The apparently unsociable librarian

I’m the first to admit, I love social media stuff. I’ve been on Twitter for almost 5 years, I (slightly grudgingly) eventually joined Facebook around the same time, and have played with all sorts of thing in between, from Formspring to Pinterest.

However – my use of all those sites is almost exclusively personal (apart from Twitter, which is actually heavily weighted towards work-relevant networks). There’s not actually much need that I can see to do anything involving social media in its current form for my own library service. I do enjoy reading about how academic and public libraries are furthering the use of their resources and exploring how to best use sites, using Facebook to inform users about events and service specifics, Twitter to respond to individuals, and Pinterest to collate interesting visual materials…but it just doesn’t work in my situation.

As a corporate librarian, I’m in a very different position from a public or academic librarians, in relation to sharing resources. Those types of services are set up to spread information, and allow as many people as possible to benefit from their resources, partially because the people using the resources are also helping to fund them (either through tuition fees or taxation). In a corporate library, the employing organisation has invested from their own funds to create their own library service, and properly staff it. A lot of time and effort is spent in a corporate library to create resources that are tailored to the needs and demands of internal service users, and which are therefore a valuable business asset, and definitely not a thing which could be shared. Corporate libraries cannot be sociable outside their own body – their work is for the benefit of their own, internal users only, the exact reverse of the situation for public and academic libraries.

And if it were possible to use social media in a manner suitable for sharing externally (eg for marketing purposes, which the library may have involvement in), most of the social media sites are based on the model of free sharing, e.g. Pinterest (although this has its own copyright-infringement issues, due to the sites enabling of such easy online sharing), or sites which are free because they carry advertising. This throws up all sorts of issues for a firm – what if the adverts on a free site were for an offensive service/company, or for a competitor of a client? By having firm-linked material on the same page, we could look like we were endorsing a client competitor. What if we accidentally infringed copyright on Pinterest by using an image that seemed freely and legally available, but in reality wasn’t? It could be a highly risky activity to be involved in.

Corporate library services basically have to be faceless, neutral, and non existent on social media.

So…don’t think I’m being unsociable if I’m not joining in with these discussions and experiments, but just remember: for every interesting public use of social media, there’s probably a corporate librarian watching it all, feeling frustrated that they can’t join in with the fun stuff…

Any other library service types out there unable to be sociable?

Westlaw trumps law books in US prisons

If you’re an American prisoner unhappy with your sentence, you might want to start brushing up on your IT skills. This story of an inmate who objected that giving limited Westlaw access wasn’t the same as providing a legal library turned up in my RSS feeds via Library Stuff.

I can understand his problems with Westlaw, although it’s actually one of the less painful legal databases to use (Lexis – why? WHY?!?!). As the story says though, he’s not likely to win his case, so the books will be going, and occasional Westlaw access will be staying. Which ain’t fun if you’re not confident on a computer, and have restricted access.

Do we have a similar sort of requirement for prisoners to have access to law libraries and legal materials? Do UK prisoners have any sort of ability to do legal research on their own behalf?

The legacy of the snail

Last night, through nefarious means*, I was invited to the launch of a series of short films on the Session Cases, by the Scottish Council of Law Reporting. The Session Cases are the most authoritative series of law reports in Scotland, and they are created and published by SCLR.

The videos are 5-6 minute segments, available on a dedicated YouTube channel, which outline the history and effects of the Session Cases on Scots law, how the Session Cases developed, how they are put together and by who, and how they are used in court. The video clips themselves are well produced, high quality films, with interviews and commentary from everyone who uses the Session Cases, from the judges and Advocates who write, review, edit and use them in court, to the Advocates Library staff who maintain the collections of Session Cases for the Advocates, and the Session Papers that support them.

Definitely a useful resource for law students, law tutors, those who have to source Session Cases for users, and anyone interested in how Scots Law works.

And, of course, the Paisley Snail makes a regular appearance throughout, in all its ginger beery glory.

One thing I’d disagree with though – the videos said how wonderful it was that most Session Cases were now available as pdfs of the original pages. This is good because it means that the judge and counsel are looking at literally the same page. I’m sorry, but I don’t see this as a good thing: why is a pdf of a page better than an electronic version? They’re often difficult to read, and when passed between parties as an attachment to an email, they aren’t searchable in the same way as an electronic version is. Insisting on pdf versions is a backwards step, and it probably wasn’t disputed because the judges who were interviewed in the videos are the group who prefer the pdf versions.

*It appears that I was invited because I’m technically in charge of my professional group. The inviting system was somewhat odd – the audience consisted mainly of the people starring in the videos, and the people who had made the videos. No actual end users seem to have been invited (I was one of 4 law librarians in the audience, and we all seem to have been invited because we’re allegedly Proper Professionals (me) or were in the video, or were linked to SCLR), and I’m unsure how SCLR are planning on publicising this to their target market, which I assume is law students/law schools.

The phantom law librarian

*checks mirror quickly*
Yes, I’m definitely here. I exist, I have a reflection (and am therefore also not a vampire, which is reassuring), but it seems I am actually a phantom.
An invisible law librarian.
If you look for me, I am not there. Search my employers website – I don’t exist.
And I’m not alone.

Look on the websites of law firms…I know those other law librarians are out there: fee earning, creating bulletins, researching for clients…so where are they? They’re not on the online staff lists, there’s no images of law firm librarians looking dazzlingly smart and intelligent while leaning against the shelves of books that they’ve carefully sourced and selected for their Library (a favoured pose for lawyers in corporate photos: books = smart, apparently).
But we’re just as essential to the health of the firm as any other members of staff, who get a shiny profile and “look how fab and experienced our staff are” blurb on the website.

So…why are we hidden away by our employers? Do they think that by admitting that they have employed experienced professionals to deal with specialised information, that they’re weaker than their competitors in some way? Surely it’s a great selling point to clients, to be able to say that they have people dedicated purely to finding the answers needed for all the questions that could arise?

Or do we suffer from the same problem as all other librarians: once we’ve handed over the work that we’ve done, it’s immediately forgotten that it was us that did it? That case/report/book/database just magically appeared when it was needed….

The phantom law librarians, pale ghosts in the law firm machine?

No discrimination in Boston

It doesn’t matter whether you’re black, white or even just kinda patchy colours all over…in Boston, you’re able to serve as a juror. Yes, species is no barrier to being involved in turning those big, heavy wheels of justice!

It makes the Scottish Government’s recent act of removing the age barrier for jury duty look positively old-fashioned: bring on the time when animals are serving! I can’t wait to see what “reasonable adaptations” would be needed to allow large farm animals in the jurors box. Although I suppose at least some animals, like horses, would already be used to being in a box…




Ta to Greville Tombs for sending me this story.