Cost Recovery vs. Cost Prevention: A Panel Discussion

by Colleen Cable, Cable&Clark

I moderated a fantastic panel at the annual SLA conference, and wanted to share the tips that were developed during the discussion. These tips are not difficult or costly; however, the impact on the bottom-line of the firm can be huge.

The diverse panel, made up of SLA Legal Division and AALL Private Law Librarian members, contributed to an insightful and informative discussion. Panel members were:

  • Jeff Bois, Manager of Library Services at Fish & Richardson
  • Steve Lastres, Director of Library & Knowledge Management at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
  • Rob Mattern, founder of Mattern & Associates
  • Connie Smith, Director of Research, Libraries and Competitive Intelligence at Morgan, Lewis

To focus more on cost prevention instead of cost recovery is to shift from a reactive environment to one that is proactive. This is something that can be undertaken by every librarian, no matter their influence or clout within the firm. Additionally, if the impact of these changes is being measured, the potential to raise the profile of the library is tremendous.

Our 5 easy tips:

  1. Get to know Accounting. If the librarian does not have full access to any and all of the data that impacts the library, how can informed decisions be made? The librarian cannot take ‘no’ for an answer when it comes to developing this relationship, and accessing this data.
  2. Manage and control the conversation around the firm’s contracts with large vendors. Another benefit to a relationship with Accounting, is finding out how much the firm spends with some of the large vendors. Imagine the bulk discounting that might be possible if the librarian could leverage the entire spend, and not just that of the library. Talk about a direct savings to the bottom-line!
  3. Education/Training. Controlling the training and education of your users is a great way to prevent unnecessary costs. Vendor representatives only train on their own products, and promote new content and services. This probably isn’t the most cost effective use of all the research resources purchased by your firm. It is imperative that training sessions be vetted by the library or conducted by a librarian, if possible.
  4. Using knowledge management (KM) to leverage internal and external resources. This doesn’t mean you have to implement some complicated KM software, it just means that you need to look for efficiencies in everything that you do. For example, the library could create an internal wiki to share answers to regularly asked questions, contacts, and/or frequently accessed internal content. This is KM, and once a small step is taken, more will follow.
  5. Creating innovative and simplified contracts. Vendors have been using the same contracts since they started offering their online services. Has anything else in your library stayed the same over all these years? How about exploring contract structures that reflect how you use the product, instead of accepting the same old, one-size-fits-all contract. Work closely with your vendor before you are even presented with a contract to let them know that the status quo isn’t going to work for you anymore.

2 thoughts on “Cost Recovery vs. Cost Prevention: A Panel Discussion

  1. To your point above, #3 on Education and Training, you couldn’t be more correct. In the old days I used to advise law firms that they needed watchdog librarians to monitor new supplements, editions, etc. coming in the mail each week from publishers, so that they wouldn’t pay for something the firm didn’t need. Having recently sat in on some summer associate training for the first time in several years, I see that we also need to be watchdogs in the presence of sales reps/trainers, as we need to remember they are not only educating, but promoting and selling their product. So important for us to be present and a part of the process!

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