Thursday, December 23, 2004

The best thing about 2004...

Looking back at 2004, I'd have to say it was quite the year. Professionally I had some nice additions and milestones, and personally - well, I'll get to that. :-)

In January, I was asked to write a letter of reference for my friend Drew Jackson, who was (of all things) looking to go back to school and become a Librarian! I'm happy to say Drew's going to be starting the January 2005 intake at UBC SLAIS, and 16 months from now will be an exciting addition to our community.

Moving forward to March, our primary website for Clark, Wilson placed first in the IMA International Law Firm website category, which included prominent firms from around the world. The interesting thing about this story is that I wouldn't have thought to enter without the prompting of our Marketing Director Carina Bittel. As always, her creativity and vision make a big difference in my world.

In another March event, I crushed the competition in the Clark, Wilson hockey pool (my 2nd title in 5 years!!!). If I believed in wagering, I might have taken home $300. But rest assured, I returned any of the excess 'entry' fees. :-)

In June, I started on the VALL Executive as one of two Membership Coordinators (along with my wonderful colleague Elena Timoshchouk from McCarthy's). Given my young family and my 2 hours of commuting every day, I've always put off getting involved with VALL. Well, guess what? that was a mistake! I've got more out of VALL this year than the previous 4 years combined. Valerie Grace and the rest of the VALL Executive are a great group of people, and their positive energy has given me a real (to use an East Van expression) 'shot in the arm'.

The summer also saw the initial discussions of a Knowledge Management subsection for the Vancouver Association of Legal Administrators (VALA). By September, Gillian Crabtree had started to arrange things, and on November 23rd the first meeting was held. This group has fantastic potential, and is really making me look forward to 2005.

On the personal side, I became an Uncle for the first time on November 24th when my niece Hannah was born. I'm pretty proud of that. And...

Finally, the best thing about 2004, on February 11th, 2004 my daughter Amy was born! Just like her older brother Brendan, her face lights up when she sees me in a way I can't explain... I like being a Librarian and all, but my most rewarding position (with the least amount of training) is Daddy.

Seasons Greetings to all you Law Library folks (both near & far...), and may the best of 2005 arrive at your doorstep with little effort.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

At Last, Someone Created a Wixonomy!

Want to see a cool combination of web technology and Librarianship? Shimon Rura has created a new website at Add one part taxonomy, and one part wiki and you get a wixonomy. Get it?

Ok, here's the scoop. You all know that a Taxonomy is a collection of controlled vocabulary terms, arranged in a hierarchical structure of concepts. Building a good taxonomy is a typical first step prior to developing a more sophisticated retrieval language like a Thesaurus.

As an aside, it's always interesting to listen to the KM and Tech folks talk about Taxonomies as though they've discovered something new (next time I might pass them a copy of the good book [aka. Aitchison, Gilchrist and Bawden]).

A Wiki, on the other hand, is a free for all to edit webpage. A kind of scratch pad where multiple people can brain storm an idea - and a constant work in progress. So, if you add a Wiki to a Taxonomy, what you get is a great place to collaborate on the development of a shared interest controlled vocabulary.

I'm not sure if in it's present form that this combination is going to work, but it is inspiring. Can you imagine a law firm taxonomy developed via a wiki? You could even create a 'members only' community to limit the participants. .... oh, the ideas!

To me, the development of these kind of underlying knowledge structures (and the supporting technologies) are fundamental to Librarianship as a profession. Not just for Law Librarians, but all Librarians.

Good work Shimon! I really like it.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The 10 Year Crunch - Half of Vancouver Law Library Staff to Retire by 2015!

The demand for Law Librarians and Library Technicians in Vancouver has never been higher, and now like so many other professions there is a looming shortage.

The question "Is retirement in your near future?" was addressed in the most recent Vancouver Association of Law Libraries webpoll. The results showed the number of Law Librarians and Library Techs looking at retirement at a reasonable 4 percent over the next 3 years. That number will increase to almost 18% within 5 years, and a whopping 49.9% within 10 years.

A further breakdown of the survey results showed the number of Law Librarians and Law Library Managers looking to retire within 10 years at 54%, and the number of Library Technicians at 41%. Overall, these numbers would seem to be closely aligned with Mary Jo Lynch's 2002 study published in American Libraries that said 68% of Librarians will retire by 2017.

To begin by pointing out the obvious, the ranks of our senior Law Librarians are dwindling. Over the next 5 years, the staffing of Law Libraries will seem like normal attrition. Then it's going to hit - a serious lack of qualified candidates. Librarians in general will be scarce, and (I don't think I'm going out on a limb here) Law Librarians with experience will be worth their weight in gold.

