Internet Newsletter for Lawyers
So how has all the theory worked in real life, starting with the fundamental theory of Library Resources Management? The academic study of "collection management" and "enquiry service" gives a useful framework on which to base these tasks. The hardest part of enquiry work in real life is conducting an enquiry interview impersonally by email since it is not easy to pin down precise requirements without a spoken discussion.
"Collection Management" now includes the management of electronic resources, with all the complexities of licensing and VAT. There is, however, little training in negotiating with suppliers on a university course, so I was lucky to have my previous work experience for this part of the job.
Another part of the university experience is the excellent library and departmental Intranet pages which, as a student user, I greatly appreciated, so I have made it a high priority to develop the library on the firm's Intranet. Getting users to visit the site is harder. I can foresee a need for some marketing of the library and more training in its services in the future.
Having already reviewed library management systems in my University course, I was in a strong position to find the most appropriate system for the size of firm in which I am employed. There are some huge systems available, used by a number of the major law firms but well out of the price range of more medium sized firms. However, there are a handful of more affordable systems and deciding which was best for this particular situation needed careful consideration as, although the final decision as to which system to purchase was ultimately taken by the project team, my recommendations carried considerable weight.
Alongside this initial appraisal of different types of system, I was stocktaking, auditing and classifying each department in readiness for loading onto the system. I had to decide upon a classification scheme, devise a location code and identify an appropriate keyword taxonomy. All of these had to be loadable onto a library management system. In mid December we finally took delivery of our chosen system. With hindsight, taking delivery at the peak serials renewals time, and with the long Christmas break approaching, was not ideal. It did, however, fit in with the IT department's work schedules. Close co-operation with IT is crucial with such a project and particularly at the installation stage.
I am now working through the construction phase, learning my way round the system and loading data as quickly as I can. I have found it impossible to stick to my original time scales. As with all library housekeeping tasks, the work has to fit around the first priority of responding to users' needs. A hectic day of responding to enquiries or trouble shooting problems can soon play havoc with the best laid plans. Theoretical models have to compromise in ‘Real Life', though it is helpful to perceive a task within such a model. It gives the task a focus, even if it cannot be rigidly adhered to. The theoretical study of project management also gives a good idea of potential pitfalls so there is more chance of avoiding them or managing them effectively.
Julia Bragg began working at Manchester Law Library in 1993 following a long
career break to raise a family. In September 2000 she started studying part time
at Manchester Metropolitan University, going full time in 2001. In the summer of
2002 she spent some weeks on work experience in the Library and Information
Service at Linklaters. She graduated in the summer of 2003 with a First Class
Honours Degree in Information and Library Management and began working for
Mace & Jones (www.maceandjones.com) in June 2003.
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