I am currently writing an article which basically looks at and updates a piece I published five years ago on the future of academic law libraries. The central thrust of the piece is the continuing print vs online debate. I give a few examples of print serials and talk about the pros and cons of cancellation in favour of online access and it would help me if I could get some reactions and counter-arguments. In the article I refer to, inter alia, the Harvard Law Review and Ontario Statutes (supposing that the E-Laws version is given authorized status). I use these as examples because its very unlikely that any academic law library in Canada has given any thought to canceling the print and probably most would recoil at the suggestion. But why? They are both available online from a variety of sources,pay and free. The Harvard Law Review has pdf versions of articles at its own web-site.
Leaving aside issues of ranking based on volume count (and this is less of an issue in Canada than south of the border) arguments against print cancellation seem to be more visceral than reasoned – because these sources are sooo important, we must have them – or our libraries would be somehow less worthy. Or the Internet will collapse, or the prices publishers charge for the online version will go through the roof leading to cancellation – and if the online version was the only one subscribed, then, poof, the library would have nothing. But if those dire eventualities came to pass wouldn’t the kind folks at Harvard sell us a print set? My bottom line is simply this: as a director of a law library which, like most others, will never have enough money to buy everything our users would like us to have, how can I justify spending money on a title which we have online (and in many cases, as with my two examples, for free). Of course if you accept my two ‘extreme’ examples this then opens the floodgates to anything ‘lesser’. Hope I get some feedback…..