Saturday, 17 December 2011

Trainee training 2011 - so how did we do???

Well, who would have thought it - it's nearly Christmas and this blog is still going strong! It is very amusing to look back to my first post - I was exceptionally nervous, apprehensive, unsure - you name it - of how I would use the blog, what I would write etc. It is good to know that I have managed to overcome those feelings (well most of the time!) and so to everyone who has been following me - thank you!!!

You may recall earlier in the year that I talked quite a bit about our trainee training programme that kicks off every September when the new trainee lawyers start. Just to recap - we run our sessions over a period of about 8-10 weeks, in contrast to some firms I have worked at whereby the library sessions with the trainees are all finished within their first couple of weeks.

The sessions are run by myself and one of my Managers. This year, we ran the following sessions:

1) Introduction to the library: how we work, what we can supply, charges, plus an overview of copyright restrictions (very important to try and develop an awareness of that early on!)
2) Caselaw: an overview
3) Legislation: an overview
4) Forms and Precedents
5) European caselaw and legislation: an overview

Each session involves a lecture-style presentation from myself and my manager, a chance to ask questions, and ends with the trainees answering questions relating to that session. We then go through the questions with them and explain anything they had difficulties with. For this part of the session we take them to the IT training room, where they have access to our online resources and so can work through real-life examples.

The reason we go back to basics and explain the fundamentals of caselaw and legislation is simply because our trainees come from a variety of backgrounds - some may have studied law at university before sitting their LPC, while others will simply have done another degree, followed by a conversion course and LPC. The LPC is the last stage of law school. However, this means they have all different levels of experience, therefore we have come to the conclusion that all of them will benefit from a recap of the basics, and it ensures that they are all starting from a similar point once they have reminded themselves of this base knowledge.

The one thing that we felt this year should be revised going forward, however, is the length of the sessions. Traditionally we have taken a comfort break halfway through our presentation; this year, however, we got the impression that the trainees found this a little frustrating, and would rather just press on and finish early! We tried this out in our last session and it worked really well, therefore I think it's something we will always offer in our sessions going forward - that way if they want a break, they can have one, but if they want to just keep going, we will do so.

We got very good feedback in terms of the content of the sessions, with some of the trainees saying in particular that the European caselaw/legislation material was particularly helpful, because they had no idea that so much pre-legislative material is freely available online. For the record this kind of material can be of particular interest to the trainees if they are asked to carry out research on a particular piece of EU legislation - there can be some excellent background material in there. We also produce some handouts each year - not for every session, but a handbook in the first session and an excellent guide to European legal research written by one of our PSLs. We got great feedback on this as well. I think the handbook in the first session is very useful to them, because that first session comes very early on in their time with us, and judging from the stunned/exhausted faces we always see before us, I don't think they are physically able to take in everything we tell them! So it's definitely useful for them take that book away to their desks. We include information not only on library services, but tips on Boolean searching, what resources are best for certain kinds of research and so on.

From our point of view, this year's training sessions on the whole went smoothly (I say on the whole - there were the inevitable IT blips/online examples that worked fine at my desk, but failed at the first hurdle in front of the trainees....!) - but I think one thing that both myself and my manager notice more and more with every year, is that many of the trainees give the impression - at least for the first couple of sessions at least - that they do not need to be there. I think the perception of the 'library' is one that they associate with their academic libraries. They have no concept of just how important we are to the fee-earners - although many learn very quickly once in their seats and being asked to carry out research! But in all seriousness, I find it rather sad that yet again, we face these ongoing preconceptions of what people think a library is like - they assume that all we do is manage the book collection and that's as far as it goes. For the most part, I can laugh it off, as one way or another, they come to realise that a corporate library is very different to the one they had at uni/law school....but at the same time, it's also frustrating that simply because of our job title, we are regularly having to justify our presence. When any of the fee-earners find out that we are actually all qualified to MA/MSc level, they are utterly dumbfounded. It is a sad fact that librarianism as a profession is sorely undervalued across the board.

