Friday, September 22, 2017

The 21st Century Law Library: Focus on Service

As we continue to talk about the ABA's watering down of law library standards, as well as the impending squeeze from artificial intelligence, Law Librarian Dan Odenwald reminds us to focus on the fundamental service tenet of our profession. 

In a recent AALL Spectrum article titled "Transforming Customer Service in the Post-Digital Law Library," Odenwald notes that [w]e may be a long way from the day when artificial intelligence discerns legislative intent for us, or drones drop deskbooks at our doors, but we ought to contemplate that future and the critical role that customer service will continue to occupy in it. 

He further articulates rules for law library customer service in the post-digital age: 

1. Stop Selling Yesterday's Fish: Next-generation legal research platforms, linked data and Watson long ago replaced the perfunctory, will-you-pull-a-statute-for-me duties of law librarians.

2. Anticipate Needs Before They Arise: As the practice of law transforms, so too do the needs of our customers. 

3. Make Doing Business with You Remarkable: Every interaction between the library and its customers could fall on a graph of one to 10.

4. Make Others Look Good: How often do we as librarians thank our patrons or recognize their good work?

5. Join the Team ... in Every Sense: Embedded librarianship is by now a familiar concept, and the benefits of weaving the library into the broader parent organization are well documented. 

6. Help Manage the Disruption of Change:  With the ever-expanding burden of mastering change—ironically enough perpetrated on patrons by digital technologies—librarians are uniquely well situated to address those challenges for constituents.

7. Embrace Technology -- and Know its Limitations: Law librarians in particular have a long history of adapting technological advances to their purposes, including electronic research itself.

8. Always Evangelize the WIIFM (What's in it for me?): The importance of marketing your library can barely be overstated

9. Do More With Less -- Automate, Outsource, and Offload: 
Excelling in customer service involves choices, namely, deciding what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do.

10. Assess. Iterate. Improve: If you’re not already creating mechanisms by which to measure, weigh, and evaluate the results of your labors, then how will you know if you’re succeeding?

These are all wonderful points that also comport with a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled "What the 21st-Century Library Looks Like." As noted, [n]ow, with information always a few taps away, libraries have had to carve out a new niche. They’ve done so by pivoting away from books and toward supporting students. 

As a student-service component, librarians are broadly spending less time with collections and more time teaching students how to do research and use digital tools.

It's clear that our path forward is by going back to the basic, high-level service tenet of the profession. 

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