The Downside of Prioritizing Productivity

by Tara Mospan

“Do more with less.”  Out of necessity, and prompted by the national economic downturn, many of us are fully executing this mantra and have radically changed how we approach our work.  We have searched out ways to optimize our time and efforts in order to get the most from our day and make the resources available to us stretch as far as possible.  In many ways the reduction of financial reserves that has impacted the entire legal profession and which gave importance to the “do more with less” mindset has helped organizations become more efficient by streamlining work flow and reducing waste.

Yet, I also think that our efforts to make things easier and more automatic (and thus cheaper) can lead to a dangerous preoccupation with efficiency.  Two examples of this phenomenon: life hacking and The 4-Hour Workweek. “Life hacking,” the goal of which is to do something better with less effort, is wildly popular (the website is devoted to it). Applied to the workplace, life hacks include such actions as utilizing a label maker to help you design a personalized organization system for files and getting a second computer screen to minimize the time and effort it takes to switch between windows on your monitor. Timothy Ferriss’ bestselling book The 4-Hour Workweek provides guidance on how to “10x your per-hour output” and describes how the author went from “$40,000 per year and 80 hours per week to $40,000 per month and 4 hours per week.” Ferris guides readers to improve their professional efficiency by doing such things as only checking e-mail at specified times during the day, creating a to-do list for tomorrow at the end of each day, and negotiating a remote work environment with your employer.

I think many of the ideas behind “life hacking” and discussed in The 4-Hour Workweek  can help us “do more with less” and are exceedingly valuable for approaching organizational processes and personal tasks in a better way. However, I also think we need to be wary of becoming overly preoccupied with efficiency when implementing these ideas for there is often a value in effort, work, and the expenditure of time. I have seen this value most clearly in my interactions with our library patrons. For example, the quality of my communications with students are significantly stronger when they are in person and unhurried rather than electronic and fit into a timed portion of my day. While an e-mail may be a faster and easier way to connect, taking the time to meet face-to-face allows for relationship building and deeper engagement. I know very little about the students to whom I provide reference help to via e-mail, but I have learned about the families, professional backgrounds, and academic interests of many of the students who have meet with me personally. A thorough reference interview also takes time and effort. Ensuring that the person I am helping is comfortable, determining what they want to know, and then providing proper instruction on how or where to find that information in the library cannot be rushed.

I encourage you to reduce wasted time, clarify goals, and develop better strategies for achieving those goals, but also try to make sure that productivity does not take over your focus. As librarians, there are simply some aspects of our professional roles that will suffer when we continuously prioritize productivity.

Posted in Career, Issues in Law Librarianship, Time Management | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Calling New Bloggers!

by Mike Licht. Used under CC BY 2.0 license.

by Mike Licht. Used under CC BY 2.0 license.

Calling all those interested in blogging!  The RIPS Law Librarian Blog is searching for next year’s cast of contributors (beginning August 2015). The current blogging year has been very successful with many posts and great coverage, but a few of our current bloggers are ready to move on to other projects. We would love to have a mix of new and experienced librarians to contribute thoughts, advice, and ideas on the RIPS Law Librarian Blog. The world needs to hear your voice!

If you would like to be a regular contributor to the RIPS Law Librarian Blog, please send a brief bio, statement of interest, and a 300-500 word writing sample to Susan deMaine at Applications will be reviewed by the current blog editor, the in-coming editor, and the RIPS-SIS Executive Board. Please submit materials by May 15.

If you have any questions about the blogging or submitting materials to be considered as a contributor, contact Susan deMaine at

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Hot Off the Presses: The 23rd Annual RIPS Teach-In Kit

As National Library Week draws to a close, it’s time to announce the release of the 23rd Annual RIPS Teach-In Kit!

We have a diverse selection this year:

  • Our fifteen submissions this year come from librarians all across the country.
  • Submissions consist of course and presentation materials, assignments, handouts, and visual aids.
  • Subjects range from basic to advanced legal research, specialty legal research subjects (IP, regs, and tax), specific types of legal research tools and materials, and search strategies.
  • Even the formats vary, from PDFs to posters to online video.

With such variety, there is something for everyone.  If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, please do.

The Teach-In Kit Committee thanks all those who contributed to this year’s Kit.

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A Basic Primer on Value Engineering

In my library school program, we were required to take two ‘out of discipline’ graduate classes that were not in the library program. I wanted to take grant writing, but I waited too long to sign up. So I ended up taking a class on assistive technology (which will have to wait for another blog post) and one on ‘value engineering’.

The value engineering class was really pretty simple: some reading and a final project. The important thing about it was the head start it gave me with all the administrators and Continue reading

Posted in Issues in Librarianship (generally), Library Statistics, Planning, Productivity | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Not Another Survey!

by Thomas Sneed

In my time at my current library, we really haven’t surveyed our community of users. That is, until now. In the next few weeks, we will be sending a major survey to our faculty, as we seek to improve our faculty services. We also started a smaller-scale but long-term survey project that will provide insight into the work we do with our other main patron group: our students. Continue reading

Posted in Issues in Law Librarianship, Surveys | Tagged , | 1 Comment

What Is Your Friday “Slightly Crazy Idea”?

by Catherine A. Lemmer

After five years of teaching legal research online and in traditional podium classes, I remain perplexed by those law students who settle for an okay answer rather than pushing their research and analysis for the best answer. This seems particularly incongruent to me because the research classes I teach are required, credit-bearing, graded on the law school curve, and, of course, calculated in the GPA. Law practice demands the more robust answer, so I’m intent on getting all of my students to move to practice-level performance. Continue reading

Posted in Information Literacy, Legal Research, Teaching (general) | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

What the Tech?

My new typewriter

Can you imagine formatting a brief on this?

Continue reading

Posted in Issues in Law Librarianship, Technology | Tagged , | 1 Comment