Current Awareness SSNaP – 27th June 2017

A small but perfectly formed group of four SLLG members attended the fourth Short Skills Networking and Presentation event hosted by Lorna, Head of Research & Information at Shepherd and Wedderburn, on the topic of Current Awareness.

Lorna began by describing how she used to manually produce briefing material for her colleagues. This method involves a member of staff reading through materials and compiling information to be sent out by email directly. Attendees agreed that this can be very time consuming but does have the benefit of keeping the librarian well informed. We discussed the sustainability of this approach as demand might grow beyond what is possible in the time allowed, especially if trying to deliver custom news to different teams within an organisation.

Tools such as Westlaw Current Awareness can make the creation of briefings less onerous. Some librarians have worked collaboratively with their IT department to create databases which allow them to subdivide news articles using tick boxes and keywords to categorize news which would make the compilation of digests for different teams much easier.

Lorna has been using LINEX for the past five years. Time has been spent populating the resources list to ensure all the usual legal news and publications sites are regularly checked for updates. The platform makes good use of RSS feeds to get the most up to date information to the people who need it; by working with their in-house IT team the library services team have managed to combine their intranet distribution lists to ensure people receive only relevant information based on topics they select themselves.

There are drawbacks to using an externally hosted service: price is a consideration (especially if charged by user or by alert) as are developments to the platform itself. Lorna had been very happy LINEX but the provider is developing a new interface (Vable, now in the beta testing stages) which might not provide the same functionality. Automation also presents problems – it takes time to set up and monitor new alerts to make sure they provide useful information, irrelevant news can slip through, and old or broken links must be weeded out regularly.

We weighed the options and agreed that there is not yet a one-size-fits-all approach to Current Awareness. While an automated service may seem like the easiest option to manage and run, the benefits of a small customised email issued on a regular basis may outweigh the cost of the former, and finding a system that works for you does not mean that there can’t be improvements made further down the line (or that you may want to revert to an earlier model).

We’d like to thank Lorna for hosting such a comprehensive and interesting discussion. We all left with a great deal of food for thought and a keen awareness of the importance of Current Awareness!

Lorna welcomes any questions or comments via the usual channels.

Key takeaways:

  • Current Awareness is a great way to expand your remit and can demonstrate that while, yes, many resources are online, the right skills are required to gather, digest and (legally) disseminate the news that matters. We happen to possess these exact skills!
  • It’s not all about online, though. Many hardcopy resources are neglected unless they are brought to the potential reader’s attention. A brief outline of a hardcopy article – or even just a title – can pique interest and result in better use of paper “assets”.
  • Before commencing or changing a service, it’s a good idea to conduct a rough audit of your organisation’s internal communications. Are there opportunities for collaboration, eg with business development, IT, legal analysts, PSLs? Buy-in from other teams may help your business case for Current Awareness software. Why not use the SLLG discussion board to request examples of business cases other members have submitted?
  • Communication is really key – none of us like it when a service suddenly changes and we haven’t been informed. Ongoing evaluation of a new current awareness initiative will also help to refine your output.
  • Small details matter too – recipients might be loath to open an attachment and therefore more likely to read on if the content is in the body of the email. Ask, “Do you read this and is it helpful?” If you’re discouraged from sending out surveys, anecdotal feedback is just as useful.
  • You can use your intranet or wiki to authenticate access to a content aggregator and allow users to control settings. If your IT department oversee a SharePoint site or similar, discuss options for RSS, and ways to make archived updates retrievable.
  • Most people welcome anything that saves them time and unclutters their inbox. After all, the library has registered for alerts and Feedly so they don’t have to! Some SLLG members also use current awareness roundups to advertise new books and share general library updates, further reducing email traffic.
  • Previously, in a team of lawyers, each person might have received different alerts from various websites. Now, if everyone in the team receives the same email, one lawyer isn’t then required to share it with colleagues or keep it to themself, assuming that it’s common knowledge.
  • Let’s face it, a useful, useable and regular communication to your users is the perfect advert for your service, staff and expertise.

If any member has ideas for SSNaPs they’d like to see in the future please get in touch with the committee. We would like to run more events that you’d like to attend, so do let us know if there’s somewhere you’d like to visit or a topic we should cover.

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Scottish Legal Information Centre SSNaP – 30th March 2017

The Group SSNaP series continued on 30th March with a presentation of the work undertaken by SLLG members Roddy and Emma, librarians at the Solicitors Legal Information Centre.

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SLLG members heading to the SSNaP at The Scottish Government Building, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh.