My personal opinion is that we will still be able to find Librarians. Salary wise, Law Libraries are near the top of the Librarian food chain, and we can likely recruit from other related industry Libraries. The real problem will be finding anyone with Law Library experience.

If you've recruited a law librarian in the past 5 years (FWIW, I've recruited 2), you know that your best chance of getting a good candidate is finding someone at another law firm. Your second choice is likely a senior corporate librarian in another industry. Your third choice (or maybe your second) is that amazing new MLIS graduate who's taken the legal bibliography course at the local library school. Then you look at everyone else.... And the biggest factor of all in your recruiting efforts? timing. With a small community like ours, when people are happy they tend to stay put. If there is a shuffle going on among the other firms, you might pick off a candidate. If not, you'll be looking at the above mentioned alternatives. My point being here - it can be difficult to recruit right now - and that's before taking away half of the qualified people.

The other issue worth considering is, how many years of practical training does it take to bring a new graduate Librarian (or Library Technician) up to speed? While this is dependent on the individual, I'm not sure how much we can depend on new graduates knowing when they first start out. Simply put, so much of this profession is experience.

So who must pay attention to this? Well first of all - VALL. We (I speak as a member of the Executive) have to prepare our membership. Mentoring and training are going to be more important than ever. Next up, UBC SLAIS. The legal bibliography course needs to be offered regularly, and we need to support it (be it Teresa Gleave or another local Librarian who takes on this huge task). And finally, the local Library Tech programs - UCFV & Langara. Your graduates are going to be asked to do more and more. As Law Librarians get drawn into more sophisticated tasks, Library Techs are going to have to fill in the gaps.

One last disclaimer, I know this poll isn't exactly scientific, but with a 45% percent response rate (a sample some election pollsters would love), I just don't think this is something we can ignore.

Monday, December 13, 2004

LexisNexis Acquires Interface Software (InterAction)

Heads up everyone... LexisNexis has purchased Interface Software, makers of the high end CRM / Marketing database product InterAction. Reed Elsevier, the parent company of LexisNexis, will acquire all outstanding shares of the privately held Interface Software.

Following up on its previous acquisition of Time Matters, Lexis is once again moving outside of their core of research service products, towards an all encompassing group of business solutions directed at law firms.

Like many firms, we use InterAction as our CRM; and like many firms, we love the product and the company's top notch service support. It will be interesting to see if this level of service continues. Either way, this is a great acquisition for LexisNexis.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Create RSS Feeds for ALA or

I know many of you are using Bloglines, Feedster or another RSS aggregator to collect your daily news. I just found in Steven Cohen's Library Stuff blog a great way to create an RSS feed for any organization that has a news feed into Yahoo news.

Steven's already created ones for ALA, Whitehouse Press Releases, and American Medical Association press releases. Using his method I was able to add one for as well.

I wrote Steven to tell him about it, and he pointed out that the Yahoo news method offered up different results than the larger more current's Newswire RSS Feed (which I've surfed by a zillion times and hadn't seen). He also noticed that the Yahoo News method would be able to "narrow down legal articles that come out of AP" from Which in itself, could be a handy filtering method.

Another great method for Librarians looking to stay on top of things. Thanks Steven!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Deep Linking to PDF Pages from HTML

A quick web trick that I've used lots in the past...

Have you ever linked to a webpage that had an anchor in it? For example, the link url would end in 'something.htm#part1', and the user would be taken to an exact spot in the webpage. This is accomplished by placing an anchor tag at the desired location of the landing html page. Following our example, at some point in the HTML code you would find '<a name="part1">'.

Did you know that you can do the same thing with an Adobe PDF file? Plus, with PDFs - there's no anchor tags involved. Just select your page and location, and link away!

Here is an example:
<a href="">
link text here</a>

For a more detailed explanation on how to change the viewer resolution or zoom in to an exact spot on the page, check out this link.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Court Services Online Charges - Ugh!

Did you know that the CSO is going to be billing your credit card search by search by search! That is, your credit card bill is going to have an individual $6 entry for every search done.

Oh boy! It's bad enough that law firms can't get a corporate account, subscription service or another administration friendly payment alternative. Now the firm's corporate credit card is going to be riddled with $6 entries. ... I guess a single monthly charge would have been too much to ask.

I find it incredibly ironic that the government could get things so right with QP LegalEze, and get things so wrong with the CSO.

