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Special Libraries: Law Libraries - Staffing Strategies


Article List
Academic Libraries
      Disaster Recovery at Rio Hondo Community College
      Serials Holding Display Project at University of Southern California
      Staffing Strategies in Academic Libraries

AIM in the News
      Belinda Beardt, Speaker at SBVC Fall Convocation
      Belinda Beardt, Speaker at SCALL Fall Meeting
      Linda McKell Awarded the Mark Baer Award

AIM Services
      AIM Outplacement Services

Job Search Tips
      Electronic Resume
      Frequently Asked Interview Questions
      Interviewing Tips & Techniques
      Interviewing: From Both Sides of the Table
      Networking Quickies
      Questions to Ask the Interviewer
      Resume Writing Tips
      Retooling Your Career
      The Ten Commandments of Interviewing
      What else can I do with my Library Tech degree or certificate?
      What NOT to ask during an interview?
      Where to Find Library Jobs

Public Libraries
      AIM's Project Team tackles San Francisco Public Library Project
      Creative Staffing at Torrance Public Library
      Fresno County Partners with AIM
      Solano County Library Expands

Special Libraries
      Consultants Provide Solutions
      Law Libraries - Staffing Strategies
      Microfilming History
      Non-Traditional Libraries
      The Law Librarian Employment Market

Law Libraries-Staffing Strategies



Law libraries continue to face the constraints of stretching tight budgets to meet increased service demands. Justifying the need for specially trained library staff is difficult in the face of downsizing and the misconception that the Internet can do it all at little or no cost. Some library managers have succeeded, however, in spite of this environment. What are some of their secrets?


Recognize Precedent

When it is a common practice throughout the organization to use temporary personnel, this precedent can help justify it in your department. Lauri Flynn, Director of Information Resources for the Bank of America's Legal Department in San Francisco, covered absences and projects with existing staff until she noticed that other departments whould bring in extra help. Discovering that the Legal Department considered temporary help to be a viable option in maintaining operations on an 'as needed' basis, she began to request temporary help when it was warranted.


Be Creative

Evaluate you options in accomplishing your work load. There may be other approaches besides hiring a full-time permanent person immediately. Lauri Flynn needed to fill a permanent opening and felt it would be helpful to bring in a experienced temporary person who could help further evaluate the long term demands of the position. She contacted Maggie O'Brien at AIM's Mountain View office. After a search of AIM's staffing database, Maggie suggested Ethel Innes. Ethel had retired after working at the UC Regents General Counsel Office as their Law Librarian for many years. She had top-notch skills and experience but was interested only in part-time work. Lauri decided to give her a chance.


After working with Ethel, Lauri realized that she was the person for the permanent position. The problem was then how to more than part-time coverage. Her answer was to try a job-sharing situation. Ethel suggested Barbara Johnson, who had worked for her at UC. Barbara was a veteran of the Technical Services Department who also retired but was interested in part-time work. Lauri consulted with the HR and Legal Departments to work out the details. Ethel and Barbara are now permanent Bank of America employees. They work well together to create a smooth work flow and bring a wealth of experience to the position. "What I don't know; Barbara does. It's an advantage that we have worked together before," Ethel said.


Request Trained Personnel

In recent years, many large organizations have chosen a 'sole' staffing organization to supply all of their temporary help needs. This may work well for clerical, accounting or other staffing,but not generally work when the need is for specialized library skills and experience. Establishing a case for bringing in trained personnel can make the difference between creating more work and getting the job done right the first time.


Lauri also had a major shifting project and realized that a team of people under the direction of a project manager was needed. AIM successfully filled her request. The project went well because it was clearly defined, well supervised and appropriately staffed. "I feel confident in working with this type of agency because the candidates will have the skills we need," she noted. Lauri realized that making do with untrained help often creates more work that may need re-doing in the future and now requests AIM's staffing assistance when possible.


Identify Specific Needs

Identifying specific needs and projects offers more of a chance for approval than pointing to a general need for additional help. There is a direct correlation between cost and benefit in requesting help for situation such as cataloging, inventorying or a sudden vacancy.


Debi Mazor manages the Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe's San Francisco library as well as their new Silicon Valley library. Recently, Debi called AIM due to a sudden staffing shortage in the new library. Bob Calhoun, an experienced library assistant, was chosen to handle coverage for several months. Debi appreciates working with AIM because, "It's an immediate solution. I can have someone in the next day if that's what I need."


Use a Consultant

Some projects require that short term use of a highly experienced professional. Knowing when to bring in a consultant can start the project off on the right foot. From initiating an automation project to designing a plan for a new library, consultants can save time and money in the long run.


Jim Brighton for the Research and Planning Unit of the Administration Office of the Courts (AOC) recognized a need for specialized expertise in setting up a library. Jim described the AOC as "information rich and accessibility poor." His goal was to develop a multi-year/mutli-phase plan to combine their scattered resources. AIM provided him with a consultant who has worked on a variety of planning projects over the years.


Value Your Work

Staffing shortages impact the work load. Absorbing additional work into already busy staff schedules either results in scramblingto reassign priorities, creating a backlog or implying that staff was not operating at peak capacity. Handling inordinate amounts of work is tiring and frustrating. As odd as it may seem, handling vacancies without bring in additional help can devalue your work!


Make Your Vendor Your Partner

Partnering with a staffing service that is responsive to your needs is part of the secret to success. Using a vendor that provides access to a large pool of skilled and experienced personnel, a variety of staffing approaches and competent, professional placement counselors can save you time and money. They can prescreen qualified candidates, thereby, eliminating the need for high-cost advertising and the time drain of wading through inappropriate resumes. Additionally, when when you finally have received approval to bring in help, the faster you find someone the more likely you are not to lose the approval.


We hope these ideas will help you justify the use of outside staffing when it is appropriate. As experienced staffing industry specialists within the library and information field, we hope you will look to AIM as your staffing partner.




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