We paid for it

As mentioned earlier I spoke at a workshop on technical services for law library directors at the AALL annual meeting yesterday. I appreciated the invitation particularly since I’d spoken there last year. Obviously they had confidence that a year was long enough for me to come up with something different to say. Barely.

The workshop once again reinforced for me that law librarianship is a bit different than mainstream academic librarianship (most of the attendees at my event were from academic law libraries). Current research in the law is done largely within the confines of licensed aggregations from the 3-4 big information providers in this space. Everybody has to have access to these and even while they are inexpensively provided to law school libraries as marketing investments, people have a love/hate relationship with the vendors. They have very little influence on them. For instance, none of the big three are COUNTER-compliant and have delayed being so for years. The law library print collections are largely about research on the law and built around special distinctions such as health law that characterize a particular school. Overall they seem embedded in the work of the school and students but worried that their work is more invisible and unbranded than they would like. This latter dilemma they share with their general academic library colleagues.

Given these concerns my favorite quote of the afternoon was from Jan Anderson (Georgetown University Law Library) who, in the course of showing off various network tools, mentioned the high use of Google Scholar. As a consequence she said

“We treat Google Scholar as though we paid for it.”

That is, they invest in connecting it with their proxy server, setting up the scholar preferences and registering their knowledge base with Google. They do the work and take some credit for the success their students have in using Google Scholar.

Jim coordinates the OCLC Research office in San Mateo, CA, focuses on relationships with research libraries and work that renovates the library value proposition in the current information environment.