SLLLG: Scottish law library leaders group?

The SLLG Twitter account, @scotlawlibs, regularly posts items it finds on the reasons law information professionals bring value to those using information services. Yesterday it posted 3 links to articles from “library twitter” based around the idea of management, leadership and self-care in the workplace. SLLG members might find these of interest.

Remy Maisel writes in What Management Skills Do You Need to Run A Library? that, like all professional occupations, a Librarian is expected to accomplish some tasks recognisable in management roles. This is despite evidence suggesting few enter the Library sector to be managers.

The article states every successful information professional has good communication skills. These skills are also the main basis for much of everyday successful library management.

Some argue that communication skills and the ability to delegate are more important characteristics for a manager to possess than experience, though experience is beneficial.

The article continues with highlighting  management aspects such as planning, organising and directing, and service promotion stemming from the initial skills associated with communication.

The article suggests focussed networking is key in benefiting both the individual and the service.

Steven Bell takes a rather counterintuitive tact in his What Not To Do: Tips for New Library Leaders, for those just starting out with leadership responsibilities. Here, Bell suggests that there are expectations attached to leadership. Bell states that mistakes offer valuable lessons.

It certainly helps to learn what to do to get it right. New leaders also benefit from learning basic mistakes they need to avoid, but they hear about the latter less than needed.

He expands in his article on what he considers are what-not-to-dos:

  1. Not “giving up” your old job and still focussing on the service provision you’ve left
  2. Launching initiatives attached to no specific problem
  3. Finding positions for ex-colleagues or friends
  4. Over-promising, under-delivering

He also links and makes reference to more “not-to-dos”.

It’s not all negatives though, and Bell provides some constructive tips. These include communication with stake-holders, becoming aware of the wider institution and networking with fellow library leaders. This final point, he says, can help alleviate some of the stress of leadership.

I learned that most of my peers had similar issues, concerns, and stressors. I came away feeling more confident that I could do this job.

Steven Bell has written on the subject of leadership in libraries from different angles in a few posts, which members may find of interest.

A far more general article on stress in the workplace was linked to by SLA New England. How to Recognize Burnout before You’re Burned Out by Kenneth R. Rosen, in the New York Times. Stress and tension is something which affects all jobs, including law librarianship.

Rosen identifies some “common work stressors” such as unrealistic deadlines, changes to processes, added responsibility beyond initial scope of role (when leadership is an unwanted by-product)

…we are not meant to be in that high-stress mode all the time. We got lost in this idea that the only way to be productive is to be on the go-go-go mode.

Rosen then offers some ideas to “combat burnout at work” including taking time off, making the workspace more comfortable, having a hobby or activity to look forward to outside work, and finding someone trusted to talk through the stressors and perhaps agree possible resolutions.

So, again, communication and networking. Communicating as our skill, and networking as we do in the SLLG.

Whether any article has its flaws, or is far from the definitive word on what is Library Leadership, is up for debate. And that’s good because it furthers the subject for us in considering ourselves as leaders or potential leaders in our roles. Stimulating deeper readings and thoughts in this area is a positive to understanding when we are leaders and when we wish to take a step back from leadership.

Although, they or other studies can’t hope to explain why good library leadership is sometimes simply sticking a blow-up dinosaur in the library.

Inflatable T-Rex

What do you think are leadership facets we see in law librarianship? Are we all leaders to some extent? Do we want to be viewed as leaders? Feel free to add to the comments box below.

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AGM and speaker: 12 May 2016

An excellent membership attendance enjoyed an afternoon of SLLG business, learning about the legislative processes of the UK Parliament and homemade cakes from our own top baking Secretary at our 2016 AGM.

Many members complimented the choice of venue this year, which was the Quaker meeting house in Edinburgh. The venue was centrally located in Edinburgh, of good size, amply equipped and accommodating to our needs.

AGM

Convenor Debra welcomed everyone as she opened the group business part of the afternoon.

Debra presented her convenor’s report for 2015, listing the activities and work undertaken. Debra took the opportunity to officially minute her appreciation to all who helped: those who kindly gave up time, volunteered venue spaces and generously gifted sponsorships.

Debra added her own wish, too, that all members will be encouraged in themselves to be active in the SLLG. From taking a lead role in a discussion or arranging a tour, through to writing for our blog or simply attending the events the SLLG put on, the message was aspirational for members to use the SLLG: get involved, continue to develop professionally and support one another.

If a member would like to do something for other SLLG members, please feel free to talk to the committee. All sorts of support and advice can be provided.

Kelly gave a run-through of the presented group accounts, which were accepted without query, before Debra announced some committee changes for 2016.

Kelly, committee member for 4 years and Treasurer for the requisite 3, has stepped down from the committee.

