Advocating for Maryland Libraries: MLA Legislative Day in Annapolis

Joan Bellistri
Anne Arundel CountyPublic Law Library
 
Cas Taylor

Cas Taylor

The Maryland Library Association Maryland Legislative Day was held on January 25, 2012, a bit earlier than in years past.  The day began as always with a breakfast briefing in Anne Arundel County Public Law Library.  The breakfast, provided by LLAM, is always appreciated by the librarians who have traveled from across the state for the event.  Cas Taylor, former Speaker of the House and now lobbyist with the firm Alexander and Cleaver that represents the Maryland Association of Public Library Administrators, briefed the group on the issues before the legislature of significance to Maryland libraries.

After the briefing everyone headed to the State House where proclamations were read in both the Senate and House chambers.  The House even gave MLA president, Lucy Holman, an opportunity to speak.

The rest of the day was dedicated to delegate visits.  Librarians from most of Maryland’s counties visited their delegations to distribute information packets and talk about library issues.  With the Library Legislative Day being scheduled earlier in the session than usual, more delegates were available to meet with the librarians.  All members of the House and Senate and the Governor’s office were invited to the MLA reception.  As usual, this was a lovely event with librarians and members of library friends groups being able to talk with the legislators.  This year DLLR Secretary, Alexander M. Sanchez, addressed attendees and voiced his support for the DLLR /public library partnership in workforce initiatives.

Glennor Shirley and Mary Baykan

The number one issue this session involves the budget proposal to shift pension costs from the state to counties.  Although this proposal is most often seen as an issue that concerns teacher pensions, it would also affect public libraries.  Libraries are only a tiny percentage of the whole pension shift, yet such a move could have a large detrimental impact. There is a concern that since schools have the protection of maintenance of effort, the libraries would shoulder the burden of the pension shift.  Delegates were asked to see that library pensions not be shifted to the counties.  Other budget issues concerning libraries were capital funding for public libraries and the per capita funding.  Librarians asked their representatives to protect both of these sources that are essential in the continued operation and growth of Maryland public libraries. As of this writing, it has not been recommended that the capital funding be removed from the budget.

There were bills introduced, SB858/HB1001, that did not concern funding of libraries. These bills would designate public libraries as essential services in times of emergencies. This bill will make public libraries  among those public services that Maryland’s Emergency Management Administration (MEMA) will list as a priority in getting services restored and funds allocated. Both of the bills have passed.

It is always a relief when there are no bills introduced that would affect law libraries adversely.  Still, it is nice to know that if there were such a bill that the MLA Legislative Panel is there to address it.  We will look to MLA for support if  UELMA is introduced in Maryland.

LLAM members who attended Maryland Library Day at the Legislature this year were Joan Bellistri of the Anne Arundel County Public Law Library, Monica Clements of Legislative Services, Susan Herrick of the University of Maryland School of Law, Mary Jo Lazun of the Maryland State Law Library, and Vicky Yiannoulou of the Prince George’s County Public Law Library.

Vicky Yiannoulou, Susan Herrick and Mary Jo Lazun

Ideas in Client Service: Lean Techniques for Law Libraries

By Monique LaForce
Corporate Intelligence Analyst
Steptoe & Johnson LLP
 

“The use of the term “Lean”, in a business or manufacturing environment, describes a philosophy that incorporates a collection of tools and techniques into … business processes to optimize time, human resources, assets, and productivity, while improving the quality level of products and services … [for] customers.”[i] Traditionally, Lean techniques have been applied to streamline manufacturing operations by eliminating waste from repeatable processes, but in the October 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Bradley R. Staats and David M. Upton authored a piece analyzing the application of Lean principles to knowledge workers.[ii]  Staats and Upton maintain that Lean principles can be applied to knowledge work, even though many aspects of it are not repetitive (unlike, say, an assembly line at a widget factory).  Staats and Upton argue that Lean techniques can make knowledge work (like that performed by law librarians) more efficient and more predictable, and thus, provide better client service for patrons.

While Staats and Upton discuss many Lean techniques in their article, a few that may be applied to law libraries include:

Eliminate waste in routine, repeatable activities. 

