law librarians leading change

President of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg BNA’s Legal division, David Perla’s message to gatekeepers of the legal industry that “change is coming—with or without you,” included this nugget:

“I attended a session at AALL [American Association of Law libraries] where librarians were brainstorming how to be more relevant or get lawyers to pay more attention to them. But when the moment comes to actually introduce change at law firms, they flinch out of fear.”

I get where he’s coming from. I was the library director of a New York City law firm library for a decade and was charged with getting rid of books (gasp!), reducing space (sigh) and going digital (yay!). This was also happening to my colleagues at other firms to much gnashing of teeth, if not wailing.

But that was pre-2008 and since then law librarians have been adjusting and innovating and becoming some of the leading voices for change in the profession.

Law librarians for change

Here are some of the responses to David’s post:

Jean P. O’Grady took Bloomberg Law – the product – to task:

Was Perla really suggesting that Bloomberg’s inability to displace Lexis and Westlaw was the result of “ gatekeepers” and not at all the result of Bloomberg’s own market miscalculations?

As a company rooted in “big data” and analytics, Bloomberg was ideally positioned to launch a truly disruptive early “big data” product for transactional lawyers …. But instead … they loaded and coded gigabytes of caselaw and attempted to compete with Lexis and Westlaw in the well established and increasingly commoditized case law research market.

Greg Lambert expressed his disappointment in Law Librarians Flinch At Change? Can’t Say That I Agree With You David, with commenter, Erik Y. Adams, contributing the quote of the day: “I’m not a gatekeeper. I’m a bouncer. If someone doesn’t have something significant to offer to the party, they’re not getting in. Sorry.

In The Great Shrinking, Expanding Law Library, Mark Palmer gives some excellent examples of how law libraries can expand their value:

“Collaboration pods, entrepreneur teams, and incubators should (and must?) be an integral part of the law library’s landscape.”

Concluding the story I started earlier of my law firm librarian days: We got rid of around 90 percent of the books and library space, initiated a CLE accreditation and tracking service, and became more involved with marketing and business development initiatives. I can imagine, today, adding copy, process, coding (and other) hours-long or day-long hackathons, creating firm-wide tutorials on project management (including lean/agile), the latest technology tools and tips, and taking the lead on Access to Justice outreach for the firm..

It’s an exciting time to be a librarian (or anyone working in the legal profession) and many are leading the charge for change at law firms and in their departments, but it never hurts to have someone light a fire under the rest, like David did. Being riled up is not a such a bad thing. The upshot? Getting librarians to talk about (market) themselves and their innovative efforts. Something we’re not terribly good at.