Library and Research Services (LRS) organizations within law firms and other professional service organizations continually strive to deliver the right information to the right people at the right time. In the age of Google, social media, and Big Data, LRS teams have the opportunity to reestablish themselves as the go-to team for answers. LRS team members are uniquely trained to find the needle in the haystack and to consolidate large quantities of information into precise answers to complex questions. The key to success for these teams is the evolution from a reactive, process-driven organization to a proactive, service-driven organization, aligned with the strategic objectives of the populations they serve. Total Library Service Management (TLSM) provides a systematic approach toward facilitating this change.
TLSM is an innovative framework for redefining LRS organizations with a focus on continual improvement and strategic alignment with the goals of the broader organizations in which they sit. This alignment and understanding of the big picture allows a TLSM-driven LRS team to focus on supporting those goals through a well-defined information delivery strategy and supporting services. A TLSM strategic plan outlines goals and steps to be taken to achieve them in a way that can be presented easily to both management and internal teams. Most importantly, TLSM defines a process for developing strategic objectives and service offerings that meet current information delivery needs and lead to future innovation.
TLSM also provides a framework for LRS management focusing on service delivery and improvement. We are all trying to do more with less, and TLSM helps teams strive to streamline inefficient processes, freeing up staff to take more active roles in information delivery. TLSM gives LRS teams an approach for comprehensive evaluation of services with value and efficiency as primary goals. TLSM ensures that services contribute to the information needs of the firm, are well defined, reliably delivered, and documented. Conversely, TLSM provides a basis for the elimination of services that no longer provide value, thus eliminating wasted time and effort.
The TLSM wheel begins with strategic development focused on value and contribution to the business. The process starts with developing strategic objectives for proactive delivery of valuable information to case teams, administrative groups, and project teams. Understanding the strategic goals of each group and positioning staff in cross-functional teams will ensure that the LRS supports those goals. Creating a channel for the flow of information from firm leadership and practice management is key. Opening up communication with those driving practice development and firm direction ensures strategic goals are adjusted accordingly over time.
Financial Management also sits in the strategic segment of the wheel. Here is where budgets are defined and objectives are set regarding the expansion or reduction of resources. Having clear objectives has become even more important in the "digital age," as management often believes that choosing electronic resources over print will save the firm money. Unfortunately, the reality is just the opposite. The increased cost of electronic resources paired with the desire to reduce resource budgets is a never-ending battle. TLSM pairs Financial Management with Strategy to establish a process of financial decision-making that supports strategic objectives and removes the impulse to cut for the sake of cost-savings alone.
Once strategic goals and objectives have been determined, it is time to design supporting services. Determining what information to deliver, in what form, and to what group is key. The TLSM design phase outlines the steps for redesign of existing services and the addition of new services to the LRS portfolio. Teams should create a catalog of services that add value while being repeatable, reliable, and cost-effective. Having an established catalog of services that is well designed and documented eliminates the need for reinventing the wheel, allowing teams to deliver those services consistently.
Capacity and availability management come into play with staffing and resource availability. Successful service design includes determining hours of operation and necessary staffing to support those services. Ensuring that the right staff members are available to provide the services is critical, as is determining the time required to fulfill the request.
The Transition phase comprises the processes responsible for preparing for the introduction of a new or improved existing service before it becomes fully operational. TLSM sets forth a systematic way to promote new services and to evaluate the success of those services over time. Knowledge Management provides for the training of team members and the assembly of support documentation and/or troubleshooting guides. Release Management includes the plan for implementation of the service by answering several questions: To whom will the service be rolled out? How will it be distributed? How will customer expectations be managed? Lastly, Change Management ensures that new services will not adversely affect other systems or offerings and vice versa. Documenting these steps ahead of time in a consistent manner will reduce time spent scrambling if something goes wrong and will ensure that teams across the organization are prepared to support the new services.
The day-to-day running of the organization via operations is where the majority of the LRS team spends most of its time as daily research and technical services functions are managed. Part of managing these operational tasks is establishing volume metrics and key performance indicators; these should be monitored regularly to validate effectiveness and identify areas of improvement or growth.
Event Management, a term borrowed from the world of IT, governs the way issues and outages are addressed. For example, in the LRS world, troubleshooting of a research charge question or a database access issue is considered an "event." Event management also pertains to the print world: outdated materials that need to be updated or missing books fall into this category. Having well-established procedures for handling events like these will speed up resolution time and should ensure that all team members know how to escalate a request to the correct point people.
Management of vendors is key to operations, and in staying aligned with strategic and financial objectives. Developing both short-term and long-range goals for the management of the LRS resource portfolio will make the process of renewing contracts and evaluating new resources easier. Knowing the objectives before engaging vendors better facilitates successful negotiation of terms that align with the firm's broader strategic direction.
Once services are in place, aligned with the strategic objectives, it is time to look to improve. Reevaluation of services and processes needs to happen regularly to ensure that teams are efficient, and that services offered are still in line with the needs of LRS customers and clients. Suggested improvements should come from both internal LRS team members and LRS customers. Both groups can provide a unique perspective to the effectiveness of existing services and processes. Industry trends and new resource availability should also play a role.
Managed Services, or outsourced functions, should also be evaluated regularly with an eye toward improved service and efficiency. Many firms rely upon outside services for filing, chargeback processing, and after-hours research among other things. It is vital to make sure that these services are adjusted with the changing needs of the firm. It may make sense, upon evaluation, to move a service in-house or to expand another with outside help; improvement of Managed Services ensures that these services are leveraged appropriately, keeping costs in line, and augmenting the LRS service portfolio.
The last segment of Improvement addresses education and cultural change. These areas of improvement are extremely important given the rapidly evolving information landscape. Attorneys and staff have access to a wealth of information and avenues to access it. Here is where the LRS team can play a vital role in improving the way administrative and legal teams search for, process, and use information. Improvement, in turn, leads back to realignment of strategic goals and another trip around the TLSM wheel.
TLSM provides a method for the evolution of services, aligned with strategic objectives, with an eye to continual improvement. It borrows from established two IT frameworks, Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and Information Technology Service Management (ITSM), adapting them for the world of LRS. TLSM gives us a framework for many of the processes we are already doing, ensuring that we do not miss steps and that everything is linked back to our strategic goals and service improvement.
The information landscape is changing at breakneck speed. Library and Research teams need to evolve in ways that keep pace. TLSM provides the framework for successful evolution of Library and Research Services, now and for years to come.
Back to Contents