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In mid-2009, the Miami law firm of Bilzin Sumberg made a decision to move into a newly constructed building in the Brickell section of downtown. This decision provided an opportunity to build a 21st century library for the firm.
The outdated library at our previous location was laid out on two floors, connected with a staircase in the middle and had two smaller practice group libraries on separate floors. The library had been downsized over the years and all of the study and reading space was taken over by records and office space. Attorneys had to stand in the aisles trying to read the books or take them back to their desks. Additionally, when the library was originally built, it had only one staff office and there was no thought given to using electronic resources through the library. With a staff of three we needed more staff work space as well as the ability to use the library space for training in print and electronic resources for attorneys and paralegals.
We took the opportunity to not only redefine our space, but also to redefine our image as a necessary and value-adding resource. For example, for the first time in firm history, the books are barcoded, the entire collection is cataloged, and self-checkout for materials is available. The library now also features laptop connectivity, and community desktop computers, in keeping with our dedication to the 21st century user. We also devised a layout that included staff workspaces that were designed with workflow in mind. In the staff area, we built a low counter for mail and book box delivery so that we don’t have to bend over or lift the boxes in order to open them that is connected to a long counter for processing materials. In addition, this counter has plenty of storage for handouts and supplies.
The main library footprint was reduced by nearly a third, from 1587 sq ft to 1082 sq ft, and yet we were able to maximize the space by incorporating a mix of high density shelving for the large reporter sets, perimeter wall shelving for the practice specific materials, and 2 sets of low shelving in the middle of the room so that users have easy access to stand and browse books. We also added an eight-person conference table with data and power jacks and a 55″ monitor, so we are now able to conduct regular training, and vendor demonstrations in the library, and lawyers can bring their laptops to the library to plug into the network or use the available wireless access. We also added a wall of study carrels with computers and a space on the end for the self-checkout machine.
We moved into our new space in October 2010 and the response from the firm has been overwhelmingly positive. The new library has proven so popular that we initiated monthly Library Happy Hours, where we conduct short training sessions, while we network with attorneys and staff. Our in-person usage has increased dramatically and the library was a “must see” stop for all of the open house tours for clients and alumni.
Paul VanderMeer is director of the library and knowledge management at Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price and Axelrod in Miami, Florida.