How did you first get into the information and library profession? A teacher at our school’s Sixth Form wondered if a friend and I would be interested in going for the two Saturday assistant jobs at the local library. He thought we’d be ideal as we were quiet, studious types. Luckily, I was anything but quiet and really enjoyed helping and talking to people.
What qualifications did you take? I did a joint honours degree in Library & Information Studies with English. I wanted to do something relatively vocational, and yet keep my options open regarding academia. In truth, I loved English and I knew that if I found the management and computing aspects hard, I could relax with some literature.
What is your current job title? Library & Information Manager with Collyer Bristow LLP, a leading London-based law firm.
What does your job involve? I primarily carry out legal and business research, adding value by summarising or highlighting relevant aspects of it, for the lawyers or other business services staff.
I manage and administer the library collection and information to ensure that we are getting the best value from our resources. This includes carrying out training and inductions, journal circulations, managing the library budget and negotiating with suppliers. I continuously monitor new products relevant to the legal sector, so clients can be assured that their lawyers are using the best information tools for the job.
I provide current awareness so that lawyers receive targeted alerts, with additional client and industry monitoring for those who request it. This ensures that when they are advising clients, working on matters, or simply writing articles for the firm’s website, they are aware of hot industry topics.
I’m a member of the firm’s Social Media Committee, and a regular contributor to the firm’s Cyber Investigation Unit website. I also sit on the Art Gallery committee because I enjoy being involved with the firm’s cultural contribution to the art world, which combines with my academic interest in art history.
Primarily offering guidance on the use of social media and related matters within a professional environment, I provide guest blogs on a variety of library and information issues. I have also provided database content for both legal and library publishers.
Can you describe a ‘typical’ day? A typical day starts at home from about 7.30 when I start compiling the daily bulletin. This involves scanning the newspapers and checking various government, law report and legislation RSS feeds. I check newsletters or alerts in my email for any articles I may have missed. Once collated, the hypertext linked headlines bulletin goes to all fee earners, but if I see anything of particular interest to someone, I send the full article directly.
Once I’ve gone through all the news emails editing and forwarding as necessary, and deleted the many sales emails, the only ones left are queries. I judge whether they are urgent and need doing whilst I am at home, or whether I can do them when I get in at about 10.30. If it is a quick question, I do it ASAP so that the answer is there waiting for the fee earner before they get into the office.
Upon my arrival in the office I do the paper post and circulate journals, and ensure that I complete anything leftover from the morning’s emails. Yesterday it was important to ensure that the accounts department had all my invoices because my main contact there is going on holiday. There were also some queries which had turned up during my commute. Given I use the underground, I listen to podcasts or catch up with something entirely non-work related!
Once all the paper has been cleared, I then have a clear stretch to focus. For instance yesterday I had to prepare for a Cyber Investigation Unit (CIU) meeting, where I was responsible for two agenda items. Firstly I had to review and improve their current awareness alerts; secondly I had to collate social media/cyber bullying and harassment stories which had broken over the summer. As a result of the meeting, a few of us, including me, have to produce an article on a social media related topic for the firm’s website.
The first or second week in September sees the new intake of trainees in law firms, and qualifying trainees move into their departments. Therefore there were a number of amendments to make to the library management system; new people were added and circulation lists amended. I carried out inductions earlier in the week so I’m anticipating, and preparing for, a raft of one-to-one training next week.
During these periods of admin or preparing for meetings, I may be asked to prepare a briefing note on an individual or company because someone is going to a client meeting. IT may call me to ask where a CD Rom of precedents needs to be saved. I may also need to pause because a news bulletin needs to be forwarded urgently.
In common with all other library staff, there is no such thing as a typical day. It’s dependent on the needs of the lawyers. I’ve just moved offices and am now sat amongst a different set of litigators and they are taking full advantage of my research services which is great.
What skills do you think are most important for today’s information and library professional? Technical library skills such as the ability to carry out research efficiently, maintain and develop a library collection, a good knowledge of IT, and a genuine interest in library matters, are all taken for granted.
Therefore you need technical skills as standard. In my sector everyone appreciates excellent communication skills, an outgoing ‘can do’ attitude, as well as an inherent interest in the subject, current affairs, and the outside world.
What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in Information Management? Get as much library experience as you can before you start university or higher education. When you are at college/university, think carefully about which sector appeals and write to places asking for a visit, or have an honest chat with the people who work there – you never know, they may invite you to do some work experience in the holidays.