by Dean Duane Strojny
Two big changes are happening in my workplace world within the next few months. They do not seem linked, but read on and you will see the connection. First is the implementation of an online time clock for part-time and non-exempt employees. You see, even though the library has had a shareware type of electronic time clock since at least the mid-1990s, the rest of the institution had not moved past the paper, hand-written time cards. With the advent of our multiple locations years ago, requests for electronic time clock software as part of the implementation plan were made but technical hurdles prevented it. I am excited about this change, but it will be significant and certainly face bumps in the road to implementation. The best feature will be that all vacation and sick day requests from any type of employee will also funnel through this system. While I do like how I have perfected my signature, I am happy to do away with this paper-laden process. Do you still have a paper system? If not, what are the benefits to the electronic system your institution operates?
Second is the movement of the librarians into a significant support role for our faculty in the use of Blackboard as the preferred course management system. For years, we have been the largest user of TWEN in the country. We had staff on advisory boards. Our level of servicing faculty with these needs was extraordinary. When our IT department selected Blackboard a few years ago, the librarians were not part of the initial support system. Of course, it would just be a matter of time where the support structure would need an overhaul. Certainly, the IT staff has made an outstanding effort of setting up the system with its’ automatic enrollment of students and moving video make-up classes to a consistent reliable system. Nevertheless, in the end, I am proud of the support the librarians have and will continue to make to full-time and adjunct faculty through instructional support. We are even fortunate enough to have someone on the library staff whose role is to help with distance education and instructional support. It makes sense that the librarians continue the role no matter which system the school utilizes. How does your institution provide instructional support? What role do reference librarians take?
These two things remind me that change is constant. It is continual, and law librarians are facing some of the most significant changes since the dawn of online legal research databases, Lexis and Westlaw, in the early 1970s. Despite common perception, most librarians are adept at implementing change. The charge for law librarians goes beyond the usual. Librarians are completely revamping their job descriptions. It is a definite state of change or be left behind. Lead or get out of the way. Move or be run over. You have heard this all before, but at this point in the game, I believe many of these statements are true. AALL has a new logo so maybe you need a new approach. What are you going to do to redefine what your role is at the library where you work? Think beyond repackaging although that might be a good first step. Then figure out what you need to do to reflect the new tasks and projects that are replacing the old. While there is certainly a place in our world for history and tradition, it is easy to see that it does not get much shelf space in our day-to-day work life.
Take some time to review both what you do at work and the skills you actually possess. You might be surprised to see that you are more progressive than you might think. Evolution of Service Models in the New Law Library is a nice blog post about some options you might want to explore when you assess your job. If you want something more basic, look at the University of Kent’s Employability Skills Exercise. It focuses more on management and organizational skills. Of course, there is a government website dedicated to career skills assessment. It might also help you realize there is something else you really want to be doing for a career. Forge ahead and make your job description a more accurate and effective portrayal of what the law librarian of 2017 is actually working on.