Electronic Resources Survey Info ( If I Build It, Will You Come?)

By Laura K. Justiss, SMU Dedman School of Law, Dallas, Texas

[1] A clumsy paraphrase of a quote from one of my favorite movies, “If you build it, he will come.” by The Voice, to protagonist Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), A Field of Dreams (Universal Pictures 1989).

As a former law firm librarian, and now academic law librarian, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your new Blog, On Firmer Ground. Your fresh insights and terrific ideas, while particularly applicable to law firm librarianship, are easily transferrable to law school libraries. We, just like you, are always seeking to identify the most effective ways to reach our primary patrons, leverage our budgets and demonstrate our value to our institutions. Thus reading about the issues and solutions that are uppermost in your minds helps us to better tailor our teaching opportunities with law students.

That said, I’d very much appreciate your feedback on an idea that I hope may help both U.S. law firm and law school librarians. A number of you were most kind to respond to my “Survey of Electronic Research Alternatives to Lexis and Westlaw in Law Firms” that was disseminated to the Private Law Libraries Special Interest Section (PLL-SIS) of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) discussion group in early 2010. The results and analysis were posted in July on SSRN as SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 62 at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1649471 and later published in Law Library Journal, Vol. 103, No. 1, p. 71, 2011.

Following the post to SSRN, there were some interesting, provocative exchanges among law firm and academic librarians on both the PLL (Private Law Libraries) and ALL (Academic Law Libraries) Special Interest Section discussion groups about the issues of vendor relations, institutional research policies, Lexis and Westlaw flat rate contracts, and cost recovery.

As a result of these discussions, I spoke with several members of DALL (the Dallas Association of Law Librarians) and with the then current and incoming PLL Chairs, Jane Baugh and Steve Lastres, about the possibility of my providing this information to the law firm librarians on a regular basis, annually or bi-annually, subject to revisions by law firm librarians to improve the survey instrument for maximum effectiveness.

For example, one excellent suggestion was to include a question regarding cost recovery vendors, such as Research Monitor, Onelog and Lookup Precision. In addition, in the Comments section of the Survey several of you suggested excellent changes to improve the clarity of the questions and the survey overall. And finally, I contacted the membership division of AALL and was advised that AALL could easily provide me with a list of email addresses for law firm library directors to avoid duplicative responses.

If you are interested in receiving updated survey data on an annual or bi-annual basis, I will be delighted to revise the survey according to your specifications, post it and compile the responses for publication in this Blog or AALL Spectrum magazine or in whatever vehicle would be most useful to you.

So, if I build it, will you come? The Survey document is reproduced in the Appendix of the article on page 86 of the above AALL Law Library Journal issue and page 16 of the 19 page PDF document on SSRN at the above-referenced link. If time permits, please contact me at ljustiss@smu.edu with your thoughts. I know this is a very busy time for you, as it is for us, preparing for new associates and the fall semester, respectively. I learned a great deal from my mistakes on this project and thus welcome your suggestions to make the survey a useful, timely resource for you in the future. And if it’s any comfort, all those summer associates will soon be coming back to school!

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