Jane Encourages an Historical Perspective
Jane Tells It Like It Is

Smart Woman Online: Ruth Balkin

Lip-sticking has a unique lady for our interview today. Ruth Balkin is a member of the Rochester Professional Consultants Network in, of all places, Jane's hometown of Rochester, NY, and she's an information knowledge management professional. She's a tiny lady with a bright smile and a wild sense of humor. At RPCN meetings, Ruth often acts out the tagline for her Library and Information Services business: "Short projects with a quick turn around," she says, done with a grin and a pirouette-- a play on her height ("I AM standing up!" she will exclaim), and the speed of her results when you hire her for research or information management projects.

Recently, Ruth received a compliment on her blog, Legal Marketing: off the shelf. In a Google search for legal marketing, her blog is listed as #3 on page 1. Maybe BLOG really does stand for Better Listing On Google!

Let's see what a true information professional has to say...

Lip-sticking: Before we go into questions on blogging, lawyers, information knowledge management and other key areas you're expert in, give readers some background on how you go started in the field of legal marketing.

Ruth: It all started with consulting with some of the legal publishers on such topics as CD-ROMs, customer service and training. Eventually I started doing market research and additional consulting for them and other vendors.

Lip-sticking: Do you think the Internet is an asset for researchers, or is it the 'lazy' man's way of finding information?

Ruth: It is definitely an asset. It has opened up lots of resources for us. As information professionals, we have had access to specialized databases for a long time. The Internet has made searching these easier -- in some cases, though not all. If it takes you more than 10 minutes to find something, call me. I can handle it faster and easier for you.

Lip-sticking: How much time do you spend online every day? Do you ever take a break from your legal research to shop online?

Ruth: It seems like I spend my life online, but actually it is probably 2-3 hours a day under normal circumstances. If I am working on a special project it could be as much as 6 hours a day. This doesn't include e-mail. I don't do much personal browsing or shopping online. However, I order books and documents for clients online all the time. My husband's the online shopper and browser.

Lip-sticking: There is a general feeling among bloggers, and some others, that the legal profession is not keeping up with technology. Do you agree? What could they be doing better?

Ruth: First of all, they could educate themselves by attending conferences, seminars, reading and talking to others in the field. They also need to decide who is responsible for keeping up with technology. It is probably better for them to assemble a team of professionals, i.e., librarians, administrators, IT people. Let the professionals handle the changing technology, choosing vendors, training, etc. A lawyer's job is to practice law, not be a computer consultant.

Lip-sticking: Is your blog 'fun'? Or, is this a purely professional endeavor? By the way, what convinced you to start blogging in the first place?

Ruth: Sure it's fun, especially if I don't put pressure on myself to post every day or every week. It's been quiet lately because I am still catching up from my conference (American Association of Law Libraries). I haven't even had a chance to read all my e-mail or do my monthly newsletters.

Of course, I wouldn't have this type of blog if I weren't in business. I might be tempted set up a blog for personal ramblings. It wasn't a "what" that convinced me in the first place; it was a "who." A consultant/lawyer/information professional colleague offered to help set it up.

Lip-sticking: How much time do you spend on your blog, and how do you decide what to post?

Ruth: Normally, I might spend a hour or so a month doing the actual blog. I gather information from e-mail, listservs, newsletters and other sources constantly. Appropriate content is put into a "Newsletter Notes" file, sorted by subject, and edited. From there it will go to one or more of my monthly newsletters or blog. Sometimes I write short, special articles for the blog or the newsletters.

Lip-sticking:Is there one piece of advice you can give to newbies...folks who are just getting started with a blog? Any do's or don'ts?

Ruth:Get started. Keep it simple. You can always make changes later. Keep improving it. Most of all, make sure the information is of interest to your audience. Content is key.

Lip-sticking: Tell us more about being a law librarian.

Ruth: Law librarians do many different things and work in many different environments. They do legal and general research, train people in the use of databases, set up and maintain Intranets, Extranets and websites, and many other things. More information on law libraries and law librarians can be found at AALL's website. More information on Independent Information professionals can be found at their website. ruth_balkin2

Lip-sticking: One more thing…you say that your husband is the online shopper. Can you tell us something about that? What does he buy? Does he do eBay, or what? And, does he blog?

Ruth: Al mostly buys stuff on eBay because he can find stuff there that he can't find other places. He is often looking for esoteric, not like shopping for clothes or stuff like that. What that has to do with blogs, he doesn't know. He doesn't understand why anyone would go to a blog or what would lead someone to a blog. But, he does blog...you can read his writings at History Seeker.

And so, we learn, once again, that generalities are not good. Lip-sticking stands by our assertion that more women shop online than men, but in this instance we have a man who is more comfortable with the bits and bytes of shopping online, than a woman. Which is proof of our other assertion -- that women and men are partnering more, and competing less.

What's not to like about that?

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