22 October 2012


Originally published in the ALLUNY Newsletter 37.1, March 2012.

Spring is here, when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of …baseball? And more importantly, to preparing for the season’s fantasy team draft.  Now, a sports fan knows that nothing is as interesting as his fantasy team, and nothing is so boring as someone else’s team, so let me assure you, this isn’t about my team—not really. I’m writing about resource selection and strategy, which as the New York Times best-seller and Oscar-nominated Moneyball showed, is the real business of baseball, just as it is for libraries.

A bit of background, first. In fantasy baseball, players build teams by selecting rosters of actual Major League players, whose statistical records in several categories are compiled and ranked.  The top-ranked team, based on these stats at the season’s end, wins.  A great player, like Albert Pujols, can contribute mightily to several categories, while one like Coco Crisp may only contribute to one.  So, obviously, Pujols is worth a lot more—and while we all want to choose Pujos, only one can have him.  Strategy is required to make up that value in other ways.

One other note: some leagues start fresh each year, with all players available to everyone in the draft.  Mine has been together more than ten years, though, and decided long ago that for the sake of continuity, each team would be able to ‘keep’ a number of players from one year to the next.  The guy who got Pujols wouldn’t have to give him up, and would have a big advantage each year.

But how does this relate to the library?  Each season, I need to re-evaluate my roster. I need to decide who I want to keep, and who I want to draft, to build the best collection of talent, for my strategy, that I can afford.  Isn’t that just like collection development?

So how would we build a resource team now, if preparing to draft materials?   Perhaps we start by ‘keeping’ those that provide the most value: big hitters like Lexis, Westlaw or Bloomberg are all-around players like Pujols: very hard to replace, and you’ll probably only get one—then examine what else you need to provide a competitive roster within the remaining budget.  If I support a strong energy practice, maybe I should draft an energy-law newsletter this year instead of renewing the bankruptcy report that has been unused for years—that one isn’t helping my team win now.  Will it be better to subscribe to a business-development resource, or will a particular treatise in IP allow my attorney to win more cases and thus bring in new business via enhanced reputation?

And, like baseball, these competitive decisions will change through the season.  That expensive real-estate treatise we had to have for a particular matter? The case is over—canceling the updates is like dropping an injured player so he can be replaced with one who contributes now.  Constant review, coupled with a strategy for maximizing resource value, is the key to building both a successful fantasy team and a useful library.

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