Anyway, on the plus side, this year's trainee training is all done and dusted, the trainees have settled into their seats very well, and my Manager and I have given a collective sigh of relief that that is it out of the way for another year! I really do think we both have learned a lot from this year and have been able to critically evaluate how we did, both in our own opinions as well as taking into account the feedback given to us by the trainees themselves - thereby giving us some food for thought for next year....

Image courtesy of: jscreationzs /

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Public librarianship - a whole new world...

I recently went on a tour of the Barbican public library - which functions as a fantastic lending library bang in the City, and was really struck by the diferences between this kind of librarianship, and the kind we practise in the law library. Now obviously the environments are worlds apart - I realise that! But I have to admit I was quite struck by the differences in the skillsets needed by a corporate librarian, and a public librarian.

In some ways, however, our priorities boil down to the same fundamental issue - proving our worth in a very tough economic climate. The corporate law library within a law firm is always going to be very profit-orientated - and even more so than ever in the current shaky financial climate. We are trying to keep our spending down but our profits up. Our fee-earners want us to provide them with the best possible service in the most cost-effective way for their clients. As a service, we need to prove our worth, however, therefore we also want to carry out as much chargeable work as possible.

Talking to the librarians I met at the Barbican, the public library is equally, if not more, vulnerable in the current financial climate, and so they are trying to find ways of providing an excellent range of services to their users and encourage more and more people to join up, so that they can prove their worth to the local council who provides funding.

The key difference, I guess, is our users. A corporate library is rarely used for pleasure! A public library, although often used for research and so on, is often aiming to encourage people to use it for pleasure, or perhaps to learn a new skill. Therefore there is a far greater opportunity to be creative; to think up new ways to encourage people to use their library. The corporate environment will never be like this, and of course I accept this - but it doesn't mean I am always happy about it!

One other thing that struck me was that in the public library, I think you need to be far more adept at dealing with people from all walks of life, because your users are from a whole spectrum of backgrounds. In the law library, we obviously only deal with lawyers/trainee lawyers, who for the most part, tend to be more than capable of expressing what they want and when they need it. In the public library, however, we were told that when on the enquiry desk you really could be asked anything and everything! Plus, you need to be able to communicate effectively with people of all ages, in order to fully understand what it is they are looking for. I think working in this environment probably makes you a lot more open minded. Of course I don't speak for all us corporate librarians, but from my own perspective, we are probably at risk of becoming a little bit used to only dealing with a certain kind of person. Although dealing with lawyers undoubtedly requires a lot of patience and tact at times, dealing with the general public is a whole different ball game.

One thing that we do share is our outlook on e-books. The librarians I met said that there are no plans as yet to implement e-book lending in British libraries, and furthermore, that they do not foresee the oft-talked about 'death of the book' - but rather a world in which the two different kinds of book co-exist. At present we are encountering the same feeling...e-books are not something that every fee-earner would use; in fact there is a large proportion of our fee-earners who simply refuse to use anything other than a hard copy text. At present, we do not see ourselves venturing into the e-book quagmire any more than we do already, simply because the take-up of such a service would not be high enough to justify the costs involved. This may change as the older fee-earners retire and are replaced by a generation of lawyers who were accustomed to using mainly e-books at law school - but for now, we approach the area with caution and only have a few looseleafs and books available online. Where we have this, we also have the key ones in hard copy anyway.

Some of this post may sound like I am being a little bit negative about my own profession, so for the record: I'm not! All I am doing is critically analysing the kind of librarianship I currently practise. While I enjoy my job for the most part, I think everyone benefits from learning about other kinds of librarianship from time to time - and realising that although we may carry out very different kinds of work, we can still learn from each other, not just those who work in the same field as we do. Again it stresses the importance of good old networking and how we become far more rounded individuals when we have a greater awareness of all the different facets to librarianship.

Image courtesy of: healingdream /

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Copyright in the digital age - BIALL Audioconference

I was very fortunate to be able to get a place on an audioconference being organised by the BIALL Solos group (BIALL has a number of spin-off groups for various parts of the country/types of librarian) on 24th Nov 2011. Although not officially a solo librarian any more, I used to be one for some time and so am still part of this group. When I read about this seminar it was of great interest to me, because copyright in the age of technology is a fast-changing and evolving field, and is something that I only have a basic knowledge of - but would like to learn more. One of my managers acts as copyright officer for the firm, therefore she is out 'go-to' person with any queries, but just for my own development, I would like to know more, and this free telephone conference lasting only an hour was the ideal way of doing so.

