December 3, 2009
Social Media Use at Various Types of Law Libraries Noted
Here is a brief follow-up to James B. Levy's post from October 27th, Social Media Use At Work - What Employers Do and Don't Allow. That post covered a survey of corporate access to various social media by employees. LLRX has published the results of a Survey of Law Librarians in Selected Firms, County/State Law Libraries and Law Schools concerning access top social websites in the legal environment. The response came from 4 law school libraries, 45 law firm libraries and 6 county/state libraries. That may not sound like such a large sample, but the survey report reproduces comments made by various respondents. These are among the most interesting part of the report.
In general, law schools have the greatest freedom when it comes to accessing web sites, streaming media, and personal email. My own experience in the various schools in which I've worked echoes this experience. Most problems tend to come under acceptable use policies rather than physical blocking of sites. Law school libraries tend to place limits on computer access for non-affiliates to the extent that non-affiliates are allowed access to these resources at all.
County/State and Firm libraries are a different story entirely. Some blocking of personal and/or fun sites exists. No one wants to be accused of spending tax dollars for accessing Facebook or YouTube. Even in this environment, however, there seems to be some leeway. Firm libraries seem to have the highest rates of restrictions on computer use with access to many outside resources blocked unless there was a business purpose for the access. Some of this includes investigating clients or case related materials via social media, or using streaming media for a business purpose. Porn and gambling sites were most likely to have a block on a firm system. Blocking some times gets a little too restrictive as this one comment illustrates:
The problem from a research standpoint is that if a source comes up blocked when you do research you aren’t exactly sure if it is worth the effort of having it unblocked…or the time to have it unblocked. So I never do. One of the problematic facets of the controlled environment is that we are no longer allowed to have Firefox. The number of law related (and other) plug-ins that would make us more effective, that we can’t use is truly sad. IE just doesn’t have the bang (from a research standpoint) that Firefox does. From my perspective (and many others here) the IT department has ignored what is best for users and gone with what is easiest for them. The best thing would to have been to have talked to folks and WORK with everyone. I also think that the library MUST be consulted. Recently someone said to me that the IT department has the T; but the library has the I…and it’s true. The library really deals with the information, and for things to work smoothly the two have to work together. Also, they do not allow toolbars…not that I ever used the Google or Yahoo! Toolbars; but I wanted to work w/Diigo or Delicious thinking that it might be a good resource to introduce to the attorneys and can’t use the tool bar. Difficult to use them without a toolbar; just found a bookmarklet that could work as well yesterday. It is really frustrating to see new technology or resources that could potentially save you (or your patrons) time and effort and you can’t even try them out to evaluate them. Just annoying.
The complete survey and results with all comments is available here. [MG]