by Jamie Baker
The AALL rebranding initiative has revealed the trouble with library marketing in the digital age. Many law libraries are trying to prove a positive ROI during a time of increased budget pressures. Couple budget cuts with the fact that law libraries are often erroneously seen as having less relevance in the digital age, and we’ve got a recipe for disaster. It is a natural response to feel the need to show that we are still relevant, and AALL seems to be grasping for ways to help all of us showcase our relevance as we face these continued pressures.
What’s most troubling is that our relevance is obvious to us. Law librarians intrinsically see how relevant we are because we are on the front lines. On the academic side, we know that legal research instruction is falling short in law schools when the biggest complaint from employers is often the lack of legal research skills of graduates. We know that many 1L LRW programs focus heavily on writing and less so on research. And in many curriculums, the 1L LRW course is the extent of formal legal research instruction.
We know that the law is difficult to research and for students to truly understand the sources to make the requisite connections for great legal arguments. We see the students who come to our offices as 3Ls with the inability to articulate a well formed research strategy for efficiency. We know that over 30% of a new attorney’s time will be spent doing legal research when law firms are less likely to mentor and train new attorneys and firms are also often eating their research costs.
The reason law libraries are seen as having limited value in the digital age is that many people who might use our law libraries are not shown their value. Our patrons may not recognize that we reach beyond the library’s physical space, and they are actually using our services much more than they realize. These issues are not corrected with a new name or tag line. Instead, it is by demonstrating what the law library offers – in whatever context that library operates.
This kind of individual institutional outreach can be done, but is done library by library. In other words, AALL may be trying to provide a macro answer to a micro problem.
During the past year, Texas Tech has started to focus more on marketing our services and programming to our patrons. Aside from mentioning service statistics like faculty requests, instruction sessions, and reference requests anytime we can, we also created a blog and e-newsletter to connect with our patron base and highlight our services and programs.
Many law libraries have blogs. As we know, blogs are a great way to communicate with patrons. At Texas Tech, we created guidelines whereby each librarian is required to post roughly once per month for a total of two posts per week on our blog to maintain frequent communication.
Through our free WordPress blog account, we post about featured resources, changes in law library hours, various library services, and upcoming programs. Each post is then blasted to our patrons through our Twitter and Facebook accounts.
In addition to the blog, we also created a monthly e-newsletter using the free MailChimp service. The e-newsletter provides information about new databases and upcoming programs, as well as monthly updates from our Current Index to Legal Periodicals, recent acquisitions, and faculty scholarship. The e-newsletter also links back to our blog for more information.
We designed the blog and the newsletter to have a similar look and feel to promote our law library’s brand. We have also started to use templates for our various PowerPoints, print research guides, and posters that showcase our law library as a brand.
Through our own institutional branding initiative, we hope that our patrons will easily see what we have to offer and equate our services and programs with our relevance.