Archive for March 2nd, 2011

Vendor Colloquium Day Two Part Two

The next portion of the day focused on the value that law librarians bring to the flow of legal information and the challenges that they face from content creators and users. Then the group brainstormed a list of shared principles and expectations of outcomes going forward.

What is the value that librarians bring to the flow of legal information?

  • Marketing to customers without a profit motive, thus being objective in their assessments and evaluations of the tools for use by potential customers
  • Exposing end users to editorial expertise
  • Being a conduit to help vendors improve their products with feedback from users
  • Authoring content and helping publishers find authors
  • Providing curated collections that support their institutions in accomplishing their goals; librarians accomplish this through cataloging, preservation, building and expanding or contracting the collection to meet users information needs, providing reference service and instruction and training in using all the resources in the library
  • Generating revenue for law firms
  • Providing insight for new product development
  • Making patrons successful
  • Being the watchdogs over the legal information industry, pointing out when they are inaccurate
  • Incredibly strong networkers
  • Protectors of privacy
  • Dutiful stewards of resources.

What are the challenges librarians face from content creators and content users?

  • Increasing demands with decreasing budgets; providing broad and comprehensive collections with finite funds while maintaining staff morale. In short, librarians are asked to do more, better, faster and with less.
  • Marketing themselves, proving and/or articulating the value of the library and librarians in the face of misperceptions of customers (library users) and of C-level, procurement officers or other decisions makers of the nature of legal information and what librarians and libraries are about
  • Balancing access with licensing and copyright restrictions
  • Contract negotiations
  • Invoicing inaccuracies
  • Disintermediation; convincing users that they need education and training for most effective use of resources
  • Law school librarians face expanded responsibilities outside of traditional roles; are being forced out of their comfort zones
  • Determining what “authority” is and adapting collection development policies to rapidly changing user needs, ensuring long-term availability of information for the users
  • Maintaining competencies and depth and breadth of knowledge for collection assessment; generally keeping up with new stuff
  • Responding to the information needs of a much more diverse customer base: from pro se patrons to experienced attorneys and faculty and students around the world, plus interdisciplinary research forcing academia to collect non-legal resources and an increased focus on empirical research
  • Frequently changing models for dealing with legal information vendors; feels like vendors are constantly changing who to talk to and what the options are; difficult to build a relationship
  • Coping with the changed structure of and offerings of the legal vendors and how that impacts the parent institution
  • Increased amount of time it takes to acquire material, especially with contract negotiations
  • End users wanting to buy more themselves
  • Finding the true base line price or “most favored nation”
  • Challenge to engage in civil discourse amongst librarians when they disagree
  • Vitriolic communication styles impede civil discourse and may create negative perceptions of librarians by the outside community
  • How to get out in front of flame wars; learning how to communicate in this new mode of social media. What is the most appropriate way to respond? Rapid vs responsible, reasonable.
  • Creating a new culture of new forms of communications; the complexity of the business means that it can take time to investigate and respond

Round table of librarians and publishers

This discussion was a brainstorming session to begin identifying potential shared principles. The resulting draft list will be handed over to a working group (to be formed from Colloquium attendees), which will refine the principles and turn them into a document that will be shared with the AALL membership. The attendees also discussed what they expect to come out of the Colloquium and what would make it a successful event.

Some of the responses included:

  • Make the action plan executable and implemented, with measurable outcomes
  • Memorialize the conversations
  • Tangible collaboration on preservation, authentication, and digital rights management
  • A mechanism for ongoing dialogue at an organizational level and a means for AALL membership and other content providers to have a voice in that ongoing conversation
  • Assurances that the vendors will take the message back and that it will be heard within their organizations
  • Improving process for procurement, invoicing, etc.

Moving forward

The attendees agreed that AALL President Joyce Janto would send a message out to the AALL membership by the end of the week describing the event and next steps. They also requested a memorialization of the discussion and flip-charts, which will be shared with AALL members and beyond within a short time-frame. They also took volunteers for a working group, which will refine the shared principles, create and implement an action plan, and establish a plan for communication among the AALL membership and vendors.

