As we welcomed 2020, my chief concern as the Library Manager at Marshall, Gerstein & Borun LLP was to determine the ultimate fate of a good chunk of our print collection. Our firm had recently renewed the lease on our office space and with that came an initiative for tenant improvements. Plans had been finalized for firm-wide renovations and as I am sure you have already guessed, the call for “improvements” to library space mostly included that one charge we all dread: a reduction in our footprint.
I worked with our Library Committee to identify large sets that could be reduced or eliminated and my colleague (and fellow CALL member) Anne Danberg and I started the task of weeding the collection. We were slated for the second wave of renovations which meant we had plenty of time – as long as we had this process completed by late spring we would be in great shape. We started offering a revolving collection of items to anyone in the firm who wanted them and donated the unclaimed volumes to an organization that accepts books. It was slow going, but we were making progress and had no reason to think we would not be able to meet our goal. That is until a certain day in March that found the two of us cleaning out our offices uncertain of when we would next be in the building.
As much as COVID had completely blown up our plans, there was at least one way we had inadvertently prepared for this scenario: in readying for the upcoming reduction in print, we had bolstered our electronic access to a number of treatises and law books. This meant, in those early days of the remote office, a definite uptick in questions relating to access, but the influx of queries reassured me that our users were making use of our materials. And while the timing of the Stay at Home order brought challenges, it did alleviate the dilemma of how to offer print materials while our space was under construction.
The physical Library was simply closed for that period and the books were packed away. Now that our phase of the renovations is complete, the collection is once again open to the few attorneys and staff who visit the office – we ask only that they observe the social distance guidelines as set by the firm. Given that our collection is so specialized and we hold quite a few titles that are not available electronically, we work with our office services staff to scan pages from technical dictionaries and other such texts for the occasional requests that come in from our remote patrons. While not ideal, it is working in the interim. We hold a weekly staff meeting over video and use instant messaging to check-in throughout the day.
Over the past several months we have sent research tips via e-mail and arranged presentations from vendors to keep our users current. Most recently the two of us conducted a webinar for our attorneys and paralegals demonstrating how we make use of one of our resources. We held a special one-firm one-book style book club meeting over the summer which had a terrific turnout. And we are looking forward to having a joint holiday Zoom celebration over lunch next week with our friends in the Marketing department. These are all just ways to keep in touch and help ensure we remain relevant in this strange era and as odd as it may seem, in some ways I think they have helped us increase our visibility with patrons.