For those still getting up to speed on the CSO's new E-search product, check out the speakers notes from the CSO's presentation on VALL's website.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Law Library Salary Surveys

Here is my collection of Salary Survey links for Law Libraries in North America, including some appropriate related surveys:

Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL):
2003 Salary Survey (free)
2000 Salary Survey (free)
1998 Salary Survey (free)

American Association of Law Libraries (AALL):
2005 Salary Survey (Members Only)
2003 Salary Survey (Members Only)
2001 Salary Survey (Members Only)
1999 Salary Survey (Members Only)
1997 Salary Survey (Open to non-members: Selected Findings)

Association of Research Libraries (ARL):
2004 - 05 Salary Survey (free)

Special Libraries Association (SLA):
2005 Salary Survey (free)
2004 Salary Survey (free)
2003 Salary Survey (free)
2002 Salary Survey (free)
2001 Salary Survey (free)
2000 Salary Survey (free)

Canadian Association of Special Libraries and Information Services (CASLIS):
2000 Salary Survey (abstract)

Updated: November 9, 2005
If you have a new survey I should be listing please send it to me at

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Battle for Your 'Membership Dollar' Heating Up

I received two email notices this morning, each with an association membership promo.

The first email was from SLA WCC President Keith Low, reminding SLA members to take the viral approach, and sign up your Librarian friends. For every new sign-up you are eligible to win prizes like a PDA, and the SLA WCC would get a 'credit' which included additional perks at a chapter level.

The second email was from Susan Fox from AALL telling me that the Executive had just "Approved a "First Year Free" membership campaign to attract new members into AALL." Of note, there are only 14 of us from BC that belong to AALL (I just checked).

Two interesting techniques. One is putting its membership to work and rewarding them, and the other is offering up a 'free until 2006' approach.

We all only have so many membership dollars before our employer says 'no'. I personally belong to AALL, CALL and VALL, but not SLA; and I kind of think three is my limit. I like SLA, and think they deliver value through education and content like no other Association. I can't explain to you why SLA was the 'odd man out', it's just that something had to give.

My colleague Debbie Benson belongs to SLA but not AALL, which is our 'company' approach - you join one and I'll join the other. I think this is a pretty common.

If someone wants to convince me otherwise, please do. You could win a PDA!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Authority Evaluation Lost - The Changing Backlinks Command

Over the past year, the 'link:' command in Google and Yahoo, which displays the number of incoming links to a webpage (a.k.a. backlinks), has changed in a couple of noticeable ways.

The first change is with Yahoo, where the link: command cannot be issued without the full URL. For example, 'link:' will work, while '' will not.

The second and more important change occurs in Google. The 'link:' command in Google, as of Summer 2004, only displays a random selection of backlinks, rather than a full listing of higher PageRank (PR) backlinks. This continues Google's downward trend of showing an ever decreasing number of incoming links to a webpage.

To compare this to Google's past use of the 'link:' command, prior to this past summer all backlinks were listed when they maintained a PageRank of 4 or above. This measure may not have been comprehensive, but gave a good sample of authoritative sites linking in.

So you ask, why is the backlinks command important to Librarians? The answer is that backlinks offer a window into the concept of link popularity, which is a critical component to most modern search algorithms. But more importantly for Librarians and other sophisticated search users, backlinks are used to evaluate a website's authority and whether it can or should be considered a trusted source.

Why would Google do this? To put it simply, Webmasters have abused this window into their search algorithm. By knowing the backlinks of high ranking websites, webmasters have attempted to duplicate the efforts of others in the race to the top of the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages) for profitable keyword combinations. Not an unreasonable response from Google, but that's not going to help us.

Now that the backlink window is closing shut, Librarians will have to use Yahoo to gage a website's link popularity. For now it's the more comprehensive tool. But also be forewarned, I believe that reviewing a site's backlinks as a measure of authority will likely be a lost tool for Librarians in less than two years.

Support Your Local Librarian!

How often do we have two Vancouver based librarians on the CALL executive? Well, this year it's at least possible. Liisa Tella from Harper Grey Easton (for Member-at-Large) and Lynda Roberts from Bull Housser & Tupper (for Secretary) are both on the February 1, 2005 CALL ballot.

Potentially following in Susan Crysler's footsteps, Lynda & Liisa have been leaders in the Vancouver law library community for years, and would both make excellent additions to the CALL executive.


(X) Roberts, Lynda
(X) Tella, Liisa

(Sorry, just practicing...)