Current Awareness SSNaP – The Sequel, 21 November 2018

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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The two main platforms demonstrated were Linex (due to be superseded by Vable) and Manzama.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.

Other current awareness platforms mentioned included Thomson Reuters Bulletin Pro and LexisNexis Newsdesk.

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.

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SLLG at the Hidden, 15th August 2018

One wet Wednesday evening 8 intrepid SLLG-ers braved The Hidden at Edinburgh’s Central Library, putting our well-honed librarian skills and information spidey-senses to the test.

Being honest souls we declared from the outset that we were not mere lay participants, but did have a level of library knowledge. This was met with much enthusiasm from the team at Visible Fictions, who were running the event. We on the other hand realised we should perhaps have kept that under our hats in case we somehow failed to solve the mystery and let the profession down…

Once the remaining participants had arrived we were taken down into the library for a short talk from one of the librarians. She began her presentation on the history of the library, discussing the influence of Andrew Carnegie and taking us through some PowerPoint slides. There was then an issue with the computer and when she went off in search of IT, things took a bit of a strange turn…

It was revealed to us that one of the librarians, Daisy Sinclair, had disappeared, missing for a number of days following some mysterious behaviour as she researched a secret of seemingly monumental and dangerous importance. Before we knew it we had agreed to investigate, as the librarian showed us the first clue. Working in groups we set about cracking the code, and before long it we were moving round the library on the trail of Daisy and her Secret.

The general public were still in the library which added a certain something to proceedings, and it was certainly an atmospheric and more authentic setting than other escape room challenges. The allotted hour passed quickly, and my team certainly found ourselves frantically trying to decipher clues as we moved around the main room of the library. Without giving too much away clues were hidden in books; written on old index cards and scribbled on photographs tucked within the pages.

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Returning to base after an anxious search of the library, each team reported back its findings as we tried to work out what was going on and what had happened to Daisy. With a few prompts from the librarian we were able to work as a group to solve the mystery. Whether we could trust her, or her requests to upload our findings to the mysterious computer was another matter!

This was a fun way to spend the evening, and a good opportunity for this particular SLLG member to reacquaint herself with the collections held in the Central Library. The team from Visible Fictions ensured a slickly run event.

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Visible Fictions are keen to roll this out to school groups and I can definitely see it appealing to older teenagers. There are no smartphones, tablets or web searches involved so tech savvy teenagers will have to rely on their wits and some old school code cracking with pen and paper to solve the mystery.

Underneath the fun escape room style adventure, there is a serious message about the power of media, the reach of the internet and trust. Perfect for the Fake News era.

Emma McLarty

HiddenExLibris

SLLG guided walk, 18th May 2018.

colourful old town building

Hidden colour.

The SLLG arranged a guided walk for members and friends. It also arranged some lovely sunshine to walk in.

World's end close

The World’s End is named after the World’s End Close next to it. Who knew?

David Ireland, tour guide and solicitor, led 9 members and 2 non-members up and down and over and under Edinburgh’s Old Town on an exceptionally pleasant and informed route on Friday evening.

Assuming most of us were aware of the main historical places and stories of the Old Town, David steered us through to some of Edinburgh’s lesser noticed historical buildings and details.

Taking us down dark closes to reveal once grand music halls, stopping at a stately home Deacon Brodie worked in (and burgled), and reminding us to look around our surroundings, David gave a sense of discovery we probably didn’t realise we had for places most of us feel so familiar with.

backstreet beauty

SLLG takes members down all the glamorous avenues

For just over 2 hours, a stroll in the warm sun to places not normally afforded a second thought to explore, and learn how they helped shape the more famous history of the city, was a delight.

Always quick to point something out with a flourish that which we may not have consciously noted, David was excellent company.

David even managed to add in a legal element, marking out where Lord Kames once resided. And, of course, there was something for us librarians too.

 

 

printing press sign

The site of Scotland’s first printing press, 1508.

As the sunshine extended our shadow’s legs, the recognisable streets also took on more alien characteristics. A turn down a small run of spiral stone steps under bridge was transformed by a girl with a guitar using decorative LED lights and incense burners, into a tiny late night live music venue.

With the Old Town now in full swing for the weekend, our walk ended next to the hostelry, appropriately enough, The Last Drop.

A good evening was had by all.

not all who wander are lost

“Not all who wander are lost” : some are on a SLLG guided walk

Many thanks to David for his entertaining and thoughtful guidance. Our appreciation also to all those who could make the walk. Finally, thanks to our members David and Sharron for allowing the use of their photographs of the event.