The 11 group members who attended this Short Skills Networking and Presentation were treated to an enlightening and entertaining hour or so with Emma and Roddy (both past SLLG convenors), finding out about the work of the Solicitors Legal Information Centre.

Located in the Scottish Government buildings at Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, the department resides in the legislative heart of the Scottish administration.

Throughout the 45 minute presentation, SLLG members were extremely impressed at the detailed know-how and level of research undertaken daily by the centre’s professional information and library staff.

The centre provides information services for over 200 government lawyers and policy colleagues. These services include legal research, document supply and current awareness packages. The centre also provides resource training and access to a law library. Behind the scenes, the team manage subscriptions, material purchases and advises on knowledge management as well as being involved with aspects of wider library consultancy.

In 2016, the team undertook 1,828 enquiries with 7,784 documents supplied. The enquiry service continues to increase in use year on year and the most common enquiry work handled is, perhaps not surprisingly, legislative.

Emma and Roddy comprehensively talked through some typical and a few atypical enquiries they’ve recently dealt with.

From putting together a research package into the background of an Act of the Scottish Parliament… through to answering the query if The Queen can lawfully hunt Scottish swans, the team approach all the enquiries with thoroughness and expert data mining skills. So much so, indeed, the team is often in contact with Westlaw with corrections to their database of Scottish & UK legislation.

An interesting element of the work is the careful negotiation of confidentiality. This was particularly illustrated with the appeal from the Scottish Government to the UK Supreme court regarding legal arguments for the vote to enact the bill for Article 50 to be a devolved matter. Both the Scottish Government lawyers and the Whitehall Government made use of the SLIC research service in this matter.

With the current constitutional environment in the UK, the centre is experiencing a surge in complex enquiries and is preparing for an influx of additional government lawyers to the service. The next few years will certainly keep Roddy, Emma and the rest of the small team busy.

After, Emma and Roddy were kind enough to let us peak behind the curtain and take a walk round their library and office space (and take in their lovely view of the docklands).

The SLLG committee thank Roddy and Emma for their time and giving us such a wonderful insight into their work. The feedback from those who were there has been glowing.

Our SSNaPs continue to be popular for both sides of the event as they can give as much back to the host as they do to those in attendance, which is really fantastic. As Emma commented:

We really enjoyed hosting our SSNaP session. We were a bit worried beforehand that attendees might find it a bit dry and technical, but from the feedback we have received it seems that people found it interesting. A few attendees even remarked that they were going to immediately add some of our examples to their own knowledge hubs, which is great to hear!

Of the logistics in putting on the SSNaP event, Emma said:

In terms of organising the SSNaP it was all quite straight forward. Faye and the SLLG Committee did all of the advertising and collated the list of attendees so all we had to do was arrange a space here (not always that easy as conference rooms are at a bit of a premium). Faye also kindly coordinated with the Rose Leaf for the meal afterwards. I did spend an inordinate amount of time on my hand-outs but that was my own stubbornness coming into play as I was determined to have an infographic style short hand-out despite never having created an infographic before!

It’s great that SSNaPs can provide training and skills experiences for the host too: the infographic handout was very professional, Emma!

On a personal note, Emma added:

I would recommend that any SLLG members considering hosting a SSNaP should give it a go. It is really quite informal so good for people like me, who are not that fond of public speaking and big presentations.

Faye was unable to make the presentation but fortunately was able to come along to the socialising of the attendees afterwards. Here is Faye’s vivid sketch of this:

The staff canteen at Victoria Quay has earned a place in many a Civil Servant’s heart: morning rolls after a dip in the staff pool; fish and chips on Fridays… Sadly, yet understandably, they wind things up after lunchtime so over the road we went for a bite to eat and a catch-up.

Leith is of course recognised as a foodie haven with an abundance of restaurants to choose from. We settled on the Roseleaf, a perfect blend of family pub and chintzy café, for several reasons: their menu caters to all tastes and dietary needs – Scottish to Thai; vegan to coeliac – and their drink selection is pretty impressive too. Most of us went for one of their homemade fizzies, including ginger beer and rose lemonade, but real ales and “pot-tails” continue to draw in happy customers. After heaping praise on Emma and Roddy, the conversation moved to every librarian’s favourite subject…telly: Line of Duty; The Replacement; every HBO series ever made. Don’t judge – even the lawyers are at it (spoiler alert). We also managed to discuss more professional endeavours – namely, further study and summer conferences.

It’s always imperative to pick a winner when it comes to menu choices and think the award goes to Kayleigh – her Barry beetroot burger looked very nice and apparently tasted pretty good too. It’s always a pleasure to meet fellow law librarians in a social capacity so I look forward to seeing more of you at our next SSNaP and of course the 2017 AGM in May.

