Vendor Colloquium: “What would law librarians like to ask legal publishers about their institutions?”

This continued the format of brief remarks by three librarian representatives and then some discussion from the floor.

A common theme: Librarians appreciate the need for profit, but how do you expect librarians to continue to purchase your materials with flat or shrinking budgets when you continue to raise prices? How do librarians cope with breaking apart bundled pricing plans when the subscription budget must be reduced?

The academic librarians would like to know:

  • Are you too big to fail?
  • Will you start spinning off product lines? Do you see still further consolidation in the industry?

Academic librarians would like to see publishers address these issues:

  • The meaning and interplay of ownership-access-licensing
  • Consortia pricing for regional purchases
  • Expeditiously fixing billing issues when multiple accounts in a university have been combined under the library account
  • Simplified licensing and contract negotiation process

The court librarians would like:

  • Materials for self-represented litigants in multiple languages
  • Long-term availability of digital legal information
  • A common licensing language
  • Usage information of subscription databases
  • Vendors’ perceptions of the impact of self publishing on the legal publishing industry
  • At what point does print become uneconomical to produce?

Law firm librarians would like to know:

  • The vendor expectations of cost management companies/consultants – what are the non-disclosure agreements?
  • How/when will vendors’ back-office accounting systems be improved?
  • How should librarians communicate their dissatisfaction with service, product, etc.?
  • Simplify subscription options
  • Standard license agreement
  • What are the plans for looseleaf services?
  • What projections do you have for law practice outsourcing (LPO)? Will you develop an LPO for research?
  • Pricing models: how are the subscriptions set? How do vendors decide to price in what way?

Discussion/reaction to the librarians questions/comments:

  • Most interactions with customer service are positive – what should librarians do with the 20 percent of substandard experiences? Could a vendor ombudsman adequately address these?
  • Can a model invoice format and standard license agreement be developed?
  • Have the vendors done an adequate job explaining their pricing? Do librarians/customers have unreasonable expectations of what the price should be in the “Google generation”?
  • Ongoing preservation – if publishers aren’t preservationists and libraries don’t own the legal information any longer, who’s responsible?
  • Legal process outsourcing (LPO): opportunities and threats. When large vendor owns an LPO, does it lend credibility to the outsourcing processes? What do LPOs portend for the future? Will there be a continuing market for all the lawyers that law schools produce? What if law schools start scaling back their class sizes? What does that cascade to libraries and to publishers?
  • Legal work is itself a type of outsourced work. If outsourcing is a good way to serve the legal needs of clients, why not outsource other processes?
  • What/how do publishers decide when to change format?

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March 2011

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