 

 

 

 

SLLG SWOP Networking, 25th January 2018

SLLG and SWOP leaflets (credit S. Wilson)

SLLG and SWOP leaflets (credit S. Wilson)

SLLG and SWOP held a joint networking event for their memberships.
Official Publication information, law librarianship and shared professionalism (and the crisps afterwards) were the topics of the day. Here is a summary of discussions.

17 attendees from SLLG and SWOP were welcomed to the SSC Library for a late afternoon of networking together. Based on the SLLG popular “speed” format, 6 questions were introduced to the tables: 1 every 6 minutes. When the bell rang for a question, those designated “Movers” moved to the next table to form new discussion groups.

1. Are people using anything for remote training, or creating training sessions for an intranet?

Regardless of it being “live” or remote, the delivery needs to be best suited to the training. Tailored personal training is best done in real time. For general “how to”, or inductions, pre-recorded content can work better.

Blogs, Google Docs, Totara, Blackboard, Jabber, Mentimeter, Captivate, Camtasia, YouTube, SharePoint, WebEx and Skype were all mentioned as platforms for remote training, so there’s no shortage of known options to consider.

Considerations of using those included:

  • IT requirements to access training (workplace access?)
  • How the training is best delivered (i.e. video, written, interactive…
  • Size / location of user group requiring training
  • Will it improve training for anyone with reduced mobility or with a condition such as autism?
  • Ways to keep the training current and reliable
  • How to monitor the training using feedback and follow ups to establish evidence of its worth and, crucially, develop it

MOOCS were mentioned as an area where information services could direct their users towards, albeit external, training.

The Scottish Government Library Blog was cited as a good example of the possibilities for remote training. The Scottish Courts Information Service is extending its training and considering online video tech to reach geographically distant service users.  SWOP, too, is looking to establish e-learning resouces for Official Publications through collaborating with public libraries.

2. What do you want from a professional organisation?

Those employed in law and government information sectors are fortunate to be able to look to a variety of professional organisations. A membership to one does not preclude the need or desire to be a member of one or two more.

Relevant networking, CPD potential and support are the most sought aspects in choosing a group.

Further specified aspects were:

  • Locality of events
  • “Goodwill” between members
  • Bursaries
  • Social media presence
  • Job vacancy news

There was some detailed discussion of particular groups.

SLLG was praised for holding events which allow networking and for enabling members to contact one another. As a smaller group, the SLLG is noted to offer good chances to get involved with committee participation and gain skills such as event planning and website administration.

SWOP offers great informality of no fixed membership. This creates a wider mix from sectors and innovative engagement of members.

CILIP is seen as the most “professional” group with advanced CPD structures covering the widest range of the information sector. Overall, CILIP can be seen as a high cost membership for its law sector members.

BIALL is viewed as having a lot of potential in the law librarianship sector, however is too England-centric for events and training.

A membership of any group is seen as positive. The ability to compare ideas, ask advice about services and gain confidence through peer support is vital for an information professional’s success.

3. What social media platforms do you use professionally and what are the benefits?

There has been a steady move to enthusiasm around the potential to be found in social media in the workplace. It is seen as a legitimate tool for collaboration and information sources.

Social media use for the workplace tends to be governed by workplace policy. Often this policy aims to restrict the media rather than promote how to use it well. Responsibility for a workplace social platform is sometimes given to a dedicated department or junior level employee. This underplays most benefits of having the platform.

From a professional output view point, reasons for social media:

  •  Users expect the information service to have a social media presence
  • Wider and closer engagement with service users and prospective users

From a professional input view point for social media:

  • Following academics and commentators to gain insights and trends
  • A means to ask questions and be part of events without physically attending (e.g. via hashtags)

Social media, used professionally, requires careful thought, planning and hard work.

Platforms have expanded beyond just one or two. Information users, likewise, have expanded to a presence on more platforms. The onus is on the information service to create access points on more of these platforms.

Key is finding suitable platforms for the information intended for the audience. Twitter is best for immediacy with regular engagement. Facebook is best for posting longer term information (events, opening times…) and users checking with only occasional frequency. Students are likely to jump between multiple platforms, expecting the information to be sent to them. Lawyers tend to visit one established platform and will ask for information when they need it.

There is content to give thought to. A social platform can lose the identity of the service as quickly as it enhances it. A library’s staff might be friendly in person but have a social media which is distant and non-responsive. An account might post views a service should not have an opinion on or, worse, oppose the values of the service. Advice is – where possible – be friendly, engaged and give good information in context and try to bring a personality through which reflects the service.