Lissie, committee member for 1 year, has stepped down from the committee as she pursues a career in law with our best wishes for her success.

Debra, herself, demits the office of Convenor, only to immediately take up office as Treasurer.

Alison, as the committee nomination to take office as Convenor in 2016, was heartily ratified by the membership in the hall.

The committee is also pleased to have a new committee member. Rona from Pinsent Masons was welcomed onto the committee.

This leaves 2 seats vacant on the committee. The committee cannot run as strong a group itinerary when not at full strength. Anyone interested in taking up one of the seats should get in touch with a current committee member.

With no further business from the committee to discuss or offered from the hall, Debra closed the business meeting as her final act of her convenorship.

All office reports and 2016 AGM business papers remain accessible by members through the group website (under Member Papers).

‘UK Parliament and the Law’ – Gary Hart, Senior Community Outreach and Engagement Officer, House of Parliament.

Gary’s talk on legislative procedure at Westminster was very informative; even those of us who thought they knew enough about legislation learned a fair bit more, and had questions to ask.

Gary kicked off with a couple of interesting facts:

  • The House of Lords is the second biggest legislature in the world.
  • Most legislation spends most of its time in the House of Lords as the Lords don’t have constitutional responsibilities and can therefore dedicate more time to it.

And below are some of the key points of his talk.

As well as bills introduced by the ruling government, any MP can introduce a private member’s bill.  This can be through a ballot at the start of the parliamentary session which permits 20 names to be picked out and given parliamentary debating time for their bill.  Or there is also the 10 minute rule which allows members to suggest a bill and talk about it for 10 minutes to try to gain support for it to be put forward.  however, most MPs use this merely as a platform for raising awareness rather than having a realistic expectation of their bill progressing.

Bills may start in either House.

A bill’s first reading is simply that, it’s only at the second reading stage that MPs get to discuss the bill and vote on whether it should proceed.  The second reading process is slightly different in the House of Lords in that any peers wishing to speak about the bill must register on the list of speakers first.

Bill Committees are proportionate in party make-up to that of the House of  Commons.  The Committee stage in each House differs slightly.  In the Commons it is held in a separate room, but in the Lords it is held in the main chamber.  Time limits apply to this stage in the House of Commons – they set ‘internal knives’ and when they are out of time they say ‘the knife has fallen’.  The House of Lords Committee stage doesn’t need time limits.  In the Commons, a regular MP acts as the Committee speaker.

At the third reading in the House of Commons, there can be no amendments to the text of the bill, but this is again not the case in the House of Lords.  If the House of Lords amends a Bill after the House of Commons Third reading it must go back to the House of Commons for approval.  Sometimes bills pass back and forth in this way, and this stage is known by the highly technical term “ping-pong”.  If the House of Lords refuses to agree, the bill ceases to progress for a period of one year.  It then gets re-introduced a year later for passing undebated and unopposed.

A bill isn’t classed as “passed” until it receives Royal Assent.  Provisions coming into force upon Royal Assent are usually midnight at the start of the day of Royal Assent.

Some Bills have special procedures eg the Finance Bill can only be amended in the House of Commons.

For Statutory Instruments, there are three committees which can scrutinise it and report to the Houses if necessary.  They are passed by affirmative or negative resolution in Parliament.  Some people complain about the lack of democracy in the passing of so much legislation in this way, but there simply isn’t the time or facility to do it any other way as there is so much of it.

Select committees are playing an increasingly important part in legislation.  Members are chosen by all fellow members of the House (it used to be the party whips who selected the members and therefore they weren’t seen as independent/transparent).

Lastly, we looked at the process for EVEL legislation (English votes for English laws).  Before a bill starts the Committee stage, the House of Commons Speaker decides if it applies to England, or England and Wales only, and gives it a certificate if so.  The Committee will then contain only MPs from the relevant constituencies.  There are then three extra stages that a bill can go through after Report stage – Legislative Grand Committee, Reconsideration and Consequential Consideration. Whether a bill needs to go through all these stages depends on decisions made during its progress.  If the Lords make an amendment, it goes to a vote and  a majority of all MPs, then a majority of all English and/or English and Welsh MPs must agree to it which is known as a ‘double majority’ division.

BIALL workshop: European Union information, 21 March 2016. A review

SLLG member, Jane Condie of the Advocates Library successfully applied for an SLLG bursary to allow her to attend a BIALL workshop on EU information. This is Jane’s review of the course.

 

Course: BIALL Workshop – European Union Information

Trainer: Ian Thomson, Director of the European Documentation Centre, Cardiff University and Executive Editor of European Sources Online.

