Pushing the law library intranet

In “The Law Library Intranet” (Chapter 24 of Law Librarianship in the Digital Age by Ellyssa Kroski), Emily R. Florio and Michael J. Robak point out a significant change in the library’s role in the digital age: the need to proactively push new information to library users, rather than wait for users to pull that information from the library. I agree that this is an important role shift, and that intranets are a relevant tool; I also think email plays an indispensable part in the shift from “pull” to “push.”

There has been talk in recent years about the internet search engines allegedly usurping libraries’ role of connecting people with the information they need. In general, I am skeptical of that claim, but I will admit this: many people do search the web using Google far more often than they consult a library catalog or ask a librarian. Thus, in terms of frequency of pull requests, Google may be winning. Nonetheless, librarians can distinguish themselves by predicting user needs in ways that algorithms cannot, and by providing the information users need before those users even ask.

An intranet is one tool librarians can use to push information to their constituencies, but just having an intranet and making information available on it does not complete the process. Intranets can be ignored (intentionally or accidentally) by the people they are designed to help. Intranets can also be set up in ways that require users to pull information from them. For example, the authors note that an intranet may simply function as a portal to the library catalog or a document repository, either of which would require the user to proactively pull information.

Current awareness resources, instructional guides, and resource directories seem to be the best fits for proactively distributing information via an intranet. But again, if librarians only ensure that relevant items appear on the intranet, users will still have to go to the intranet to pull that information. My conclusion is that the function of pushing information to users actually happens via emailed links to intranet resources.