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Extras - Profile in Partnering: An Interview of Barbara Geier

By Marie Wallace, Published on May 22, 1997

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Barbara K. Geier has just accepted a new job with The Coca-Cola Company Legal Division as Manager of Professional Development. In this newly created position, her responsibilities will include developing and implementing training programs and seminars for all of The Coca-Cola Company's lawyers worldwide.

For the twelve years prior, Barbara was Director of Information Services and Attorney Training at Atlanta's Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy where she was responsible for libraries, records and conflicts, computerized litigation support, and attorney training.

Throughout the past twelve years, Barbara has been very involved with the teaching of legal research in law firms, lecturing and writing on the topic. Barbara was also one of the three law librarians who came up with the idea for what is now called the TRIPLL (Teaching Research in Private Law Libraries) and has been on the teaching faculty for all eight of the TRIPLL meetings and the most recent AMPLL (Advanced Management in Private Law Libraries) meeting .

While Barbara is focusing her career in the training area, she plans to remain involved and connected to the law library community.

(Archived June 24, 1997)

Overheard in a conversation between two law librarians, "Have you noticed that the best conferences to attend these days are the ones sponsored by vendors?" Several years ago, sensing a paradigm shift, Lexis-Nexis pioneered in partnering with private law librarians to create a new type of learning forum--first with the Graylyn Conferences then with the TRIPLL Conferences and now with the AMPLL Conference. Westlaw has also started a joint learning venture with their Information Innovators conference. Acceptance into one of these program offerings is highly valued.

In a interview conducted by Marie Wallace with Barbara Geier, AMPLL Planning Council, we gain insights into paradigm shifts and partnered program planning, especially the AMPLL (Advanced Management for Private Law Librarians) held April 11 - 13, 1997 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Marie

You have been involved with the TRIPLL (Teaching Research in Private Law Libraries) conferences since their inception in 1990. Describe how the AMPLL (Advanced Management for Private Law Librarians) Conference evolved from TRIPLL. Where there any significant differences in the structure of the AMPLL program?

Barbara

The AMPLL Conference evolved out of the TRIPLL Conferences as a result of a perceived need to expand the training that was being provided for law librarians. While legal research training skills and curriculum design are still important, recent economic and cultural events in law firms require law librarians to develop new skills. The AMPLL Conference is designed to teach advanced management skills to law librarians in a very "hands-on" environment. The AMPLL Conference, while dealing with different topics continued the highly successful TRIPLL format of small group break-out sessions and completion of action plans.

Marie We hear a lot about values today. Are the program values for AMPLL different from library-sponsored programs on management?
Barbara Yes. For the AMPLL Conference, we purposely chose some speakers who were not connected to the library community. The "Assessing Your Personal Management Style" speaker was Sandra Yancey, a consultant with a great deal of experience in management training in a corporate environment. The AMPLL Planning Council wanted a speaker who would bring a non-librarian perspective to this topic.
Marie Some anonymous person noted "The easiest way to cope with change is to help create it." Do you think this is true? That law librarians are doing this? How do you think the TRIPLL/AMPLL Conferences have created change?
Barbara There is no question that Lexis-Nexis has provided a tremendous opportunity for law librarians to cope with change by teaching them the skills to create change. From the earliest Graylyn Conferences through the seven TRIPLL Conferences and one AMPLL Conference, many librarians have come back and implemented programs which have contributed significantly to improving library services. One of the greatest success stories is that of Ellen Callinan, who upon completing the first TRIPLL conference decided a clearinghouse for legal research materials would be a helpful thing and created the Research Instruction Caucus (RIC) within AALL. This group merged with the Readers Services SIS and recently changed its name to Research Instruction and Patron Services SIS. It has assisted many librarians in setting up programs and designing materials. Chris Graesser also went back after attending TRIPLL and got her local law library association to teach a legal research course in their community. This idea has also been adopted by the Atlanta Law Library Association with great success. The money that has been raised has been used to pay for the hiring of dynamic speakers who can help us to "think outside the box".
Marie For you, what was the single best aspect of AMPLL?
Barbara The single best aspect of AMPLL is the program format which allows each participant the opportunity to get away from the day to day demands of his or her job and focus on problem solving and brainstorming with colleagues. In addition, the completion of the Action Plan allows one to return to the work environment with a well reasoned plan that can be immediately implemented.
Marie Since the teacher always learns the most, what was the most significant thing you learned from AMPLL?
Barbara I learned from AMPLL was how important it is for law librarians to understand the economic position the library holds in a law firm. While this has always been important, the concept of the library as a profit center is declining as a result of client resistance. At the same time, the availability and ease with which information can be obtained electronically is changing the size of hard copy collections and altering staff as we have known it. Today's law librarian has a challenge to lead his or her firm through this time of tremendous change.
Marie Has participating in and organizing TRIPLL and AMPLL conferences had any impact on your own professional career?
Barbara Yes, I felt very fortunate to have been on the Planning Councils for every TRIPLL and AMPLL Conference. I have had the privilege of working with and meeting many talented law librarians. While I was already involved in attorney training at the time of the first TRIPLL conference, I have applied many of the principles I have learned from others to my own firm. The ideas I have brought back from these conferences have greatly enriched my firm's library services.
Marie How do you think AMPLL helped law librarians and library managers to reframe their relationships with their firms?
Barbara An underlying theme of all the conferences has been that librarians must be willing to change the paradigm as they may presently know it. Part of this is recognizing the skills librarians bring to a firm and thinking of all the ways they can apply those skills to further their firm's business goals. The fact that it may not be a function traditionally done in the library will no longer matter.
Marie Why do you think that the TRIPLL and AMPLL conferences have been so uniformly successful?
Barbara I think because of the purposely restricted small number of participants and the intensive three day total immersion process. Most of the other seminars available are in much larger groups and for less time.
Marie I understand you are making a career change. Did your involvement with the TRIPLL and AMPLL conferences have any bearing on this decision?
Barbara I think my involvement gave me the confidence and the tools to move into my present position.
Marie Now that your job is 100% training, what do you think you will take from your law library background and from the TRIPLL and AMPLL conferences?
Barbara One particular skill that I plan on using is my librarian's knowledge of technology. In my new position at The Coca-Cola Company, I would like to develop, in conjunction with the MIS department, technology training programs for lawyers that go beyond the basics skills and get into specific applications in defined practice areas. In addition, I would like to be involved in Internet and Intranet/Extranet development and training for attorneys, paralegals, and staff. The teaching skills I have learned as a law librarian will assist me with my new professional development responsibilities.
Marie Will you keep you ties with the law library community?
Barbara Absolutely. While my day to day job responsibilities will not be law library focused, I will always consider myself a law librarian. I hope to stay very much in touch with this wonderful community who have given me the skills to take this next step in my career.

Shortly after the 1997 AMPLL Conference, Barbara Geier made a career change from a private law library, Powell, Goldstein, Frazer and Murphy in Atlanta, as Director of Information Services to The Coca-Cola Company as Manager of Professional Development where her primary mission is to develop a comprehensive training program for attorneys, legal assistants, and administrative staff in The Coca-Cola Company Legal Division. This will include looking at ways to provide training opportunities for those attorneys who are outside the United States.