Twenty years as a law librarian part two: communications

Next year is my 20th in the profession so I’ve been mining my Chartership report (1999) for insight into what has changed (or not) in the information profession.

This is the second in my series of 'Twenty years as a law librarian' blog posts. My first installment tackled technology, this time I want to explore different aspects of communications. Not just in the obvious technologically reliant areas, but the many other ways we communicate.

Language is constant

Sir Tim Berners-Lee said the web is people connected by technology and though technology has changed, language (written and spoken communication) is constant. My report said: ‘effective communication skills are one of the most important personal competencies’, and this is still true today. I made reference to surveys, overly vocal lawyers, inductions, meetings, and consultations. These aren’t even in the ‘communication skills’ section. In hindsight, I struggled with this chapter. I should have simply written, 'without communications, there is no point to us being at work' but CILP wouldn’t have approved.

Communicating with team members

I stated then the reason for team communication is to coordinate work and avoid duplication of effort. At that stage in my career I'd only worked in teams of two or three, so it was easy to feedback on work and projects.

Now I'm experiencing larger teams, I appreciate a more sophisticated, formalised process is required. For instance, I have encountered all of these; databases to manage queries; enquiry desk rotas; staff meetings and regular project work catch ups. These can be carried out either face-to-face or using electronic methods.

I did get one thing right - 'the sharing of information can go a long way in promoting trust and building respect and confidence within the team'.
Communication with users

I said then that ‘advances in technology such as voice mail or email has meant that different types of communication have to be adopted, for example, email v formal memo’. I have probably lost the skill of writing the latter, however I would suggest language is more important than ever. A business email should be polite, grammatically correct, and present an appropriate image of you and your firm.

I talked about users being careless in their use of email, 'it can be frustrating extracting the right information’. If in doubt as to meaning or tone in an email, either telephone or speak with the person directly. This section concluded with, ‘listening to and extracting information from users is an important and valuable skill’. 

This is still essential.

Publicity and promotion

This section was inadequate but at that time it reflected my limited experience. Now I realise that everything work-related should raise the library services profile within the firm.

Social media enables users to communicate with in different ways. We can make use of intranets, blogs, LinkedIn and twitter accounts – and that is another blog post.


We are at the center of the firm and information revolves around us. We can only do this if we have the ability to write well, explain ideas to everyone and present clearly and coherently. Communication is constant. Everything that I do, you do, and they do, revolves around communications. And this isn't going to change any time soon.

Be sure to read the first part in this two part series here.

Clare Brown is library & information manager at Collyer Bristow. She writes about professional library matters when she isn't writing up lecture notes or researching esoteric art historical topics for her MA. You can read her personal blog here:

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