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A recent AmLaw Techsurvey of law firm librarians indicated that although physical libraries are shrinking, the overall budget for information resources is increasing. The proliferation of new products and the morphing of old products into new formats and media must be balanced against the economic and cultural demands of each organization. Making the most of the information resources budget is not only about cutting costs but also about enhancing value. Some publishers are still trying to squeeze the last penny out of dying technologies. Some lawyers are fighting to retain familiar formats and processes while others are pushing to be out on the “bleeding edge.” Librarians are caught in the middle, trying to control costs while improving access to resources. If there is any justification for the increased cost of libraries, it is probably a question of value. Are we paying more for digital resources because they are truly more valuable? Or is it because librarians are at a disadvantage when trying to quantify the value of any resource to the firm? How can we maximize value while controlling costs? Seventy-five percent of the law librarians who responded to the AmLaw Techsurvey said they had canceled at least one West reporter series in the last two years. Forty-five percent of the respondents have plans to get rid of them completely. This by no means tolls the death of the book in legal research. It is one thing to go online for cases or law reviews, but statutes and treatises are another story. Lawyers and publishers are beginning to accept what has been obvious to librarians for years: We don’t need to keep everything in hard copy, but some books are here to stay. The challenge is finding the right balance of print and digital resources that deliver optimal value to lawyers in terms of content that is current, reliable, accessible, focused and customizable. THE HIGH COST OF PRINT Space limitations have often been the immediate driving force in justifying the cancellation of print. Amazingly, some publishers are still trying to force customers to keep print materials. Some are doing this subtly by “impairing” the digital product — e.g., by excluding segments of content. Other publishers won’t sell one without the other. Is it possible that some major publishers don’t recognize the cost of maintaining print? These costs include the space to house the books and staff to check in, catalog, shelve and route materials. Loose-leaf filing alone can account for one staff position. One librarian who was forced to keep unwanted print subscriptions was told by the publisher that it had no way to discontinue sending updates to her library. The librarian responded to this absurdity by changing the “ship to” address for the unwanted supplements to the publisher’s address. This seemed to be the only way to prevent staff from wasting time processing materials that were no longer needed. When the publisher came back a year later with an identically inflexible contract, the librarian terminated the digital license: The publisher lost not only substantial revenue but also irreplaceable good will. (The librarian had prepared by measuring the usage of the publisher’s digital products and identifying acceptable substitutes for the lawyers.) MEASURE WHAT YOU MANAGE In order to figure out the cost-benefit ratio of print resources, consider adapting available technologies to measure the use of print resources. The current generation of integrated library software systems can collect usage statistics by incorporating bar-code technology. These systems can also add value to what you already have. “Web-enabled” library catalogs now double as portals to a virtual library. Full-text digital resources can be cataloged and enhanced with a live URL, which allows a lawyer searching for a book to determine if it is in the library or link directly to the full text of the book from his desktop or from anywhere if the firm has a virtual private network. A bar-code circulation system is one of the most effective ways of doing a cost-benefit analysis of print materials. Since our library collection is accessible to lawyers 24/7, we needed to have a public circulation system that would allow lawyers, from their desktops, to locate and check out books. In the three years we have been using this system, lawyers have spent far less time searching for books or making unnecessary trips to the library. Circulation records are updated monthly by conducting an inventory of books in the lawyers’ offices. The data is collected using a portable scanner. “In library” use is recorded prior to reshelving. Since legal treatises and subscriptions are quite costly, the circulation data is invaluable in making renewal decisions. When invoices are processed for renewal, the circulation data is noted on the invoice. Invoices for titles with little or no circulation are flagged and sent to a member of the interested practice group. Statutes and treatises are still significantly more challenging to use in digital format than are case law, digests or law reviews, but providing a digital alternative can reduce the demand for multiple subscriptions. The best way to make sure that attorneys know what alternatives are available to them is to remind them at their “point of need.” The high-tech way to do that is by adding catalog records with live links to full text in the catalog. The low-tech method is signage or labels on or near the books directing lawyers to the alternate format. The prevalence of flat-fee contracts, offered by Lexis and Westlaw — coupled with changes in law firm economics and free access to many primary source materials on the Internet — appears to have “aligned the stars” against print. Whether they want to admit it or not, publishers have been willing co-conspirators in the demise of many print products. The digital alternatives offer an irresistible commodity called convenience. For example, Westlaw’s Find and Print and Lexis Nexis’ Get and Print are an almost perfect substitute for books, eliminating trips to the library and photocopying. Enter a citation and