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Library related events, questions and links: My professional life on a page

What do users think of what you do?

Reed Smith’s experience of changing circumstances was recently presented at the Ark Group conference on managing law firm libraries in challenging times. One of the projects undertaken was a review of the research and current awareness services provided. This is how we did it.

To begin with, I wrote a formal proposal for discussion by the team. Every single service was listed – from major research enquries to circulating journals. This produced rather a long list, so similar services were grouped together. However, there were a few specific services that we felt definitely needed to be reviewed as there was a suspicion they had been inherited at the merger without further investigation. So these were left alone. Categories and items were organised via Zoomerang into an online survey. The survey was subject to much scrutiny in team meetings.

One of the key objectives was to be , well, objective, and to try to find out what the lawyers who don’t purposely use the library thought about our offerings. That is, those who still have journals arrive on their desk, or database access from their desktop, but who do not place research enquiries or request current awareness services. It is, after all, easy to ask a library-friendly partner what they think of us, but that will only give a very biased view.

I used the same randomising technique I had employed for my PhD to choose fee-earners to invite to take part in the survey. With no rewards on offer I knew that participation would be minimal, but felt this approach would help target people we didn’t know. As a researcher, I felt eliminating bias and having a robust survey was important. So I aimed to ask a representative number of lawyers – trainees, associates and partners – based on the randomised lists.

This was a partially successful project. Whilst participation was at the expected level at partner level (virtually nil) we did gain some useful insights into how our perception of the value of services differed from the lawyers’ – and we were able to drop one or two of the services that were time-intensive but not widely needed.

If you would like more information about the review, about conducting survey research or other research tools in the workplace Uncookeddata is happy to help.

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Some possibly useful research links