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.

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