CLA License
The seminar was hosted by Chris Holland, who used to work at the Law Society. The first part was dedicated to going through the proposed changes to CLA Licenses (Copyright Licensing Agency). Every law firm needs to be in possession of a licence from the CLA in order to allow them to make photocopies and store materials within reason.  The problem with the proposed changes are not just about the potential 40% hike in price, but also because in terms of licensing digital content, this is something that we often have separate agreements for with each of our vendors. Lexis do not want CLA to license their content, nor do we as a firm wish to pay effectively twice for copyright licensing. Another issue that was raised is that firms are increasngly doing less and less hard copy photocopying as a whole, therefore people don't want to pay a full copyright license fee for copying that they rarely actually carry out.

It was clear from the vocal reaction of many participants that the CLA license is a thorny issue and it will be interesting to see how the situation is resolved. At the end of the day, the CLA as a body still need to make money, while the law firms are becoming more and more resistant to paying certain fees, as the way we copy has changed so much. Certainly in our firm I can understand why it is an issue; we really do not copy from hard copies on a regular basis at all anymore - almost everything is online in one shape or another.

NLA Licence
We then moved onto discussing the licensing arrangements that each firm has in place for newspaper usage. At present there a range of licenses depending on your organisation size/turnover and business needs. Changes that affect this side of things, however, are newspapers like The Times and the Financial Times, who have created a paywall in terms of access to their content, and perhaps the biggest issue to date is this year's NLA v Meltwater case. This was a case that attracted a lot of attention because the NLA maintained that users of a news aggregation service (Meltwater) needed a license to receive the info, even though it was just a headline and summary - the judge maintained that the NLA were in the right and their copyright was being infringed - this small amount of info can be classed as a substantial part of an article. But Meltwater were relying on the 'temporary copies' provision of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, which was meant to allow for the titles of work to be used - but things have moved on in the digital age, and this is why we are running into such problems nowadays.

There a number of licenses under discussion at present; it looks like we shall be hearing debate on both the CLA and NLA licenses for some time to come.

I definitely found this part of the discussion to be highly topical to what we do in the library, and it was interesting to learn more about what actual licensing agreements firms have in place, as this is something that at present is negotiated by our copyright officer (one of my managers as already mentioned). However, I think it is vital that in order to progress within this field, I acquire a good grasp of what the issues are in this respect, as adhering to copyright law is an extremely important part of managing any library.

General changes to copyright in the EU/UK
We spent the last half of the audioconference discussing what other issues are impacting upon copyright law at present. One of the biggest issues facing Intellectual Property law in the UK right now is the Hargreaves Review. This is a review of IP law that was commissioned by the Government in order to ascertain what works and what doesn't work/needs revision etc, in light of the digital age we now find ourselves in. Prof Hargreaves was pretty critical of copyright laws in the UK, stating that at present, it is a barrier to economic growth. This is said to be due to the difficulties that people face in obtaining permission to use copyrighted material. He proposes the establishing of a Digital Copyright Exchange, which would be an online, straightforward means of getting clearance rights. Vince Cable announced only a couple of weeks ago that Richard Hooper has been tasked with investigating how to take this proposal forward. The Government are strongly of the opinion that it will open up the UK's IP systems for the better.

Another major issue we touched upon is the EU Copyright Directive. Chris maintained that many believe that the copyright exceptions contained in this directive should be far more generally implemented in UK law - at present, they are not mandatory, only optional. Therefore at present, EU member states can effectively pick and choose what they want and don't want to implement! Hargreaves states that allowing all of the exceptions to be implented would also assist.

Orphan Works
Orphan works are basically pieces of work for which the copyright owner cannot be contacted. This presents a huge problem to an institution like the British Library who want to digitise their collection - how can they do so if they cannot obtain permission for certain works? Furthermore, getting in touch with each individual copyright owner is simply logistically impossible! This is an example of how current copyright restrictions are thought to be standing in the way of letting our cultural heritage evolve. It is certainly a valid point in my opinion, and one to which I hadn't given a lot of thought until now. It does seem rather silly that we have moved on in so many ways in the last 20 years - probably technology has evolved more in that short time than at any other time! - yet we remain bound by what now appear to be somewhat antiquated laws that certainly don't suit today's 'digital economy'.