The attendees also participated in a quick evaluation of the Colloquium, listing positives and negatives of the experience, to be used for future events like this one.

Closing remarks

AALL President Joyce Janto expressed appreciation to the attendees for working so hard. The group had engaged in a good conversation that should lead to many positive results. She expressed thanks to participants, planners, staff, and facilitator for their efforts.

Vendor Colloquium Day Two Part One

Facilitator Maureen Sullivan opened the second day’s morning session by announcing a slight change in the agenda and format. Based on observing the group yesterday, she felt more work could be accomplished by discussing the value added by vendors and librarians to the flow of legal information and the challenges each face as group of the whole rather than small groups. After those discussions, the group would begin to develop possible action plans and soliciting volunteers to draft shared principles.

“What’s the value vendors bring to the flow of legal information?”

The discussion answers included:

  • By providing secondary sources and finding tools
  • Maintaining a trusted source for gathering and authenticating legal information and providing editorial quality control in an efficient and timely manner, thus contributing to “authority”
  • Experimenting generally, investing in new technologies and new authors
  • Entrepreneurial, they see and seek to make the law and complementary materials available to niche markets
  • Serving as a point of contact for sources of legal information; thus saving the time of information professionals and enabling them to add value to their clients/customers/users
  • Providing a source of information about user behaviors, i.e., Ehich databases, files are searched
  • Making containers, i.e, text containers/books that have an inherent preservation aspect
  • Monetizing the sharing of intellectual output across national lines
  • Creating standards and share them with librarians sometimes
  • Facilitating the flow of legal information from insight to analysis
  • Supporting librarians by sponsoring librarian meetings and providing groups to work specifically with law librarians
  • Providing relevant customer service for the dissemination and usage of information
  • Expanding beyond the traditional core of legal information to mashups and ancillary products/services to make lawyers and law firms more profitable and improving the quality of legal services delivered to clients

What are the challenges vendors face from content creators, content customers, and content users?


  • Explaining how suppliers, who are also competitors, sometimes place restrictions on the use and re-use of information
  • Innovating while customers experience shrinking budgets
  • Meeting the disparate needs of shareholders and customers
  • Keeping print, even when not profitable
  • Customer support – when the company has so many different products that knowing the full line is impossible
  • Customers expect legal news and analysis simultaneously; wanting more and to pay less for it
  • Createing a more efficient marketplace to find information, which is slowed by diverse needs of users segments
  • Greater segmentation and disparity between the segments of customers who have a perceived need to know more faster and who have shorter attention spans
  • Trust – skepticism among segments of AALL membership regarding the true motives of publishers because of legal publishing consolidation and expansion into new service areas
  • Complaints about pricing in different formats and format changes
  • Competition from new sources, such as Google, Bloombergand self-publishing, with a shrinking market of writers/authors of analytical content
  • Increasing need for specialized information and specialized analysis responding to changes about how law is produced and used – are indexes and cross-reference tables still useful/needed for the end-user?
  • Preserving electronic data with versioning control
  • Many different models in contract negotiations
  • Ever-changing and increasing possible delivery modes to reading devices, e.g. users want mobile access; how to invest in innovation while keeping the cost under control and to find the best way to educate trainers with the ever changing set of tools and content
  • Hard to share with competitors
  • Communicating “no,” or an answer the customer doesn’t want to hear; explaining the evolution and roll-out of new products (the risk of bloggers and tweeters misrepresenting or sharing information out of context)
  • Building relationships based on trust and civil discourse when librarians feel pressured by their bosses and skeptical of publisher’s motives
  • Globalization of business lines
  • Blending of business and consumer expectations changes the customer expectation for how legal information is delivered
  • Explaining the value of legal information to a non-consumer of legal information, i.e. CFO, administrator

Posted by Mark Estes.

March 2011

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