With the aid of a bursary from SLLG, I was able to attend a one day course at the University of the West of England – Frenchay Campus, Bristol last month. I stayed in a pleasant (but odd) guest house a few miles away from the venue – which made for an enjoyable walk to get there in the morning.

The Frenchay campus of UWE was unexpectedly large so I was fortunate to meet up with another course attendee at the gate. We navigated the way together. On arrival we were surprised by how un-library-ish the library building looked, but the presence of a large Shaun the Sheep statue reassured us we were in the right place (“…can you please meet us beside the Shaun the Sheep – Justice Baa Lamb – that is just inside the entrance to the Library…”).

Although the welcome was warm and the refreshments were yummy, I’m afraid I found this workshop somewhat disappointing. This was due, in part, to my having previously attended Ian Thomson’s course for the SLLG in 2013, but it had a good bit to do with organisational problems and an overly optimistic course timetable.

I will present my review using the course structure for headings:

Brief Introduction to the European Union
Key Institutions – Legislative Acts and Judicial decisions – How policy is made – Role of committees – Challenges

This introductory section was timetabled to last for only one hour. In practice it took up almost the entire morning. There was undoubtedly a lot of very interesting stuff here but as someone who has both attended his previous course and worked with Eur-lex for several years, I didn’t gain much new information.

Also, due to a breakdown in communication/organisation we spent more than half of the morning session without access to the detailed PowerPoint – full of links and information – the trainer had supplied. Neither he nor the organisers thought to direct us to, or even mention, the copy waiting for us on the university’s shared drive! We were just sitting in front of useless computers, listening to him talk. I don’t feel I lost out too much from this error but for those attendees new to EU law, the morning must have been an absolute blur of incomprehension.

However, I did learn about the existence of ‘Trilogues’ in the EU legislative process. About 85% of new legislative proposals have gone through this process in recent years. It speeds things up considerably but there is an issue about transparency. Although the Trilogues are not exactly secret there is no real way to obtain documents from these Trilogue sessions. The European Ombudsman is conducting a public consultation on the transparency of Trilogues. This is definitely something I’ll be keeping an eye on in future.

Searching for EU information / Guides to terminology
Search engines – EUROPA – FIND-eR – EU Bookshop – European Sources Online – Glossary – Eurojargon – IATE – Machine translation

A highlight of this section for me was probably the Search Europa site. This is basically a Google powered site, set up by the European Journalism Centre, to search the whole EUROPA portal. Ian thinks it’s better than Europa’s own search engine.

He also mentioned a number of archives which have digitised the kind of really old documents that are currently not available via Europa. He mentioned an American site – Archive of European Integration (AEI) – in particular.

Legislative and judicial information sources
EUR-LEX – Summaries of EU Legislation – Procedures (formerly PreLex) / Legislative Observatory – National Implementing Measures (NIMs) – Official Journal – COM Documents – Case law – Legal citations

There wasn’t much new information here sadly. I did however learn something interesting about the Commission’s new policy to improve the drafting of EU legislation: Consolidation, Codification and Recasting.

Consolidation has been used for a while in an attempt to simplify much amended legislation. Consolidated legislation is useful but not authoritative.

Codification brings together one or more Consolidated acts into one. The new piece of legislation passes through the full legislative process and replaces the older act(s).

Recasting is similar to Codification, in that it brings together one or more Consolidated acts, passes through the full legislative process and replaces the older acts. However, Recasting will also include substantive changes and amendments to the existing legislation. Ian Thomson says that this will be the preferred method in future.

Policy monitoring
Key documents to follow the activities of the European Commission, Council of the European Union, European Council, EU Presidency, European Parliament – European External Action Service – Registers of documents

According to my notes we seem to have pretty much skipped this section due to lack of time. Instead we engaged in a fairly lengthy ‘practical’ session which I didn’t find useful at all.

Role of an EU member State in the creation, adoption and implementation of EU law (using the UK as a case study)
Government – Government Departments – Parliament – MEPs – European Commissioners – Economic and Social Committee (etc)

This was the section I was most interested in, due to some recent enquiries I’ve had. I had been hoping for some insight into the location of implementation documentation but it wasn’t much more than a disappointingly vague overview of the process.

