Thursday, November 18, 2010

If law firms eliminate brick and mortar libraries, do they still need flesh and blood librarians?

That's the question raised by the "New Normal" column in today's online ABA Journal Blog.  My short answer is:  Yes, of course they do because librarians as information management experts are critical to the mission of any law office.  Fortunately, that's the same conclusion reached by Patrick Lamb, the New Normal's co-columnist.

A librarian is somebody who oversees a library, a 'place set apart to contain books, periodicals or other material for reading, viewing, listening or studying.' In other words, a librarian oversees something not needed in law firms—all that 'stuff' is contained in the box on everyone’s desk.

But all is not lost for professional librarians. Indeed, if they play their cards right, the future may be brighter for them than most. In a presentation at the recent ACC Annual Meeting, Google’s General Counsel Kent Walker relayed this startling piece of information: in the entire history of humankind, until 2003, man had created a total of 5 exabytes of information. Today, we create 5 exabytes of information every two days. And the pace of information creation is accelerating.

What does that mean for law librarians? They are information and research professionals in an era when finding essential information is more important than ever. Associates, who do most of the research in law firms, are not research or information professionals. They may become good at analyzing information, but that is somewhat of a crapshoot, and they certainly are not trained at finding the 'stuff’' that we frequently need every day. When you live in a value-fee world, someone who finds the right information efficiently is really valuable.

Amen, brother. You can read the remaining commentary here.


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