other factors were calculated in the ratio of value to cost might be 10 to 1. So the 5.43 to one ratio is quite conservative.

The report concludes that an increased investment in libraries and hiring of more information professionals would “ unleash the potential for significant incremental benefits.”

 Benefits Provided by Information Professionals

·         Assure that decisions are supported by solid facts

·         Develop a customized suite of print and digital resources to support the organizations needs

·         Provide access to non digital resources though expert knowledge of external resources and resource sharing from other special and academic libraries

·         Source obscure facts. Saves time and costs less per hour to accomplish result than if project assigned to a non-librarian

·         Higher quality results. The average researcher uses a basic Google search and never looks past the first 2 pages of results. 98% of non-librarians have never used the advanced search on Google.

·         Libraries  support organizational due diligence and reduce risks of ill informed decision making. In the case of law firms this means providing bad advice to clients and risking malpractice claims.
The Report Identifies The Services Provided by Information Professionals:

·         Fast and thorough searches, presenting the latest, most comprehensive and accurate information to executives and practitioners.

·         Training to enable library users to carry out their own searches of electronic databases more efficiently and effectively.

·         The expertise of the information professionals is what drives the $5.43 ROI per dollar.

·         Filtered, evaluated and packaged search results.

·          Relevant, tailored, current information from national and international sources.

·         Assistance for people who are studying for a tertiary qualification and training to achieve a higher level of competency.

·          Manage a dynamic collection of physical and online resources, so staff can access   up-to-date, authoritative resources, and make well-informed decisions.

·         Negotiate with publishers of books, journals and online resources, to achieve the best value for the department.

·         Ensure the materials and the ways they are used are copyright compliant.

I want to thank all of the Australian Library Associations for undertaking this study. Library Directors  around the world have been seeking the elusive ROI metric for years. AALL is undertaking a Value of Law Libraries Study and it will be interesting to see if they can also provide a solid RIO metric for US law libraries. If the studies deliver consistent results it will strengthen the credibility of  these metrics as reliable benchmarks.  I am happy to celebrate Library Week with the highly useful metric provided by the Australian Special Libraries/SGS Economics and Planning report.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Law Librarians in the Digital Age: New Identities Beyond the Bookshelves

"The word “librarian” hardly covers the breadth of our universe.  We are strategic leaders, research analysts, taxonomists, teachers, digital pioneers, app developers, knowledge managers, information literacy evangelists and competitive intelligence gurus. In short, we are both  educators and digital cartographers who build the bridges and help researchers chart the course  between knowledge from  the past and data which will become knowledge of the future"

A version of this post  first appeared as a Foreword in the book Law Librarianship in the Digital Age, edited by Ellyssa Kroski. It highlights some of the important themes to consider as we kick off  "Library Week 2014."

My first reaction to Law Librarianship in the Digital Age was, “I wish there had been a book like this when I was in graduate school.”  But eBooks, iPads,  virtual reference, webinars, cloud computing, web scale discovery, apps and avatars  were the stuff of fantasy. So if there were such a book it would have been classified as “Science Fiction.”  In the 30 years since I entered the profession the externals of librarianship have been wildly transformed. But the core mission of the profession, which is matching people to knowledge, remains intact and drives a vision of the future which distinguishes our profession from all others. We are charged with preserving and optimizing access to knowledge. We wear all the hats: grinding, finding, minding and connecting. For those who still think of the “bun headed” cartoon  librarian  stereotype, this book will be a rude awakening. The editor has assembled an impressive line-up of thought leaders to provide strategic insights into the various facets of digital information preservation, presentation, access and management in a variety of contexts.

This is the proverbial best of times and worst of times. Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 the law firm market has been thrown forward into an altered world where technology, client pricing pressures and globalization have generated a truly “ disrupted market.”  New kinds of legal practices are emerging such as virtual law firms,  coupled with  the emergence of offshored legal drafting and e-discovery centers.  As law firms have retrenched, their hiring of new associates has reduced. Law schools are faced with  falling enrollments due both to the high cost of legal education and the uncertain job prospects. We will all adapt what we do to address the changed environments and reinvent ourselves and our services as we have done before.

