David Whelan

Explorations with information and technology.

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I had a small shift in my job role recently. Last year, we lost about 15% of our budget and 3 staff roles. So when we had another retirement this year in a management role, I decided to rethink the position. Long story short, I took on direct management of 7 staff in order to hire a dedicated reference librarian. As I’ve been easing into this change, we’ve been using Microsoft Teams for a lot of the routine communication that would happen informally at work. Communication that doesn’t require email. And communication that can interrupt flow. It’s been…
Canada is a bit behind the US in reopening after the pandemic. Our law library – membership and courthouse-based – is still some months away from reopening. But I’m already starting to tinker with things because, no matter when we reopen, we are unlikely to ever have our staff entirely onsite again. Organizational teams have realized that they can do the work in a variety of different ways. The question that remains in my mind is how directors will enable or inhibit those changes. I’ll give you an example. I was talking to someone whose company is contemplating a range…
One goal of a law library director is to correctly allocate resources. That means, whether it’s a strategic or tactical goal, you need to have a bit of self-awareness and be open-eyed about what it is you are trying to accomplish. I had a conversation recently with a law librarian who was trying to solve a problem. As we talked, though, it became clear that they were going to fail because the problem they said they wanted to solve wasn’t the problem they actually had. This can be harder than it seems. And I don’t want to suggest I have…
One of my first library school classes was about library management. Professor (now Dean Emeritus) Herman Totten taught us a lot of concepts and one that has stuck with me was the lattice concept. We want to encourage peer interactions, connections that do not rely on the vertical chain of command, to enable our libraries to do more, for our staff to be more. The lattice is within the library (reference to cataloging, for example) as well as without (library to corporate IT, or marketing, and teams that don’t serve the library). It creates opportunities for collaboration and idea sharing.…
Our law library has an extensive collection of old books. Their spines do not bend well for generic multi-function printers (MFP) and other flat bed scanners. We have a copier specifically to allow for their safe duplication but it is not just old books that benefit from digitization. I was fooling around with Microsoft Office Lens the other day and found that it was a pretty good, simple book scanner with a bit of help. This is an edge case solution. Most of us have access to MFPs and so can scan pretty much anything in our collection. This approach…
Language is a rich resource. Not only do we have the words we’ve inherited over time, but we can make new ones and use them differently. In professions, we have terms of art as well, creating even more nuanced ways of expressing ideas. It has been funny to me watching technology try to manage that nuance. I don’t, of course, mean Nuance, the voice recognition company recently acquired by Microsoft as part of its cloud healthcare push. Nuance is also behind Dragon (aka Dragon Dictate), the long standing voice recognition tool used in the legal profession. It will…
I’ll be talking to my staff soon about employee engagement and, in particular, a survey they contributed to at my place of work. While I’m pleased that they reported that they were, for the most part, highly engaged, I don’t take credit for that. What has struck me, though, as I prepare for this meeting, is how simple it can be to create engagement, how often we fail to do so, and how difficult it is to identify what makes a difference. I’d like to be crystal clear, for those few people who monitor my posts for wrong thinking,…
I was a Scout leader for awhile. In Canada, the Scout Law asks a scout “to be wise in the use of all resources.” To a certain extent, resources determine the scope of our work. We have to cut our coat to suit our cloth. There’s a degree of honesty in that, though, when it comes to project scoping. We may end up tailoring our project to success rather than to fulfilling the actual goal. The goal is key. What is it you are trying to accomplish? This may be the stage where we most fail as…
I used to play around a lot with productivity apps. After awhile, my world settled enough that either there weren’t a lot of new apps or I wasn’t as interested in chasing them. Maybe I reached peak productivity. The release of Windows 10 has brought me to Microsoft Sticky Notes. I … like them. But I can be a fickle consumer. I decided to try them out against Google’s Keep to see if either provided a better temporary note keeping experience. These apps are great for small and temporary notes. For anything more complex, I would use Microsoft OneNote. But…
Dad. Boss. Colleague. We carry many labels. This post sprang from thinking about collective nouns for librarians. I’d seen another community addressed with one that I wasn’t sure was that apt. And it got me wondering: what is a collective noun for librarians? A shelf of librarians reflects a particular, physical approach to our work. What about a horizon of librarians? I quickly moved on to other things we are labeled or call ourselves and their impacts. The Oxford English Dictionary suggested a stack of librarians. A quick web search will unearth many more. A shush of librariansA catalog of…
Over a decade ago, someone told me that print legal texts only had about 5 more years to go. Even by that time, the e-book had a place in the information world. It continues to escape law library funders and governance boards why we haven’t converted entirely to this format. One gets the sense sometimes that they view the failure to do so reflects backwards thinking on the part of law librarians. At the risk of preaching to the choir, it’s not that simple. This post was suggested, as so many are, by an interaction with another law librarian. It…
Passwords and password management are evergreen topics. It’s one of those things that, while everyone uses passwords, they arrive at password management in different ways and at different times. Password management can be confusing because there are so many different ways to do it. I’ve touched on password management before. How storing them in a web browser can lead to them being exposed if someone else accesses the browser. How I prefer offline password managers over online ones. This was top of mind recently when an online password manager was backdoored. Any password management tool you use requires…
I needed to find a government document. I had seen a link to the document on a site that was not controlled by the US government, so it was not the content I was looking for so much as an authoritative copy. It was unlikely that many other people were looking for it. After emailing a variety of government departments, I got a copy but the document was not publicly accessible anywhere. But it made me try to imagine the cost of the long tail of legal information. What do law libraries expend in resources to support it and do…
I was invited to speak at the Northern California Association of Law Libraries’ Spring Institute. It was a bit of a stretch for me. I’m not accustomed to talking about myself and it was also my first virtual conference presentation. I’ve posted previously about what people should do and so I tried to follow my own advice/admonitions. This is a post mortem of what worked, what didn’t, and what things I need to figure out how to do better. First, let me provide a bit of context. The NOCALL Spring Institute was a 4 day event, spread over 2…
We upgraded to broadband about 2 months ago. The difference makes me understand better the unaligned expectations of information providers. It was also a good opportunity to revisit how our home network is set up and leverage other opportunities that are available. I have always preferred DSL for internet. In theory, the direct line to your internet service provider should provide you with a constant bandwidth. Cable connections are shared among nearby consumers and so, a bit like everyone turning on the AC in a heatwave, bandwidth access might fluctuate. But I was aware that our household connection was probably…
Law libraries are continually challenged to shift the perspective that a library is a library is a library. This perspective can lead a governance board or funder to see a public library trend and assume that the same concepts apply to a law library. One of the ways I’ve seen this occur is in how people view collection access. While serendipity is a normal finding tool in public libraries, legal researchers may be more focused on content in a way that makes shelf browsing less valuable. Unfortunately, our role as intermediaries makes delivery of content chunks difficult. When you approach…