Transforming Law Libraries: An In-Depth Look at Innovative Library Management System
by Sarah Sutherland
From its inception, Soutron’s Integrated Library System was designed with the needs of law libraries in mind. Soutron’s team understands that law is intimately linked with information, whether that information is published in print or online, held in internal documents, or resides in people’s heads. Legal collections are technically challenging and details about their management are vital to the success of law libraries and the organizations that rely on them for critical advantage.
Practicing, researching, and administering the law necessitates that information be immediately accessible in precise ways. A reference technician at a national firm in Toronto, Canada, said, “I always have Soutron open, as it is integral to my work,” because she must know details like where items in the collection are and who can access them throughout the day.
Brian McCann, the systems manager at Stinson LLP, a full-service firm in Kansas City, says that ideally the library catalog will be one of the first three places people look for information. He sees the potential to use Soutron as a core tool to help researchers find useful information that is not in large subscription services.
Managing published legal materials creates special requirements. Primary law is published in multiple formats, and legal serials may have irregular publication schedules. Clients find that the subscription records in Soutron are fully customizable to handle these issues. This matters because maintaining collections that are as current as possible builds value for the organization and reduces the risk of error. It also ensures that expensive subscriptions are actively managed.
Soutron also provides integration with external systems, so researchers can access everything from one interface regardless of platform and format. Many law libraries have unique collections of locally held documents, such as unreported court cases and internal research memos. Libraries find that Soutron provides excellent access to these collections, whether the files are loaded onto an intranet platform such as SharePoint, a document management system, or loaded directly into Soutron itself.
Julie Christmas, the manager of the library at a large international firm in London, England, finds that Soutron facilitates their needs from the global to the very local. The system manages separate classification schemes for each office and a large collection of contracts dating to the construction of buildings around London relevant to their construction law practice. This allows the library to support the firm’s expansion and practice within the city.
McCann reports that staff at Stinson LLP are getting data outputs from subscription services that can be imported into Soutron to make sure that content is discoverable. They’ve found that Soutron staff are happy to work with clients to ensure that imports are handled carefully, while respecting local practice regarding concerns like location, file format, and naming conventions.
There is a desire in some law firms to provide information services to people outside the firm, such as clients and industry partners, and Soutron is well equipped to facilitate this work. Soutron enables the detailed control required to allow the collection to be partially shared with individuals outside the firm to support this service.
Reporting is a core part of the work of any library. Whether understanding the work being done or reporting impact to management, having access to the best reports possible is a tangible advantage. Clients say that Soutron has the reports they need, and Soutron’s staff make sure that they are created to the necessary specifications when they are not included as defaults in the system.
McCann says that when library staff were considering a catalog migration, they were concerned that it would be onerous. However, they found that Soutron staff were very helpful when the library migrated. It was especially important that Soutron was flexible on how information could be stored and accessed. Once the migration was complete, they found that Soutron is a better product at a more reasonable price that what they were using before.
A client at a large firm in Dublin, Ireland, reports that staff at Soutron took the time to make sure that the language displayed in the interface was appropriate for local usage, which was an important concern for them.
Staff report that Soutron is organized in a way that makes sense, and the technical support is excellent and readily available. The system is also always getting better: there are regular updates which solve any problems that arise. Every time they publish notes for future updates, they always list great improvements.
At Soutron, partnering with libraries to provide services in the legal sector is core to what they do. Soutron systems have the tools needed to allow the expert management of collections in law, and they look forward to discussing how they could work with other firms to meet their legal information needs.
Please contact us if you would like to hear more about how Soutron would work for you.
About Sarah Sutherland
Sarah A. Sutherland is principal consultant at Parallax Information Consulting, focusing on legal data strategy. She brings extensive experience in the use of data to drive effective management of legal organizations, developing strategies for organizations to better serve communities around the world. Her book, Legal Data and Information in Practice: How Data and the Law Interact, was published by Routledge in January 2022, and she has been writing a column for Slaw, Canada’s online legal magazine, since 2013. She was also named one of the Fastcase 50 in 2022, an award that honors the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, & leaders.