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

Next during the Colloquium, Jane Holland, Ann Fessenden, and Joyce Janto presented respectively the questions to legal publishers from law firm librarians; state, court, and county law librarians; and academic librarians.

The goals of the law firm libraries include meeting the legal information needs of their attorneys whose goal in turn is to solve client problems. The goal of an academic library is to provide education and resources for the education of lawyers. In the court or county library it is to meet the needs of its users; sometimes that means maintaining access to historical resources to validate cited authority and other times it means solving immediate legal issues presented by consumers.

Common to each library type are reduced budgets, limited or reduced physical space, increased expectations by end-users, and reduced funding at the other law libraries that they have historically relied upon as a backup to their own collections. Each library faces similar competing interests: for budget allocation – someone always wants something better and more and for less; librarians, administrators and end-users want a better understanding of the rationale for publisher pricing; the invoicing and billing practices of vendors cause headaches for all types of libraries.

Unique to law firm libraries: clients expect discounts so that the charge-backs for the cost of CALR is no longer possible. Because the legal publishers now provide non-traditional services, like back office systems, the law firm librarian now must redefine his/her role as gatekeeper to the law firm for the legal publisher. Do they continue to play a central role in all contract negotiations involving the legal vendor or not?

The many variations of the State, Court, and County Law Libraries SIS members each serve a different segment of the public. Some clearly serve the end-user, while other libraries, like agency libraries, serve the public who are government employees. For the law library serving the true public, its common needs include developing self-help programs and materials – including in languages other than English; teaching tools about how to do research; preservation; and having remote access to databases, flexible affordable subscriptions to databases, and flexible billing and payment options.

Academic libraries serve the unique role of training future users for law firm and court libraries. The challenge they face is creating a real world experience in the unreal ivory tower of academia. Budget constraints can mean that the student can learn only one CALR tool that the student perceives as “free.” The faculty is a diverse group: some doing nontraditional research outside of law, which means the library must acquire expensive non-legal materials, while other faculty continue to research and write in traditional areas of law and expect everything to be in the library as it once was. In the academic law library, as in the court library, everything must be authentic and consistent.

Libraries serving the public have more self-represented litigants or consumers doing their own legal work than lawyers. These library users require more librarian time to teach them how to find what they want than do lawyers.

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March 2011

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