While each research project undertaken by a law library’s research team is unique, the process by which queries are received, logged, and disseminated generally has routinized aspects that might be standardized to eliminate waste.  Other law library processes could also be streamlined.  Are there multiple access points for reporting time spent on projects?  For example, in some law firm libraries, librarians bill their time via a time entry program, but also separately report on projects to a department head.  Could these processes be combined? Is equipment used by librarians and patrons located to maximize efficiency?  For example, in a law school library, are photocopiers located near collections that patrons must frequently photocopy (such as historic materials that are not available electronically), or are they in an area that requires users to travel long distances laden with materials for copying (and which subsequently need to be taken back by the library staff for re-shelving)? 

Make tacit knowledge explicit. 

Waste can be eliminated by ensuring that the wheel is not reinvented for every similar project.  Librarians implicitly recognize this by creating research guides or pathfinders.  Likewise, legal project management seeks to tame this area by creating timelines and decision trees for various legal proceedings (from real estate closings to complex litigation).  Commercial databases that gather data (such as information about transactions, or clauses in various contracts) and attempt to create accumulated knowledge also seek to eliminate waste, as do KM systems, which allow retrieval of past work upon which to base current projects.  Are there internal law library functions that might benefit from similar processes to avoid recreating past work?

Use communications effectively.

Effectively managing communications may increase efficiency in the law library.  In their article, Staats and Upton suggest, for example, that implementing guidelines as to whom to copy on emails can eliminate waste, by culling unnecessary time spend reading irrelevant communications — time that could be better spent serving clients.  Additionally, guidelines for the method of communication between librarians and patrons might also create more streamlined processes.  For example, it may be more efficient for researchers to refrain from sending results on a rolling basis, unless specifically requested, to reduce the volume of email requestors receive and the chances that results may be buried in the vast tide of correspondence faced by lawyers on a daily basis.  

 While Lean techniques are not universally applicable to knowledge workers, the fundamental idea behind Lean – elimination of waste – may be helpful in improving client service in the law library.  


[i] Lean Manufacturing and the Toyota Production System, R. Becker, http://www.sae.org/manufacturing/lean/column/leanjun01.htm.

[ii] Lean Knowledge Work, B.R. Staats and D. Upton, Harvard Business Review, October 2011,  pp. 100-110. 

Maryland’s People’s Law Library Seeks Contributors

This spring, the People’s Law Library (PLL) will begin its annual review of site content. PLL needs editors and writers to assist with maintaining our award-winning website. Contributing to PLL is an excellent opportunity for librarians to assist pro se litigants throughout the state. With over 1.3 million hits per month, PLL is one of the most effective ways to reach out to those in need. Volunteers are welcome to edit existing content or to submit new articles.

For over a decade, PLL has provided easy-to-understand legal information to Marylanders in need. Containing hundreds of pages covering a broad array of legal topics and a legal services directory, PLL is a vital resource promoting access to justice in Maryland.  Since receiving the site in 2007, the Maryland State Law Library has continuously expanded PLL’s content and has significantly redesigned its layout and navigation. In 2011, PLL was honored with the American Association of Law Libraries’ Innovation in Technology Award and the Herbert S. Garten Public Citizen Award from the Maryland Legal Services Corporation.

PLL has over 900 pages of content on a variety of legal topics including: Consumer Law, Criminal Law, Education, Elder Law, Employment, Family Law, Government Benefits, Health Law, Housing & Landlord/Tenant Law, Wills/Estates/Probate, and Youth Law. In addition, PLL maintains a calendar of workshops and clinics for self represented litigants. LLAM members are welcome to promote events at their libraries through the calendar.

If you have materials to share on PLL, if you would like to write an original article, or if you wish to edit existing content, please contact Michael Craven, People’s Law Library Web Content Coordinator at 410. 260.3708 or Michael.Craven@mdcourts.gov. Also, Michael can send PLL brochures or posters for your library.

