Phew, it’s been a long time between blog posts here, huh?
Mainly, this has been because I’ve been super busy at work, between settling in to my role, and working hard with our intake of summer students. Settling in, and having people get to know me (made much easier now by the fact that the Information Services team and our Library have been located on one of the main office floors since mid April, so we’re far more visible to staff) means that the fee earners have become more comfortable with asking me for research help, and passing research tasks to me to deal with, so my day-to-day workload has been picking up. Plus I’ve been checking over and altering the training materials I inherited from my predecessor…and testing them out on the Summer Law School students!
The Summer Law School at my current workplace is partially similar to the one which was run by my old employer, but it’s also substantially more involved. Unlike the previous 2-sets-of-students, 4-weeks-each-session scheme I was involved in at my old workplace, this Law School involves only one set of students in a single 8 week session. The participants have come through a highly competitive application process, with tough application sifting and interviews bringing the hundreds of applicants down to only 12 or so attendees. During their time here, they experience the wide range of types of legal work available in the firm, while attending weekly business skills training sessions, and also participating in a group charity fundraising project. It’s a VERY intensive experience for them, and I was super impressed with how well they all coped…it’s not easy to work as a team while you’re also competing against each other! That competitive element comes from the fact that the Summer Business School is effectively an intensive 8 week long interview, as at the end of it, the best candidates will get offered a traineeship place.
So, as part of my role, I’ve been supporting these students as they get used to the various differences between studying law, and practising it. It’s an excellent opportunity for them, allowing them to get to grips with different departments and their work. However, it’s also potentially overwhelming, because they’re being presented with scenarios and situations that they may not have encountered yet (they’re here prior to completing the last year or two years of their studies), so I’m there to help them with any information-related issues they come across, and guide them with research tasks they get given. We also have some online resources available to staff that are more business-oriented, so the students were unlikely to have encountered them before, and I gave training and support on those.
As a neutral person whose role is specifically to help and support them, and being placed outside their formal mentor/team situation, I’m able to give them information about how the firm works/what’s expected of them/ the appropriate way to do things, without them worrying about it being factored into decisions about traineeships. I’m also able to provide some reassurance that, just because their line manager thinks the answer will take 5 minutes to find, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will actually be that quick (otherwise thy’d have done it themselves)!
But it’s not just the students that have been learning during the Law School, I’ve been learning too! Not having worked in the academic library environment, I didn’t know how much support law students had available to them from the library in their universities. Or how much power those library staff have to prod the students into attending training on the online resources they’re likely to need and use. However, from working with the students during the summer, I realised that many of them were only using the most basic functions of certain databases like Westlaw and LexisNexis, and didn’t fully understand some of the deeper tools available to them, which implied that they’d skipped a lot of the training on offer to them! To make up for this, I encouraged the students to book time with me, in order to go over certain subscription resources in more depth, and to explore new ones. In these sessions, we looked at the more advanced options in the resources, and used additional tools like setting up news alerts, and creating subscriptions in RSS feed readers. I was quite surprised that RSS feed readers were a new idea for most of the students, but impressed with how quickly they grasped how much time they could save by using them, and how much of a better awareness on certain topics they could develop by using them to manage their news sources.
I also realised (thanks to being able to ask academic librarians online) that the academic version of resources like Westlaw often didn’t have the same tailoring available to the users as the way we access it. This was down to the fact that the students were accessing it via IP authentication, whereas we login with passwords, which means each user has an individual, tailorable experience, including folders, search alerts and RSS feeds. They were most disappointed when they realised their academic access wouldn’t give them the same tools, as many had said how useful the folders and alerts options would be when undertaking research for their dissertations!
And now the summer students have all gone, and we’ll be welcoming some of them back in a few years, so it must be quieter around here now, right?
Now we have the new trainee intake, all settling in nicely with their teams, and now starting to ask their own research questions.
It’s never quiet in the Library, really!