Digital Economy Act 2010
The Digital Economy Act 2010 is an Act that was pushed through very quickly at the end of Gordon Brown's parliamentary reign. Its purpose is to completely overhaul Intellectual Property law and make it fit for the digital age. There was initially some doubt as to whether the new coalition government would take it forward, but it does seem that they are moderately keen to implement it. One of the main issues they wish to tackle is illegal file sharing/copyright infringement, and Chris mentioned that this does have an effect on libraries - although perhaps not quite so much for corporate libraries such as this one. However, he stated that many librarians are concerned that the legislation has not only been pushed through too quickly, but that the expectations of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are just too high. If ISPs are expected to tackle illegal file sharing, this could have implications for libraries that provide free wi-fi, for example. People believe that there is just too much onus being placed on ISPs to police the Internet - although copyright owners will be the ones who pass the info on to ISPs about people they believe are infringing their copyright.

The Digital Economy Act is an absolute minefield and is something that I have a vested interest in, given the work I do for our IP team. There is a huge amount of debate ongoing over it - we barely scraped the surface in our audioconference as was simply neither the time nor the place.

This was an absolutely fantastic seminar and I am so glad that I decided to participate. It gave me an excellent overview of the issues we face in terms of copyright, not just in the law library but on a more general level too. Chris Holland delivered the points in a concise and clear way that really enabled me to make sense of things. It is definitely an area about which I would love to learn more, and am considering speaking to my manager  who deals with this area, about getting a bit more involved/helping her out with it.

Image courtesy of: renjith krishnan /

Saturday, 3 December 2011

TFPL Connect Event: Achieving Prosperity, how to grow with what you have - and a bit of networking!

On 28th November 2011 I was fortunate enough to be able to attend an event run by TFPL Connect. TFPL Connect is a network of people who work in information/knowledgeand records management. Events are run regularly throughout the year to encourage networking and give us the chance to all meet up in a nice venue, listen to what is normally an excellent speaker on a topic of general interest, and then afterwards there's a chance to mingle, chat and enjoy drinks and nibbles.

This was the first event by TFPL Connect that I had been able to make it along to, so I was a little bit nervous on the one hand about what to expect - but equally eager to try and put all the networking skills and tips into practice that I have acquired over the last few months!

On arrival at the lovely Crowne Plaza in Blackfriars, we were given our name badges and invited to have a drink before the talk began. It was a little daunting when I walked over to the bar area, bravely armed with only my name badge, and was faced with various small groups of people, all of whom looked as if they knew each other. However, although part of me felt like running right out the room(!), I forced myself to take  glass of wine and move through bar towards the room where the talk would be held. From just listening to the conversation around me, I felt a little better when I realised that a lot of the people standing in groups had actually arrived together, as opposed to already becoming acquainted in such a short time! After a few minutes, I caught the eye of a lady also on her own stood not too far from me, so I decided to take the bull by the horns and introduce myself!

One of the things that I was told about at a session on networking skills was to break the ice by making a joke about being on your own, for example. So after introducing ourselves to each other, I made some remark about how I hate the start of events like this, when you feel the pressure to be talking to someone but just can't quite break through! This definitely broke the ice between us, and we had a chat about very general things - our jobs, our organisations, our commutes. After about 10 minutes, a lady known to the lady with whom I was already speaking came over, and so suddenly I found myself with 2 new acquaintances. Shortly after this, it was time to take our seats. I was expecting a lecture-style seating arrangement, i.e. rows of chairs, but in fact the room was set up in tables of about 8-10 people, and we could sit where we wanted. I ended up sitting with the lady whom I approached earlier on one side, and another unknown person on my other side. About 6 other people joined our table, none of whom I knew at all at this point.