New! Maryland Law Firm Publications Search

The Maryland State Law Library is pleased to announce a new tool for local legal research, Maryland Law Firm Publications Search.  This new feature, simple in design and functionality, is comprised of a specialized Google search utility, which indexes the publications pages of the websites of the largest Maryland law firms. It is available from the “Maryland”  link  on the Library’s Databases page.

According to its collection development policy, the Library strives to collect as many Maryland legal publications as possible. In recent years, of course, the advent of the web has enabled corporate and individual authors the ability to publish their own law-related content. This seems to be especially true of area law firms, which have generated a copious number of articles, client alerts, and newsletters that contribute to an improved understanding of Maryland law. When one considers that the focus of many of these communications is the client, it is easy to see that these resources’ greatest value may be in the straightforward explanations and language the authors use.  The difficulty for a library in collecting this useful material; however, is that its quantity makes cataloging and acquisition challenging. Because the Library presumes that these materials are copyrighted, digital archiving also is not feasible. Therefore, the Library chose to implement this search tool in an effort to better highlight these beneficial resources.

The search utility points to one or more pages of a website that contains links to individual documents. In some cases, a firm may include resources about the law in other jurisdictions, so while there is significant local content, Maryland materials are not included exclusively. The Library does not make any selections based on the firms’ online information offerings. Rather, the Library will update the lists of law firms and links frequently.

The Library appreciates any feedback or suggestions that the local law library community might have about this new feature. Please send your comments to lawlibrary@mdcourts.gov

Ideas in Client Service: Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless*

By Monique LaForce
Steptoe & Johnson LLP

 

The final month of Q4 is often a time for old chestnuts – like stories about hair combs and pocket watches, and memories of Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifles.  The time seemed ripe to review ideas from the pages of the very popular Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless, written by Jeffrey Gitomer in 1998 to guide sales representatives in retaining customers.  In the book, Gitomer takes a practical approach to customer retention  – noting that even though customers (or, for librarians, patrons) may appear to be at times overbearing and demanding (among other attributes), they are the source of our paychecks, and thus are always deserving of superlative customer service.

Gitomer argues that clients want five things from those that serve them:

1. Know Me.  As the library ceases to be a physical space, librarians can leverage our (primarily) electronic interactions (e.g., e-mail, social media) with our clients to know who they are (literally their names, but also what types of research they require, what their practices focus on, and what their expectations are for deliverables).

2. Understand Me.  For librarians, understanding our clients requires determining the needs of our particular client populations (e.g., law students, lawyers, law professors, the general public).  Are we focused on providing research and analysis that our clients actually value, or do we provide service and access to materials that we think they might value?

3. Lead Me.  With the disintermediation of access to information, clients perform more primary research in far more databases and sources than ever before.  With the increasing cacophony in the marketplace, are librarians taking the lead in vetting and recommending sources?  Do we understand the intricacies of these databases — their limits and benefits?  Are we sorting through irrelevancies and noise to lead our clients to accurate information that is appropriate to their needs?

4. Help Me.  Are our libraries appropriately staffed to provide the correct level of service to clients?  Do we have a standard protocol for how we respond to requests?  Do we treat our patrons, as Gitomer suggests, as though they were our favorite celebrity, hero, friend, neighbor, or grandmother every time they seek our expertise?

5. Serve Me the Way I Expect to be Served — Now.  Technology, the media, and the immediacy of communications have contributed to increased expectations as to the speed with which patrons will receive answers to their questions.  As librarians, are we attuned to these expectations?  Do we, as part of our reference interview, ask probing questions to determine what the particular client’s definition of “now” is?  For an attorney faced with filing a response to a motion for a TRO, “now” might mean something different than it does for a faculty member drafting a law review article.  As librarians, are we managing our clients’ expectations on the realities of obtaining information?  We might be able to provide a federal trial court docket sheet immediately, but may not be able to provide English language copies of the laws of a particular province in China on the same timetable.

In summary, during the hustle and bustle of end-of-the-year budgeting, exams, and business development, it may be useful to take stock of some classic customer service ideas.  New Year’s resolutions are just around the corner, after all.

*Ideas and quotations for this article are drawn from 1998’s Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless by Jeffrey Gitomer.