“Lawyers Need More Than an Electronic Library”

Here is an interesting piece from the Legal Times about which I wanted to blog for while. It is of particular interest for the librarians (and lawyers) out there regarding the need of a paper library. Really? What about the paperless lawyer in me?

Even if the article refers to the experiences of our southern friends, the conclusions are applicable across the border and abroad. Primary sources of law being now available from different paying services and free public Web sites providing access to resources as well, what will happen of librarians?

Here are some interesting quotes from the article:

Research suggests that users of information delivered electronically work much as they did before electronic access.

Research on the human factors of computerization has long shown that people will print documents that are longer than one or two screens.

While completing this post I had in my drafts for over a month now, I stumbled upon this fresh piece on Law.com entitled Survey Says Librarians Like Their Jobs but Are Displeased With Vendors. i learned a couple of interesting things from that article. The most important one being that a library should now be called an “Information Resource Center, or IRC”, at least at Orrick… That is a new one for me: I knew I had an administrative assistant rather than a secretary, I had heard about collateral damages rather than murdered civilians, etc. but I am a bit sad to have the good old libraries R.I.P.! Can’t we just modify the definition of library (I love Wikipedia… ;-))?

I am always amazed to read lapalissade like “[law firm libraries] are continuing to move beyond “traditional” library work, like legal research, and into marketing and competitive intelligence, computer training and even knowledge management projects.” Obviously! Otherwise my beloved libraries would be on the verge of extinction. Ok, I must admit, looking at lawyers, librarians are entitled to brag about embrassing the new millenium…

I was not surprised to read that:

Cost recovery has become more difficult, too, with clients increasingly demanding that online research tools be treated as overhead. But perhaps the biggest headaches are coming from the content providers, the vendors who sell access to electronic research tools. They continue to raise licensing fees, introduce new products and market their wares aggressively — often directly to lawyers.

I deal with both issues on a daily basis. However, I am confident that free web2.0 initiatives are likely to put stress on the market and force content providers to reduce their fees. Anyway, the market itself, through the new “information ressource center” director(?) as customers, will surely put enough pressure to force them to put their feet back on this planet. To that end, let me quote a stat that hurts:

librarians remain relatively disappointed customers [toward the content providers]. On a scale of 1 (very good) to 5 (very bad), LexisNexis scored just a 2.43 for overall satisfaction, marginally better than Westlaw at 2.51. And those numbers are down from last year…

Anyway, as Mark Estes recognizes:

While their focus may have shifted from reporters to portals, from card catalogs to competitive intelligence, make no mistake: The core of what law firm librarians do remains the same. “We’re connecting users to the information they need to make decisions”

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