Last March, a few days before the lockdown ordered were issued, the Chicago office of Chapman found itself suddenly working from home. We had someone in our building test positive and out of an abundance of caution, we were all instructed to work from home. That was the last time many people have been in the office. Our IT department has been wonderful and we already had many remote access services in place, which was helpful. Over the course of the next few weeks all of our other offices went to a remote work environment as well. Currently all offices are still under a work at home policy until the end of March, 2021. People can go into the office as needed, but most people are still working from home.
The Research Services team at Chapman had been working hard for the past four years to migrate people to electronic resources. Since we have several offices around the country all trainings were already set up to be offered via WebEx as well as in person and we have a robust Intranet. The team we well positioned to work remotely and was able to get up to speed very quickly.
The biggest concern was the physical collection. Once everyone realized the orders were not going to be short term, we began working with vendors to put a mailing hold on many of our print resources. Even still, the first couple of forays into the library to sort and manage the mail were daunting. Thanks to the hard work of our staff and our filing service (once they were allowed back into the building), we have managed to keep all of the filing under control – and this included all fifty states of the CCH Tax Reporters. With the help of vendors and our team, what could have been chaotic has been managed very well. We are now working on a new subset of our Online Catalog that will just be electronic resources and links to online databases that match our old print collection. Links were already in most records, but we think offering them a separate catalog might be easier and increase usage.
It also provided us with an excellent opportunity. Chapman is moving into new offices in January, 2022 and we will have much less space. We had already been working on culling the collection into our drastically reduced space, but we were getting some push back from the attorneys who were still convinced that the needed their books. As the months have progressed with everyone working remotely, we are finding that we are getting much less pushback and have even managed to get agreement to cancel all of the State Tax Reporters. We had one attorney who self admitted to being a dinosaur actually try to use the online services. He needed assistance, but was willing to try. We have had to buy extra copies of some resources (like Glazer & Fitzgibbon on Legal Opinions) and mail them to people’s homes as the sources were not available electronically, but that has been very limited.
As far as training and reference questions, we had more interactions with the Summer Associates and Finance Interns this year than we do in person. This was probably because they could not just wander down the hall and ask each other or other attorneys and it might have seemed less invasive to reach out to us. Which was wonderful. We also used to hold research pop-ups on floors in the office so people could pop in and ask us questions, these moved online and we now offer weekly research hangouts.
Working remotely is less than ideal, but Chapman has managed to pivot and the Research Services team is still offering all of the services we did before the shutdown and have even managed to us this as an opportunity to show the attorneys and staff all we can do and that they can live without their books.