My family loves books. In fact, we’ve got so many books that they are double (and, in some cases, triple) shelved in several of our rooms. Given the abundance, we periodically have to cull our collection, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find places that are willing to accept donations of gently used books. Thankfully, the New York Public Library has a solution in their correctional services program, which aims “to get books into the hands of incarcerated New Yorkers.” The activities of the program are commendable:
NYPL’s Correctional Services consists of two staff members and several outstanding volunteers. Twice a week they run four mobile libraries and staff one standing library at Rikers Island. Recently, in partnership with the Department of Corrections and supported in part by funds from the New York State Library’s Family Literacy Library Services grant program, Correctional Services has run a book recording project with detained fathers at Rikers Island. Dads take a series of early literacy workshops followed by a recording session where dads can make a CD of themselves reading a favorite book to their kids. We anticipate adding the program to more facilites shortly.
In light of our family’s current surplus of books, I was delighted to discover that the NYPL correctional services program accepts donated paperback books. But what caught my eye was that they had a very clear idea of the kinds of books their patrons wanted: dictionaries, classics, urban lit, educational books, vampire books, popular fiction (e.g., by James Patterson, John Grisham, Stephen King, etc.). The NYPL sets all of this information out on a webpage that provides examples of the foregoing types of books, as well as “other genres and subjects of interest.” In addition, they have provided an Amazon Wish List of books they would like to receive.
While admiring the clarity of the NYPL’s lists, I found myself wondering how many lawyers would be able to create a comparable list regarding the preferences of their clients? We hear repeatedly about the disconnect between client needs and the perceptions of those needs by external counsel. We’re also hearing honest admissions that external counsel may not be getting all the guidance they need from their clients. Meanwhile, we have the plea from clients that their external counsel initiate conversations that will allow clients and their lawyers to reach a clearer understanding of each others expectations. It appears there is much work to be done with respect to understanding what your clients want.
Yet knowing what your clients want is only half the equation. You also need a clear understanding of what your clients do not want. Again, this requires that honest conversation that we’re hearing too many lawyers are reluctant to undertake. The challenge is to move beyond the obvious (e.g., failing to return client calls promptly, demonstrating an insufficient grasp of the client’s business, allowing billing surprises, etc.) to the more subtle issues that can fester and fray a client relationship if not brought into the light and addressed appropriately.
Returning to the New York Public Library’s program, there is one other thing of note that you’ll find near the bottom of the list of suggested donations:
Items not needed at this time:
Do you know what’s on your client’s list?
[Photo Credit: Graham Well]