Sunday, October 18, 2009

Exciting Times are Coming: Check out

It's rare that the buzz in the air is equal to the reality. I think that we're finally approaching a critical mass in activity to bring the movement to preserve, protect and distribute state primary materials to fruition that something may actually come of it. In addition to Carl Malamud's effort, LIPA, the Chesapeake Project, AALL's Authentication & Preservation of Digital Law Special Committee, and NCCUSL's State Electronic Legal Materials Committee, other initiatives are developing which, if coordinated, can actually help the nations law libraries breath easier, by freeing us of the necessity of having to pay for reliable primary materials.

West, Lexis, BNA, CCH and others should breath easy about these developments, too. What they have is more valuable than the primary law. Secondary materials are the things that help lawyers, researchers and scholars make sense of what the law is, and that's at least as important as having access to the law itself. Law publishers should be prepared for a major shift in their business plans: sale of primary materials is going to begin to shrink, and they're going to have to realize that their income is probably going to shrink some, too. But their sale of secondary materials should remain stable, even grow in importance and value as access to primary materials proliferate. [Note to commercial publishers: focus on the unique things that you bring to the table, scholarship, indexing, commentary, practice aids, etc., and forget about trying to convince people that your work dressing up free materials in fancy bindings is worth as much. It's not. It's nice, but let's face it, the Federal Reporter isn't worth nearly as much to researchers as Wright and Miller or the Key Number system!]

That is, unless the publishers continue their frightening practice of inflating prices of all their materials to such an extent that makes secondary materials virtually unaffordable altogether for libraries to purchase, update and hold. The present practice is for publishers to inflate the prices on print and secondary materials to make up for declining sales. As prices go up and libraries' revenues go down, law libraries can't afford any materials from big publishers; primary or secondary. In that case, we all loose.

Here comes the dawn....

Friday, October 09, 2009

Technical Services in Law Libraries: checking and checking in web pages?

This is just a random thought. But it has occurred to me that if libraries undertake to be good stewards of born digital public information, that our technical services departments will have to establish standard methods and practices for visiting public websites where the information is released, and download it systematically. Is this much different from checking in serials? I think not...

Monday, October 05, 2009

Using Social Media in Law Libraries

This month on "The Law Librarian," on BlogTalkRadio, we discussed using and uses of social media tools in law libraries. We had a lively discussion about the use of "socnets" (social networks) for a variety of purposes: marketing, general information, announcements, etc. But we also eventually got around to discussing the use of these tools for gathering information and, even preserving it. Clearly, we are at the very cusp in the development of these tools, and it appears that they are swiftly becoming a new currency for library services and communication.

Click here for a transcript of the chat room of the show. Click here if you want to take the short survey about uses of "socnets" in law libraries.