Things I learned at AMPLL 2009

by Laurie Claywell

It began innocently enough. I just wanted to support our Lexis Librarian Relations representative since she was on the 2009 AMPLL advisory council. It would look good, I thought, to have people from her territory apply. I wasn’t supposed to actually be chosen to participate. The mission of the conference was Invigorate Your Leadership Skills in Turbulent Times, and I got my first lesson even before setting foot in Dallas. I was reminded by a savvy colleague that VALL offers professional education grants and suggested that I should apply to defray the travel cost. I almost didn’t since I work for a firm that supports my professional education expenses but then I realized that money and the bottom line are what speak to those who occupy the C-offices (CEO, CFO, etc). Resourcefulness is what librarians are all about so I applied, received a grant (thank you) and, hopefully, impressed my boss a bit.

This was not a long weekend of sightseeing or golf in between sessions. It was highly focused, drop any introverted tendencies and get with the program. The breakout sessions and meal time chatter were incredibly informative and stimulating but two of the scheduled programs have really struck a long term chord with me.

The executive director of a Midwestern law firm suggested developing an action plan: set specific goals and objectives; prepare a budget; allocate resources to the highest value; know the cost to support a practice group; justify the return of cost (3x); support all Admin departments (cooperative efforts not adversarial); make changes/improve costs/implement efficiencies; know the firm’s top clients and prospects; be proactive.

To help justify the existence of library staff, track staff billable hours with a goal of a 90% recovery rate. If library time is continually written down or written off by a particular attorney then that attorney’s request gets lower priority; in the eyes of this “C”, collectable equals highest priority; Track cost data and recovery; Track requesting customers and service excellence examples. Record some stats: number of patrons; which practice groups; what kinds of services; ILL trends. Be proactive. Increase visibility -- visit a partner a week: How can we help you or, conversely, this is how we can help you.

Overall, the “C” wished his librarian would talk to him more like an MBA than an MLS.

The other session that had the biggest impact on me was that of building a portfolio – promoting team accomplishments. Too often we are more comfortable working in the background but it was pointed out that we are successful in those support roles and we need to leverage that success: a tree in a forest of accomplishments vs. undocumented successes.

“What Have You Done For Me Lately?” or Starting a Success Portfolio. Capture your kudos and those of your staff. If an attorney passes you in the hall and mentions that your reference librarian really came through in the clutch, ask her to send you a short email to document that help. If she forgets to do it, send her an email thanking her for taking the time to let you know what your staff member accomplished and put that email in the team’s portfolio. What does a Portfolio look like?

Paper or electronic, whichever works best for you and your staff but be consistent. I’m trying out a Workspace in our DM software
Content must make sense to the desired audience (detail; put it in context)
Needs to be more than “thank you!” or “you rock!” One suggestion for content is reviewing the firm’s new client list and noting which clients the library had a role in bringing in

It’s all about perceptions. Dress the part. Exude confidence. Take ownership. Make them look good – and keep a success log of how you did it.

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