I had the pleasure again to guest lecture in FIS 2133 – Legal Literature and Librarianship at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, being taught by John Papadopoulos and Sooin Kim. The topic was knowledge management (KM) in law firms.
Two broad themes emerged (albeit slightly unrelated): (i) their concern over the job market for future law librarians / knowledge managers, and (ii) my continued proselytizing for an integrated approach to information in law firms by merging library functions with KM and continued "convergence" with library and KM and other administrative functions in law firms, including training, marketing and IT.
For their concerns over the job market they will face on graduation, there was not too much to say other than I remain relatively positive that: (i) the layoffs and negative impacts felt by US and UK law firms will not be felt as strongly in the Canadian legal market, (ii) there is always a need for good people, (iii) law libraries are like living organisms that need continual maintenance, (iv) and there is a good argument to make that KM is in a way more important during tougher economic times to the extent that KM practices can improve efficiencies and help reduce costs.
Regarding my prostelyzing, I think there was general acceptance of my pitch on the value of an approach that integrates library and KM. There were also lots of interesting questions from students, including some such as:
- the extent to which law librarians / knowledge managers need or should have "above average" IT skills and knowledge
- the relationship between records management and KM (and library)
- whether Toronto law firms engage in international legal research
They were a very attentive group and knew their stuff.
In discussing the challenge of providing current awareness services without creating information overload I discussed my earlier presentation that posited information overload is relative and not a new phenomena but something that dates back hundreds of years. Students typically enjoy learning about Ramelli's bookwheel from 1588 (check out the picture of the bookwheel at the foregoing link).