We all know that to succeed at work one must be constantly innovating - keeping up with the latest technologies, aware of the freshest trends, and looking forward to what might be coming in the future. If we are not innovating we are stagnating.
Right now, one of the most discussed trends is that of data - big data, small data, data analytics, predictive data. It’s all relevant, it’s all important and it should be on all our radars. Data is constantly growing and, as it does, we are finding new ways to harness it and fulfill our potential. Within this, two significant themes emerge which we shall explore here:
- Using data to improve your current awareness service
- Your current awareness service including more data, and different types of data
Using data to improve your current awareness service
Email technology means the ability to track email newsletter opens and clicks is as much the norm now for Librarians as it is for Marketers. Email tracking now enables us to see, on a recipient by recipient basis, just who is opening our emails, when they are opening them and whether they are clicking through to the links that we send them. Whilst it’s great having this information, the true skill comes into play with regards to interpreting what it all means.
Your open rate (the percentage of recipients opening your emails) enables you to assess two factors - the convenience of the time of day that you are sending your emails, and the appealability of the subject line. If looking to improve your open rate, it is recommended to change only one factor at the time, e.g. the time of day or the style of the subject line - changing both at the same time will render your results inaccurate. Don’t be afraid to experiment, for example, you may notice that your end users are more likely to open your newsletters at 9am as opposed to 8am so it may well be better to schedule your alerts to go out at that time as it will mean they always contain the most up to date information possible.
Looking at your click rate (the percentage of those who click through to your links having opened your email) will enable you to determine the relevancy of the content you are sending to your end users. If this is consistently lower than you would like it then it may be that you need to spend some time meeting with your end users, sitting in on their own meetings and so forth in order to better determine the data they need.
Analysing this email data supports you delivering the best possible content to your users on a consistent basis. You can then use this data at a later date when it comes to demonstrating the need for your library budget (1) by showing the number of users who are engaging with your service and how they are using it.
Covering more data through your current awareness service
The growing world of information means that more data is becoming available to us, presenting great opportunity to provide your end users with that extra titbit of knowledge to give them the competitive edge. However, it also presents great challenge when it comes to managing and harnessing the potential power of such data. Though, if anyone can do it, it’s the Librarian.
“There is so much information available, and it takes a trained researcher to sift through the dross to find the gold. [...]. As I tell my students, it only takes a few bucks and a little determination to become a content provider on the Internet. Many users, even well-educated lawyers, don’t always think to check the information they find on the Internet for currency, accuracy, and authenticity.”
Joyce Manna Janto, quoted from Michigan Law (2)
It is a well-known fact that without sufficient surrounding context, quantitative data is rendered meaningless. Whilst numerical data brings with it an inherent sense of accuracy and reliability, if it serves no clear purpose to the discussion at hand it serves no use at all. As a trusted provider of information, the Librarian is able to deliver both accurate data, and the relevant contextual information to surround it.
Speaking at AALL in Chicago earlier this year, Jean O’Grady cited big data’s complexity (3) as one of its most important characteristics. The complexity of big data, Jean explained, means that data from multiple sources must be normalised, cleaned, matched and put into hierarchies and relationships to be analysed and assessed - a task that falls to the Librarian.
An example of this is the current habit of lawyers to send an email around the firm to gather their coworkers’ experience of appearing in-front of certain judges (4) - insights that could be invaluable in making or breaking a case. New developments in technology mean that these are now able to be managed through analytics platforms, opening up a new space in which to manage information and collective knowledge. This is predictive analytics in action. Similarly, law firms’ clients may also require data driven analysis through their need to understand how laws or contracts will impact upon their business, e.g. a bank wanting to know its financial risk based on its contractual obligations (5).
In the future, machine learning and other technologies such as AI will help with these predictions. You can see such innovation in action by looking at companies such as Fiscal Note, who are using legislative and regulatory analytics in order to predict what laws are going to pass in the United States.
As always, the skills of Librarians are going to be required to assess these new and varying forms of data for accuracy and relevancy, as well as adding context to provide wider meaning to their end users. With the U.S. Bureau of Labor predicting a 24% rise in demand for professionals skilled in data analytics (6), there’s never been a better time to work on your data analysis skills.
(1) Linex Systems (2016) “Information Specialists’ Biggest Blunder with Paid Content”
(2) The Law Quadrangle (2011) “The Value of Law Librarians at Law Firms”, Michigan Law
(3) Linex Systems (2016) “AALL 2016 - “Disruptunity”: The Legal Research Revolution is Now!”
(4) Sarah Garber (2016) “The Third Wave: Why Big Data is the Future of Legal Tech”, IP Watchdog
(5) Ron Dolin (2016) “Law Librarians: The Hidden Bastions of Data-Driven Innovation”, Think Outside the Bar
(6) Lib Source “Top 5 Librarian Skills: #2 In-Depth Research and Analytics”