Where do we go from here? Now that the former Private Law Libraries-Special Interest Section (PLL-SIS) of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) has a new name: Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals-Special Interest Section (PLLIP-SIS) the aforementioned question is important. But first some background on why a new name was sought. <>Significant changes have been occurring in the legal industry for several years now and by association so have law firm libraries. The resulting downsizing of staff and physical spaces in libraries have impacted what and how things are done. Selecting a name that accurately reflects these changes accomplished two significant goals: moving away from a focus on place (i.e. library) to an emphasis on the individuals (i.e. law librarians and information professionals) who provide value-added services to their organizations. As Jean O’Grady aptly stated in the press release about the new moniker, “the PLLIP-SIS name change reflects the expansion of new roles undertaken by legal information professionals in law firms including competitive intelligence, practice alignments, analytics, knowledge management, pricing, and business development.”
The new name more accurately reflects our current and future roles which encompass a cornucopia of information gathering tasks that are actionable and strategic, valuable and necessary, thereby appropriately transporting us from a place to a group of professionals who provide a wide and ever expanding range of high-value strategic information services to our organizations.
Recent findings from the ALM 2015 Annual Law Librarian Survey summarized in a recent American Lawyer article lays bare the truth regarding the new roles law librarians are taking on in their organizations:
- 32% of the respondents have eliminated the word “library” from their department’s name in favor of terms such as knowledge, information, and research paired with center, services and innovation
- 76% reported a growth in competitive intelligence work over the past 5 years
- Law firms have increased their staffing levels to address the sophisticated research needs and innovative services such as competitive intelligence and analytics that are needed to help the firm’s competitive positioning
- And law firm information professionals continue to contribute to the bottom line in generating $500,000 in revenue.
Merely acquiring a new name does not automatically make us valuable members of our organizations. That is largely up to us, and the overarching message Dr. Seuss’ book Oh the Places You’ll Go (published 25 years ago) “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go,” still rings true today too!
There is and always will be progress to be made. But being armed with a new name can energize and empower us to step up our efforts to continue as the go-to providers of actionable competitive information that assists our attorneys in advising their clients. We have the skill set needed to manage and organize today’s information that yields knowledge in support of our organization’s success now and far into the future.
It is up to us, both individually and collectively, as information providers to continue to shape our future and the future of our profession.