Keeping-up-to-date
EU sources: EU Press Room – RAPID – EU Calendar – TV and web-streaming
Non-EU sources: EUObserver – EurActiv – Politico – Europe Media Monitor – Newspapers – Radio and TV – ESO – Blogs – Social media

Nothing noteworthy mentioned here.

~~~~~

I’m sorry if this report seems unduly harsh but I really was hoping for more from this workshop. However, in a spirit of optimism and positivity, I will finish by listing three things I did get from the day.

I learned about:

  1. The existence of ‘Trilogues’ in the EU legislative process.
  2. Digital archives of old EU documents.
  3. Consolidation, Codification and Recasting.

Thanks for the bursary SLLG!

Justicelordshaun

Justice Baa Lamb – lives in the UWE Frenchay library now

 

Thanks for the review of this course, Jane. If any member would like to apply for a bursary as Jane did, to allow you to attend training, please see details in the members’ only section of the group webpages or talk to a member of the committee. 

SLLG Speed Networking meeting: 3 February, 2016

Wednesday 3 February saw Group members gather for what will be the last mass discussion group for a while.  The event was very well received, so thank you for the positive feedback, and for coming along.

For those who couldn’t make it, here is a summary of the outcome.

  1. Innovation in our information services.

There was a general sense across all discussion groups that innovations don’t need to be big, and in fact many of us just experience them as small process changes.

It was felt that innovation is innate in our culture as we are always seeking to improve and do things differently. Sometimes things have to be done in a certain way, but it is always worth questioning why and if they can be done in a better way, which leads to a slow evolution, rather than something as dramatic as innovation.

It is important to be open to change, be proactive and take on new duties, get involved in new strategies, or embrace new technologies, but it was sometimes difficult to get the support of other people such as IT departments.

It was also a case of adapting in reaction to external changes eg the cessation of print sources and move to born digital sources. Or it could be the incorporation of new technologies into working practices eg use of social media for communication and RRS feeds into intranet systems, or the use of new services/providers such as statistic-collecting service ZoHo creative or a will search service.

Some members are involved in revamping existing services such as wiki site restructuring and migrating data into new systems.

For members of staff in institutional libraries, it was felt that there was little opportunity for large-scale innovation.  It tended to be along the lines of keeping up with trends eg installing new technology.

For commercial firms there is a pressure for information services to be innovative in order to be visible and relevant.  The ideas seem to come from other firms and so it is again a case of copying the trends in order to stay competitive eg sector awareness, horizon scanning etc, but every firm will be inventive in the way it goes about implementing these innovations.

Some libraries have been innovative with their building and one member recently had their library used as concert space and with the event advertised on twitter.

  1. Top tips for a successful service induction.
  • Preparation.
  • Sending an initial letter/email about your services but avoiding overloading it with information.
  • Frequently reviewing and tailoring sessions to individuals and to keep them up to date eg new trainees don’t know how to use books anymore!
  • Sending a follow-up email after induction.
  • One-to-ones are better than groups.
  • Keeping it short.
  • Being generally approachable, accessible after the session etc.
  • Tempting membership/uptake/interaction with offer of lunch or something fun such as a quiz.
  • In person is better as connection problems etc through Webex etc.
  1. Current awareness/horizon scanning services

Updates are usually time-consuming to produce and it was felt that is important to know that people are reading them so we can gauge how useful they are. Some members have taken the approach of ceasing producing them without complaints being received.  Others have found that theirs are surprisingly widely read and so well received.

It was felt it was important to keep them as easy to read as possible in this day and age of too much information so people can see at a quick glance if there’s anything relevant to them.

Sector awareness and horizon scanning were the big thing in commercial law firms, with information services being expected to have access to industry, rather than legal, information, and to monitor industry and regulatory changes which are only distant possibilities which is valued by clients and marketing departments. It can be difficult to source accurate information and find out much detail in some cases, and in others it is hard to managed the flood of information such as from parliaments.

Members recommended products such as Nexis’s Newsdesk, and Linex which monitors sources including RSS feeds and press releases. It covers sectors, companies and business areas.  Email lists, seminars, contacts and social events were felt to be useful sources for future awareness.

One librarian had found it useful to monitor upcoming legal changes in order to plan for the impact of related new books on the budget for budget planning purposes, but this was countered by the usual problems of publication schedule changes.  We all monitored Wildy’s, Avizandum and Green’s lists to try to keep up to date in this area.

What we’re starting to find hard to keep up to date with is the cessation of print resources in favour of electronic only.  Lexis recently issued a new edition on Lexis library only – consequently it doesn’t have an ISBN, and shops didn’t seem to have been notified and still had the old edition for sale as if it was the latest edition.  The publishers don’t seem to be good at communicating these changes to its customers either, eg Lexis is changing 10 looseleaf titles to be electronic only.

  1. Professional Achievements

Most of us were pleased to have got a job, kept their job, or simply turned up to work in 2015!

Some were more ambitious and had increased their working hours, integrated two library collections or chaired the BIALL website Committee.

Others put these achievements to shame by winning a mooting competition or BIALL Supplier of the Year!

One member has embarked on their chartership after being inspired by the article “Closing the gap: the five essential attributes of the modern information professional”.  If you have a Westlaw subscription you can read it here: L.I.M. 2014, 14(4), 258-265.