Privacy is an issue. Although social media is good for discovering more about a workplace, it is also a means to do this prior to an interview or meeting. Could the account possibly create unhelpful or unwanted preconceptions? Be careful of how the work environment and colleagues are perceived in posts.

To check how your workplace twitter account may be perceived, try the tool Analyze Words for a bit fun.

The SLLG Twitter account was commended as a good example of social media.

4. What benefits and disadvantages of digital only government information?

The Scottish Government opted to only publish born digital material from 2007. As part of this decision, an agreement was reached with the National Library of Scotland (NLS) to be a mirror depository for government publications. In this way both the Scottish Government and NLS are access points to obtain this material.

Negatives:

  • If the link is broken, the document is not available
  • Material no longer requires an ISBN, removing a unique access point
  • There is no reliable contact for help
  • No curated material into logical bundles of associated papers (thereby not taking advantage of the new digital format)
  • Each document needs searched for individually
  • If an item is not in the database, there is no way of knowing if lost or never created
  • Documents not any easier to find if they were in print
  • No legacy links to previous department names, so knowledge of name changes and when occurred can be vital
  • Accessibility – should be accessible to all, but online requires connection to the internet and IT literacy to mine for the information.

Archiving of documents is a worry. Although the most current material coverage is good, there is little commercial incentive to maintain a robust archive. The result is archive material often difficult to obtain.

Positives:

  • Full-text searching, including Google search
  • Corporate users want online format flexibility
  • Reduced cost and storage requirements
  • Added security of information through NLS
  • Accessibility –  those interested in the material no longer need to travel to a building

It appears born digital materials from the Scottish Government still have some way to go to persuade us that they are better than in paper.

5. Best practice for libraries importing Official Publications metadata?

The NLS has an agreement to record and make available material deposited by the Scottish Government within one week of publication. There is a long term plan to batch publically available records linking back to the NLS server. These can be imported into a library catalogue.

There were some implications for those looking to import /create record data.

  • Users need to know they are linking to the authoritative Official Publication
  • Variance in standards and quality of records to an in-house catalogue is almost inventible
  • Outsourced catalogues mean a loss of control for the library

Although some libraries have removed the need for cataloguers by outsourcing, there was an acknowledgment of the importance of good and consistent records to find materials.

Some potential best practices were:

  • Improve access by adapting imported records into house style to help with user familiarity
  • Redirect users searching for Official Publications to the NLS OPAC

Faith in records being searched, imported or created, was the main ambition for library staff.

6. Using BREXT as an example, what are the best resources and ways for efficient and up-to-date Current Awareness (CA)?

CA comes in so many options, there is no single aggregator which has everything. It is crucial to find a compromise of expectation. Some service users are happy with the daily newspapers, others expect something more complex.

There is a feeling law firms are more in need of tailored CA than in other law practices. Solicitors market themselves as cutting edge and their clients need impact assessments based on latest and future business and legal developments. Academic, and lawyers “higher up” (such as sheriffs and judges), tend not to demand so much of this information or knowledge.

With reference to the example in the question, BREXT has been monetised by some commercial CA providers. However, no one at the networking had purchased such a package.

SPICe bulltins and the Scottish Government Library newsfeed were cited as good sources of BREXIT information. Publishers (e.g. Thomson Reuters) have resources such as BREXT trackers. Blogs and mainstream media were also cited.

Twitter, RSS feeds, mailing lists and a library page of resource links were ideas for efficient ways to keep up to date with CA and BREXIT.

There was debate if the intellectual work required to sort forecast commentary and irrelevant editorials from only authoritative materials brought into departmental “round-ups” was simply too much for too little value.

Although CA is time consuming to put together and deliver, whatever the method, it will hopefully achieve the aim of reducing the amount of times users will resort to Google and reading inaccurate information. Which is probably the aim for all our services across the board, really.

DING-DING!

And with this the round-table-round-up is over. Now, if only we could re-enact the eating of crisps and cocktail sausages and have a glass or two of wine.

Both sets of group members really enjoyed the discussions and format of the event. As you can see, a lot of ground can be covered by librarians in just 6 minutes.

The committee would very much like to thank Christine Macleod (SLLG)  and Sharron Wilson (SWOP) for working together in organising the event. The committee also thanks Christine Wilcox for the use of the SSC Library. Finally, on behalf of both SLLG and SWOP, we would like to thank all those who attended and contributed to make an excellent event.