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What’s in a Name? The Future of Law Firm Library Departments

HBR Consulting: Joanne Kiley | January 21, 2022 – “The American legal profession has had a uniform conception of a law firm’s library department and its role for several generations: great big rooms full of books and periodicals staffed by librarians responsible for making sure the firm had the most important volumes on hand for instant reference by the lawyers — or to track down what the lawyers needed if it was not on hand. The nomenclature was universal, and everyone knew the role of the department. But in just one generation, all of that has changed. As Legaltech News reported: “The law library of today only bears a resemblance to the library of 30 years ago….” Today, much of a librarian’s day deals with knowledge work and technological research.” Those shelves full of legal tomes are largely relics of the past, replaced by online legal research tools, and rather than simply tracking down court opinions or an obscure law review article, law firm library professionals are expected to assist lawyers with far more. The law firm library department’s functional evolution has been accompanied by the introduction of new nomenclature describing who we are and what we do. Are we still the Library? Or are we Information Services? Or maybe Knowledge Management? Or some amalgamation of all the above? Moreover, where do we fit inside the firm’s administrative org chart? I had the privilege of moderating a session on this topic during HBR Consulting’s 2021 LINKS (Legal Information + Knowledge Services) Conference. Our expert speakers were two popular voices from the renowned “3 Geeks and a Law” blog and podcast series: Greg Lambert, chief knowledge services Officer at Jackson Walker LLP, and Marlene Gebauer, director of knowledge management at Locke Lord LLP. The session yielded interesting discussions about the terminology used to describe our departments and the roles we fulfill inside our organizations…” [h/t Library Boy]

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