David Whelan

Explorations with information and technology.

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Latest from David Whelan

There is a lot for the observational leader to watch at the moment. One thing that I’ve been particularly interested in is our willingness to change. On one hand, the pandemic has forced us to change our law library operations. Many of those changes are temporary. But on the other, there are more changes that could be made. They are being avoided, though, because of a fear of setting a precedent. Temporary changes are pretty obvious. If your law library is closed, then your physical services have stopped. No photocopying, no notary stamps, no lending print format information. But you…
This is my third week of self-quarantine. I was out of the country – so there’s two weeks. Then I went to the US to extract a kid from university, so my clock reset. As we begin to settle into doing things differently, I am starting to think about what lies ahead. I was on a phone call last week that had me thinking about law libraries. I’m a dog person. I like cats but from a distance. Some of my best ideas occur while walking the dog. The current one snuffles along while I scan the horizon for skunks,…
Work from home sounds great in the same way that a brownie sounds great. The challenge is that, once your diet is solely brownies, the bloom comes off the rose. You can yearn for the familiarity of your former work life. Work from home during the pandemic can be a catalyst, though, to make long-term changes in your productivity. I’ve been watching our corporate activity in the past 10 days and these are some things that we could change. It has been interesting to watch a whole wave of people adapt to working remotely. I ran a web development…
We’re closed. As has been frequently noted on social media, libraries are essential but not in the same way as healthcare is essential. I have always wondered what law practice would look like without law libraries. Now we’ll find out. I’ve said many times that I don’t believe law libraries are essential to law practice. Legal information is, but not law libraries. Like many professions, a legal professional has been trained to use the information required in that knowledge domain. The law library profession is aware that the vast bulk of lawyers do not maintain their own law libraries…
I’m in self-quarantine. To a certain extent, this isolation means that I am facing a lot more “that’s a you problem” experiences: working at home is something of a closed loop. But a law library is typically a mid-point in a chain. This can mean that process changes upstream at the publisher can impact our our operations downstream. A Canadian legal publisher has been struggling with fulfillment and a lot of those problems have been amplified by our work processes. We decided to shift the burden back upstream. I’ll take a step back to explain. We still collect…
The legal profession operates in a Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft world. It was natural, then, to look at some Microsoft tools when thinking about communication and trust in our organization. The underlying goal is not technological: how do you create the weak network links between people within an organization that provides a foundation for establishing trust? But to get there, we need tools that enable for network building. Our organization has over 600 people in it, so not very large in the scheme of things. Unlike most law firms and law schools, those 600 people are doing a wide variety of…
I am sure you have all been following the Parker County (TX) law library imbroglio as closely as I have. In fact, I was going to write a very different blog post about it today. But on Monday night, the county commissioners made the decision I would have recommended: the county courthouse law library will move to the public library. If you haven’t been following this story closely, you can see how it started, the middle act of uncertainty, and its finale. There was even an editorial statement on the issue. Use It or Lose It In…
Let’s give a cheer for the catalogers, for the metadata experts, for the people who make information access possible. I stumbled into cataloging during library school and that unplanned experience has had a huge impact. I am not a cataloger but I value what these organizers do. One of the challenges they face with online materials is making sure that things we don’t own or control remain accessible. My recent task was to find a good, inexpensive MARC 856 field link checker. I was surprised at how slim the field was. This was particularly noticeable because a web site owner…
Some are born leaders, and some have leadership thrust upon ’em. Leadership often just happens. You make a decision or take an action (or inaction) in response to a situation or context. You may have thought it through in advance – how will I react in X situation or if Y happens – but there’s not always luxury for that contemplation. When there is, though, it’s a missed opportunity not to use it. I was in a meeting recently and a project had failed. The discussion was interesting for a number of reasons. My organization is risk-averse in a…
The wheel turns and our library is going through an operational review. I’ve never been clear whether these are common or not. It’s involved a lot of data analysis and report writing. It requires a lot of explanation about what the law library does, to people who may have no context. I thought I’d jot down some thoughts on the process and how a law library director might prepare and respond. If you’ve not been through an operational review, you’re not really at any disadvantage. I think the term is used even when what you’re doing is not an operational…
It’s a new year! A new fiscal year frequently brings goal discussions. This may happen in January or whatever month follows your law library’s fiscal year end close. If I did new year’s resolutions, I would resolve to eliminate goals as a performance measure. A recent meeting with some peers solidified this resolve. Performance management centers around one key question: does the employee perform. If they perform well, we may provide recognition. If they perform poorly, we may provide coaching or other guidance, like access to additional training. In either case, we manage the performance to the extent…
One thing you notice when you run a web site like this one is the occasional aberration in access. A particular IP address starts hitting your site repeatedly. Or you get a lot of views from a country for a single page. From the outside, a person just sees the web site. But from behind the scenes, there can sometimes be a cat-and-mouse game to keep bad actors off your site. I recently rebuilt a web site. One of the things the site admin didn’t do was watch the access log files. At one point before Google Analytics became…
I use pilot holes when I need to put a screw into wood. The adjective pilot is used to suggest that something is a trial or test. In my experience, it is often used as a way to start something that isn’t a test – a pilot project – but that won’t move forward if the project requires a full commitment. That was also my reaction when I read about two Canadian public libraries who are eliminating overdue fines. The first is the Brant County public library. The CEO did some research, decided fines were impeding use, and decided…
I’d been driving for nearly 16 hours when the snow started. I’d taken some breaks but I knew now it was time to find a hotel. I came off the highway at the next town and found a cheap motel. It was fortuituous, because that’s where I ran into the Oops towel. No matter how small your law library and how limited your resources, you can find little ways to make the experience better. I like to think I have a pretty decent approach to strategy. That’s the big picture and you need to have that. But strategy consists of…
Microsoft Edge has a new engine. Google’s Chrome has long been the leading web browser and Microsoft’s approach has staggered over the years. We all know not to use Internet Explorer, right? Edge came with Windows 10 and brought security and some innovation. But in the end, Microsoft decided to adopt the open-source Chromium browser engine to power Edge into the future. It’s arrived and it’s worth a look. It is probably worth a quick mention to clarify that Chromium isn’t Chrome. Chromium and Chromium OS are the chassis for other web applications. Using a Chromebook? The Chrome OS…
It all started with a phone call. A web developer I know was running a utility over links on corporate web sites. A corporate subsidiary was returning a bunch of really unusual links, lots of them. He asked what I thought was going on. When I logged into the WordPress dashboard for the site, it became clear. The site had been hacked. You couldn’t tell by just looking at the web site. It wasn’t defaced. There was no malware, no altered links. But on the inside, there were 2 dozen new accounts. There were a couple dozen new blog posts.…