If any member would like more information for having a little SSNaP chat of their own with other members, please say hello to anyone on the committee. We will be delighted to hear from you.

Library Moves SSNaP – 13 February 2017

For the Groups’ second Short Skills Networking and Presentation series, members gathered to discuss good practice when relocating their stock.

There were 7 attendees, along with additional input submitted in advance by the team at Pinsent Masons (thank you!) and the DLA Piper librarian in Manchester after the office move at the end of last year.

Everyone had had experience of some sort of move and so were able to contribute throughout – ranging from re-thinking information centres, to the full-scale new office with library designed from scratch.

Guided by the pre-provided points, the discussion followed the logical steps of a move: always being aware of the possibility, formulating a plan of action, library design and actual move logistics.

We shared our thoughts and experiences of what worked well in libraries we’d worked in, and what didn’t.  There were some horror stories, such as the triangular shelving one architect thought would be ideal for legal stock.  There is some more photographic evidence below.

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Closed crates with option for labels for extended term access from storage

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Stock moves can also provide an opportunity for disposal of no longer used items

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Book moves can be a dirty business

The discussion was lively and lasted almost two hours, and the attendees really enjoyed the session (or else enjoyed a sugar high from the individually wrapped Jelly Beans).

It was refreshing and worthwhile to be able to examine an issue indepth via this forum, without a bell going off to prematurely whisk us on to another table and topic.

A full outcome has been created for the benefit of all members and is on the SLLG Website at http://www.sllg.org.uk/images/member_publications/Library_Moves.pdf

SSNaPs are already proving to be the perfect development format in our group. If you would like to host a presentation or discussion topic on any issue please contact convenor@sllg.org.uk

SSNaP Chat: serials management,26 October 2016

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Set up for the SSNaP Chat, 26/10/2016. Credit: Sharron Wilson.

SLLG member and Serials Librarian at the Advocates Library, Sharron, kicked off the group’s Short Skills, Networking and Presentation meetings (or, SSNaP chats) by hosting a small interested group at her desk in discussing serial publications administration.

 

Sharron has written of her experience in hosting this event:

Every member of SLLG has unique knowledge. Part of the benefit of being part of our group is sharing and learning from each others’ technical skills.

That was the premise upon which I suggested to the SLLG Committee after our AGM earlier this year that Serials Management may be of interest for a one hour informal lunchtime chat.

With some promotion by the Convenor it was a straightforward process to gather a few names of people who felt this was of interest and then the first SSNaP Chat was organised for 26/10/16.

The goal was to offer a whirlwind tour of what a serial is and then what serials do I buy, where do I buy them and what do I do with them. More importantly it was the opportunity for those attending to raise any specific questions they may have and, if I could not answer them there and then, the door is now open to have a follow up chat or meeting to discuss further. It is hard to be too specific in detail in the space of an hour but it was a great way to chat about our own experiences and knowledge and, for some, meet a few new SLLG faces.

I felt this one hour chat was beneficial and would recommend that more members offer to share their knowledge via this platform.

If anyone does have any serials related queries they would like to discuss please do get in touch.

Sharron.

Feedback received from this SSNaP chat has been extremely positive. The format was praised as a concept and attractive to both host and attend.

Many thanks for Sharron for taking the step to offer the first group event of this type. Many thanks, too, for those who attended. It’s fantastic to hear the idea was a success in practice. We look forward to reporting on many more SSNaP chats!


 

This year the SSNaP event was loosely introduced into the SLLG calendar. The concept behind SSNaP is for SLLG members (or guests) to lead small scaled sector or profession interest sessions freely for other SLLG members.

The potential formats or topics for sessions are limited only to the ideas from those who want to lead them. They can be anything, such as:

  • Single subject centred discussion
  • Presentation on a delivered project
  • Demonstration of practical “library” techniques
  • Sharing of experiences
  • Imparting skills and tips
  • Work shopping a potential new library system
  • Tour of a redeveloped library space
  • Canvas others’ advice, insight and knowledge

SSNaP meetings are intended to be quick and easily put together to slot into a working day, after hours or a working lunch hour. They can be arranged at relatively short notice, if need be. They have the structural intention so that even with only a very small attendance, those who attend will gain value from them.

It is the wonderful aspect of a SSNaP that it needn’t be in-depth, professional-trainer standard delivered or just for those with “management level” interests: it is for any member (both host and attendee) at any stage in their career to contribute and get something back at a peer level and feel comfortable in doing so.

If you would like to host a SSNaP event please contact the SLLG Committee, who will be happy to provide support and any guidance you require to help organise your own SSNaP chat.