out comes a document! Although West remains committed to its print reporter products, its new product, National Reporter System Images, will have far-reaching implications for West, its competitors and law librarians. Any remaining justification for print reporters, other than a sensorial preference for holding a bound volume in one’s hands, is about to fall away. The new image will be a copy of the reporter page: Words are bolded and italicized; graphics, tables and page breaks are all there; footnotes are at the bottom of the page. Librarians need to assume that West recognizes the potential for lost revenue on the print side. The implications are clear: At some point, it may no longer be profitable for West to publish the reporters at all, and users will have no alternative to the digital products. This bodes well for conserving space, but how will this affect the online budget? BACK TO THE FUTURE With a few notable exceptions, the full-text-online world began in 1980. Lexis and Westlaw have been reluctant to invest in creating retrospective collections of important primary resources such as the Federal Register or secondary materials such as law reviews. This is a gap long lamented by librarians. The William Hein Co. got the message and developed HeinOnline. So far, this product includes full runs of about 250 law reviews. A full archive of the Federal Register, from Vol. 1 in 1936, is also in the works. Hein has already loaded more than 6,000 volumes of law reviews. If you were to buy this print archive, the cost would be almost $400,000. And the shelf space to house these materials would be 1,120 linear feet. The practice of law and the administration of law firms require unimpeded access to the best information for decision making. Unfortunately, we are still coming to terms with the tidal wave of new products flooding our desktops and vying for our attention. Publishers need to recognize the realities of the practice of law and develop products and policies that allow reasonable access for a reasonable price. They need to look at how their products and licenses will impact workflow. A product or license that makes lawyers less efficient is not going to survive. Publishers also need to recognize that their customers are working in an environment that is increasingly global, mobile and virtual. Librarians should continue to educate publishers about the content, format, usability and economic issues that will bring the greatest value to their firm’s bottom line and to the lawyers’ desktops.
More for Less: Digital Licenses Legal and business publishers continue to expand their digital offerings of Internet databases and electronic newsletters. E-mail newsletters offer additional value because they put every reader at the top of the routing list. This ensures that the information is available to lawyers when it is fresh. However, there is a vast array of licensing and technical infrastructure issues that should be addressed in order to maximize the efficiencies gained from this type of resource. Here are some tips for getting the most expansive license at the best cost while minimizing the risk of administrative overhead. � Make every effort to minimize the number of passwords each lawyer and the firm have to manage. Password management is time-consuming and labor-intensive. It multiplies administrative work and headaches exponentially. Hundreds of specialized digital resources target the legal market. If the firm has several hundred lawyers, providing individual passwords to each lawyer for each product is a formula for wasting staff and lawyer time. Although publishers often assume that supplying individual passwords is the best way to protect their content from unauthorized access, always negotiate for the simplest means of access with the fewest number of passwords. � Find out if the publisher can provide seamless access using “IP recognition.” This allows the publisher’s server to recognize the address of the law firm’s server. Lawyers get direct access to the materials without a log-in protocol. If IP recognition is not available, it can be mimicked by scripting the user name and/or password information into the URL. � Most publishers start out tying the cost of a firmwide license to the total number of users on the LAN or WAN. Librarians need to help publishers understand the real size of the user base. You can often tie the cost of the license to other factors such as the size of the practice group that is the target audience or the number of associates in that practice group if the product is unlikely to be used by the partners. If the product is one of general interest, survey the lawyers and staff to determine the number of potential users. This number can be used as the basis for negotiating the cost of the license. � Ask for a simultaneous-user license. Start out requesting a license for the lowest number of simultaneous users. You can always increase the number later, if you find that usage is heavier than anticipated. A “one simultaneous user” license is appropriate for many products, such as directories, that are used only for occasional fact checking. � Ask for a “ramp-up” period, so you can monitor the number of users. The final price is negotiated using the volume of usage or number of actual users as a benchmark. � Digital resource usage statistics can be captured and analyzed using software such as Websense. The total cost of the license divided by the volume of usage gives you a working estimate of the per-search cost. This data eases the internal cost-benefit analysis and is a powerful renegotiation tool. � Licenses offered by publishers run the gamut from a plain invoice containing only a title and price to complex instruments requiring delicate negotiations between the parties. Take careful note of how the publisher defines terms such as “authorized user” and “the location” covered by the license. When you are practicing law in cyberspace, these are tricky issues.

Jean O’Grady is director of information services at Washington, D.C.’s Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering.

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