|PRIVATE LAW LIBRARIES|
Opportunities for Technical Services
Librarians in the New Millenium
Katten Muchin Zavis
This is the first column in a new series. It focuses on technical services librarians in private law libraries. Guest columnists are invited and encouraged to submit articles highlighting both traditional and nontraditional aspects of technical services.
Over the years the role of the technical services librarian has evolved from supervising cataloging, serials and acquisitions into other areas of the library as well as its parent organization. Some examples of these other areas are database indexers, knowledge managers and Webmasters. Their organizational skills have adapted well to these additional responsibilities.
When I started library school many years ago, the question was always, "What do you want to be when you graduate?" I never hesitated in my response. I wanted to be a technical services librarian. The response to that was usually, "Why do you want to do that? You have a personality and there is no reason to be buried in the back room." I felt I would not be buried in the back room but would be the foundation for the rest of the library. If the books are not properly shelved or the computers are not functioning, the reference librarians and users cannot easily obtain the requested information. When no one complains it means that my responsibilities have been successfully completed.
I have worked in both academic and private libraries, so my professional experiences have been varied. The biggest difference between working in the private library from working in the academic environment is the urgency of the requests. In the private sector, immediately is the expected time frame. Items need to be processed and made available to the attorneys as quickly as possible.
Since cataloging is an accepted area for technical services librarians, I will briefly discuss cataloging procedures at my organization. This will probably be the only column that mentions it. As a cataloger, the emphasis is on getting the item processed. Enhancing records with more complete information is one of those TO DO items for when I have free time. The TO DO pile keeps growing and my free time keeps shrinking.
One area that the online environment has helped us manage is the constant shift of vendors. Our organization does not have an automated acquisition system. In order to improve our efficiency, I have adapted the 260 field to indicate the vendor that provides the update. Doing this one simple thing has saved numerous wrong phone calls in order to claim a missing update.
Life is never boring in the private law library world. How do you know that you are suited to this environment? You have to be able to multi-task and must possess excellent people skills. Hopefully, you’ll have the added bonus of being in a large enough library to have well-trained support staff who can problem-solve with minimum supervision.
There are days that I wonder why I do it. Other days I cannot imagine doing anything else.
Future columns will discuss the nontraditional roles of technical services librarians.