The talk was all about influencing people and communicating effectively, and I am very happy to say it was given by none other than the very talented Nick Davies of The Really Great Training Company. Some of you may remember earlier in the year when I wrote a blog post on a fantastic session on networking that this man gave at one of our firm's internal training sessions. The fact he was speaking at this event was a big draw for me, as I knew he would be superb. He did not disappoint!

First of all, we talked about the 4 things that people do wrong when trying to influence or persuade others. Then we looked at the 6 ways in which people are persuaded to do something. Finally, we looked at the 2 essential things to do in order to persuade people! Nick called this the 4-6-2 method and it made for a witty, sparky and thought provoking hour.

One thing Nick said is that all too often, people focus on the want rather than the need, but rather, a savvy negotiator focuses on the NEED and WHY people are asking for whatever it is they're asking. If you can behind that, then you are in a stronger position to negotiate with the person. I found this quite an interesting concept. The automatic reaction we all have is to want to meet the want, or try and find a way around not meeting it. But it's a different matter to dig a bit more and find out why a person is asking for whatever it is they're asking. I think if you are armed with that knowledge, you are better equipped to handle the situation to your advantage.

Another interesting thing we looked at was all the ways in which people are influenced into wanting a particular thing. Nick gave the example of how marketing execs play on these typical characteristics. For example, if we think something is scarce, we automatically feel we better get it now before it runs out - so when we see a sale advertised on TV, we are often pressured into making purchases we might not have necessarily made, for fear that the offer will be gone completely. Social pressures also play a big part in how we behave - Nick gave an excellent example of how if you see a sponsor sheet and everyone has sponsored £10, it's highly unlikely you will sponsor more (don't want to be seen as flash), but you won't sponsor less either (don't want to be seen as stingy). Even as adults we succumb to social pressures like this.

Authority and likeability are 2 other ways in which we're persuaded. So if we see someone on a plane with lots of stripes on his shoulder and he tells us to get off the plane, it's far more likely we will listen to him than to a cleaner! Equally, our friends can persuade us to do things because we like them, we have trust in them and we want to please them.

It's all very interesting to me and I would definitely love to learn more about this kind of thing; about how we influence each other and how the human mind actually works! I think it's particularly relevant as you move up the ladder in the workplace - I think to have this kind of understanding of people would definitely be a bonus.
If someone asks for a payrise, it would be all too easy to focus on the 'want' and think how to get round of it. A little more probing, however, could reveal the actual need, and why they want this - and that might then put you in a better position as a boss to negotiate.

Nick maintains that the 2 key things to succeed in persuasion are trust and credibility. If someone gains credibility in their job, we have confidence that they know what they are doing - but this credibility is meaningless without trust as well. You need to build up a relationship with someone to get them to trust you. This is particularly pertinent to me, where building up a relationship with the IP team at work has been vital in terms of getting them to use me. It didn't matter where I came from and how many years experience in the law library I had. They needed to learn to trust me and see that I was reliable, and that I followed through on requests, and only then did they start to use me! Nick stressed the importance of not relying solely on email to build these crucial relationships - and I couldn't agree more. He said that people need to see you; they need to get to know you as a person rather than just a line of type. Even a phone call is better!

After the session with Nick ended, we had the opportunity to head back to the bar and have another drink, and actually do some more 'networking'. I spent about an hour talking to 2 people who had been on my table. Neither of them were remotely connected to the legal world, therefore it was really interesting for us all because we have very different perspectives on research. As a law librarian, I am very focused on cost and time-efficiency, while the people I were speaking to came from medical research/consultancy backgrounds, and provide a very different service to the one I provide. I think this is one of the most important things about networking - the exposure that you get to people in the information world, but who have a totally different working day! I had no idea that there were so many different facets to the information community - it's only once you get out there and widen your horizons, that you truly realise how diverse the field is.

All in all, I am really pleased that I attended this event. I was able to put some of the tips on what to do on such occasions into action, and I met some really interesting people. It's definitely increased my confidence for the future at such events. Although daunting, I think I can appreciate now that once you have broken the ice, one opportunity leads to another - and as a rule, everyone is there for the same reason, and if someone else is on their own, it's very likely they will be all too happy to chat!

I also very much enoyed the insight into negotiation and persuasion given to us by Nick Davies. A worthwhile and very enjoyable evening indeed.

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