Graduate curriculum for legal information professionals needs to focus on cultivating the wide range of professional competencies outlined in the book. The word “librarian” hardly covers the breadth of our universe.  We are strategic leaders, research analysts, taxonomists, teachers, digital pioneers, app developers, knowledge managers, information literacy evangelists and competitive intelligence gurus. In short, we are both  educators and digital cartographers who build the bridges and help researchers chart the course  between knowledge from  the past and data which will become knowledge of the future

But this book isn't just a practical handbook for students, it contains  a wealth of “state of the art information” for practitioners and those thinking of a career change into law librarianship.
The editor has selected a range of topics which offer an exploration of both the core practice issues and the transformational initiatives in  law school, government  and law firm library environments. Each kind of library may adopt new practices ahead of each other, and then inspire and cross-fertilize new initiatives in another environment. Seeing how an academic library promotes distance learning provides inspiration for law firms that are increasingly globalized. The competitive intelligence initiatives in law firms may be adapted to customized faculty research needs.

The Intersection of Technology and Humanities. Steve Jobs attributed the success of Apple to the fact that it existed at the intersection of technology and humanities.  Jobs was referring to the kind of  multi-disciplinary thinking which our professional excels at.  We connect technology, law and the multitude of social, literary, technical and scientific issues which stream through legislation, case law and commercial activities.

I have to admit I was someone who entered the profession because I liked books.  I especially loved breathing the air in a cloistered alcove of a research library surrounded by aging volumes. And yet I entered the profession as it was about to tumble into decades of technological change and professional uncertainty. Libraries as places are shrinking  As we all know, change  leads to opportunity and we face the opportunity to radically transform both libraries and our profession. Law Librarians in the Digital Age provides a panorama of how traditional functions such as research, collection development,  technical services and administration have been and will continue to be transformed by the innovative professionals who contributed to this book.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

LexisNexis Has a Birthday, Inspring Flashbacks and Adds ABA eBooks to Digital Library

A post on Above the Law today noted the launch of Lexis on April 2nd 1978. I recalled reading that there was an Ohio Bar system which predated Lexis so I did some research. Lexis created a  history of online research Timeline  for its 30th anniversary. This timeline points to the initiatives by the Ohio State Bar Association. In 1965   bar members James F Preston Jr and William G Harrington created the seminal definition of electronic legal research as a "non-indexed, full text, online, interactive, computer assisted service"

The bar association later created a non-profit called Obar (Ohio Bar Automated Research  Corporation) which retained a small technology company Data Corp. to create a database of the Ohio cases and statutes. The company was subsequently purchased and became Mead Data the original owner of Lexis.

The Original Lexis DeLuxe Terminal
All this mental time travel reminded me of my first encounter with a Lexis terminal when it was wheeled into the Pace University Law Library in 1979. The Deluxe terminal shown here was the size of a washing machine and despite its weight and girth it was remarkably "dumb." It had no computing power. It dialed up and searched a remote database over telephone lines. It could not print out a full case, but you could print a section of "key words in context" KWIC  on exotic silver paper. I mused about the empty directory screen which listed only 4 databases - cases and statutes from New York and Ohio. I wondered for nano-second why I hadn't pulled out my iPhone in 1979 and taken a picture of the barren black screen on the Deluxe terminal ---  ooops the iPhone was 30 years in the future.

More Shots From "The Lexis Museum"

The Pre-GUI Lexis Display

The Deluxe was replaced by the compact Ubiq terminal.
The many faces of Lexis

Lexis And ABA Enter eBook Agreement
ABAToday LexisNexis and the American Bar Association announced an agreement to have over 200 ABA eBook titles available through the LexisNexis Digital Library-- the LexisNexis eBook platform. Access to the ABA Library will be available on a subscription basis through theLexisNexis Digital Library. Single user titles will continue to be available through the ABA bookstore

While I applaud this initiative, I am a proponent of the multi-modal approach -publishers should make information available through many platforms. Let the users decide how they want to consume the information. There was a time when Lexis offered a searchable library of ABA publications on the LexisNexis platform, maybe we can go back to the future....