Back by popular demand, the SSNaP session on current awareness was kindly hosted again by Lorna Robertson at Shepherd and Wedderburn last week and co-hosted by Heather McIntosh from Clyde & Co. This session gave attendees a valuable insight into some of the commercial current awareness platforms being used in law firms.
The two main platforms demonstrated were Linex (due to be superseded by Vable) and Manzama. It was great to see both these systems in action without having to sign up for demos with the companies and face endless pestering sales calls. It was also useful to have unbiased feedback from librarians who have used these platforms on a day-to-day basis for a number of years.
As a non-user of current awareness aggregators (over and above Westlaw alerts), this SSNaP session let me see behind the aesthetically pleasing façade of current awareness emails produced by aggregators to all the mastery behind the scenes of RSS feeds, database alerts and website trackers. While the library professionals have had to do all the hard work in selecting the correct sources to follow for their alerts, once up and running it seems to save copious amounts of time compared to having to retrieve these materials manually. The commercial platforms also have lots of pre-set current awareness feeds which can be used, and feeds set by other users can also be utilised, meaning if you use either Linex or Manzama Lorna and Heather have done a lot of the hard work for you!
While most of the current awareness aggregator platforms offer similar basic functionality of collating news sources and publishing alerts in a professionally branded email, a few differences were highlighted which may impact on the provider you choose such as:
- Pricing structure – the subscription costs may be based on number of users, number of alerts or size of firm.
- Uploading own materials – LINEX allowed documents to be uploaded to the platform and linked from alerts but not all platforms do this.
- End user control – some platforms allow end users to tailor and set up their own current awareness alerts allowing optimum flexibility (for users willing to login for themselves).
- Integration with other subscription databases – there can be issues with some of the platforms pulling materials from behind subscription databases, especially if they don’t allow you to set up alerts to be emailed directly to the platform.
- Social media streams – there still seems to be a lot of issues with current awareness platforms pulling feeds straight from Twitter due to the conversational nature of many Twitter accounts and this may be something some are better than others at filtering.
If you are intrigued to find out more about what current awareness technology could offer you, then Vable have a number of interesting articles and webinars on the topic which were recommended at the SSNaP session: http://www.vable.com/white-papers-ebooks-videos-upcoming-events. And, who knows, maybe there will be a SSNaP Current Awareness Part III – Return of the Aggregator.