Vendor Colloquium: “What would consumers of legal information like to tell or like to ask both librarians and publishers?”

Maureen Sullivan began this portion of the Colloquium by asking each participant to briefly describe his/her role as a stakeholder or consumer of legal information. She then led a discussion as a kind of question answer session where a stakeholder posed a question to librarians and publishers and the group answered/discussed the question.

One topic asked was what is the current mix of print and electronic in legal publishing?  According to Roberta Shaffer, who had a research assistant call 30 publishers in preparation for her keynote, the publishers don’t know. Part of that uncertainty depends on definitions: how to count something that is available in both print and electronic format? Further, how do you count it when publishers sell services/software with their titles?

Another question asked: why will organizations need librarians when the books go away? The answers revolved around defining the librarian’s role as gatekeepers or herders or wranglers, helping to organize and access information. Publishers want both “gatekeepers” and access to end-users.  This can cause tension between librarians and publishers when the publisher feels the librarian is keeping the sales rep away from the end users. But, sometimes the end user has put the librarian in that role of gatekeeper or consultant to analyze and recommend the best tool to buy.

This led to a discussion of the appropriate amount of information and form of information to give to a lawyer who asked for a “briefing book” or a “go-to-lunch-with-a-client” report. Historically librarians tended to gather a lot of information, organize, and de-dupe it and present it to the lawyer as a “two-foot stack of paper”; now the librarians present a synthesized one- to two-page summary. (The stack of supporting data is available if the lawyer wants it.)

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